Now at the same time there came disciples to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? ( Matthew 18:1 )
Oh, boy how they longed for this. You"re talking about motivation, and the disciples were not pure in their motivations. They were always wrangling about well, I am going to be bigger than you. I"ll be better then you. I have a better place than you, and their motivations were not always the purest. And they, many times, were arguing about these things, the greatest. In fact, even the mothers of the disciples sometimes got in on this. They said, "Lord when you come into your kingdom, would you let one of my sons be on your right hand?"( Matthew 20:21 ). Little Jewish mothers wanting to set up their boys. And that"s very typical. God bless them.
And so the disciples came and said, "Who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom?"
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and he sat the child in the middle of them, and he said, Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not even enter the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 18:2-4 ).
The true path to greatness is always the path of humility. "He that exalteth himself shall be abased. He that humbles himself shall be exalted"( Luke 14:11 ). Humble thyself in the eyes of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.
And Jesus takes a child and says, "look, you"ve got to become like a little child, even you, even going to enter the kingdom of heaven. And so if you humble yourself as a little child, that person will be the greatest". The path to greatness is the path of servanthood. How important that we learn to serve, that we not be looking for ourselves, but we only be looking for our Lord and to exalt Him.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receives me ( Matthew 18:5 ).
Oh how the Lord loves the little children. How he loves their beautiful little faces. How He loves that simple faith and trust that is in the heart of a child. There is something about their innocence and simplicity that is absolutely glorious. I love it.
But He said,
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea ( Matthew 18:6 ).
I love Jesus; He is a man"s man. Sounds like the Mafia here, but I am all for it. I mean, He is straight. I think that the most heinous sin anyone can commit is to seek to destroy the faith of a child in God. That is one of the worst sins that anyone could ever commit. To take this pure little child with his simplicity and trust in God, and deliberately seek to destroy that child"s faith in God, in Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, "look, it"d be better for a man if he just took a millstone", and these millstones weigh about three to four hundred pounds, "tie it around his neck, and toss him into the sea. Better that that happen to him than he offend, destroy the faith of one of these little ones who believe in Me".
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! ( Matthew 18:7 )
Be careful, offenses are going to come. But be careful that you"re not the cause of the offenses.
Wherefore if your hand offends you, then cut it off, cast it from you: it is better for you to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet and to be cast into the everlasting fire. If thy eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. So take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven [and I love this] their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven ( Matthew 18:8-10 ).
The angels that have been given charge over us to keep us in all of our ways. The angels, who are watching over our little children, their faces are before the Father continually there in heaven, beseeching the Father for these precious little ones.
This business of, if thy hand offend thee and all, is something that Jesus meant to be repugnant. He means it to be shocking. To maim my own body, to me is a very repugnant idea. To lose a hand, to lose an eye by my own doing is just a horribly repugnant thought. And Jesus wanted it to be. He did not literally mean that we are to cut off our hand or to pluck out our eye, but He is only illustrating how vital it is that we enter the kingdom of heaven. It is worth more than having a whole body.
As we were talking to you last Sunday about the trapping of muskrats, how that if you catch them by their paws, they turn around and gnaw their leg off and leave the paw in the trap. Again, that"s a thought that gives us a -- we react mentally to that, as uh, horrible, but yet how wise as far as the muskrat is concerned. For he figures it"s better to be a free muskrat with three paws, than having four paws be tacked on a fur board.
So Jesus is saying much the same thing here. If there is something in your life that is causing you to stumble, if there is something in your life that is creating an offense, cut it out, get rid of it.
Sometimes when a person comes into the office and sits down and begins to pour out their story, and they say, "Well, Chuck I am really in a mess. I never thought it would happen to me. I can"t understand it, but, man I am involved in an affair, and I don"t know what to do. It"s just ripping me apart; it"s tearing me up. My wife doesn"t know it, and I just don"t know what to do about it, and all." I say to them point blank, "cut it off, not tomorrow, right now, cut it off, "Oh, but I"- don"t, cut it off.
I said, "If I were a surgeon and you came to me, and you said, "Oh, I am having these lumps under my arm, and they are sore, and they really bother me." If I didn"t bother to take the biopsies and determine whether or not you had cancer of the lymph nodes, but I just said, "Oh, probably you"ve got cancer in your lymph nodes. You --that"s a painful operation. We don"t want to go through the pain of it. Why don"t we just sort of take aspirin, so you won"t feel the pain and forget about it." Well you file a malpractice suit against me for quackery for saying, "We"ll, just let it go and see what happens".
And I said, "You"re coming to me with a spiritual malady that is more deadly then cancer. I am the surgeon and I am telling you, we"ve got to operate immediately. Your life depends on it, you got to cut it out." And if there is some sin that you are tolerating, allowing, playing with, and messing around with, you cannot do it. Jesus is saying, " cut it off. Better to go through life maimed, than into hell whole."
Then Jesus in verse eleven says so beautifully,
For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost ( Matthew 18:11 ).
I love that. We get to that when we get to Luke"s gospel. It amplifies it a little further.
Now Jesus said,
What do you think? if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine and go into the mountains, and seek the one which has gone astray? And if it so happens that he finds it, verily I say unto you, he rejoices more for the one sheep, than for the ninety-nine which never went astray. Even so it is not the will of the Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish ( Matthew 18:12-14 ).
Your Father is watching over them. Their angels hold their faces before the Father continually, and He isn"t willing that any perish. Be careful that you do not offend one of those little ones, who believes and trusts in Him.
