Sermon for September 27, 2015
If you think back to the Gospel lesson from last week you will remember that after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit drove him out into the wilderness where he was attacked by the devil. The devil came to him on three separate occasions with three different temptations and tried to dislodge him from His father's Word and will. But Jesus withstood those attacks and after the time of attack was done, God sent his angels to minister to Jesus.
But the work of the devil was far from finished. In fact you might say that the devils work was just getting started. Indeed, we see the devil up to his old nasty tricks again today in our gospel reading. We see the devil again attacking Jesus, he has the same goal in mind – he is trying to dislodge him from the Word and Will of the Father, but this time he is using a different strategy. Instead of a full-on, face-to-face attack like we saw the first time around, this time the devil is sneaking up by Jesus through the back door – the devil is invading the thoughts of a trusted friend and then using that friend to attack Jesus. Satan is attacking Jesus by first attacking Peter.
Satan does this sort of thing all the time. Satan will use you to attack someone who trusts you; or he will attack you through someone you love and trust. Satan will use some other person to fill your mind with all sorts of wickedness.
· For example, he might fill someone with anxiety and then use them to dump on you so that you get anxious and worried and forget to trust the Lord.
· He will use them to fight with you so that you get angry and want to lash out.
· He'll use them to stir up in you and in your heart a sinful desire so that you fall to sin.
He does all of this to trap them but also to trap you.
We see the devil up to this trickery today in our gospel lesson. The devil is attacking Jesus by first attacking Peter. And Peter the unsuspecting victim becomes Satan's accomplice in his attempt to destroyed Jesus.
Typically, when we think of the attacks and temptations of the devil, we assume that the devil simply wants to get us to sin by breaking one of the commandments. This is true in part, but we easily lose sight of his overall strategy. In our Gospel text today, Satan’s attacks had one ultimate goal in mind – as we have said, he wanted to dislodge Jesus from his Father’s Word and Will. The heavenly Father had repeatedly said that Jesus was his Son and he was pleased with him. The Father sent Jesus to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth by means of his Suffering and Death. Satan wanted to throw Jesus off – get him to abandon his path to the cross. In that regard, Satan’s attacks were not so much about behavior as they were about belief.
We get it the other way around, though, don’t we? We assume that the devil just wants us to sin. To gossip or to steal or to lust or to covet. And then, when we have done those things we worry about them or feel guilt because of them. We forget that Jesus has died to pay for them and those sins cannot hurt us. We simply must confess those sins to God and give them up to Jesus. Satan’s goal is always the same – his ultimate goal is not to destroy your track record for good behavior (like you had that to begin with). His goal is to destroy your belief.
This is what Satan did with Peter. This is what Satan was trying to do to Jesus. The good news is that Jesus withstood the test of false belief and he did it for you.
The devil attacked Peter with false belief. But what is really strange is that only two verses before, Peter had that belief thing licked, or at least it would seem. Peter gave a spot on confession of who Jesus is (and he got a pat on the back from His Lord because of it).
Jesus was with his disciples and he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” His disciples rattled off a handful of answers – all of the popular theories of the day. Jesus followed up his question by saying, “What about you, who do you say that I am?” Peter gave a wonderful confession. He was right on the money. He knocked it out of the park. “You are the Christ,” he said.
If you read the other Gospels you find out that Jesus gave Peter a pat on the back. “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you.” Here, our text gives a lot less information. All it says is that Jesus charged them to tell no one about him. But the point is, when asked to answer the most important question Peter got the answer right. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the son of God. Peter got this answer directly from God himself. Peter received this gift of right belief directly from the Holy Spirit.
So, Peter was under the influence of the Spirit of God. Peter was a man of faith, a Christian. But, even in spite of this truth, Peter was not immune to the devil’s attacks. He was vulnerable. He was weak. He was easily attacked and defeated. Peter was no match for the devil. When the devil wanted to use Peter as his own mouthpiece, to spew out his twisted version of God’s Word, he had only to wait for the right time and Peter became his willing accomplice.
