How does the Story End? (Matthew 16:13-20)December 19, 2021 | Brandon Cooper
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But grab your bibles. Matthew chapter 16, verses 13 to 20. This morning, Matthew 16, verses 13 to 20. As you’re turning there on the eve of Germany’s invasion of Holland during World War Two, the 10 boom family were sitting around in their living room listening to the radio. And the Queen was on saying, there’s nothing to fear remain calm, and all of a sudden, Corys father shut off the radio, and she said she saw a fire in him that she’d never seen before. And he said, It is wrong to give people hope. When there is no hope there will be war, the Germans will attack and we will fall. Oh, my dears, I’m sorry for all Dutchman now who do not know the power of God, for we will be beaten, but he will not. We will be beaten, but he will not therein lies the great paradox and frankly, challenge of the Christian faith, we may be led like lambs to the slaughter. But God will triumph. So that means it will often look and feel like defeat. As we get into sin, sickness and death still reign when there’s persecution, even martyrdom, cultural backlash against Christianity laws, attacking religious liberty, but God’s victory and the victory He grants his people is sure. So when it says we’ve already answered our question, then our question this morning is how does the story end? There you have it Godwin’s. But it’s worth exploring a little bit more to especially because of this, How then shall we live in light of God’s victory? So here’s our main idea this morning that we’re working through as we go through the passage here. It’s this through his people’s proclamation, Christ will build a church that conquers death and darkness. I see this in our passage this morning, especially in verse 18. Really, verse 18, is our passage, but I gotta provide a little of context. So we’ll read a little bit more as we look at Iraq, a builder and a victory. Let me read Matthew 16, verses 13 to 20. For us, when Jesus came to the region accessory of Philippi, he asked his disciples who do people say the Son of Man is implied, some say, John the Baptist, others say, Elijah, and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. But what about you? He asked, Who do you say I am? The Simon Peter, answer to you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God? Jesus replied, Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth, we bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. And he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Alright, so starting with a rock, but context, first of all, verses 13 to 16, this is a significant step forward for the church for the disciples, because Jesus is talking to his disciples and kind of getting the scuttlebutt and just in terms of what what do people think about me, he’s growing in popularity. So everybody’s talking about him. What are those people saying? Well, they think he’s impressive, but certainly not divine. I’m not sure Peters there yet, either. But anyway, a significant step forward, because he recognizes that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, that everybody has been waiting for. And Peter’s certainty in that declaration sets him apart from the uncertain crowd. Could be this could be this could be this No, he’s this, he is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And Jesus says, the fact that you know that that can only be the result of the Father’s gracious disclosure, we do not come to that information by our own cleverness, it takes God revealing it to us.
At the same time, we’ll see, this is a very partial understanding that Peter has, if you’re here with us for the mark series, you know all about this, of course, but Peter is going to be hindered by his own expectations for what the Messiah will be even in the next couple of verses. He’s going to mess it up badly. That’s actually why verse 20, is there seems to contradict my main point, right, he ordered disciples not to tell anyone that he wasn’t Messiah. What about our peoples proclamation here? Well, that’s because at this point, they didn’t really understand Messiah. But once they figure that out, once we have the death and resurrection of Christ, once the Spirit comes on them, the people get to proclaim is this exactly he is the Messiah and this is what Messiah means. But, nevertheless, as far as we’ve gotten so far, there’s enough understand Ending the Jesus sees in Peter. And certainly Jesus for knows that there will be more understanding and Peter knows what his Father’s plan is. There’s enough understanding that Jesus can make this pronouncement. You are Peter Petros in Greek, which means rock, in Aramaic que FOSS or if you like to say it the English way surface you probably heard Peter called that. Well, now, all that means rock, right? This is the rock upon which Christ builds His church. So what exactly is the rock? It has to be Peter, because that’s the pawn, your Petrosian on this Petra, like, it’s pretty clear right there. Okay, so that’s it. Now,
