“Three people die and when they get to the Pearly Gates, Saint Peter says…” We all have heard many of those jokes, where Saint Peter is a main character who has the responsibility of allowing or disallowing newly departed souls to enter Heaven through the Pearly Gates! Dr. Gray reminds us that is not quite the role of Saint Peter and not quite the symbolism of the keys that Peter receives. In giving Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, Jesus bestowing upon Peter and his successors, heavenly authority that would be exercised on earth. Gray goes on to explain that, in biblical times, a king often chose a “prime minister” who would be the administrative leader of the kingdom acting in his name. He says that in David’s kingdom the role of prime minister also included being a spiritual father, which explains why the church uses the term pope (father) to refer to the successors of Peter.
However, Peter and the other disciples did not have a clear understanding of the type of kingdom Jesus was unfolding. They were looking for a strong political leader to free them from Roman domination and not a suffering Messiah who would die a criminal’s death. While Peter is the one who proclaims, “You are the Christ”, he does not grasp exactly what that identity entails and the direction of Jesus’ mission.
Grays says, that like Peter and the other disciples, we too, must come understand his kingdom. Gray writes, “Like Peter, we often have to go through these stages as disciples of Christ. We think that once we have come close to God that we’re going to be safe and protected. We expect to prosper and believe that everything will be great, but then we have a crisis and are scandalized, wondering why we must suffer.”
Our path of discipleship involves dying to self so that Christ might fill us and use us to build up his Kingdom. On this path, we too, will be asked to carry our own crosses, and trust in Christ.
1. Do you see the teachings of the Church as bearing the authority of Christ through Peter and his successors?
2. Are there any Church teachings you find difficult to accept? Why? What would help in understanding them?
3. What new insight did you gain from this chapter?
– Deacon Ralph
Feel free to comment on the questions above or on any parts of this chapter.