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Sermon24-11 Mt16 Guide

Matthew 16:13-20, theme verse Matthew 16:16

The praise and honor and glory be to our heavenly Father who seeks true worshipers who worship Him with the Spirit and truth.

Today in the sixth Sunday of 2024 and also Korean Lunar new year’s holiday, I pray that God may bless you all in His love, grace and blessings. During last few weeks, we saw that the twelve apostles whom Jesus installed to proclaim good news that “the kingdom of God arrived,” seemed not to satisfy the Lord’s expectation. But, in the Gospel of Matthew, as Matthew firstly announced that Jesus Christ came also as God of Immanuel, I mean, God with us, His disciples also seem to show more positive image so that I hope we could learn few lessons, while investigating the reason for that difference between two Gospels.

1)    As we already saw last week, the Gospel of Matthew was written by Levi Matthew, well known as Matthew the tax collector, to the church community of Jewish converts from Syria or Palestine around AD 75-80, after Jerusalem was occupied by the Romans and the temple was destroyed in AD 70, at the time when the Christian community was separated more and more from the Jewish community. And Matthew, as a pastoral theologian, wrote this Gospel to help Jesus' disciples form their identity and teach their way of life so that the church community could be established as the mission community to go and make disciples of all nations.

2)    And also as Matthew placed five sermons on discipleship and the kingdom of God between the six narratives about Jesus' life and ministry very systematically, as the first very important theme, we can know that first of all, Matthew introduced that Jesus Christ was the Immanuel, that is, God who is with his people. In this respect, we can clearly see that the image of the disciples that Matthew tried to portray was somewhat different from that of the Gospel of Mark because Jesus as God of Immanuel, was and would be with the disciples.

3)    What I mean is, in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus specifically chose twelve among His followers and appointed them as apostles, He wanted to spread good news regarding the kingdom of God and to build the kingdom of God by casting out demons through them, But, they seemed not satisfying this requirement in the beginning. I mean, when Jesus first gave the power to cast out demons and sent them on a mission trip, they seemed to cast out demons and heal many sick people, but after returning from the mission trip, their faith weakened and they were unable to cast out demons, so that they had to hear Jesus’ rebuking that “Oh you faithless generation, how long am I with you, and how long will I be patient with you?” and also his scolding that “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer”. And also, even though they witnessed the feeding of 5,000 people with five small loaves and the feeding of 7,000 people with seven loaves, they still appeared to be worried about eating, so that Jesus scolded “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? Do you not yet understand?” As such, while the disciples in the Gospel of Mark are often described as those who neither have no understanding nor even faith, but, the disciples in the Gospel of Matthew look a little different.

4)    I mean, when Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” in Caesarea Philippi, a city that was the city of turning point in the transition from his earthly ministry to his atonement ministry on the cross, while in the Gospel of Mark, Mark briefly recorded that Peter confessed, “You are the Christ,” and then the Lord told them, “Tell no one what I said,” but in today's text, in the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew recorded that to the Lord's question, "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God," and then Jesus said, “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 tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it and I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” and then He warned them, “Do not tell anyone that I am the Christ.” In other words, Matthew said that His disciples were not only those who recognized and confessed Jesus as the Christ and the Son of living God, but also those who would become the foundation of His church against which the  gates of hell could not prevail and also to whom the kyes of the kingdom of heaven would be given.

5)    But, it seems to me that this text is not the only example of this. For example, in the parable of the sower, Mark 4:13 says ”Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”, Jesus scolded His disciples, but Matthew omitted Jesus’ scolding in Matthew 13:10-23.

6)    Also, in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Mark, when the disciples saw Jesus’ walking on the water, they were terrified so that they cried out and wondered if it was a ghost. So Jesus said, “Take heart; it is I, so do not be afraid” and Mark explained that the reason they were utterly astonished was because they did not understand about the loaves but their heart were hardened. On the other hand, in Matthew 14, which deals with the same incident, the disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus’ walking on the water, but when the Lord said, “Take heart; it is I; do not be afraid,” Peter said courageously, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And when Jesus commanded him to “come,” it is recorded that Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water. Although later, when he saw the wind and was afraid, he fell into the water again and asked the Lord for help, and after the Lord saved him, Jesus rebuked him, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” However, Matthew still tried to depict the disciples have true faith and showed act of faith, even still small.

7)    And when the Lord showed His glorious transfiguration on the mountain, in Mk 9, when Peter said he would build three tabernacles, Mark said that the reason Peter did this was because “they were so afraid so that they did not know what to say” but, in Matthew 17, Matthew omitted Peter’s fear and lack of comprehension.

