How rich are the depths of God – how deep His wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate His motives or understand His methods!
This is how St Paul opens in our epistle Reading (Second Reading) this Sunday. St Paul was one who directly saw the unfolding of the mystery of God’s plan for His kingdom. However, it was St Peter — and his successors — that the kingdom was entrusted to, which we’ll see this Sunday in our Gospel.
Let’s start with the First Reading, which might need a little “clearing up” in terms of understanding. I’ll lay it out simply. There was a king in Israel, one from the House of David. David and the kings after him in his line had royal stewards of the household (or “masters of the palace”) — think of them like the prime minister in the United Kingdom. The current king in our First Reading, Hezekiah, had a royal steward named Shebna who the Lord decides to remove from office because he was guilty of nepotism. The Lord decides to replace Shebna with a man named Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah.
Look at the language that God uses to describe Eliakim’s future status as master of the palace:
I invest him [Eliakim] with your [Shebna] robe, gird him with your sash, entrust him with your authority; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. I place the key of the House of David [or “kingdom” of David] on his shoulder; should he open, no one shall close, should he close, no one shall open. I drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house.
This sounds like He’s making Eliakim the king, right? No. That’s not what God is doing. In fact, the king at the time, Hezekiah, receives no threat to his authority because of this. Eliakim is just “deputy king,” so to speak, under Hezekiah, but looking after the House of David (the kingdom of David) on behalf of the king is no easy task.
By the way, the post of master of the palace was not just a one-time thing. This was an office that was never vacant for too long. If the current person would leave it then somebody else would take it up and be invested with the authority that comes with it.
Now, Isaiah 9:1-7 and Isaiah 11:1-5 (among many others) had promised that a king (the “Christ”) would come from the line of David and rule over the ends of the earth for evermore. Do you know a guy that fits that description? Exactly! “Jesus Christ, the Son of David…” (Matthew 1:1).
Well, this Son of David, in our Gospel this Sunday, is about to appoint His royal steward; His own master of the palace to look after His own House (kingdom).
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi He put this question to His disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say He is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ He said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’
Peter, by divine inspiration, gets it right!
Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build