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Christmas Day, December 25 – Revelation 3:7 (Matthew 16:13-20)
O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open: Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.
Today God opens heaven again by giving us his own Son, because Jesus IS the Key of David. He who holds keys holds power. The jailer of a prison. The owner of a business. The parent with the car. In the Book of Revelation, there’s given this description of Jesus: “the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (3:7). We sang this last night in the opening hymn in stanza 5:

O come, Thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heav’nly home
Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.

He who holds the Key of David holds ultimate power, the power to open and close heaven and hell, to take up or cast out, to forgive or to retain sins. But where did this idea come from?

The key of David originally was not an abstract concept. Isaiah records an incident that involved this actual key. He tells the history of the Southern Kingdom, when King Ahaz (evil king) was replaced as king by Hezekiah (good king). One of the chief officers of the king was the steward, the one who had the position granting or denying access to the king. This position was signified by literally shouldering the large key to the king’s house, to his throne. Shebna held this position from the previous king and continued on in Hezekiah’s reign, until God judged Shebna unfit for this office. He was unfit because of his pride and tyranny. And so Isaiah writes in chapter 22: “15 Thus says the Lord God of hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the household, and say to him: 16 What have you to do here, and whom have you here, that you have cut out here a tomb for yourself, you who cut out a tomb on the height and carve a dwelling for yourself in the rock? (he prepared his own tomb so people could remember him) 17 Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you 18 and whirl you round and round, and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die, and there shall be your glorious chariots, you shame of your master's house.(instead of dying in good old age as he planned, he would be exiled) 19 I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station. 20 In that day I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your sash on him, and will commit your authority to his hand. And he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. (this is what the leaders are supposed to be) 22 And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut and he shall shut, and none shall open.”

And so, Isaiah removed Shebna, replacing him with Eliakim. The key to the throne of king Hezekiah would now lie on the shoulders of Eliakim, who could open or close access to Hezekiah.

The kings of Judah sat on the Davidic throne, but not forever (longest being 55 years). Forever rule was granted to only one King, only to the Christ. It was as the Virgin Mary heard it seven hundred years later, that her son would be given “the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk1:32–33). Jesus is the King. Jesus is also the Steward. He shoulders a key. He grants access. He holds power. Again, listen to Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (9:6). That is to say, he upholds his kingdom by his might.

Call it the Christmas Gospel according to Isaiah, the Good News of the coming Son. The coming Son will rule not just a nation or a political party. The Son of God has power but not just over a little band of twelve men and a handful of followers. The Son carries the keys to the kingdom of David, a kingdom established to reveal the mercy of the one true God, to bring people to the Father of us all, to close to mankind the wrath of God for sin and to open to mankind our heavenly home. This is the key the Child of Bethlehem shoulders. In this way, he is steward of his Father, giving us access to the Father and shouldering the key that opens or closes death and hell (Rev 1:18).

Upon the shoulders of Jesus is laid the governance of the world. But not as the world governs. Jesus will judge the living and the dead. He will judge by the standard that was laid upon his shoulders and then upon which he was nailed: the cross. The cross is the rule of mercy for all who believe. The cross is the reign of forgiveness for all sinners tormented by sin, guilt, fear, and despair. The cross is that key that opens heaven and none can shut. All who believe this enter. But alas for those who do not believe for they will not enter and it will be shut to them forever and none can open.

Jesus pleased the Father and reconciled all things to him, having made peace through the blood of his cross (Col1:20). Peace is through blood, not hay in the manger, not a star in the sky. The celebration of Christmas is always in light of Easter, always in full view of the cross AND resurrection. For he was born for this very reason, that he might open the way of everlasting life to all people.

Beware! Our world and culture are trying to make you at peace without a cross, without blood, without the crucified man of Calvary. The world wants you to find peace in life in its present state. Find your peace in the holiday season. Give a present. Send a card. Sing a few carols. Will the festivities give you eternal peace? Or to find peace in the economy. Buy. Sell. Save. Spend. Amass. Accumulate. Will your possessions give you eternal peace? Or to find peace in the powers and authorities of this world. Obey. Conform. Follow the rules. Trust in their knowledge and numbers. Will the world give you peace?

Beware! Don’t be blinded and misled into thinking that these bring us peace that lasts. The world does not know Christ and his cross. The world will not and cannot offer the forgiveness of sins and so unable to reconcile us to God. But Jesus came so that we may have eternal peace through his cross, for on it, he laid down his life for us. Jesus shoulders the cross, winning our salvation and opening the kingdom of heaven to all who believe. Jesus is thus the only key that opens salvation for mankind. Now the Church shoulders the key. Hear these words of Jesus after Peter confesses him to be the Christ: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt16:17-19)” The keys are not only given to Peter as the chief of the apostles and the entire church, but the keys are given to the entire church, for the rock and foundation is Christ himself. It is on him that the church stands. It is his cross that opens heaven and shuts the gates of hell. So now, with these keys, the church opens the door of everlasting life to all who would believe and come. The salvation that comes from this Jesus is not found in a manger in Bethlehem or Golgotha outside of Jerusalem. God has now given this key to his church. Today you have the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. Here, you will find that peace that the world cannot give. It is peace that comes from the certain knowledge of your sins forgiven and removed and washed away. It is the certain knowledge that this door is always open to you even as you continue to struggle with sin. It is always open because Christ was born, suffered, died, and rose again. The work of salvation is complete. God sent his Son as steward, carrying on his shoulders the key to heaven. Wrath has been displaced onto Jesus, through whom you have access by faith into this grace of God in which you stand. Rejoice in Immanuel, the Key of David.