this is a little bit confusing, of course, because elsewhere, the rock, the foundation is Jesus. But of course, here Jesus is the builder and to be a little awkward if he were the foundation as well as the builder, the New Testament loves to mix metaphors. That’s fine. So metaphors are we should not be concerned about this. In fact, in First Corinthians three, Paul says that he’s the builder building on the rock of Jesus, the foundation, there is Jesus. And then in Ephesians, two, Paul says, No, actually, the foundation is the apostles and the prophets. And Jesus is the chief cornerstone, which is Yes, right? Doesn’t matter, get the wrong metaphor. So we understand what’s being said here. Now, I do have to mention because we’re Protestants here, and we get a little squeamish with a verse that says, upon the rock of Peter, I will build my church. And so all sorts of gymnastics to try and get around this, but we should never do violence to the text for the sake of our theological factions. And by the way, that would be really bad legacy of the Reformation, considering the reformers were the ones who said scripture alone, scripture alone, but that’s fine. We can look at Scripture, we don’t need to do violence to the text because we have the rest of the New Testament. We also have early church history that show that Peter is important, very important, he goes first, no doubt. We have no indication of anything like an infallible pope, or apostolic succession or things like that. And you see this in the New Testament. James is the one who leads the church in Jerusalem, not Peter, he’s one of the three sure but James is the speaker. The church in Jerusalem, send Peter and John out. So they’re being commissioned by the church meaning under their authority. Paul rebukes Peter in Galatians. Two pretty famously. And if we’re gonna go with apostolic succession, it’s really weird to me that for about 30 years after Peter’s death, we’ve got a successor that isn’t John, the apostle, who writes five books of the New Testament. So I got concerns there for sure. But we also have no evidence for the primacy of the Roman church for hundreds of years after Christ. You can see in the early councils, different bishops take turns leading these councils is not always the Roman bishop. The title suggests parity and equality. Here’s Cyprian, for example, in AD to fifth 50, which I know that 250 Feels like really early to us, but that’s 220 years after Christ. We’re talking like 1800, right? That’s a long time he says this The episcopate, that which means like the College of bishops, okay, the Episcopal is one, a whole of which apart is held by each Bishop. There are many rays of the sun, but one light many branches of a tree, but one strong trunk grounded in its tenacious route. And since from one spring flow, many streams still at the source, Unity abides undivided, so also the church bathed in the light of the Lord extends its rays over the whole earth, yet there is one light diffused everywhere you can see he’s stressing the equality and unity of the College of bishops. It’s not from the Roman trunk, all these other branches come or anything like that. Gregory the Great in about five 100. Now Gregory is the one who has such an impressive Bishop, that really the papacy kind of comes out of it. He still says this refusing the title of universal Bishop, by the way, for our brother and fellow bishop to take the name of soul Bishop, despising all others is a very sad thing to bear patiently. But what else does this pride of his signify, except that the times of Antichrist are already near at hand? For his obviously imitating Him who tried to climb to the pinnacle of uniqueness? So I’ve already belabor the point. I won’t belabor it any more. Peter goes first. That’s fine. We should have no problem with that he goes first because he’s impulsive. By the way, nothing wrong with that either. And on the foundation of such men, Jesus builds His church. Now, why then do I say proclamation through his people’s proclamation instead of just through his people through people like Peter two reasons? Because first, when does Jesus say this to Peter? It’s right after his proclamation regarding Christ, you are the Messiah. That’s the foundation. The proclamation that Peter makes. We see this elsewhere. sesiones 220, which I alluded to already says the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Who are the apostles, the guys who write the New Testament? Who are the prophets, the guys who write the Old Testament, right? So we still have the proclamation of who God is, of course, the Great Commission as well, which we looked at earlier in our C series, how is that we make disciples teaching, teaching. So that’s one reason. Second reason is because that language of the keys of the kingdom of heaven being given to the church and binding and loosing which we talked about last week, we mentioned last week that of course, the church does not save people. God does that. But we do proclaim the message by which people are saved or hardened against God and His gospel. So if our proclamation is the instrument of God’s inevitable victory, that should color how we do worship. Because what we do when we gather points to the end of