June 30 “Confession”

Confession

It was time to share His power and authority with the 12 men He had chosen.
Jesus did exactly that—He gave all 12 of them the power to preach the gospel and heal the sick. He put them under an order of strict discipline regarding provisions for the campaign and deportment among those who supported or refused to support them. We don’t know if they traveled in teams or alone, but they did exactly as Jesus commanded and His power indeed went with them and they saw the same results as they had seen with Jesus.

Herod
A campaign like that generates news. When the stories got to King Herod, the king didn’t know what to think. Theories were presented:

  • John was back.
  • Elijah or another long-dead prophet had risen from the grave.

Jesus alone was enough of a threat to peace and order; 12 men acting in His name and in His power was a crisis.

Time for a Rest
Although the flow of power is divine, ministry takes a toll on the human frame. Jesus took His men to a deserted place near Bethsaida, to hear the details of their ministry and to get some much-needed rest. It was not to be. Somehow news of their location got out and the multitude found Jesus. He let the disciples rest while He taught the people and healed them of their various diseases and impairments.

Time for a Meal
As the day was passing, the disciples suggested Jesus should close down the meeting send people back to town. This was not to be either. Jesus told His men,

“You give them something to eat.”

Jesus organized the people into groups of 50 and seated them on the ground. He took the meager menu items and blessed them, giving them to the disciples to distribute. As they did, they saw the blest food multiply in their hands as they gave it away! In a short while the crowd of 5000 men, not counting women and children, was filled as were 12 baskets of leftovers.

The Confession
When the people were gone, Jesus retreated from the men a little distance to be alone to pray. When they had caught their breath, the men gathered to Him quietly, not wishing to disturb Him. All of them, Jesus included, were thinking of the events of this remarkable day. Jesus asked the men what people were saying about Him—specifically, what theories existed as to His identity. When all the standard answers were offered a silence fell, each man thinking the unthinkable. Jesus asked them who they thought He might be.

A soft voice spoke from among the 12. It was unusual for Peter to speak so quietly but His words were so full of meaning, they did not need volume to have an impact. Dr. Luke gives us the most economical version of Peter’s confession.

“The Christ of God.”

Never have four words meant so much. This confession is the power behind the power and the truth behind the truth. Many will admit that if Jesus really existed, He was a great teacher or philosopher or humanitarian, but they shrink back from the truth. This confession is the dividing line between believers and unbelievers. To confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Suffering Savior, and Triumphant Lord is to worship and witness all at once. In its light all goodness is possible and all evil can be overcome.

Scriptures:
Luke: 9:1-26

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him. And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them. And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” So they answered and said, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I confess with the ancient church: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.” I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Song:
Crown Him with Many Crowns

Words: Matthew Bridges; Music: George J. Elvey

1. Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
and hail him as thy matchless king through all eternity.

2. Crown him the Lord of life, who triumphed o’er the grave,
and rose victorious in the strife for those he came to save;
his glories now we sing who died and rose on high,
who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

3. Crown him the Lord of love; behold his hands and side,
rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty, glorified;
no angels in the sky can fully bear that sight,
but downward bends their burning eye at mysteries so bright.

4. Crown him the Lord of years, the potentate of time,
creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! for thou hast died for me;
thy praise shall never, never fail throughout eternity.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

May 3 “Confessions”

Confessions

Confessions are more than everyday statements. Confessions are the stuff of change.
I am sure Jesus was alone with His disciples when He asked them this question:

“Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

His question contained a confession—He called Himself the Son of Man. This is a title almost exclusively used by Jesus in reference to Himself. Scholars debate why this was His practice with many explanations offered. Let’s take the most obvious view: Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of Man. His mother was Mary, a normal human being who was “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit when Jesus was conceived within her. To the followers of Jesus, His confession that he was a human being was not unusual. To Jesus it meant much more. Chances are He framed the question to lead His men from the obvious confession that He was a man to the amazing confession that He was indeed the Son of God.

Getting the Answer Right.
The men gave Him a summary of public opinion and Jesus made it personal.

“But who do you say that I am?”

I can imagine the 12 of them searching each other’s faces. Who would speak aloud what they all were thinking? Peter, of course.

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

There it was out in the open. Peter waited to hear what Jesus would say. The answer was not long in coming. Yes! Peter, you didn’t just figure this out on your own. My father revealed it to you. This is the confession that will serve as the foundation of my church! My church will be impervious to the powers of hell itself and people will be freed from sin. With this confession the powers of hell will be bound and the streams of grace will be opened.

Then Jesus told them to keep quiet about it. Why? Because things were about to change. They would make a trip to Jerusalem and to all appearances the enemies will win. He tried to tell them about His death and the new life to follow. They didn’t get it. Peter, so recently eloquent in his confession, took Jesus aside and gently corrected Him. Suddenly the confession of Jesus changed. Peter the Rock became “Satan” because of his refusal to listen to Jesus.

To Follow Jesus
Not only would Jesus bear a cross but so would everyone who followed Him. The world would be turned upside down. To save one’s life, lose it in following Jesus. What is as valuable as a man’s soul? What would we trade for it? Judgment is coming! Eternal reward or eternal punishment, which will it be?

His heavy words hung in the air. He looked each man in the face before closing the subject. Some of their number would see the end when it came. Among them, young John, did not know that Jesus spoke of him. In decades to come, John would grow old preaching the Jesus Story only to be bound in prison on a deserted island. There he would see the coming of the Son of Man who is the Son of God in all His glory and John would share his vision with us.

Scriptures:
Matthew 16:13-28
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I confess that You are the Son of Man and the Son of God. There has never been anyone like You. I will take up my cross today and follow You. I will deny myself today. I will lose my life in Your will today so that today I might find it again. I will align myself with Your amazing Church built strong and steady on the Rock of this Confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Hell can stand back and watch, raging all the while, but my voice will not be stilled. My confession stands! In Jesus’ Name.

Song:
The Solid Rock
Words: Edward Mote; Music: William B. Bradbury

1. My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

3. His oath, His covenant, His blood
support me in the ‘whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found,
dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved