About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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ch. 18:1-9    ch. 18:10-14    ch. 18:15-20

ch. 18:21-35

The Greatest In The Kingdom Of Heaven (ch. 18:1 - 9)


Verse 1 opens with the words “at that time”.  The time spoken of here is the event of the last chapter when Jesus was confronted about not paying the temple tax.  The whole discussion concerning taxes and government prompted the disciples to ask “who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven ”?  These men, as we are today, were clearly influenced by a worldly way of thinking, that is, some people are greater, or have more intrinsic value than others according to their position in society. 


Verse 2 tells us that Jesus called a little child to come and stand beside Him.  Once again, Jesus uses an illustration to help explain His teaching.  In this case the illustration is a child.


In verse 3 Jesus says that unless “you change” and become as a little child, you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven .  “Unless you change” tells us that the disciples needed to change their way of thinking, as we all do.  They’ve been thinking all along that the important people in both the kingdom of men and the Kingdom of God are certain men.  Yet Jesus is saying that they need to change this thinking to something that is quite the opposite.


Jesus says that if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven , and I’d say, both in this life and in the next, you must become as a child. 


I suppose there are many attributes to children that are important when thinking of participating in the Kingdom of God .  Jesus only references one and that is found in verse 4.  He says that we must “humble” ourselves as children.  This is the specific attribute of children that Jesus is speaking of.


Children are seen, and especially were seen back then, as those at the bottom of  the social scales. Most of what is about childhood is a humbling experience.  A child  doesn’t know certain things and therefore must humble himself to ask questions.  Children must always be in the background and submit to their parents.  The list could go on and on to show how childhood is an a humbling time of life.


Jesus is telling His disciples that they need to have this same humbling attitude.  Power and authority does not make anyone great in the Kingdom of God , despite the popular opinion that’s still with us today.  Humility makes someone important in the eyes of God. Taking up you cross daily to follow Jesus makes one important in the eyes of God.  The Kingdom of God is just the opposite to the kingdoms of men in all respects.


In verse 5 Jesus says that whoever “welcomes a little  child like this in my name, welcomes me”.  There are two points here.  One is that Jesus is comparing Himself to a child in the sense that He has humbled Himself to come to earth and then to die as a criminal.. Another point is that we should welcome little children into our lives “in Jesus name”, and when we do, we are in fact welcoming Jesus. The key words are “in the name of Jesus”, meaning, as representatives of Jesus.


Many people welcome little children into their lives, but not all people do so as Jesus’ representatives.  If we don’t welcome a child in the name of Jesus, we are not welcoming Jesus.


We need to understand the word “welcome” as it is used in this context.  It does not mean merely to say high to someone.  It’s not a greeting, like a hand shake.  It’s a receiving, or a taking in.  It has to do with hospitality, welcoming someone into your home, as in a child without any parents.  Basically, Jesus is saying, “if you take one of these children into your home to care for him as my representative, you’re taking me into your home”.    


In verse 6 Jesus tells those listening to Him that if they bring harm to any little child who believes in Him, it would be better for him to drown in the sea with a large stone around his neck so he’d never to surface.  These are serious words. 


Jesus’ words speaks of punishment.  People will be punished for their sins at the end of this age if their sin has not been taken care of by giving their lives to Jesus.


In verse 7 Jesus says “woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin”.  We sin because there is that sinful nature within us.  We also sin because those in the world do things that cause us to sin.  There are countless things we see daily that tempt us to sin.  Jesus says, “woe” to them that tempt us. 


Jesus realizes that such things will come.  He knows that sin is in the world.  He knows that people will do things to make us sin, but He says “woe” to those who cause people to sin.


When Jesus uses the word “woe”, He is using it as a warning.  He is warning those who cause people to sin.  They will be punished for what they do.


Jesus says some drastic words in verses 8 and 9.  He says that if your hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin then cut your hand or foot off your body, and gouge out your eyes.  He then says that it’s better for you to enter life, meaning, the next life, without a hand, foot, or eye than not make it to the next life at all with Jesus.


Jesus is using exaggeration to make His point.  He’s serious about what He’s saying.  He’s not telling people to cut off their hands.  If he was, you’d see Him helping His followers to do just that.  He’s attempting to show the seriousness of sin and the importance to avoid whatever would cause you to sin. 


So in the past five verses, Jesus is addressing both the one who causes a person to sin and the one who sins.  Both are responsible for what they do and will be held accountable for their actions.


The Parable Of The Lost Sheep (ch. 18:10 - 14)   


In verses 10 and 11 Jesus says that we should not look down on little children.  Although children are not adults, they need a measure of respect that is due to them. 


