“I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder;... I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.” Is. 22.
Anointing people for service and leadership is an ancient ritual that religious traditions use to designate men and women as spokespersons for the entire community. In ancient Israel, priests, prophets and kings were all anointed, so too were some of the objects used for worship. In the book of Numbers we learn of Moses’ obligation to anoint the altar, the Ark of the Covenant, the lamp stand and all the temple furnishings. In this way, people and objects, having been dedicated to the Lord in a special way, are initiated into a ministry not for their own good but for the salvation of all, or as Isaiah says of Eliakim, “for his family.
In today’s scriptures both Eliakim and Peter are “anointed” and given keys of power and authority. Though neither of them is worthy, God chooses them to keep their communities focused on the One God, and to remind them to work for justice in the world. Both the community of Jews that Eliakim would lead and the new community of Christians Peter leads will be known, not only by their faithfulness to God and God’s law, but by their service of the community.
Near his death, Jesus challenges his first disciples and all of us to follow him as a servant by washing the feet of others, a task done in the ancient world only by slaves and women. Jesus does not want his disciples to be known by their power over others, but by their service of those most in need, thus proclaiming a new freedom and hope for all who are held captive by their faults, sins, gender, state in life, class, poverty, ethnicity and culture. In other words, leading through service breaks down all the barriers that separate us from one another.
Are we prepared to receive the keys of the kingdom today, to be hung with Eliakim “like a peg in a sure spot,” as a sign to all of the enduring power of Jesus’ powerlessness?