Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church, UCC
March 5, 2023
Series: Who Do You Say that I Am?
The title of this series of sermons comes from Matthew 16.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:14-16)
Before I read our Scripture lessons I have a question for you: can you think of examples of instructions we give children that we never outgrow?
- Say your sorry, share your toys, don’t run in the house, say grace before meals, eat fruit and veggies, say your bedtime prayers, call Grandma
Our theme today is in this category! – advice we give children that we never outgrow.
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord[a] would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp, but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.
Please note, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Please note, Jesus was called “a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”
As we begin this series, “Who Do You Say that I Am,” I’d like to start with the first thing we teach children about Jesus – that he is our friend.
And it’s a truth about Jesus that we never outgrow!!!
It’s not a truth we should ever set aside! I don’t think we should ever get to,“I’m beyond that now.”
Let’s think for a moment about Friendship.
- Friends enjoy each other. Friends like each other.
I know you know that God loves you. Have you ever thought about the fact that God likes you? God delights in you. God enjoys you. – like a friend!
2. Friends like to spend time together.
Think how enjoyable it is to have lunch with a friend. Think how enjoyable it is to do one of your favorite activities with a friend – shop, golf, tennis, walk, hike. We like to spend time with our friends. If Jesus is our friend – he likes to spend time with us. When you turn to him in prayer, you’re not imposing on his time. He loves you like a friend, so he thoroughly enjoys when you spend time with him – in worship, in praise, in prayer. Friends delight in each other. Friends love to spend time with each other.
3. And thirdly, friends trust each other.
It would be nearly impossible to be friends with someone you didn’t trust, wouldn’t it? Friends have each other’s backs. Friends always want the best for each other.
One of my favorite descriptions for the Trinity is God over us, for us, and with us.
God the Creator is God over us. God Almighty, the Creator of all that is.
God the Holy Spirit is God with us – in us, all around
God the Son is God for us.
Jesus demonstrated by his life and love and sacrifice that he is decisively FOR us . . . like a friend.
Do you see how important this view of Christ is for our spiritual lives? It’s not just a concept for children!
It was good enough for Moses! – the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
It was good enough for Father Abraham!
Isaiah 41:8, God speaks to Israel, calling them “descendants of Abraham my friend.”
James 2:23 – “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
It was affirmed by Jesus on more than one occasion, including the Last Supper! “I have called you my friends.”
You might think that the concept of Jesus as your friend is too elementary – but it puts us in very good company – Moses, Abraham, Jesus & the 12 Disciples.
Let me close with this except from a pastor named Eric Elnes.
Pastor Elnes has a Ph.D. in Old Testament, and he pastors a very well-educated and sophisticated congregation, much like CCC. He shared a message on the same topic we’re talking about this morning. I came across an except from that message.
He ended with this: If you want to experience a fraction of God’s love for you, I have a suggestion for the next time you approach God in prayer. I invite you to imagine that your very best friend is before you – someone who is no less loving or gracious, or endearing, or wise than your very best friends on earth. If you will treat God like your very best friend, you will eventually come to know the God whom Jesus and Abraham knew as Friend. This is a promise I make to you. More importantly, it is a promise the Scriptures make.
Think about it.