I once visited Rome and stood in the very room next to the Sistine Chapel that was the Pope’s office during the Reformation. I saw an old chair next to the wall, so I sat down, closed my eyes and thought about the wooden desk standing across the room.
I wondered about the conversations and decisions made in that place, resulting in the persecution of so many faithful and innocent women, men and children – those cruel decisions made only because of these two verses (Matthew 16:18-19) in the Bible. And that leads us to the first of three very important topics covered this week in our lesson – topics that should be understood by all Seventh-day Adventists.
Of all the texts in the New Testament, perhaps Matthew 16:18-19 are the most abused and misunderstood when people claim that Peter is the rock on which Jesus builds His kingdom and to him will be given the keys to that kingdom.
But those who argue for the authority of Peter and the passing of the keys to the kingdom miss several points:
1) Immediately after the passage deemed to hand the keys of the Kingdom to Peter, Christ addresses Peter as an agent of Satan. (Matthew 16:23)
2) Matthew 18:18-20 Jesus tells us the importance of any two or more people coming together and making decisions, and not just one person, and that Jesus will be there with them.
3) Revelation 21:14 describes the city of heavenly Jerusalem with twelve foundations (not one called “Peter”) named after all twelve of the disciples.
An important milestone was reached in 533 A.D. when Emperor Justinian proclaimed that all affairs of the church shall be referred to the pope as “head of all bishops, and the true and effective corrector of heretics.” This proclamation ended many of the arguments regarding the authority of the Bishop of Rome, and officially endorsed the principle of hierarchy in the church.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24 refute the modern day preachers that teach prosperity and how every faithful believer will be wealthy. Jesus makes it clear that as we love God with ALL our hearts, we will seek spiritual things and not things of this world. This is a large issue today because so many are deceived in this direction. Jesus made it clear that His people would suffer, and as we look back on history, we can see how true it has been. Christians are being persecuted today, not because their faith is weak, but because they are faithful, not because their prayers for deliverance are not being answered, but because of the Great Controversy. As they pray for freedom, the Holy Spirit prepares them for suffering for Jesus’ sake. We don’t understand all of the details but we know the blood of martyrs is seed for spreading the Gospel.
I love to read and think about the transfiguration of Christ, because it’s one of the most exciting stories in the Bible, when the Father provides encouragement for Jesus by bringing Moses and Elijah to Him for a conversation. And the climax of the event is when the Father speaks and scolds the stubborn disciples who refuse to listen to the words of Jesus when He tries to tell them of His future death and resurrection. The Father ends His statement by saying, “Hear ye Him.” (see Matthew 17:5) Oh, what a glorious few minutes that must have been!
May our church be revived by this important lesson study.
Join me this week in praying more and more. Let us draw closer to the Father and Jesus and let the words of Matthew stir our souls.