When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
The keys to the kingdom
We get a glimpse of one stark reality about powerful rulers in earthly kingdoms. They all come and go, and no earthly leader can rule forever. They all have to go after some time, and the ground on which their kingdoms stand is like sand washed away to the sea. No matter how powerful a leader may be, and no matter how many years he reigns, he will one day be forgotten.
Shebna served as the chief administrator in the court of King Hezekiah. Shebna dressed in a special white tunic with a sash wrapped around his waist. He was in possession of a large wooden key that he carried on his shoulder. The key symbolized his authority over the whole town. The gates were locked at night and opened in the morning. As chief administrator, Shebna also ruled over the fortress, where the garrison was stationed at the town square. Most important of all, Shebna had authority over the royal treasury that was heavily secured. He had almost absolute power over the kingdom, and only King Hezekiah was above him.
In Isaiah’s oracle, the prophet sees how Shebna will be deposed and die in exile. A new chief administrator will be appointed by the king in the person of Eliakim who will be responsible in protecting the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Isaiah compares him to the wooden or iron hooks that shepherds or soldiers fix into the ground and to which they tie the ropes to hold the tent safely in place. If the pegs are driven well into the ground, the tent can stand secure. King Hezekiah’s kingdom will stand secure for a number of years, but like any earthly kingdom, it will fritter away.
Jesus speaks to Simon and changes his name to Kephas (a rock) in Aramaic, Petra in Greek, or Petrus in Latin. Nobody was given a name like this before, and when Simon receives his new name, Peter is designated to be the capstone of the Church. The community of believers will grow and expand, but it will not be run like any worldly kingdom. The Church will be assailed by many detractors and will suffer many trials both from within its ranks and from outside, but Jesus makes the solemn promise that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
God will keep Peter solid and strong as the “rock” or leader of the Apostles, and the Church will remain permanent. Jesus gives Peter “the keys to the Kingdom,” that is, the authority to allow others to enter and the power to lock them out. This heavenly authority, entrusted to a mere man like Peter, has been passed on to the Pope who teaches with the authority of Jesus Christ, who promises that the jaws of death will not prevail against his Church.
SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2020,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.