The context for this passage is Simon Peter’s famous confession of faith. Having been asked ‘Who do you say I am?’ by Jesus, Simon Peter replied “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus explained that this knowledge had been given to Simon Peter from the Father. He then made three incredible declarations, including the Simon Peter had been given the keys to the kingdom. This sermon explores these three statements it what it is to have the keys to the kingdom.
On This Rock I Will Build My Church – In the first of the statements, Jesus named Peter (he had previously gone by Simon), and he is making a play on words because in Greek, the words for ‘Peter’ and rock sound similar. The link is that he is planning to build his church and this ‘rock’ would be the foundation. Though some have taken the saying to mean that Peter personally would play a foundational role, it is much more likely that Jesus was continuing to talk about the statement that Peter it made. It is as the Father reveals to people the truth that Jesus is the Christ that the church is built, and this is something that even the very gates of hell cannot stop.
I Will Give You the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven – If the first saying is speaking about the divine revelation of truth that Peter has received, so here the keys of the kingdom is the truth that Peter will preach. It is through the gospel message that access to the kingdom of heaven is unlocked and men and women can enter. Peter was commissioned to preach to other the truth that he had received and through this to see many find liberty in the kingdom.
Binding and Loosing – Peter was then given the promise that what he bound on earth would be bound in heaven and what he loosed on earth would also be loosed in heaven. This same promise was extended to all of the disciples in Matt 18:18, and it picked up on a way that the teachers of the law often spoke. This was about the authority to make judgment calls about what people were free to do or not. An example of this in the life of the early church was in Acts 15 were a council of church leaders including Peter made the judgement that Gentile believers were not required to submit themselves to the Jewish law.
- Consider Our Response to Jesus – It was Peter’s understanding of Jesus’ identity that was said to be the rock on which the church was built. Challenge the congregation about whether their response to the ‘Who do you say I am?’ question would be similar to Peter’s.
- Share the Gospel – If the keys of the kingdom of heaven are found in the gospel message then this passage should stir us up to share that gospel with everyone we can.
- Take Care Not to Impose Burdens on Others – The statement about binding and loosing is a sobering one and should make us think twice before we lay burdens on others in the name of the kingdom of God. This is exactly what Jesus challenged the Pharisees about in Matt 23:4.