The intriguing thing that Jesus says here is that children’s  angels are in heaven and see the face of God.   The Jews believed that each nation had a corresponding angel associated with it.  The seven churches of Revelation might suggest, depending on how you interpret it, that they have an angel.  Some people suggest that each and every child has an angel because of this verse.  Others go farther and say that everyone has a corresponding angel in heaven.  There’s not  much written in the Bible about such things so I do not believe that  you can build a strong teaching on this subject from this one verse.


Note the words "see the face of my Father."  This begs the question to be asked, "do angels see God's face?"   In John 1:18 Jesus tells us that no one has ever seen God, except His Son, who is Jesus.  So how do we fit John 1:18 with Matthew 18:10.  Well, one way might be that John 1:18 means that no man has seen God.  That might then exclude angels.  If that were so, then angels might see God as it appears they do, at least as it is written in the NIV. 


Kenneth Wuest, in his translation does not use the word "see".  He uses the word "contemplate" instead, and for good reason, because the Greek word in this passage could mean "contemplate".  It comes down to a matter of translation, and how you translate this word in the context of Biblical thinking.  Wuest might have felt that when Jesus said "no one" has seen the Father, that meant, "no one including angels", and that presupposition would force him not to use the word "see" in this verse. 


The question over angels actually seeing the face of God is hard to answer.  I don't have an answer at this time.  If you read various translations you will notice that almost all of them take a different slant on this issue.  There does not seem to be a general consensus, so in my thinking, at this time, I do not believe we can say conclusively that angels actually see the face of God.  We also should remember, that God is a spirit.  Jesus told us that in John 4:24.  Does a spirit have a face would be the next question.  The word face might just be figurative, therefore somebody like Wuest might be right when he says angels contemplate the Father, or, as other says, stand in the presence of the Father.  I don't think God has a face as we know it, at least a human like face.  Therefore I'm not convinced that we can take Jesus' words literally here.          


In verses 12 and 13 Jesus relates a short parable.  A farmer has one hundred sheep and one gets lost.  He leaves the ninety nine sheep on the hill-side to find that one lost sheep and when he finds it, he’s happier about that one found sheep than he is about the rest of his sheep 


In verse 14 Jesus says that in the same way, that is, with the same concern that the farmer had with one lost sheep, so God the Father has concerning little children. 


It would seem to me that God has a special place in his heart  for children because they cannot stand on their own.  They need adults to care for them.  They are defenseless and certainly need special care.  It is those kind of people, defenseless people,  that God takes special interest in.


A Brother Who Sins Against You (ch. 18:15 - 20)


In verse 15 Jesus says that “if a brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you”.  There is some discussion over the words “against you” because in some manuscripts they can’t be found.  So Jesus is saying one of two things.  He’s either saying if a brother sins, show him is fault, or, if your brother sins against you, show him his fault.


If a brother sins against you, then to restore the relationship it is important to go and show him his fault.  

There  are ample examples in the New Testament where a brother sins, but not against you, and still someone shows him his fault.  Paul even encourages that in Gal. 6:1.  So whatever way you take Jesus’ words here, there is Scriptural evidence to show someone his sin.


One thing to make clear is that Jesus is talking about your brother sinning against you.  I don’t believe that Jesus is saying, “if your brother irritates you”.  It must be a clear sin, whether it’s against you or not. 


Beyond the clear sin, Jesus calls this sin a fault.  In English I believe we can say that all sin are faults, but not all faults are sin so to speak.


We must confront the brother in private.  That makes sense.  The exposing of sin to all other people can cause worse problems, so that is why you confront the brother privately.


Jesus then says that “if he listens to you, you have won your brother”, meaning, your relationship has been restored.  The restoration of relationships is the goal to confronting the brother of his sin.  With this in mind, you speak to the sinning brother in such a way that he will listen and change his ways.  We need to do as Paul says in Gal. 6:1.  Paul tells us to humbly approach your brother in such matters.  Humility will produce better results than aggressive confrontation.


I’ve seen this take place, but many times without success.  I think one reason why we don’t see the success when we do this is because we have the wrong motives.  Our motives must be to restore the relationship, not merely to point out your brother’s sin to him, or prove yourself to be right.   


In verse 16 Jesus says that if your brother doesn’t listen to you, then take two or three other brothers with you and try again.  Two or three brothers will provide witnesses that might well be needed.  The Law of Moses required two or three witnesses to make an accusation legal.  The approach must still be the same.  The two or three come in humility.


In verse 16 Jesus says that if the offending brother refuses to listen to you and two or three others, then “tell it to the church”.  The word “church” is the Greek word “ecclesia”, which means a gathering of people.  In my thinking this would mean tell it to those people who this brother is joined to in the Body of Christ.  That might not be the whole church in any one locality. 


Then Jesus says to treat the offender as a pagan or a tax collector.  The Jews treated tax collectors with distaste.  They refused to associate themselves with a tax collector. This would tell me something about the sin of the offender.  I don’t think Jesus is speaking of little minor sins or offenses.  In order to treat a person as a pagan or tax collector, this has got to be a very serious sin.  I don’t believe Jesus is telling us to make a big deal over every little sin, or else we’d have no one left in the church.


