Where is The Pope In The Bible? ~ By Michael A. Barone

Where is The Pope In The Bible? ~ By Michael A. Barone
Where is The Pope In The Bible? ~ By Michael A. Barone

Well who died and made you the Boss?

This is a made up conversation between St. Peter and any other apostle, which never really happened, but it illustrates a point.

St. Peter, “Go tend to issue XYZ, also, don’t do that anymore.”
Apostle, “Why?”
St. Peter, “Because I said so!”
Apostle, “Oh yeah? Well who died and made you the boss?”
St. Peter, “ Um, Jesus! Remember?”
Apostle, “ Oh! That’s right! Ok!”

So, is that the way it really is with The Catholic Church? Well, yes and no.

The authority of Peter is absolutely there but the tone of this little scene was just for fun. Still, as a Catholic, how many times have you been told (or someone has insinuated) that this is what we believe about Popes and their authority over us? Also, why does it sting so much when we are told something is the way it is because The Church says so?

If the authority of Peter were this petty it would be pretty useless wouldn’t it? No one likes a bossy person who always gets his or her way. Certainly not we the people (Americans), who pride ourselves on the idea of equality for all even if we often fall short of it in actuality.

So why do we believe what we believe about Papal Authority and how is that good for us?

Let’s start with scripture. One of the biggest issues we come across in answering this is that our protestant brothers and sisters seem to know the Bible better than we do. They will sometimes speak to us in condescending tones like, “Well, that’s because you have to believe everything a Pope says!” or
“Show me in the Bible the word “‘Pope’”, and if you can’t then how do you justifyhaving one, let alone listening to him?

Now this truly would be a trite discussion if the authority of the popes didn’t have amassive effect on the Church in our world today, which it really does!

So to scripture we go. What is funny about this is that you can ask the average Roman Catholic to find the Pope in the bible and most will look away and kick the dirt in uncertainty. But the funny part is we all KNOW where it is that we find the office of the Pope in the bible. We just are not good at articulating it or giving the exact citation of Chapter and verse to whomever is proffering the question.

But what is really cool is that you as a Catholic have heard this particular passage of the bible many, many, times if you have just attended Sunday Mass regularly in your life.

Now as you read this you may be thinking that you don’t know where to find the word or idea of a pope and you are feeling that sense of insecurity creeping up behind you. But fear not, after reading this little explanation you will never forget how to find that illusive “first pope” in the bible ever again!

Here is a simple memory device:
Think of someone you know named “Matthew”. Any Matt or Matthew will do. He does not need to be Catholic, for that matter he does not need to be religious at all. He can be related to you or just an acquaintance as long as you can imagine him at sixteen years age. The rest does not matter as long as you know him as Matt or Matthew. (Picture him in your mind right now! It will help!)
Assume this Matt or Matthew, lives in Ohio. We’re using Ohio as a state for a reason but your state may or may not work for this depending on the driving age. In Ohio you must be 16 years old to be able to obtain your permanent drivers license. Teens in Ohio often long for the day when they can break free from the shackles of childhood bike riding, take the family car for a spin, and just go anywhere they please. It is a rite of passage for many. So imagine your Matt or Matthew at 16 years of age and getting his drivers license.
3. To start the car and be able to drive it, Matt must have one thing from Dad and Mom;THE KEYS!

Ok if you can just remember this, you will always be able to pull the Pope from the Bible.

When Matt is 16 years old, he gets the Keys!  Or for short, Matt 16 Keys!

Let’s take this apart now and really get into it.

Go to any bible, it does not have to be a Catholic Bible. Turn to the New Testament. Turn to the 16th Chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. Ok, you can see the Matt and you see the 16 where are the keys?   Well specifically they are in verse 19, but we will get there in a minute. For now let’s look at verses 13 through 20.

The Gospel of St. Matthew Chapter 16 Verses 13-20

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. ###

What is going on here and how is this related to the Pope?
Well, The Catholic Church says that St. Peter is the first pope and here is where we turn to in the Holy Scriptures to find how that happens to be the case. There are some really cool things in this passage, which may be hidden to the average reader, but we will try to bring some of them out.
First let’s look at the location. In Caesarea Philippi there is the spot traditionally referred to as where Jesus gave this talk to his disciples. Apparently there are two things about the landscape that are significant. One is a large out cropping of rock and the other is a cave or cavernous area, which the locals in Jesus’ time used to call “The Gates of Hell”.

