Confess or Deny Jesus (Matthew 10)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 3
- Hymns: LSB #549, 583, 456, 576, 660
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)
The Gospel works how we don't expect it. It does the exact opposite of our desires many times. The Gospel divides people into two groups: those who acknowledge and those who deny Jesus. The good news of Christ's death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin divides people.
Jesus told His disciples, "Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death" (v21). Immediately after our Gospel text, Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (v34). The Gospel divides. Jesus' sword is in His hand, fulfilling John's prophecy: "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:12). People want to avoid these judgment images in the Christian faith. But these are the central images of the faith.
A couple weeks ago, at our Vacation Bible School, we focused on the Apostles' Creed. In the Creed, we confess that Jesus will come back to judge the living and the dead. The crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ is a judging God. You are either with Him or against Him. Judgment comes with the Gospel. The Gospel has one impulse. One imperative. "Believe" (Mark 1:15). We MUST believe the Gospel. Eternity depends on it.
God spoke through the Old Testament Prophets, but many denied the coming Jesus instead of confessing Him. Jesus came to earth. Took on human flesh. The Jewish establishment sent Him to Pilate to be crucified. The teachers of the Old Testament could not confess Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. They denied everything they taught for the sake of killing one man.
Why did they not confess? They believed Satan's lies. God promised David's kingdom as the picture of the Messiah. Satan told them to look for an earthly ruler. God gave the sacrifices as a foreshadowing of Jesus' death on the cross. Satan said they were better for doing them. God gave the promise of forgiveness of sins through the Suffering Servant. Satan taught them to seek pleasure and not teach about suffering.
Our circumstances are no different. God says He created the world in six, twenty-four hour days. Satan convinces Christians to teach both Darwinian Evolution and Creation. God says, "Go and make disciples." Satan tells pastors to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to make sure there are more people in worship today than last week. God says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (v28). Satan says, "Don't speak about Jesus. People get angry. And Christians are called to make people angry."
But Christians ARE called to make people angry. Proclamation of the Gospel angers the sin-saturated soul. The sinner's hardened soul gets angry because the Gospel proclaims forgiveness of sins they don't believe they have. The sinner's self-righteous heart gets angry because the Gospel offers free forgiveness they are trying to earn for themselves. The sinner's grossed-out heart get angry because the Gospel proclaims Jesus' crucifixion and gruesome death for sin. The Gospel makes people angry.
But there is one person the Gospel angers more than anyone else. The devil himself. He cannot stand to hear the Gospel proclaimed in its purity. He invades Christian congregations around the world to make sure that the Gospel is mixed with his lies. The Gospel calls you to battle against his lies. You acknowledge Jesus by proclaiming the Gospel. Proclaiming Him dead, buried and resurrected for your sin. Christians proclaim the Gospel despite the threats of persecution.
"The one who endures to the end will be saved" (v22). We endure until the end because the Gospel gives life. The devil's words are only threats. The Gospel's words give life. They have true power. The power we hail as we proclaim Jesus' name (LSB #549). The power that causes you not to fear anything (Psalm 91:5-6). The devil has been defeated. "Sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the Law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). The Gospel stands you "on Christ, the solid Rock" (LSB #576). On Him, you can stand up and "lift high His royal banner" (LSB #660.1). You lift His banner by proclaiming His death and resurrection. The wormwood and the gall (LSB #549.7). His banner shelters you in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1-2).
Acknowledge Jesus as the One who has ransomed you from the Fall by His grace (LSB #549.3). "When He shall come with trumpet sound, oh, may I then in Him be found, clothed in His righteousness alone, redeemed to stand before His throne" (LSB #576.4). Clothed in Christ's righteousness, covered in His blood, Jesus will come and say, "Come with Me. You're one of Mine." You have no fear of the devil. He has no power over you. You are in Christ's shelter. He will acknowledge your faith in His triumph. He will bring you home to be with Him. The promise of paradise given throughout the Scriptures is yours. When you endure to the end, acknowledging Christ's power over your life, you will be saved. Amen.