Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Michael J. Brooks
One of my favorite movie quotes is from one of the Indiana Jones series. Someone asked Jones what he intended to do next amidst all the chaos of his exploits. He replied, “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go!”
However, the disciples of Jesus didn’t have to make things up. Instead, Jesus took time to explain to them foundational principles as they took his life and teachings and built churches throughout the Mediterranean world (Matthew 16).
Apparently, there was much confusion about Jesus’s identity in the first century. Some said he was John the Baptist or Jeremiah raised from the dead. Others thought he was Elijah who came to announce the Messiah as Malachi predicted.
But Peter spoke the affirmation that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of the living God. Jesus responded that Peter spoke the truth and then promised that he would build his church on this truth. The “Pure Word” translation renders his promise, “You are Peter, small rock, but upon this Huge Rock I will build my church.” Thus, the church goes forward with the assurance that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy as the coming Messiah and shares deity with the Father. Without such assurance, our efforts would amount to feeble attempts, indeed.
Then Jesus promised the keys to the kingdom. Christian art is replete with pictures of Peter holding these keys, and folklore has Peter at the gates of heaven determining who comes in since he’s the gatekeeper. However, the original language paints a different picture. Jesus said, “You are Peter (second person singular), and I give you (second person plural) the keys to the kingdom.” Jesus gave these keys to his disciples. The promise is repeated in chapter 18 with another obvious reference to the work of his disciples.
The keys to the kingdom means that what we do on earth has eternal significance. We’re not just applying our meager human efforts to a time-limited cause. We’re doing God’s work. It will last forever.
This is inspired encouragement for a discouraged church.
The Covid pandemic has been a time when the entire world has been hampered and hindered, and the church hasn’t been immune from this. Most of us have seen suffering in our congregations, and many of us have lost good people due to Covid. Now we come out of the pandemic weakened but determined to fulfill our commission from the lord of the church.
Christ promised to partner with us in this significant work and assured us that our kingdom labor has a timeless consequence.
Reflection is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, the Siluria Baptist Church pastor in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.