We come now to the last of the "woes" Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the lawyers (or scribes). The lawyers were experts in the mosaic law. Like the Pharisees, they had spent their lives studying Scripture. They knew all the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. They had every bit of information they needed (the key of knowledge) to recognize their Messiah.
When Jesus arrived, He did not look like they expected. The scribes and Pharisees wanted a military king, like David. They wanted a Messiah who would chase out the Romans and restore Israel to its Davidic prominence and wealth. A suffering servant was not what they had in mind. Rather than embrace the Messiah God had sent, they rejected Him because He wasn't what they wanted.
The lawyers had the key of knowledge that would have allowed them to accept their Savior and enter the kingdom of God, but they "took it away". They refused to use the key they had at their disposal. The lawyers were not quiet about Jesus. They spoke against Him at every opportunity and they twisted Scripture in such a way that they deceived the people. In refusing to use their key (knowledge) to recognize their Messiah, they also hindered others from entering the kingdom of God. It's clear that Jesus held them responsible for both errors.
It is a tragedy to miss the kingdom of God because it doesn't look like what we expected. It is a much greater tragedy to prevent others from coming to Jesus because of our unbelief and our failure to understand God's plan.
When those of us who profess to be believers act in ways that are inconsistent with our faith, we can easily "take away the key of knowledge" from those who are unfamiliar with the things of God. What a tragedy for someone who doesn't know Jesus to look at my life and reject Him because of my choices! When I make it easy for someone to label me a hypocrite, or to see Christ as weak and ineffective because I fail to follow Him faithfully, I can hinder them from the kingdom.
It is a question of holiness. My life should gradually become more like Christ's. If my life looks exactly like those of the rest of the world, what difference has Christ made in me? I must allow Him to mold and shape me into someone better than what I am without Him. I must be a living monument to His grace for all to see.
When I refuse to be transformed, I hide the key of knowledge from those who look to me for evidence of Jesus. In so doing, I can prevent them from entering the kingdom of God, with eternal consequences.
May we never turn others away from Jesus by our choices but live in such a way that all who will can find an open door to Christ in us.