Matthew is one of those books that I have read many times but as I look closer in my sermon preparation, I’m seeing new perspectives. I hope I’m careful not to impose my ‘creativity’ upon the text – there is nothing worse than a creative preacher.
Okay, I guess I should explain that last phrase. I have nothing against creativity; it is a gift from God. Creativity in sermon introductions, illustrations and structure (outline, etc.) is not only acceptable, it is essential. However, creativity with ‘new ways of understanding the text’ can be deadly. Preachers need to be faithful to what the text actually says.
Yesterday, I preached on Matthew 16:1-20 and pointed out three different responses to Jesus in those verses. The Pharisees and Sadducees were The Blind Seeking Signs (16:1-4). The disciples, confused by Jesus reference to the yeast of the Pharisees, were The Dull Seeking Understanding (16:5-12). Peter, in his famous confession of Christ, represents The Redeemed Confessing Christ.
There are important redemptive historical considerations in this passage. When preaching from the Gospels, it is important to remind the congregation that these events all occur before the cross, resurrection and outpouring of the Spirit. Given that fact, it is legitimate to point out that we still see these reactions to Jesus today.
Many unbelievers are like the Pharisees and Sadducees. They mockingly say, “just have God show me a sign that will make me believe.” This is willful ignorance, but it is also a reflection of unregenerate human nature.
We do find genuine seekers who are being drawn by God. They haven’t realized who Christ is, even though they are interacting with the evidence in Scripture. They are ‘on the way,’ but they don’t quite get it. When Jesus talks about ‘the yeast of the Pharisees,’ they think in physical categories rather than their need to be made ‘New Lumps’ supernaturally by God’s grace (I had to throw that in).
Finally, when we see people wholeheartedly confessing that Jesus is, “The Christ, the Son of the Living God,” we know that it is not because of their noble character, their intelligent seeking or their godly heritage, but because this reality was revealed to them by the Father. God gets all the glory for the conversion and the confession of the redeemed!
In know that Peter’s confession in this context in Matthew has implications for the Church. I’m going to go back to these verses, and a little farther on, next week. I have never before thought about its relationship to the context of the earlier verses in Matthew 16.
For a ‘pastoral’ message, I think this outline hit home for some people. After the message, I heard a report (from a grandmother) of a young man who really understood the three categories and, I think, properly assigned himself and his believing grandmother. He considers himself a seeker – even though he’s involved in an immoral lifestyle. I hope and pray that this is the case.