Gospel - Matthew 16:13-20; (Old Testament Isaiah 51:1-6)
Verse 19 - ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom ....’ That is s something wonderful,
stupendous, unimaginably so.
Think of those parables Jesus told about the kingdom – it's like a pearl of great price, like a buried treasure; and it will grow until all can be safe in its branches.
And it almost sounds from the text as if these keys are being given to Peter; it sounds from the text as if Christ's church is to be founded upon Peter, too. That is one helluva lot for one man. Especially one who has just been named 'a rock'; and is, so far, proving a bit rocky – jumping in with both feet rather too often, as when he tried to walk on water, for instance. And about to be heftily ticked off for 'setting his mind not on divine things but human things.'
But it’s not just Peter. It is, ultimately, to us all – if we can recognise the keys.
What comes to mind when someone says ‘key’ to you? A great hefty one like you often see St Peter pictured as holding? Like the key to a really strong door, to a castle or a cellar or even a church ...? Or maybe a little one like the key to a jewel box ... ?
We don't want to find we've got the wrong key; or that we just haven't got the knack
somehow of getting it to open the door. There are, of course many stories in the bible
those who have the wrong keys. There's the one about Dives and Lazarus – Dives, who
thought money would be the key. And there's the one about the Pharisee and the publican – the Pharisee who was obsessed by his own virtue as he attended synagogue. And much of this about those keys that don't work has to do with humility – true humility.
For what Christ seeks to give us is not great clunky metal keys, but rather the way in to
God's kingdom. And if we listen to the gospel we can maybe understand what caused
these words of Jesus to Peter then - Peter's faith; faith such that he received God's
revelation that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. And Peter’s faith will deepen into Resurrection faith, and God's gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
The gift of the keys of the kingdom; keys that are there
for us all, if we have faith and follow him.
Jesus says to Peter 'Blessed are you, Simon bar Jonah'., and we recall all those others
Christ said would be blessed, in his Sermon on the Mount; specifically the third one,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. Another key – not
saying that the kingdom is for wimps; no, rather, for those who live in humble dependence on God's grace; God's grace, not their own virtue. Or there's the eighth beatitude, Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake - those who stick with it in faith, as Peter in the end did. For theirs too is the kingdom of heaven.
The keys are God's gift of himself, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit; and too our response, our transformation through faith, and humility before God, and God's word. Of this is the kingdom of heaven.
And through this transformation we build Christ's church here on earth; with Christ its
And finally, a quote from the Old Testament reading, from Isaiah as God speaks
'Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord ... my salvation will
be for ever.’
God's kingdom is eternal. Thanks be to God.