The papacy is one of the most “Catholic” parts of the Catholic Church. So, many “Bible-only” Christians may be surprised that it’s not only entirely biblical, it’s even in the Old Testament!
There are several key passages in the New Testament where Jesus makes clear the special role for Peter among the Apostles (cf. John 21.15-19, Luke 22.32). But probably the most important passage is Jesus’ words in Matthew 16.13-20. What a lot of interpreters miss is that what Jesus says about Peter is actually an allusion to the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. And this fact makes Christ’s intentions very clear.
To see this, let’s look at the key part from the Gospel of Matthew:
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’” (Matthew 16.15-19)
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we find the following message to Shebna, the steward and master of the household of the King:
“I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your post. On that day I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah, and will clothe him with your robe and bind your sash on him. I will commit your authority to his hand, and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his ancestral house.” (Isaiah 22.19-23)
The similarity in language makes it clear Jesus was referencing this passage when he spoke to Peter.
And this is what it means: If Jesus is the new King of the Jews, then Peter is his steward and the master of his household, the Church. The Pope, as the successor of Peter, continues to exercise today this vital role for the Church established by Christ. This helps to explain a common title for the pope: the Vicar (or representative) of Christ.
In other words, as with all things related to Christ, the special role Jesus gave to Peter is the fulfillment of what was already foreshadowed in the Old Testament!
Pray for the Pope!
[See also: The Beard That Lost This Cardinal The Papacy]