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Receiving the Keys of the Kingdom

In Matthew 16 Jesus asked a pointed question to the disciples. “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (v.13) They answered “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (v.14) Then Jesus got personal. “But who do you say that I am?” (v.15) Simon Peter spoke up saying “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (v.16) I think it is more like Simon Peter blurted it out in excitement. Afterall, the name Simon means “hear.” But Jesus is about to change his name and will see the profound significance of it.

Jesus responded to Simon Peter’s declaration of faith:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (vv.17-19)

First, Jesus calls him “Simon Bar-Jonah,” which simply means Simon, son of John. Now, we don’t know the relationship Simon had with his father. But Simon’s identity as a person was clearly tied with his father, whether that was good or bad is unknown. Nevertheless, Jesus was giving him a new name and it was Peter, which means “rock.” Specifically it is a piece of a rock from a bigger rock. Peter was now the rock that was from the big Rock, God.

Jesus made a few very profound statements to Peter that demand our attention.

First, Jesus revealed to Peter that the foundation of the church itself was built on the revelation of the person of Jesus as the Christ. The church started in revelation and is further built on that revelation.

Secondly, Jesus said the “gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” This church is a victorious church! The church built on revelation from heaven is a victorious church.

Lastly, Peter was promised “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Keys represent authority. The keys of the kingdom are promised to us as well. Jesus explained, in part, that the keys were meant for binding and loosing. “and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (v.19)

Notice how Jesus did not say “Here are the keys, go use them.” He said “I WILL give you the keys of the kingdom.” Peter had some maturing to do before he could be trusted with the keys.

Right after Peter’s life-changing encounter with Jesus he faces the hardest moment of his life.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (vv.21-22)

Jesus responded “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

You see, Peter had much more maturing to do. He was now trying to use his new authority to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus said something to Peter that we can all learn from:

“for you are not MINDFUL of the things of God, but the things of men.”

The Greek word for “mindful” there is phroneō and means to “entertain or have a sentiment or opinion; by implication, to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction). It means to be persuaded of something. An example would be a person in America persuaded that the Republican party is the best party, or that the New York Yankees is the best baseball team.

Peter was persuaded that the end goal for Jesus was an earthly victory. He was thinking of the earthly kingdom and not the heavenly one. We all face this dilemma every day: to be mindful of the earthly kingdom or the kingdom of heaven.

After Jesus rebuked Peter He gives these beautiful keys of the kingdom:

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (vv.24-25)

Denying ourselves involves saying yes to the Holy Spirit and no to the earthly pulls. Peter had an earthly mindset regarding Jesus going to the cross. Our cross will look different. My cross looks different from yours and vice versa.


Hold on, turn your page to the beginning of Matthew 17. There is one las gem to look at. Right after Peter was rebuked he finds himself on a hiking trip with Jesus, James and John.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (vv.1-2)

“Now after 6 days.” The number 6 in the Bible represents man. Man was created on day six of creation week. Men are appointed 6 days to labor. There are other examples but you get it. But notice it was “after” the 6 days that they were brought up and saw Jesus transfigured. I think the rebuke of Peter was meant to bring the old man in him to an end.

You see, we will never be given the keys of the kingdom what we are “mindful” of the things of men. God’s kingdom is a heavenly kingdom not an earthly one. Don’t think I am saying we can earn the keys of the kingdom. But there needs to be a maturing in order to rightly use the keys. Imagine if I as a father gave the keys of my car to my 5-yeard-old. No, he isn’t ready yet. But the good news is that God is getting us ready to receive the keys and be able to use them properly. Authority without maturity is dangerous.

In the account of the transfiguration the disciples get a visitation from Moses and Elijah. Then a “bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (v.5) The disciples were greatly afraid. Now see what happens next:

But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid. When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” (vv.7-8)

When they lifted their eyes “they saw no one but JESUS ONLY.” This is where we are heading. Did you know you can ask Jesus for a personal encounter? He may not be physically transfigured before you but you can still have an encounter where you will begin to see “no one but Jesus.”

You see, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Hearing (Simon) is great but hearing alone does not build the kingdom. Keys are needed. Peter was promised the keys of the kingdom and so are we. Its time for us to grow up in the Lord, and be mindful of the kingdom. The old man has has his time but its up now. It time to deny him and follow Jesus.

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