8)    As such, while in the Gospel of Mark, the disciples were described as dull, ignorant, and even faithless, in the Gospel of Matthew, they were described as those who have true faith, although still small so that the Lord could build a church on that faith and give them the keys to heaven.

9)    The reason why two gospels described His disciples so differently can be found in the fact that the Gospel of Mark was written first early in AD 68-70 and then the Gospel of Matthew was written around in AD 75-80, about 10 years later, so we can think that it reflects the growth in faith over that time. In other words, the disciples who first started following Jesus behaved like people without faith, and then their faith grew gradually as the time passed. So Mark described the early faith of His disciples, while Matthew described the disciples who had true faith, even little down the road.

10) But on the other hand, secondly we can find another reason from God of Immanuel, that is, God who was with them as Matthew focused on. I mean, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, since Jesus Christ was depicted as God of Immanuel, His disciples was depicted those who have true faith, growing even still little. In other words, although our inner self has been born again as a new self, however, since our old thoughts, our old habits, and our old sinful behaviors still remain in our flesh, as Mark wanted to warn us, but in the same time, as Matthew wanted to inform us that for us, since God of Immanuel is with us as our Christian identity so that we have to rely more and more on his grace in His presence.

11) Through these, we can learn few things. First of all, we would like to meditate on the Christian identity more. I mean, as we see in the Bible, after eating from the tree of the tree of knowledge of the knowledge of good and evil, human nature has become corrupted and became controlled by sin, so that our thoughts, habits, and actions could not be capable of reaching the glory of God, who is absolutely good. This is called our old self. But, when we were regenerated by the Holy Spirit, our old human nature became crucified and our human nature was transformed so that we could acknowledge God as the LORD, having the true and ultimate judgment of good and evil in Him and also yielding our will to follow His will and ruling. The Bible calls this new Christian identity as a new self. Regarding this new self, there are two more things we need to know. I mean, firstly, even though we have been born again and become new self, we still retain our old ways of thinking, old habits, and old sinful actions, as the Canon of Dort calls this as our weakness. So, when the Lord leads us through the Word, we have to reject this old ways of thinking, old habits, or old sinful behaviors that still remain in us, and willfully obey to His leading and do His will as our new self leads us. And secondly we also have to know that this regenerated new self does not aim to become a person who is completely independent of God and lives without God rather they may live with their own wisdom and strength, as is pursued in the world. In other words, even though regeneration is important and also in the sanctification process, the obedience to the Lord is important, while even the spiritual gifts to carry out the mission of God are also important, but, this does not mean that we are new self who live without God and His grace. As we can see from the fact that Adam and Eve, who had been created so perfectly in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, ultimately, falling into the temptation of the serpent and eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they sinned and fell down, we are created and also regenerated into the being who has to be with God and at the same time who needs the grace of God always, not the being who is completely independent from God and can live without His grace. That’s why Zacharius Ursinus who wrote the Heidelberg Catechism said in his commentary that “God merely put man upon trial, to show that he is entirely unable to do, or to retain aught that is good, if he is not preserved and controlled by the Holy Spirit.” Being with God of Immanuel is the identity of a disciple, so that Immanuel is the strength of His disciple who was regenerated as a new self. And also that’s why Jesus said in Mt 11:28 that “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentile and lowly in heart” and even Paul who realized this secret, also confessed in Philippians 4:13 ”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Therefore, I pray that in every moment and in everything, as we may learn His humility and gentleness, so that we may follow our Lord more closely with the confidence that His love has been poured out on us to the point of death on the cross and that the Lord, who has begun a good work in us, will finally accomplish it until the day of Jesus.

Key Questions as Small Group Activity

Q1 Our Christian identity, depicted in today’s text, even though we were born again by the Holy Spirit as new self after our old self was crucified on the cross, our new self makes us to enjoy His presence and rely more onto His grace as a child. So after checking whether you are transforming more like a child before God, while reflecting your faith experience, I hope you can share some grace with your team members while sharing your thoughts and experiences together.

Q2 And also, as Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 that “Take my yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” where humility means total dependence after recognizing total inability before God and meekness means total obedience to God’s leading, our sanctification results in our humility and meekness before God. So after reviewing your life in Jesus and checking whether you are growing into His humility and meekness, I hope you could share some grace while sharing your experience and thought together.

Love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Prayer Note

Dear ( God’s attribute which you found Today ) God!

Thanks for ( something you received through the sermon or  even during the week )

Praise, gratitude and glory be to You, Lord!

Today, I realized my sin (pains) that ( the sin God reminded through the sermon ),

please forgive (or heal) me and help me not to repeat ( the sins you recognized   ).

I learned that ( something you learned through the sermon                                    )

Please help me to live in that (  learned way of life                                                )

I pray in ( Jesus’ attribute you find ) Jesus’ name. Amen.


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