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Upon This Rock

March 6, 2016
Rev. Terry Martinson



  • The fifth grade math teacher placed a jar of golf balls on her desk… “How many balls are in this jar?” she asked.
    • Johnny’s hand shot into the air immediately, and before the teacher had time to call upon him, he shouted out, “forty!”
    • Sally waited a moment before slowly raising her hand… “I think there are 24,” she said.
    • When the balls were taken out of the jar and counted, the correct number was forty.
    • Then the teacher asked the students how they had arrived at their answers.
    • “Well,” said Sally, “it looked like there were six balls on the bottom row, and it looked like there were four rows… four times six is 24.”
    • Johnny said, “Yesterday was my dad’s birthday and he turned forty, and that sounded like a pretty good guess.”
  • It seems to happen with regularity in our world: people who give an answer without thinking about the question.
  • It happens a lot during children’s sermons… you’ve probably noticed that.
  • One Sunday I asked, “What’s small and gray and furry with a bushy tail… it eats acorns and climbs trees?”… Billy’s hand shot up and he yelled out, “Jesus!”
  • Do you see what I mean? Giving an answer without thinking about the question, and it happens all the time.


  • As we turn to the gospel reading for today, we know that the disciples had been with Jesus for quite some time – long enough to watch him heal the lame… long enough to watch him feed the 5,000… long enough to see him walk on the water… and argue with the Pharisees… and teach the parables…
  • So now the time had come for Jesus to do a reality check, to see if the disciples, or anyone else, had figured out who he was.
  • Jesus asked them plainly, “Who do people say that I am? What’s the word on the street? <What are people tweeting about me?>
  • Jesus must know before he sets out for Jerusalem and for the cross if anyone even dimly grasped who he is…
  • The disciples must have recently discussed this very question, because their answers were immediate and specific… “Some people say you are John the Baptist. Others say you might be Elijah. Still others think you might be Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
  • They listed their religious heroes – they knew that Jesus spoke about God and that he spoke for God, so they took a shortcut… an estimate… a guess… His true identity was still unrecognized…
  • Then Jesus made the question more pointed – more personal, “But who do you say that I am?”
  • “Who do you say that I am?”
  • It became suddenly obvious that Jesus was not content to hear what other people believed. He was not interested in the “opinion polls” or the public rhetoric.
  • Even today, Jesus is not interested in who other people say that he is… Jesus is always wanting to know what you think, or what you feel, or what you believe about him.
  • What matters most is what you believe.”
  • “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked the twelve… they stood stunned, silent, not daring to say a word… it was easier to say what they had heard rather than what they believed.
  • But Peter couldn’t remain silent… he never could… he never did… in an instant, Peter blended all that he knew about the man Jesus with all that he knew about the promised Messiah… for a brief moment, the curtains raised, and he recognized who Jesus was.
  • It was then that he blurted out his answer, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”
  • Peter stated his opinion openly and boldly, and the other disciples stood in awe.


  • The problem with the church today is that we are more like the other eleven disciples than we are like Peter.
  • When we are asked to profess our faith, we spit forth religious words that we have heard in church over a lifetime, rarely stopping to think about their meaning.
  • When we are asked to describe what we believe, we describe what our parents believe, or mumble what we think our church believes, or report what popular culture says we’re supposed to believe. What we are essentially doing is answering the first question of Jesus: “Who do people say that I am.”
  • However, Jesus does not let us off the hook quite so easily… he asks us the second question and it’s the second question that is important, “Who do you say that I am?”
  • It’s a question we have to think about… no quick guesses… no copied answers…
  • Who do you say that Jesus is? Do you say that he is your “Savior”? …Do you know what that means? …That means that Jesus and Jesus alone is responsible for dealing with your sins… If Jesus is your Savior, your sins are no longer held against you.
  • Who do you say that Jesus is? Do you say that he is the “Lord” of your life?… that makes you his servant… it also means that everything you have is his… and it means that whatever the Master tells you to do, you will do it.
  • Who do you say that Jesus is? Do you say that he is the “Creator”?... is he Creator of everything – your enemies as well as your friends?... the people you love as well as the people you hate?... The people of different religions, or color, or gender preference?
  • Do you know what you are saying when you confess that Jesus is your Savior, and your Lord, and the Creator of the universe?


  • When Peter made his bold confession, Jesus bestowed upon him a most astonishing nickname… “You are Peter… I will call you THE ROCK because your faith is solid.”
  • And then Jesus went on to say, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”
  • Friends, Peter is not the Rock upon which the church is built… but Peter’s confession is… his statement of faith was the very first stone in building the Church that would come to worship the cornerstone – Jesus Christ.


  • The building of the Church has continued throughout human history, with each generation adding its stones of faith.
  • Faithful people of every age have stood up and professed Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and then they, too, became stones upon which the church is built: Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr… It was not easy for them, nor is it easy for us…
  • Friends, the time has come for each of us to stand up and be counted…  good guesses are no longer good enough… lukewarm is no longer appropriate… sincere confession of faith is what the Savior asks of us, because the world needs to see bold, authentic witnesses once again…

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Sermon Seed:

  • Journey of Stones – Steve Molin – CSS Publishing – Lima, Ohio (Note: This sermon is more Steve Molin’s work than mine.)


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