In verse 18 Jesus says that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven”.  Jesus is not talking about loosing people from demons here as many think.  The context says nothing about demons.   The context is all about loosing and binding relationships.  If a relationship is restored on earth it is restored in the eyes of God in Heaven, but if it isn’t restored, then it’s not restored in Heaven. 


In verse 19 we see Jesus saying that if any two of his disciples agree together in whatever they ask the Lord for, their Father in Heaven will respond positively.  Inherent in the asking though, is asking “in the name of Jesus’, or as His representatives.  This is not a selfish asking.  The whole context of the New Testament is clear on this matter. There are many verses that say that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name will be answered.  The point here is that it must be in Jesus’ name. It must be according to His will as you represent Him on earth.  I believe the asking here is for things that will better portray the Kingdom of God to the world.  It’s not for a new car.


There is another way that some Bible teachers view the point about the two or three who are gathered  together.  They say it is in the context of the one who is offended bringing the offender to the church.  In the Law of Moses it states that an offense must be settled with the help of two or three witnesses.  The two or three here in Matthew, according to some the two or three witnesses that would judge the offense.   


The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant (ch. 18:21 - 35)


In verse 21 Peter asks Jesus a legitimate question when he asks how many times he should forgive an offending brother.  This is a logical question in relation to what Jesus was teaching in the last section.


Before we go any farther we need to understand how the Bible uses and views the word “forgive”.  Our modern definition of the word forgive in terms of human relationships means to “give up feeling resentment towards another”.   This is not the New Testament idea of forgiveness.


There’s another modern day meaning to the word forgive that is more appropriate, but it’s not used in terms of human relationship, but is used in terms of financial matters.  If you owe someone money, and if that loan is forgiven, then the money you did owe is no longer owed.  The loan has been forgiven, or cancelled.  This is the idea that the New Testament uses when speaking of forgiveness.


When the New Testament says that God will forgive our sins upon us repenting and coming to faith, it means that God cancels the sin from His books.  He no longer holds your sin against you.  You are no longer accountable for your sin.  That sin has totally disappeared and God will not bring the subject up with you.  God isn’t just refusing to resent you for the sin you committed.  He is wiping it completely out of His records. 


So when Peter asks how many times must he forgive an offending brother, he’s not saying, “how many times must I stop feeling resentment to an offending brother”.  What he is saying is, “how many times must I cancel a brother’s sin, and act as if he had never sinned”.


Peter gives Jesus a suggestion by saying that maybe seven times is a good number to stop forgiving.


In verse 22 Jesus begins to answer. He says that seven times isn’t sufficient, but seventy times seven is more like it.  Does Jesus mean that we need to count until we’ve forgiven someone 490 times, then after that, we stop forgiving?  No, Jesus isn’t saying that.  Common sense tells us that seventy times seven is to be taken in the sense of “an indefinite” number of times.  You cancel the sin as long as it takes to fix the situation and restore the relationship, because relationships are the important thing in our lives.


In verse 23 to 35 Jesus tells the following parable.  There was a servant who owed his master lots of money.  The master called him in and told the servant that he was going to sell him and his wife and family and all that he had in order to get the debt paid back.  The servant fell to his knees and begged the master to give him more time to pay.


The master actually cancelled the debt altogether, setting the man free from the debt.  The servant then left his master and went right to a fellow servant who owed him money.   He grabbed this servant, shook him and told him to pay up.  The fellow servant couldn’t pay so the other servant had him put in jail.


Upon hearing what had happened the master of these two servants called the man in whose debt he had cancelled.  The master was extremely upset with him because even though his debt was cancelled, he demanded that a debt due him must be paid immediately.  The master thus threw this servant into jail.


In verse 35 Jesus says that this is how His Heavenly Father will treat those who don’t forgive others.  Jesus actually says, “this is how my Heavenly Father will treat you …”.  The word “you” refers to the disciples.


The point is that God has cancelled our sins and he expects us to cancel other people’s sin when they repent of the sin.


What we need to understand here is that God, through Jesus has cancelled the sin of the world, yet this can only be appropriated when we repent and give our lives to Jesus.  If there is no repentance and no faith, the sin remains in tact, even though Jesus paid the price for it to be cancelled.  God does not ask us to do something He Himself does not do.  This means that a person who sins against us must repent of that sin before we can cancel it.  If there is no repentance, the sin can’t be cancelled.  Yes, we do need to act lovingly and without resentment to that offender even if he doesn’t repent, but holding back resentment is not what forgiveness is all about. Forgiveness is not withdrawing resentment.  It’s withdrawing the sin from our records and that can only take place after one has repented of the sin.


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