Summary: An answer to Dan Brown’s attack on the Roman Catholic Church in "The Da Vinci Code."
Cracking the Da Vinci Code:
There is Only One Church
So, it wasn’t the Apostle Peter whom Jesus called to lead the Church. That is the revelation made by Sir Leigh Teabing in the novel The Da Vinci Code. No, we discover that it was actually Mary Magdalene that Jesus charged to carry forward the church and become its leader. Listen to Teabing:
“According to these unaltered gospels, it was not Peter to whom Christ gave directions with which to establish the Christian Church. It was Mary Magdalene.” (268)
“Jesus was the original feminist. He intended for the future of His Church to be in the hands of Mary Magdalene.” (268)
The wisdom, according to Teabing, was that Peter was jealous of Mary Magdalene, and coordinated events to co-opt the leadership role from her. The early church leaders, feeling male leadership essential, went along with Peter’s plan, and the belief was solidified a couple hundred years later as Constantine embraced the Church, and confirmed its early leadership as a means of maintaining power. Oh, the politics of power. No matter what area of life we study, we almost always come down to a struggle between power bases, and the one who is able to claim power writes the history.
Our Scripture this morning seems to indicate something just a little different, though. Let’s listen to this passage once again, and let the Holy Spirit speak to us as we seek to discover why The Da Vinci Code cannot be right.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
 "Well," they replied, "some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets."
 Then he asked them, "Who do you say I am?"
 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
 Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.  Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.  And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven."  Then he sternly warned them not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
This is not the first time this passage has ignited a fire-storm of debate among Christians. Of course, it has served as the Roman Catholic foundation of the position of the Pope and of the Church. It is taken by the Roman Catholic Church that to Peter was given the authority to exclude or include persons into heaven, and also the power to forgive sins. The Roman Catholic Church further argues that Peter, with these tremendous rights, became the bishop of Rome; and that same power descended to all the bishops of Rome, and that it exists today in the Pope, who is head of the Church and the Bishop of Rome.
So it really isn’t hard to see how impossible such a doctrine is to Protestant believers, and it isn’t hard to see how Protestant and Roman Catholics approach this passage, not necessarily to determine its meaning, but to prove their point and destroy the position of the other. Likewise, it was in the early days of Christianity, particularly in the second century. The Gnostics, with their secret knowledge, believed it was Mary Magdalene to whom this authority was given. As a matter of fact, it is the Gnostic Gospel of Mary Magdalene that Dan Brown has his character Sir Leigh Teabing quoting in The Da Vinci Code. Like the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The problem for the Roman Catholics, for the early Gnostics, and for we Protestants is that we focus on the wrong person. Instead of focusing on Peter, or even Mary Magdalene, let’s focus on Jesus and see if we can find its true meaning.
No one can argue that Peter played an integral role in the foundation of the church. It is Peter who makes the confession that Jesus is the Christ, and it is to Peter that Jesus speaks directly, and gives incredible authority. So how are we to understand that authority in order to understand the meaning of the text? First, let’s look at Peter’s name. In Greek, Peter is Petros and a rock is petra. Peter’s Aramaic name was Kephas, and wouldn’t you know it, the Aramaic word for rock is Kephas. In either language, there is a great play on words. Immediately after Peter made his great confession Jesus said, “You are petros, and on this petra I will build my Church.” It is a word of great praise, indeed, and it has its roots deep in Jewish history and thought.