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§ 180. Cure of the Blind Man at Bethsaida.—Peter’s Second Confession.—The Power of the Keys. (Mark, viii.; Matt., xvi.)

At Bethsaida a blind man was brought to Christ, who took him out of the town to avoid public notice; and then performed on him the cure whose successive steps are so graphically described by Mark. He then forbade him for the time being to tell of what had been done as notoriety would have been inconsistent with his purpose above mentioned.488488   This suits well with the point of time here assigned to it.

When left alone with the disciples, he questioned them about their travels, and concerning the opinions generally prevalent in regard to himself. Peter renewed, in a different form, the confession which he had before made on a similar occasion.489489   In all the Gospels this event is closely connected with the miraculous feeding, which confirms our view of the historical connexion of the facts. True, it is possible that Peter’s confession, as recorded by John, is the same as that recorded by Matthew, and nothing essential would be lost if it were so. But we may certainly suppose that, at so critical a period, Christ could have questioned his disciples thus closely on two different occasions in regard to their personal convictions, which were soon to undergo so severe a trial. In contrast with those who 271saw in Jesus only a Prophet, he said, “Thou art the Messiah;” certainly implying more than was included in the ordinary Jewish sense; although he must have felt more than he could unfold in definite thought when he added, “the Son of the living God.”

Thus had Peter, on two distinct occasions, given utterance to the same confession, drawn from the depths of his inward experience; in the first instance, in opposition to those whose hearts were wholly estranged from Christ; and in the second, to those who had obtained only an inferior intuition of the person of Christ. The Saviour, therefore, thought him worthy of the following high praise: “Blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Peter’s conviction was the result of no human teaching, no sensible impression or outward authority; but of an inward revelation from God, whose drawing he had always followed—a Divine fact, which comes not to men from without; which no education or science, how lofty soever, can either make or stand in stead of.490490   Cf. p. 139.

In view of this conviction of Peter, thus twice confessed, in regard to that great fact and truth which forms the unchangeable and immovable basis of the eternal kingdom of God, Christ called him by the name which at an early period, with prophetic glance, he had applied to him (John, i., 42), the man of rock, on whom he declared that he would build his Church, that should triumph over all the powers of death,491491   The “Gates of Hades,” in Matt., xvi., 18 (cf. Isa., xxxviii., 10; 1 Cor., xv., 55), designate rather the kingdom of death than of Satan. In this view the passage means, that “the Church should stand forever, and that its members, partakers of the Divine life, should fear death no more—of course implying, however, that she should be victorious over all hostile powers. and stand to all eternity.

This promise was not made to Peter as a person, but as a faithful organ of the Spirit of Christ, and his steadfast witness. Christ might have said the same to any one, who, at such a moment, and in such a sense, had made the same confession; although Peter’s uttering it in the name of all the twelve accorded with his peculiar χάρισμα, which conditioned the post that Christ assigned to him.

In the same sense he confided to Peter the “keys of the kingdom of Heaven,” which was to be revealed and spread abroad among men by the community founded by him; inasmuch as men were to gain admittance into that kingdom by appropriating the truth to which he had first testified, and which he was afterward to proclaim. This was 272to be the key by which the kingdom was to be opened to all men. And with it was entrusted to him the power, on earth, “to bind and loose” for heaven; since he was called to announce forgiveness of sins to all who should rightly receive the Gospel he was to proclaim, and the announcement of pardon to such as received the offered grace had necessarily to be accompanied by the condemnation of those who rejected it.492492   This view of the “binding and loosing” power is sustained by John, xx., 23. The same thing is expressed in other words in Matt., x., 13; 2 Cor., ii., 15, 16. The difference between the figure of “the keys” and that of “binding and loosing” need cause no difficulty; they refer to different conceptions; the former, to reception into, and exclusion from, the kingdom of Heaven; the latter, to the means of reception and exclusion, viz., the pardon of sin and the withholding of pardon.

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