This is important for us to consider. It is easy for us to have a false sense of security. “I have faith.” We might say. “I have been baptized.” “Therefore the devil can’t touch me.” You and I have a false sense of security about us sometimes. We forget, we fail to remember, that the comfort of faith and baptism are God’s gift for weak and troubled consciences. When we feel the weight of our sin and are troubled by our failure, then we look to the Word, to Baptism for comfort. Satan tempts us to instead use those things as badges of merit, trophies that we can put on our shelf to prove to ourselves how good and how strong we are. It is then that we are ripe for failure.
Consider Peter. He just made a great confession. He just got a spiritual pat-on-the-back from Jesus himself. I bet that felt pretty good. It's always nice to get at-a-boy. Especially when it's from someone important, from someone you respect. Peter just got the ultimate at-a-boy. He got praise From Jesus himself.
Proverbs says “Pride comes before a fall”. You do something good, you're proud of your work, your head starts to swell, and you let down your guard. Satan sees his way in and he is quick to take it. Here in our text, he insinuated himself in to Peter’s conscience and he pushed Peter, not to false behavior, but to false belief. Peter became guilty of the sin of false doctrine.
We live in a day and age where people hate Doctrine. There are multiple explanations: some call it “postmodernism”. Some call it “political correctness”. Either way, the result is the same: everyone has their own belief and no one can say one belief is better than another. You would probably recognize it in the way people talk about Islam – try to say that it is anything other than a religion of peace and people will tell you to climb down off your high horse.
But political correctness hasn't just invaded the world, Satan has used this false doctrine of political correctness to invade the Church. It exists between Christians and other Christians - Lutheran Christians and other denominations of Christians, Lutherans and other Lutherans. We have lost the ability to talk about areas where we do not agree. We can only pretend that we all believe exactly the same. We are uncomfortable when the topic of belief and right belief comes us. We just want to have everyone get along. We have become doctrinally politically correct.
This plays right in to the devil’s game plan. While we are so busy trying not to be offended or give offense, Satan is busy selling his seeds of false doctrine out there in our friends and right here among us without us even knowing it. We can't see it because we have turned a blind eye to it. We must repent of this sin.
Peter had fallen into false belief. He had a false Christology. He believed Jesus was the Christ – and this was good - but he wanted Jesus to be his kind of Christ. A Christ who did not die, a Christ who did not suffer.
Martin Luther points out that “God can be found only in suffering and the cross.” He says that “Through the cross our good works are dethroned and the old Adam who is puffed up by good works is crucified”. Luther says that “It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up until he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil. Suffering helps us to know that we are worthless and that good works are not ours but God’s.” Peter got this wrong. Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus told them of his plan to go to Jerusalem and suffer. Peter had been pushed by Satan into the sin of false belief.
False belief defiles your soul. It pollutes your mind. It jeopardizes your salvation. And it needs to be removed. So Jesus in his love and mercy, Jesus was not politically correct. Jesus saw the false belief and Jesus removed it. “Get behind me Satan”. Jesus said to Peter. Jesus rebuked the false belief. And he rebuked the false teacher.
The trouble we have with doctrine, and with challenging someone on false doctrine, is that we feel that right doctrine isn’t really something we can know. I mean, there are so many different opinions, so many different ideas, how are we to know which one is right? And besides, hasn’t the bible changed through the ages? How do we know for sure that maybe someone else hasn’t gotten it more right than what we have?
And you see, this is exactly the sort of thing that Satan tells us to take away from us the truth, to take away from us the Bible, to take away from us the Word of God. Satan wanted to take away from Jesus God’s Word and God’s Will. He wants to do that exact thing with Peter. He wants to do that with you.
When Peter was guilty of this sin of False Belief, Jesus rebuked him. Jesus rebuked him and then he corrected the false belief by teaching the correct belief. Peter falsely believed that Jesus would not suffer. Jesus corrected that belief by teaching that the Christ would indeed suffer and anyone who would follow him must also suffer.
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
In the name of Jesus.
Amen. And now may the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.