the story, this is the way John Jacque Vaughn Elman says it. He says, Every time the church assembles to celebrate the cult, to reclaim the death of Christ until he comes again. It proclaims also the end of the world, and the failure of the world. Christian worship is the strongest denial that can be hurled in the face of the world’s claim to provide men with an effective and sufficient justification for their life. There is no more emphatic protest against the pride and the despair of the world. I love that the pride and the despair, there’s no more emphatic protest against the pride and the despair of the world. And that implied in church worship, which means this is the real worship war. By the way, if you’ve been in the church, for some time, you’ve heard the phrase worship wars before. And that’s, do you sing hymns with an organ or choruses with an electric guitar? That’s not the worship or worship or is just anytime the church is sings, because we are proclaiming, as Peter did that Jesus is the Christ for which both Christ and Peter were crucified, by the way, because it is a wartime declaration. By being here, we proclaim Christ as Savior. And at the same time, the failure of money, power, comfort, success,
whatever to save. So there’s the rock. Second, a builder. I’ll be brief is here, as we look at the whole idea of Christ as the builder. But brief does not mean unimportant. Arguably, this is the most important point I will make today. And it’s simply this Christ will build his church, who will build his church, Christ will build his church who will not build his church, we do not build the church. Success, in other words, is not up to us. Certainly that doesn’t mean we don’t need to labor faithfully. Don’t hear me say that. We see that. everywhere, even in first printings of three. Paul even says, we’ll be tested, our labor will be tested to see if it was faithful. Sure, but the results are in God’s hands. Now, why have I made this a separate point when it’s so blindingly obvious? Because it is a gut punching rebuke to American evangelicalism. That’s why we have such a shallow culture of celebrity in this nation. And by the way, that is not the celebrities fault. That’s our fault. Because we’re the ones who give them oxygen. The Kardashians have influenced in our culture, because we watched the stupid TV show, and for no other reason. Right? That’s what I mean. Most obvious, of course, in the political sphere. This is where we see it, especially today, because we keep elevating narcissists whose littleness should disqualify them from office. But boy, do we love a celebrity in this country. Why in politics especially, is because we think that they will bring the victory that we seek. We see this over and over and over again, presidential candidates treated as Messiah was, who will usher in the kingdom of God certainly is how Trump was spoken of like a pass. I remember passing yard signs that were nothing short of blasphemy. God has blessed America, he sent us Trump in insert vomit emoji here. Obama spoken of in the same way he was the fourth member of the Trinity again, it’s blasphemy for which we will be judged if we get into it, but worse. Here’s the thing. I yell about politics a lot. Let’s talk about the church. The problem is that same love of celebrity is here in the church, too, because we keep anointing the hot new preacher whose character falls far short of his gifts. Why Why would we do that? Because they keep producing results. Speaking of blasphemy, by the way, they don’t produce anything. That’s God who produces. Mike Casper and a recent podcast highlighting one such preacher. He calls this the Bobby Knight problem. Bobby Knight, the famous Indiana basketball coach who abused his players regularly, verbally, even physically, and everyone turned a blind eye. Why? Because they won. That’s why. And we’ve got the same problem here. So we listen to people who have churches of 5000, because we think they figured out how to make disciples. And maybe, maybe I’m not saying there aren’t things to learn, and maybe people doing it better than we are, I’m certainly willing to grant that I’ve got a lot to learn from a lot of people that we have a lot to learn from a lot of people. So maybe, maybe, but maybe they just figured out how to attract crowds when Jesus was much better at repelling them. And we got to be aware of that danger. But no, we just keep listening, keep buying the books, attending conferences, because we’re in thrall to the idol of success, and it is a very American Idol. Here’s one such preacher in a moment of honesty, heartbreaking honesty, really, he says this. I’m a guy who’s highly competitive. Every year I want the church to grow my knowledge to grow my influence to grow. I want everything because I want to win. And so for me, it is success and driven ness and productivity and victory that drives me constantly. That’s my own little idol. And listen to this as my own little idol. And it works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. Tell me he’s wrong. That’s exactly right. That’s who we are. He confesses idolatry and says the church loves him for it.