Jesus probably picked this location because it had the added emphasis of the visual aids for the disciples to help them remember what happened there but even if that was not the case let’s look at the interchange between Jesus and them.

Next, he asks who the people say that he is. This is kind of a teaching in itself about public opinion and how it is often swayed or outright wrong. Notice that the people all get it wrong. He is not Elijah, He is not John the Baptist come back to life, Jeremiah, or any of the past prophets.

You can almost see the smile on his face as they play this little “who’s who” game of the significant figures in the old testament. Remember Jesus knows, and always knew who he was. Next you can see the smile on his face probably change to a more concerned expression in that “No really!’ moment that always comes after the joking stops and a serious point is about to be made. He asks them, “Who do you say that I am?”

At this point it is Peter who answers and that is key if you will pardon the pun. Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

So why is this so important?
Because it triggers something in Jesus and in His ministry which reaches all the way down to us today in what we call Papal Authority and what the Catholic Church teaches about it.
Notice that Jesus does not say “Oh good! You were my favorite all along Peter, I’m going to make you the boss after I’m gone.” No, what he says is that Peter’s declaration is not something he (Peter) learned from “flesh”. Now what does that mean? It means it is not something Peter has figured out by himself. It is also not something he picked up from one of the others and it is not a testimony from someone like John the Baptist.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Now this is loaded with cool stuff.
First, Jesus calls him “Simon” bar Jonah, why would he do that?
Well, here is an interesting fact, which will weigh into Papal Authority and Jesuscommissioning Peter as the first Pope. The name Simon means “Reed”.
What is a reed?
Think of a pond of water ringed with long grassy plants. Think of something like the plant we call a “Cat tail”.
What are the characteristics of a reed?
It is thin, often hollow, and it is not particularly strong. A reed will blow and sway in the wind much like public opinion can go one way or the other depending on the prevailing powers acting on it. This use of the name Simon is significant because, as we will see later when he denies Jesus three times, Simon is of a pretty weak character.
Next, look at whom Jesus says told or “revealed” his true identity to Simon. It wasGod The Father.  No small thing there.
What has God The Father to do with this?
By bringing The One True God of the Jewish faith into the conversation, Jesus is reminding them of their history as a people. And what is that history if not one of beinglead by an appointee of God the Father throughout their history. Starting with Adam and going down through the ages there was always someone that God the Father placed over all His people as a leader. There was Abraham, Noah, and Moses. There were prophets and judges and leaders of all kinds including kings like David and Solomon. By bringing God the Father into this little Q&A session , Jesus would have put them all in the mind to think of these leaders.
Then, He calls Simon, “Peter”. This is huge! Often we see God changing a persons name when He changes their role in His plan. Abram became Abraham, Simon becomes Peter, Saul becomes Paul, and so on. Even today we take on a different name when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic Church because our role changes from being a child of God to a solider in the Army of God or The Church Militant, ready to defend our Faith.
So what does “Peter” mean?
Keep in mind the location where Jesus is speaking. There is a huge outcropping ofRock that can be seen and felt by all of them. It is massive and unmoving. Peter means “rock”. If anyone wants to dispute this Jesus follows up with, “and on this rockI will build my church, and the gates of Hellc] will not overcome it. Now this is big stuff!

Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter. From “Reed” to “Rock”, from “Weak” to “Strong”, from swaying to unmovable. Then he says he will build his church on thatrock. Which rock? PETER!

What is this church he is talking about? The word he uses for church means the “called out” or the ones he “will gather”.

Then he says the Gates of Hell will not over come it. Satan and his minions and the power of death will not overcome the church Jesus will build on Peter the Rock. This is going to have very deep meaning when we look at the splitting off of the various Protestant churches later in history. But we will get to that. Right now let’s take another look at our memory device with Matt 16 Keys.

Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever youbind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.”
KEYS! KEYS! KEYS! What are they for? Locking and loosing! Who has theauthority? The one with the Keys!

