When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, 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 ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Upon the earth… in the heavens. What kind of power the Son of God has granted to us! Who is He giving this power to? Is it just to the apostle Peter, or is it to the Pope (who some say is the successor of that apostle), or is it to all of us? On this question hinges not only the history of Europe for the last two thousand years, but the history of everyone of us, not just in Europe, but all over the world.
We can take a very literal view of this and conclude that it is only the apostle, or we can accept the historic view and conclude that it is to the Church in all its forms, especially in the form we personally adhere to. Many of us will excuse ourselves and be resigned ‘not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.’ ‘After all,’ we think, ‘Christ commanded this,’ forgetting that He had yet to be risen from the dead.
The gates of Hades. ‘How does this fit into what Christ is telling us? Didn’t He demolish those gates by His resurrection? If He did, how could they overcome the Church?’ We can play this game all day long, all our lives, batting around bible verses, thinking that we are saved or even just safe, enclosed within the strong walls of the Church, because someone has been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
Someone else, not us. We are not worthy. We don’t have enough faith. He can’t be speaking to us. Otherwise, there would be no need for pastors, preachers, popes and presidents. History is history. We absolve ourselves and disappear into the kingdom of crowds, having exchanged our glory for shame. Whatever else is true about Christ, the Church, or ourselves, ‘that man is you’ doesn’t apply to us.
The unbelieving world is happy with this, and with us. They can feel justified by their own righteousness, having rejected the righteousness that comes from faith. They need neither Christ nor the Church. Being a Christian is just belonging to another club. We’ve given them the proof by not giving them ‘the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth.’ How could we have, if the Truth is not in us?
Yet, in spite of what we have done or have not done with the good news that Christ gives, not gave, into our hands, and whether or not we recognize Him who stands in our midst among the golden lampstands, He still walks in the world seeking His lost sheep, still sows His good seed in fields we sow with tares, still buries the treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven where they will be found by those who seek.
His commandments are still with us, they are living, not dead, written in our flesh, not in stone, waiting for our resurrection at the sound of the trumpet, the same which sounded for John the Revelator, summoning him to attend to the vision of Him who was, who is, and who is to come, the same who says to us, ‘surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ He is here, with us, now, everywhere.
Upon the earth… in the heavens, ‘…whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ It is the picture of progression. It is sown as a fleshly body, it is harvested as a spiritual body. These are words spoken to us, by Him who is ‘in the heavens’ yet walks ‘upon the earth’, that whatever we do upon the earth is done in the heavens.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”