Because why? More numbers. In contrast to that, and then faithfulness to our text today, here’s
J i Packer offering a much wiser approach. So long quote, but, you know, Packer was wise, probably worth listening to him for a bit. He says in all of this, I seem to see a great deal of unmodified pride, either massaged, indulged and gratified or wounded, nursed and mollycoddled. I don’t know what mollycoddled means but I love that word. And it’s coming out in every sermon from here on out. And we’re going into our mission statement somehow. Where quantifiable success is God pride always grows strong and spreads through the soul as cancer sometimes gallops through the body, shrinking spiritual stature and growing moral weakness, vents results in pastoral leaders, especially those who have become sure they’re succeeding. The various forms of abuse and exploitation that follow can be horrific, orienting all Christian action to visible successes its goal, a move which to many modern seems supremely sensible and businesslike is thus more a weakness in the church than its strength. It is a seabed both of unspiritual Vainglory for the self rated six cedars and among spiritual to despair for the self rated failures, and a source of shallowness and superficiality all around. But the way of health and humility is ready to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis, we do not and cannot know the measure of our success the way God sees it. wisdom says, Leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness, rather than idolatry of achievement, or to use language Matthew 16 Proclaim Christ’s faithful he knowing that he will build his church. Last point then, of victory. There are few words more precious in the New Testament than these the gates of hell, the gates of Hades will not overcome the church. The victory is sure, or even better, the victory is already ours. It’s as though the antidote has been given even if our bodies still got the symptoms of the poison, coursing through it. Briefly. The gates of Hades here almost certainly refers to the grave. And so what’s the point the grave can’t keep us in the kingdom of life and light will defeat the kingdom of death and darkness. And knowing that the war is one guards our hearts against fear, and naivete. And those are both important because there are two lies that we are asked to believe in this world either that the war is not won. Or on the other hand, that the war is not costly. But the war is won. And it will be a costly war. At least now, let’s take them one at a time. The lie that the war is not one and the fear that results we must remember how the story ends to guard ourselves against faithless fear and hopeless anxiety. Especially in a post Christian culture where defeat feels more real. But no God has already won in Christ, which means and listen to me this is so important here, which means that every so called defeat is part of God’s plan for ultimate victory. There are no setbacks in the kingdom. This, the blueprint for that truth is, of course, Jesus. I tell you what, on Saturday morning, it looks like God had been defeated. How you feeling on Sunday morning, feeling any better now? That’s it, it looks like defeat it was God’s strategy for victory. Which means when defeat happens, we have to look at this like we’re watching a grandmaster who sacrifices her Queen on route to Checkmate. Checkmate already. They’re like, let’s dig in here for a moment though. If we lose our tax exempt status as a church, is Christ still king? If I’m imprisoned for preaching faithfully to the text on issues like gender and sexuality, my family is forced into poverty because gonna you’re gonna lift the hand to help them because you don’t want to be wrestled to is Christ still king? And if we’re all gruesomely murdered, is Christ still king? Then what are you worried about? Seriously, what are you worried about? What can we possibly be worried about? And why do we feel the need to fight with political weapons like where Peter drawing his sword to lop off Malthus’s ear?