Moreover [Jesus said] if your brother trespasses against you, go and tell him the fault between you and him alone: and if he hears you, then you"ve gained your brother ( Matthew 18:15 ).
This is the way differences are to be resolved and settled within the church.
Now if he does not hear you, then take with you one or two witnesses, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established ( Matthew 18:16 ).
Take another person with you or another two people with you, and face him with the issue again.
And if he neglects to hear them, then take him before the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, then let him be as a heathen, a publican [a sinner, a rank sinner]. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing, that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven ( Matthew 18:17-19 ).
So here Jesus is speaking about loosening and binding, loosening the work of God, binding the work of Satan, and then declaring that if two of us agree, so the value of prayer together, in agreement in prayer. Now most of our prayer is done in private, but there are times when agreement in prayer is extremely valuable. And I encourage every one of you to have a prayer partner. Someone that when something really is troubling you, you have someone who can pray with you, and bear that burden with you. "For if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it will be done for them by my Father which is in heaven." The power of agreement in prayer.
Then Jesus goes on with His two or three concepts. He said,
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them ( Matthew 18:20 ).
So the simplest form of the church is just two or three people getting together to worship the Lord, to pray together. And whenever there are two, there are always three, wherever there are three visibly present, there is always four. Jesus said, "I am in the midst of them". I think that it is important that we have, and somehow can conceptionalize this. Jesus isn"t like some today who say, "Well, the crowd"s too small. I am not going to go out tonight." He said, "if two or three are gathered, I"ll be there." Now what you need to conceptionalize and to realize is the fact that Jesus is here tonight.
Now if you have a real need and you knew Jesus was there, what would you do? You say," Lord, problems." And don"t you know that if you could see Him, if He actually stood here visible, if you could reach out and touch Him, you know that the problems would all go away. He could do it, you know He can do it. So many times you probably wish, "Oh, if I could only be at Capernaum, and Jesus was there, and if I could only have Him lay His hands on me."
Hey, He is here. The fact that you cannot see Him is of no import at all. Because He said He would be here in the midst of us, and you can reach out by faith and touch Him tonight. And He will reach out and touch you. All you have to do is to make that contact of faith with Him. He is here. Realize that; bring before Him your needs. Believe Him and trust Him and He will work in you.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Seven times? ( Matthew 18:21 )
Now I imagine that Peter at this point thought I am really setting a great example here. I am sure that he was stretching in his own mind his knowledge of his own ability to forgive. I am sure when he said "seven times", he was going far beyond what he knew he could do. I am sure Peter was thinking, "Well, I might be able to forgive a guy a couple of times, but it sounds good to the other disciples if I say "seven"". And Jesus will probably say, "Look, here is a guy that"s really getting a lesson. Listen to it, fellows. Peter has really got it here: "Lord how often shall I forgive my brother the very same offense, he is doing the very same thing seven times?"
Jesus said unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven ( Matthew 18:22 ).
Now what Jesus is pointing out basically is that forgiveness is not a matter of mathematics, it"s a matter of spirit, that you should have the spirit of forgiveness. And I am certain that He is certain that if you take the four hundred and ninety, that you"ll lose count before you"ll ever get there. And you"ll just realize, hey, it isn"t a matter of numbers, it"s a matter of spirit. I am to have the spirit of forgiveness.
And then Jesus went on to illustrate it. He said,
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take a count of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents [about sixteen million dollars]. But inasmuch as he did not have any money to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, his wife, and his children, and all that he had, in order that a partial payment might be made. And the servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, O Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and he freed him, and he forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence [about three thousand dollars]: and he laid his hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, You pay me what you owe me. And the fellowservant fell down at his feet, and he begged him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. But he would not: he had him cast into the debtors" prison, until he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very grieved, and they came and told their lord all that he did. Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me to: Should you not also have had compassion on your fellowservant, even as I had pity on you? And his lord was angry, and delivered him over to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due from him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you [careful note] if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses ( Matthew 18:23-35 ).
Heavy duty, lesson on forgiveness.
Now the analogy is very clear and obvious. God has forgiven you so very much, all of your past sins. Who are you to hold a little crutch or a grievance against your brother, not forgive him, because of some slight, or some mean thing that he has said about you, or some dirty thing that he has done to you. Who are you to hold this bitterness and unforgiving spirit? Jesus said, "Look, if you don"t forgive them from your heart, your Father won"t forgive you your debt."
Now that is heavy. You say, "Well, explain it to us." I can"t. If you want me to explain it away, I can"t. You say, "Well, isn"t that works then, forgiveness on works?" I don"t know what it is, but it"s the word of Jesus, and you better take heed.
Now the Lord has never commanded us to do anything, but what He will give us is the capacity to do it, if we are willing. The problem is, we are not often willing to forgive. The Lord is saying it"s got to be more than just a forgiving of words. "Oh, I forgive you, but you do that again, you"re going to get it. I forgive you, but I won"t forget. I"ll bury the hatchet, but I leave the handle showing so I can grab it whenever I need it." The forgiveness is from the heart. Forgiveness is a matter of heart. It"s a matter of spirit. And inasmuch as God has commanded it, God will give me the capacity if I am willing, but I"ve got to be willing.
And so I have to pray, "Oh, God give to me that spirit of forgiveness. God I am bitter. God I am angry with what they"ve done. Lord I am upset over this thing, and I don"t want to forgive. I want vengeance, God, but I know that that is not of you. Father give to me the spirit of forgiveness. Give to me forgiveness in my heart. God take away this bitterness. Take away this unforgiving spirit that I have." And I will receive God"s help, if I am willing. But I must be willing, but I must do it. That is a must. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 18". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany