There has been a real run on keys around our house lately. Andrew bought a new car, Kristin has her new home, we’re getting ready to purchase another house and on top of it all, we have keys to the neighbor’s house while they are out of town for several weeks. And of course, all the garage door clickers to all these places as well. I tried to program Kristin’s new code into our cars, but for some reason, it just isn’t working. On top of all that, Andrew has changed cars and now all the programming has to be re-done to make sure that his new car opens the doors at each of our homes.
It is a little convoluted, but we all like to to have garage access to family member homes in case of emergency, and even our close friends have keys or clickers. So you can imagine just how interactive we are as an extended family.
When I think of keys, I think of the most important keys that one can have – and those are the keys to heaven. Although there are many references to keys in the Scripture, Matthew, in my opinion, has the best illustration of how believers have access to the keys to heaven. In chapter 16, Christ asks His disciples who they think He is…. Because some people thought that Jesus was really Elijah, or John the Baptist, or Jeremiah or even one of the prophets. Of course, none of those answers were correct
Impetuous Peter answers correctly, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus then reveals that Peter could not have learned this information from men, but rather from God Himself. And it is upon Peter’s proclamation that Jesus indicates that He will build His church. Now theologians have debated the meaning of this for generations, but we know that the church of Jesus would be different than any other collection or association of people ever before.
Our verses tonight re-tell the story from Matthew 16:17-20, “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”
Now this is a complicated set of verses. First of all, there is quite a bit of controversy about Jesus’s statement to Peter. Catholic doctrine believes that Jesus was professing that His church would be build on Peter, and in fact, Peter became the first Pope. Other Christian denominations submit that the church of Jesus would be built on Peter’s proclamation, not on Peter himself, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And in all honesty, sentiments run rather deep on this basic theological point. Whatever the case, and I guess that we won’t know for sure this side of heaven, Jesus clearly gives Peter some authority by handing him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
Now that’s quite a responsibility. Here again, there are great differences of opinion as to what this means. Technically, from the Greek, it means that Jesus has given Peter significant authority in the future church. After all, the Jewish rulers thought they had the “keys” and here Jesus is announcing that Peter is the keeper of the keys – and in those days, as we still know today, keys were a sign of authority. Perhaps this is because of the importance Peter would play in being the first to offer the confession of who Christ was, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. And we know that he was the first to preach about the Good News at the formation of church in the book of Acts.
But even more important to us as believers today is that each of us has the same access to heaven that Peter and the rest of the first century saints had. Each of us, through our professions of faith, can unlock the door to eternal life with God in heaven. In other words, each of us has been endowed with the same keys that Peter had, and that is pretty special.
My encouragement this evening is to emphasize the importance you play in helping others through the door to eternal life. While this is certainly up to the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of people to accept the Good News of Jesus Christ, it is nonetheless our responsibility to assist in bringing the Gospel message to others whenever we can, just as Peter did, more than 2000 years ago. My prayer is that you will continue to be blessed by walking with God and spending eternity with a God who loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Because He has already given you the keys to His heart. Grace and peace…