Matthew chapter 18, Jesus has been teaching the twelve about His Kingdom. Jesus has gone to great lengths to show that His Kingdom is not of this world and those who will be “greatest” in it will be servants who frankly will suffer. He came to save us from sin and death and hell. Then He leads us through continued living in this world. Scripture promises two sure things for those who are His – otherworldly peace and suffering of some sort. How this plays out is dependent on the Lord and the persons involved. Kind of a frightening concept, isn’t it? But the biblical formula is ever present – believers will have peace, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” And, then believers will suffer 2 Timothy 3:12 “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Jesus has been telling his apostles over and, over again they were going to suffer for Him. But they kept maintaining the idea that they were going to be powerful in a political kingdom of earthly strength. And quite naturally, with that are going to be questions as to who is going to the greatest. Here in verse 1 the disciples were caught by the Lord disputing over who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. Matthew tells us how the Lord answers them.
Verses 2-3 “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them. And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The word here for “converted” means “changed or turned.” Scripture calls it the new birth, rebirth, or regeneration. Jesus was referring to a change or turning that these apostles had yet to experience. This was referring to changing from death to eternal life (or spiritual rebirth). This will happen on the Day of Pentecost, which we will read about in Act 1-2. So, even though these apostles had walked with Jesus, seen Him work miracles and felt His love for them, this was not enough to secure their walk. They needed the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In the end, this is the difference between religion and relationship. Between earthly kingdoms and His true Kingdom. The apostles came to Jesus wanting to know (in their un-regenerated flesh) who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom He was establishing. His response was to take a child, set him or her in the midst of them and say, they needed to be converted and become as little children. They needed to become less prideful and more, humble as a child. In Mark 9:35 Jesus adds “if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.”
The Lord reinforces this point in verse 4 of Matthew 18 “Whoseover therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Paul gave us the best indication of what true humble characteristics are all about. Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” It is truly knowing that our sufficiency and capabilities are of Him and not ourselves. Paul summarizes humility well, saying in Philippians 4:11-13 “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Then He says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” So, the question is not “Are you humble?” It’s, “have you been converted?”
Continuing in Matthew 18 verse 5 what Jesus says here is often misinterpreted and applied to actual little children “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” He is referring contextually to the apostles – going out and sharing the message in the years to come. He says that when others receive these humble disciples coming in the name of Christ it is the same as receiving Him. The message to the apostles is that they must be humble and willing to serve – thinking nothing of themselves. Jesus wraps this teaching up with verse 6 “But 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 that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” What the Lord is saying is, “and if anyone causes one of my followers to fall, trip, or apostatize – it would be better for a millstone – which is a large heavy stone used for grinding grain – to be hung around their neck and for them to be drowned in the sea.” In various places the Lord also, refers to those who follow and believe on Him as “little ones.”
Now we jump to verse 21 “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Peter was probably thinking that he was being generous by saying “seven times.” But the eighth time? Wouldn’t forgiveness and grace would run out? What exactly does it mean to forgive? It means to treat someone as though the offense was not committed – it is to declare that we will not harbor malice, or treat unkindly, but that the matter be buried and forgotten. Honestly, if we say we forgive, but treat someone as if the offence did occur, we have not really forgiven. This is how we hope and pray that God forgives us of our trespasses. Does God forget our sins? He promises in Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” And in Jeremiah 31:34 “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
In response to Peter’s question – how many times should, he forgive someone – verse 22 “Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.’” Peter must have thought “four hundred and ninety times! How am I supposed to keep track?” And that it is the point. In other words, don’t put a limit on the number of times you forgive another. We have the Lord’s prayer which does not make repentance a qualifier for forgiveness, when the Lord says in Matthew 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” And Jesus adds Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
In the parable Jesus concludes with verse 23 “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.” He would settle up the financial affairs between he and them. Debts were owed and it was time to take account of them. Verse 24 “And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.” Now a talent was a sum of money, often weighed out in silver or gold that amounted to about three thousand shekels. That would calculate to be about 16,000,000 dollars this servant owed the King. Verse 25 “But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.” Hebrew law permitted the selling of debtors this way into a life of servile work until the debt was paid. Verse 26 “The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” This was not religious homage the servant was paying to the King. He was begging the King to have patience with him. Verse 27 “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” This compassion the King had on the debtor is a picture of the compassion our true and living God has on every one of us when He forgives and forgets our debt to Him and our fellow man. The Lord Jesus Christ seeing our condition as debtors – out of love and compassion – paid the debt on behalf of every single human being. In the face of our captivity to sin, Jesus came, and out of His compassion toward us, set us free. 16,000,000 dollars, worth of sin…forgiven.