Who can open that which is locked up? The one with the keys. Who can lock up and bind the dangerous and possibly harmful mindsets, actions, and decisions of our fallen world? The one with the keys!
We often see St. Peter depicted at the pearly gates of heaven with his big set of keys. He’s letting souls in or rejecting them based on the scroll he carries at the gates. It’s a cute image but his role is so much more. He is here with us on earth in the form of the Pope, to show us the will of God.
One problem is that we sometimes see his role as one like the one in the made up conversation at the beginning of this writing. We think if Peter gets up in the morning and decides to bully the other Apostles, or us, he can do so. We think that he can lock up stuff in heaven and cause God to loosen things he (God) may not want loosened. Like God gave him authority over even God himself! This is not correct at all.
What Jesus is really telling us is that Peter will be able to tell us with God’s Authority what is loosed in Heaven and he will be able to tell us with God’s Authority what is bound in Heaven. Peter is the mouthpiece or media for God to speak to his people.
Let’s go back to Jesus reminding them of the leaders of their people historically. Was itodd to them that Abraham, Noah, or Moses spoke for God and gave them laws to live by like the Ten Commandments? No, they would have the greatest respect for those leaders and their teachings. Would they assume Moses brought the tablets down the mountain etched with his idea of how things should be run or did they understand it as “written by God’s own finger”?
Wasn’t it true that prophets like Elijah and kings like David and Solomon ruled them as a people like shepherds for God? Yes they were very familiar and very comfortable with these ideas. They even longed for them, prayed for them, and begged God to send The Messiah who would be the greatest of all these leaders!
Now here he was! Jesus. The Son of God himself in the flesh, passing His authorityon to Peter, another leader appointed by God the Father.
Jesus knew he would be crucified and he would return to God The Father until the end of time when He will come again. He was making sure the new leaders of his church understood that He was passing on these keys of his authority. He knew there would be questions and disputes throughout the ages about all types of matters. He knew his church would want to know the will of The Father. How are things being handled in heaven? What is loosed and ok there, what has been wrong or needed to be bound up and locked away? So he was very clear setting all this up. The message may not have sunk in to the disciples but in retrospect it is very clear. After all, hindsight is 20/20! There always was a leader of God’s people. There always will be!

Some will say to you, “Fine! That may be what it meant back then for St. Peter and the apostles but it stopped after that.”
Oh really why? Did God stop sending leaders after Adam, Abraham, Noah, or Moses etc.?
But, what about bad Popes? What if they sinned? Doesn’t that take away their authority and give it to someone else? Doesn’t that disqualify their rulings as not from God? Doesn’t that show that the Holy Spirit left the Catholic Church and split off with the Protestant leaders like Martin Luther who “protested” this very authority?
Well, if sinning can take away their authority, then we should see Jesus take away Peter’s authority if he sins right?
So, let’s go back to St. Peter. In the scriptures right after Jesus says he will give him the keys, Jesus has to rebuke him and even calls him a Satan for thinking like a man and not as God would! Better yet, it is certainly after the Matt 16 keys incident that St. Peter DENIES Jesus three times! Talk about sinning, the third time Peter “swears” (That means calling God as his witness!) that he does not know him at all!

But Peter was not stripped of the keys after that boneheaded move. In fact Jesus gives him three opportunities to make up for the sins of denying him in The Gospel of St. John Chapter 21 Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times. It’s interesting to note he says, “Simon son of Jonah, do you love me?” He does not call him Peter at that time (which sure must have stung a bit) but what does he say? When Peter is exasperated by the third time Jesus asks him the same question, “Do you love me?” Peter says, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” What does that mean?
It means he is still the one in charge of taking care of the flock. He is still feeding usthe will of God!

So, if Jesus forgave a repentant first pope, let’s not nit pick about a few bad/sinful Popes! Yes, some did bad things no doubt, but they did not change church teachings they only personally sinned. They are human and were/are answerable to God, just like the rest of us for their sins!

Here is the kicker! When Jesus called Peter a rock and said, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” He was guaranteeingsomething pretty important about Papal Authority.
If, as many have said, bad Popes caused the Holy Spirit to leave the Church which Jesus himself built on the Peter the Rock, wouldn’t that mean the gates of Hell hadovercome it?
Think about that! Let it sink in. If it bothers you, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to leadyou to the Truth of the matter.
God is a God of order. He brings order from chaos. Look at the first thing he does in the bible in the first chapter of Genesis.
Can we say the world is in a “Spiritual Chaos” of sorts with questions like Same Sex Marriage, Birth Control, Abortion, and even Climate Change? I think we can. So who has the “Authority” to tell us how God wants it all handled? Who can tell us what should be free and what needs to be bound up?
The One with the Keys!
Where do we find that in the Bible?
When Matthew is 16 years old he gets the keys!