Getting It All Wrong, Or…

Pastor Ginkel, in that same e-mail that mentioned Gerideane, had this little word of wisdom: 1,000 years from now…

…it will not matter at all whether

You lived in a mansion or a shed; You ate steak or cold cuts; You drove a Cadillac or an Escort; You had a doctorate or signed your name with an X
…what will matter a great deal is whether

You believed in Jesus as your Savior from sin; You remained faithful to Jesus until death; You witnessed to Jesus by word and deed; You earnestly prayed for souls and Kingdom growth.

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

August 29-30, 2020

“Getting It All Wrong, Or…”

Matthew 16:21-28

Rev. John R. Larson

Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado


Pastor Ginkel began a new Bible study on the Epistles of St. Peter this past Wednesday. He knows how to bring in a crowd for his studies.  He feeds them.  Most of the people who come, go there because of his bribery of free donuts, and then he never lets them leave.

But one of the class actually has a pure heart concerning why they come to the study.  Gerideane Tracey in speaking to Pastor Ginkel said, “I’m so happy we’re going to study Peter.”  When Pastor asked her why, she responded, “Well, Peter was a big sinner and so am I.  So I figure he may offer me some hope.”  Gerideane is right.  Peter was a big sinner, conflicted in his life and quite cowardly.  And he was also a person of great faith.  Peter, for many of us, is our patron saint.

Last weekend the first part of Matthew 16 was our Bible reading; this week it is the latter part.  Last week Jesus asked the question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  The disciples answered, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  Jesus then got more personal and asked His followers, “What about you?  Who do you say I am?”  And Peter, Gerideane’s hero, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  (See Matthew 16:13-16)

Jesus applauds him.  He calls him blessed.  Jesus says that this confession “didn’t come by man, but that it was revealed to you by my Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:17)  At that moment everything was right.  He was bold.  He confessed confidently.  He was Peter – the Rock!!

But, boy, did it ever go south fast.  Peter, so right initially, got it so wrong.  This week we read the second part of Matthew 16.   “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  (Matthew 16:21)  And here is where Peter got it all wrong.  Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him.  “Never, Lord!”  “This will never happen to you!”  So, Jesus, with as much boldness, took Peter aside and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan.”  (See Matthew 16:22-23)  Jesus, who has just called Peter, blessed, now calls him, Satan.

Peter got it all wrong.  He had confessed Him as God’s Messiah, the Christ.  The Christ for many in that day was a person of victory and power and wealth and beauty and position.  There was no place for suffering and rejection and death when Peter thought of the Christ, “Lord, this will never happen to you.”  I found the final words from last week’s lesson confusing, “Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”  (Matthew 16:20)  Don’t tell?  Why?  6 chapters before this Jesus had said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)

But their idea of Messiah, Peter’s idea of Messiah, was wrong.  Glory would come but it didn’t start that way.  So He gives Peter a new name – Satan – which means adversary.  He, by his words of rejection of what Jesus came to do as a sacrifice, had taken the heart of an enemy.  Jesus said to him, “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  (Matthew 16:23b)  Jesus uses the same words in His battle against the devil when He was in the desert.  In the final temptation when the liar, the devil, shows Jesus all the kingdoms  of the world and says that he would give them to Jesus if Jesus would bow down and worship the devil, Jesus rebukes the evil one, “Get behind me, Satan.”  (Matthew 4:10).  Same words.

Peter got it wrong.  Deadly wrong.  We can get it wrong too.  Christians can get life and faith wrong as well.  Pastor Gary Piepkorn served as pastor in Portales, New Mexico for quite a few years.  Gary wrote, “We can most certainly agree that to be lost for eternity is the very worst thing that can happen to a person.”   That is what Jesus says in His next words, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Matthew 16:24-26)

Jesus got it right.  When he battled Satan #1 in Matthew 4 with his ongoing temptations early in His ministry, Jesus battled with the Word of God.  When Jesus had to face Satan #2, in the face of St. Peter, He knew that He needed to be about the things of God and not the shortsighted steps of men.  Jesus had it right.  He would lay down His life for the salvation of all people.  John writes in his epistle, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  (I John 2:2)  Just days before His crucifixion Jesus says, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it was this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.”  (John 12:27-28a)  He didn’t get it wrong.  He got it right for us.

Jesus talks about us getting it right.  Not by self.  But by Him.  In faith.  By seeing the Christ on the cross.  Believing that by such a sacrifice we are made whole.

Pastor Ginkel, in that same e-mail that mentioned Gerideane, had this little word of wisdom:  1,000 years from now…

…it will not matter at all whether

  • You lived in a mansion or a shed
  • You ate steak or cold cuts
  • You drove a Cadillac or an Escort
  • You had a doctorate or signed your name with an X

…what will matter a great deal is whether

  • You believed in Jesus as your Savior from sin
  • You remained faithful to Jesus until death
  • You witnessed to Jesus by word and deed
  • You earnestly prayed for souls and Kingdom growth

This week I visited Elle Lambert.  Elle, recently, has had too many medical issues and can’t get out to worship or attend the Tuesday Bible Class.  Elle, for over 50 years was a Mormon.  But God knew what He was doing when He gave Elle a place to live some years ago.  She lives at Amity Plaza – about two miles from here.  That is the same place where Charlotte Wilkinson lives.  In fact, they are across the hall from each other.  Elle is in 406; Charlotte 405.  A number of years ago Elle and Charlotte were talking about God and church and if I got the story right, Charlotte started talking about grace.  Elle, over 50 years in the L.D.S. church, didn’t know what she was talking about.  She said, “Who is this Miss Grace you keep on mentioning?”  Charlotte had a door, wide open, to speak of Jesus and His love and His sacrifice and His gift of eternal life, all by grace, all by God’s favor, all by Jesus.  Elle came to Ascension, went through Instruction Class and then had the joy of her Baptism.  It is a day that a number of us still joyfully remember.  A dear lady who was taught wrong for too many years, by God’s grace, got it right.  When I think of grace I think of Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Peter, who was called “blessed” and then called “Satan”, had a life rescued by God’s grace.  He got it all wrong but then he got it all right, because God was in his life.

All of you Ginkel learners – I know Pastor Ginkel tempts you to come to his class with donuts and lots of sugary treats, but I know what he really wants to do with you in that gathering.  I know his real heart.  He wants to give you Jesus.  Peter, once called blessed, then called the devil, would say in his later years, in his epistle, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”  (I Peter 1:23)  By God’s constant grace Peter got it right.

For all of us who too long have gotten it all wrong, I’m glad that in Jesus, our Savior, we finally got it right.  Amen!!


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