And Jesus goes, seriously, man, I called you the rock. And he heals ear if we’ve seen the instrument already. It’s certainly not violence. It’s not litigation. It’s not legislation, its proclamation, the Gospel goes forth. The victory is one I say this, because a lot of American Christians seem nervous today. In a sense, rightly, because all those things I just mentioned, they could happen. They’ve happened to Christians throughout the centuries. So in a sense, rightly, but in a much truer and stronger sense, very, very wrongly. Let me say it so clearly, the progressive left is not a threat to the church. The Nationalist right is not a threat to the church. This deconstruction trend is not a threat to the church, the Chinese Communist Party, Iran, North Korea, Mordor, the Colombians, I don’t care, they’re not a threat to the church. How can I say this so confidently, because Christ will build his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. There’s a second line we got to be careful with here. And that says the war won’t be costly, because we got to remember how the story ends. Also, to guard against the naive triumphalism, as if the happy ending we’re here already. Victory is sure. But it will be costly. In the meantime, you know, on D Day, the Allies lost four times as many men as the Germans did. You mentioned going to bed that night, thinking I don’t know what just happened that looked like defeat. Of course, from the perspective of the end, we know that no, that was the beginning of the victory, for sure. It was a costly victory. And so it is here of course, we worship a crucified savior. What could be more costly than the precious blood of Christ and it’s already been spilled. Look, there will come a day when pain and mourning and loss and grief come to an end but it is not this day. Unless Christ comes before the sun sets. It is certain but not yet. We got to remember that or we will grow discouraged when suffering comes. We are called to count the cost in this life. Like we storm Omaha Beach, spiritually speaking, I want to be so clear about that, again, not attacking people but attacking spiritual darkness. We don’t fight against people because they’re not the enemy. They’re victims of the enemy. But we storm Omaha Beach, guess what that means you’re gonna get shot at. That’s what happened right? Why would we storm the beach and because our mission is to push back the kingdom of darkness so that Christ’s kingdom can spread to more people come to know Christ and those who know Christ know Him more John Stott lists six ways that we storm this beach, that we work in this life prayer. Primarily prayer. That’s not a pious platitude, right? That is our foremost strategy, undoubtedly, prayer evangelism. Of course, we’re there to minister, the Gospel, our example. We’re gonna be that faithful presence in the world, we’re gonna be salt and light, of course, arguments, which he doesn’t mean being argumentative, but rationally persuading people of the truth of the gospel, and action, social and political, I’m sure, sometimes maybe. But the last one that I find especially interesting, the last strategy for conquering this world, Scott says, is suffering. Suffering, because it is, in his words, a test of authenticity, because those other strategies are costly. Now, in what sense the suffering advance the kingdom, then well, because it communicates the gospel, the upside down nature of the kingdom, the the reversals, that the gospel effects are king, the king of the universe is born in a feeding trough in poverty. And that King triumphs in defeat, lying dead in a tomb for a period of days, we win this war. We win this war, not by killing, but by dying. It’s a heck of a strategy. Here’s revelation 12 1011, John, the apostle hears this voice from Heaven
crying out, now have come to salvation and the power in the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah for the accuser of our brothers and sisters who accuses them before God day and night has been hurled down. They triumphed. That’s what we’re talking about, right? They triumphed over him, by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony. They did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. How do we triumph by the blood of the lamb that’s shorthand for the gospel by the way, it is not of us. It is in Christ and through Christ and for Christ and all the glory belongs to Christ, we triumph by the blood of the Lamb, and also by the word of our testimony. There’s the proclamation, the testimony, of course, but we are proclaiming a message of triumph. Through defeat, we are proclaiming a message of willing self sacrifice, and thus, well, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Why would we shrink from death by the way, it is the gateway to unending life and inexpressible joy. I started with Corrie 10, boom, I will end there too. If you’re familiar with the 10, boom story at all, you know that they joined the resistance in Holland, and their home quickly became a hiding place for Jews who are trying to escape concentration camps. And eventually, the 10 booms themselves were arrested for their role in the resistance and a sense of prison. Their father was in his 80s. At this point, they tried to send him a home, we don’t want to arrest you. We don’t want to send you to a concentration camp. He said