Thank you Lord for the challenging passage you are setting before us today. Speak to us by your Spirit and guide us into all truth. Amen
Matthew 16:18-20 (NIV)
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 ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
It is such a blessing today to realize that the gates of hell cannot destroy the church that Jesus is building.
I found it challenging to understand the thrust of what Jesus is saying in this passage about the keys of the kingdom until I realized that He was speaking to the disciples about something that would happen in the future. They would receive the keys all right, but not before they experienced a series of events that was beyond their inadequate understanding of where the ministry of Jesus was taking them. Those events included His crucifixion, death and resurrection. Until Jesus won the victory on the cross, the door to the kingdom of heaven, the reign of God in the lives of many people was tightly shut.
It is not until after Jesus appears to the disciples following the resurrection that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are finally given to the disciples and eventually to all of us.
We read the following in John 20:21-23. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The keys we now have in our possession allow us to unlock of the reign of God in the lives of people through the act of forgiving and retaining sin. When we share Jesus with others, and they are moved in true repentance to the foot of the cross, we have the privilege and responsibility to use the keys as a part of our Christian walk to pronounce a word of absolution thereby unlocking the door to the kingdom of heaven.
For those who stand unrepentant before God, we have the responsibility to help them understand that God’s forgiveness is being withheld from them and that unrepented sin carries serious consequences. In these circumstances the Holy Spirit is encouraging us to pray that God would touch their lives in a powerful way, draw them to Jesus and change the course of their lives.
In closing I would like echo a prayer that was written by Nicky Gumbel following his reflection on our passage for today.
“Lord, thank you for this amazing privilege. Thank you that you have given us the keys of the kingdom. Thank you that you have given us the power to ‘bind’ and to ‘loose’. Thank you for the amazing privilege of seeing people set free through the preaching of the good news of the kingdom. Thank you for the joy of seeing people set free from drug addiction, alcoholism, crime, and every other bondage. Thank you for your promise that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Amen.”
I’m eager to learn how this passage spoke to you.