A time-honor social custom is that we give a city key to people of some importance. The key represents not only access to city officials but that the individual has accomplished something great to assist the people of the city.
Today’s title is the Key of David. This reference is to Isaiah 22:22 where Shebna, the current “Prime Minister” of Israel, was rejected by the Lord and Eliakim was given the Key of the House of David:
On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family… (Isaiah 22:21-23)
Those who possessed the “Key” had all the authority of the King while he was away. Only the King had the authority to pass on His authority to another which was symbolized by the key. This should bring to mind Matthew 16:19-20 when Jesus gave Peter the Keys of the Kingdom:
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.
It is through His Passion, Death and Resurrection that He has opened the gates of heaven. In iconography, this is illustrated by Jesus standing on the gates and yanking Adam and Eve into glory (cf. Anastasis).
Relevant to this Antiphon is the question of how Jesus received the “Key” since it is passed through the royal line. Granted, he is the King of Kings but He also chose to enter into our human experience and submit Himself to the Law. The genealogy of Matthew, however, shares the answer. As we know, genealogies were everything to the Jews. Faking one’s heritage was also a capital crime. Why? The genealogy demonstrated not only your relation to God but your relationship to the covenant and those rights and duties particular to you and and your tribe.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was no King of Judah sitting upon the throne. Herod was an Edomite – sworn enemy of the Jews. In fact, there had been no Davidic King since Jehoiakim who had offended the Lord by worshiping false gods and encouraging Judah to do the same. Thus, God cursed him and all his heirs.
Jeremiah records the curse of the Lord upon Jehoiakim, King of Judah and all his descendants:
As I live, says the LORD, if you, Coniah, son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, are a signet ring on my right hand, I will snatch you from it. I will deliver you into the hands of those who seek your life; the hands of those whom you fear; the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the Chaldeans. I will cast you out, you and the mother who bore you, into a different land from the one you were born in; and there you shall die. Neither of them shall come back to the land for which they yearn.Is this man Coniah a vessel despised, to be broken up, an instrument that no one wants? Why are he and his descendants cast out? why thrown into a land they know not?O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD–Thus says the LORD: Write this man down as one childless, who will never thrive in his lifetime! No descendant of his shall achieve a seat on the throne of David as ruler again over Judah. (Jeremiah 22:24-30) *Note: Coniah (Jeremiah 22:20 is the same as Jechoniah in the Matthean geneology.
Joseph stands in the royal line. He is the rightful King. He would have been an excellent King because Scripture records he was a righteous man. And yet, the rightful King was a carpenter. The curse states that no descendant of his would sit upon the throne and that sadly included Joseph…but no his son. Jesus, through adoption, was Joseph’s son but not by generation. Therefore, Jesus not only had a right to the throne but it’s keys. Jesus descended from the Davidic line through Mary. And, since it was well within His authority to give the Key to anyone of His choice, Peter became His Vicar.
May we humble ourselves before the King as His faithful subjects and all those whom He appoints to govern us:
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. (9:6).