you can send me home and I will open the door to anyone who asked me for help. So they put them back in the camp and he died 10 days later. But Cory and her sister Betsy were sent to ravens Brook ultimately where they were of course starved, beaten, mistreated, insulted, Betsy, in particular was very sick at this point. And she had failing strings. She couldn’t keep up with a work crew that she was on and a guard began to mock her for these little spoonfuls of dirt that she was moving. And Betsy had the Christian spirit enough to laugh at herself as well, but her laughter infuriated the guard who whipped her with a riding crop. What did Corey do? She did what we would all do in that situation, right? And she’s seen her sister being beaten, she lunges at the guard with her shovel, the Betsy stands in front of her keeps her from being almost certainly killed. Because there’s the difference, right? The fleshly impulse is to attack. But the spiritual impulse is to endure like Christ. And so as the bloods beginning to form on her face, that’s he just covered her face and she said, don’t look at it, Cory, look only at Jesus. It’s a good message for us. What I find so fascinating, though, about the 10 boom story, is that they witnessed such incredible miracles during their time in the concentration camp. So Betsy, as I mentioned, had failing strength. She wasn’t she was dying. Well, there’s little vial have vitamins. And so they were passing it out and she Cory just wanted to hoard it for her sister. But you know, it turns out everyone in the campus sick of course, there’s 25 People getting vitamins every day from this little vial. They couldn’t see through it because it was dark glass. They kept waiting for it to be empty and it never was. And it never was. And it never wasn’t. It never wasn’t. It never was and then finally somebody smuggled them some vitamins in and Cory said, Well, we’re gonna finish the vial first and then we’ll use these vitamins. She wants to get out the dropper no more drops. It’s like Israel in the wilderness. The man was there right up until they got the promised land. Listen, here’s the thing. So we get all these vitamins, God miraculously providing these vitamins multiplying them in this tiny little dropper and Betsy still dies in the concentration
camp. What was the point of miracle? Isn’t that how we often look at it? Right? Like God, you you could you so clearly couldn’t do this? How come you didn’t?
Why didn’t he step in earlier? Where were they spent at the concentration camp in the first place? Why did Betsey die? To answer that question? Biblically, we have to ask another question who won? The 10 booms are the Nazis I don’t see the Nazis round. The Church of Jesus Christ coming along. What came of this inquiry is released from concentration camp on a clerical error by the way she was supposed to be killed. She goes out and she preaches the gospel of Christ. She sees former guards at ravens Brook going up to her thanking her for preaching this message of forgiveness knowing that their sins have been forgiven. The Nazis might have been able to kill Betsy his body but they could not kill souls and Christ was winning the souls even of Nazis in the defeat of the 10 moons. That’s three dimensional chess. What happened afterwards, they opened up the home where they used to hide Jews now becomes a place where Dutch traders, co conspirators working with the Nazis can be restored. She got another home for concentration camp survivors, and eventually those groups reconciled. That’s the power of the gospel. Good luck finding power like that anywhere else. By the way. That’s the power of the gospel. Why doesn’t God heal? Why doesn’t he step in? Well, maybe it’s because as your body’s being ravaged by cancer, you’re faithful endurance, your ceaseless love of Christ. is shining a light that will conquer kingdoms? Why didn’t God heal maybe because that family that is grieving, and mourning, gets to demonstrate to a watching world with hope. Increase looks like when the miracle doesn’t come. When the Queen is lost Fear not. The Grandmaster is working a deeper victory. Be of good cheer. Christ has come. He came to suffer, he came to die for Christ has come Christ has won he rose again victorious and Christ will come again. And when he does, we will rise with him through his people’s proclamation. Christ will build a church that conquers death and darkness. That’s the end of the story. Let’s pray. conquering king and Victor we praise your name. Because though in this life, it may look like we are losing as individuals and families as the church gathered, but we know beyond all shadow of a doubt. Ours is the victory already. When Christ rose from the dead on the third day, that was it. That was the end. That is how the story ends. And Christ who came as a little baby born into poverty in a feeding trough in a stable will come again and this time he will come on the clouds of heaven. And and that day, the dead in Christ will rise victorious will be gathered to Him and He will restore all things. Every sad thing will come untrue. And we will live forever with Him in a world without grief or sin or pain. or tears Lord would you encourage us with the hope of that day now so that we can live as we are and proclaim the gospel as faithfully as we ought until that day in Christ’s name.