Bound, Loosed, Sent
Today's Gospel lesson is actually quite a controversial one, and one upon which there is much disagreement with regard to interpretation.
Before I get to that, first, it should be mentioned that Peter's confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, is NOT the first one, though it certainly receives the most attention. It was actually MARTHA of Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead,
Martha who first confesses that Jesus is the Christ. This happens BEFORE he raises Lazarus from the dead, so it isn't based on that miracle. Both Peter and Martha's confessions weren't revealed to them by 'flesh and blood' but by, as Jesus says, "My father in heaven." This means that
it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that it was revealed. It wasn't by anything that anyone said to them or that they saw, but by the Father in 'heaven' which we know from elsewhere in Scripture that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. So it was revealed to them by the power of the
Holy Spirit from that place within them, within each one of us, our spiritual self, where we make our connection to God.
This passage is controversial, and establishes a predominant difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Reformation, such as our Lutheran church and our expression of the Christian Faith.
The Roman Catholic Church makes this a part of the basis for the primacy of the Pope, who, according to their tradition is a direct line of apostolic succession to Peter. Church history shows us that this is not accurate. That is, there is no real direct line because at some points
there were actually TWO Popes at the same time and also some gaps in the history.
But beyond that, the original meaning of words contained in this passage don't support the later tradition. At the time this was written, when Matthew is writing his Gospel, it is at a time in the Church when Bishops and the hierarchy of the Church are being established. In the
Gospels of Mark, the earliest, and Luke written to speak to the Gentile Christian church that was fast growing, in a time after Matthew was written (and Matthew was writing for the Jewish Christian church), in those Gospels, only the confession of Peter is mentioned, not all the rest
about the 'rock' and 'building the church' and 'giving the keys to the kingdom' and the 'binding up and loosing.'
But given that those words are recorded in Matthew, let's look at them. First, the name Peter, does mean 'rock' in the Greek language, however, there is a distinction that Jesus makes. He says, "You are Peter," which is the word PETROS in Greek, and then says, "On this rock I will
build my church." But the word used here is the Greek word PETRA. The word PETROS means 'pebbles' and the word PETRA means 'rock.' The church (which didn't exist at the time Jesus spoke these words) was to be built upon Peter's CONFESSION, not Peter himself. The CONFESSION was the
'rock' not Peter, the PEBBLE.
And the church was not the church as we know it; but what Jesus was speaking about was the 'new spiritual way of thinking' that he was teaching. Martin Luther, much like Jesus, did not want to establish a separate church, but he was speaking of reforming the church that was in
existence. For Jesus that would have been the congregation of Israel.
The words 'bind' and 'loose' as used at that time, meant 'forbid' and 'permit.' Later tradition, in the Latin, Roman, church make them into 'forgiving' and 'retaining' sins. But this meaning is not supported by Scripture.
Remember I spoke to you about the meaning of a portion of the Lord's Prayer that says, "on earth as it is in heaven"? That the phrase means that we pray that we will manifest, act out, on earth, in our daily living, what we know to be the Truth, as it is in heaven, the true way of
living and acting and interacting with others and our world. And that True way of living we know because of the God connection within in us, "the kingdom of heaven is within you" Jesus tells us in Luke.
So here, what is meant by "what you bind on earth is bound in heaven" is that what you forbid on earth is forbidden in heaven. That is, if you don't follow what you know to be Jesus' way, what he taught us, in your actions and thoughts in your daily living (forbidding yourself to do
what you know is right) you are forbidding any entrance into the kingdom of heaven within you. In other words, you are blocking your access to God, that inner connection to God by your inappropriate daily actions. And likewise, what you PERMIT on earth, in your daily actions, you
PERMIT, allow your entrance into that kingdom of Truth within you-your inner connection to God.
What you bind up on earth, is bound up in heaven. That is, if you are cutting off God in your daily living, you have no way of being open in heaven to receive God's bounty of blessings. And if you loose something on earth, that is, you are in a right relationship with God in your
actions, you are in a right relationship with God to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (that within you) to receive the bounteous blessings of God.
And finally, with regard to the "keys to the Kingdom of Heaven," Jesus is giving them to Peter, Mr. Pebbles, the church, the gathering of the faithful, those who are the weakest, not those who are the strongest, like the hierarchy of the church. God gives to all the people of the
church the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven through the teachings he has given us. The keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, that inner place of connection to God within us, are the teachings of Jesus. And not just the teachings, but Jesus himself is the key. The teachings are of no use unless
one BELIEVES in the truthfulness of the teacher. If one doesn't believe in the truth of the teacher, or that the teacher himself is TRUTH, one will not believe in the teachings.
So, this wonderful passage tells us that each one of us, each as a believer in Jesus as the Messiah, as being the Son of God, as being Truth itself, is given the keys to the kingdom, the teachings of Jesus' new way of thinking, a spiritual way of thinking. "Seek FIRST the Kingdom of
Heaven (God)" and everything will follow from that. Go FIRST to the Spiritual place within you as a resource for guidance and support.
BUT, most important to remember, is that we are NOT given these keys just for ourselves, to keep the secrets, to keep people out. No. We are given the keys to the kingdom to LET PEOPLE IN. We must SHARE what we have learned about Jesus. We, as disciples, are SENT into the world with
what we know. We are NOT to keep the secret to ourselves. There are grave (in all senses of the word) consequences to doing that.
So, share the Truth that you know about Jesus and his love and forgiveness and compassion as you have experienced it in our own life. Bring others into the kingdom. Bring others into the life of Christ. Help them to be free of the things that bind them to the earth (or wrong,
inappropriate or negative actions and thinking) things that don't free them up (loose them) to receive the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven within.