And what should be the response of someone who had been forgiven of so much toward those who are in debt to them? Verse 28 “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me that thou owest.” In this parable, a result of Peter asking how often he needed to forgive, we have a man forgiven of much who did not forgive another of very little. In this parable the Lord is teaching that our debt to our King is enormous and the offenses which our fellow-men commit against us are very small and insignificant by comparison. And look at the heart of this forgiven debtor – he physically took the man by the throat. Verse 29-30 “And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.” No mercy. No compassion.
Verse 31-34 “So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their Lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on they fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Now here is the crux of the parable Verse 35 “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” This is fair warning to us about forgiving others and quite an answer to Peter’s question in verse 21, wherein he asked how often he should forgive others.
At this point in our lesson we will jump over to the Gospel of Luke chapter 10. The manual asks, “Who are the Seventy?” Then it states, “Following the pattern established in Old Testament times (Exodus 24:1; Numbers 11:16), Jesus Christ ‘appointed other seventy,’ in addition to the Twelve Apostles, to witness of Him, preach His gospel, and assist Him in His work.” Then the manual adds “This pattern continues in the restored Church.”
The number 72 is found in the earliest Greek manuscripts. Other Greek manuscripts read 70. The number is derived from Genesis chapter 10. It says, in Luke 10:1 that Jesus was sending out thirty-four or thirty-six teams of two – to reach the many towns and villages that he had not yet been able to visit. Not to sow seed, but to bring in the harvest. Jesus said in verse 2 “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few.” That is a message today – that God has work enough for all of us.
The world into which these missionaries were going was not a pleasant place. He cautioned them in verse 3 “Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” Being lambs – not even sheep – but lambs among wolves would be like asking to be slaughtered. But because Jesus was sending them, their very defenselessness would cause them all, the more to depend on God.
The instructions in the following verses are basically the same as those given to the Twelve. They were to travel light and in order to stay focused on their task they were to depend on God to meet their basic needs. In verse 9 and 11 they were to tell people “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” This Kingdom Jesus began on earth would not overthrow Roman oppression. Instead, it was a Kingdom that began in people’s hearts and was as near as people’s willingness to make Jesus king over their lives.
A note about these seventy elders: Inasmuch as little mention is further made of these workers, it is to be understood that they were appointed for a temporary ministry to labor in the fields for the great harvest of souls during the last year of Jesus’ ministry. There is no indication that they were needed much following the resurrection of the Lord.
In verse 19 Jesus gives the seventy “power” over evil. This power should not be confused with a priesthood which nowhere in the New Testament is evidenced. The “power” with which Jesus speaks is His Word. Because He is God, he can authorize them verbally to perform His work simply by commissioning them into His service. In the 1800’s Joseph Smith continued this “calling” of seventy through a revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants, section 107. In the modern Mormon Church as the manual states, “Seventies are organized into quorums. Members of the first two quorums are set apart as General Authority Seventies, while members of the other quorums are set apart as Area Seventies.” In my own experience, I served as a Stake Seventy. Then later, after they discontinued that priesthood office, I served in a Stake Mission Presidency and then as a Ward Mission Leader. I also, served as a Stake Missionary Preparation Instructor. All of these positions in the Mormon Church involve the missionary efforts that the LDS Church depends upon for its growth. But none of this was mandated through the Word of God.
Next, we come to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is preceded by an expert in Old Testament law asking Jesus a question that reveals the lawyer’s profound ignorance about central issues of the faith which are – eternal life and the basic command to love one’s neighbor. This expert in the law asks Jesus what he had to do to receive eternal life? Jesus asks, him what do YOU understand the scriptures to say on this matter? Relying on what is written in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, the man said in verse 27 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and they neighbor as thyself.” Then verse 28 “And he (Jesus) said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” To love God in this way is fulfilling completely all the commandments regarding one’s “vertical” relationship with God. To love one’s neighbor (generally all human beings) as one’s self refers to “horizontal” relationships. That is the essential symbol and message of the cross. The expert in the law had it right. Jesus explained that people only needed to obey these commands – in doing so, they would fulfill all the rest of them. In other words, keep the command to love and we shall have eternal life. Once saved – then the Holy Spirit enables us to obey these impossible demands.
The expert in the law would not leave this issue alone. He wanted to justify his actions. He may have been attempting to pin down and limit the law’s demand, thereby limiting his responsibility. So, he pressed Jesus further. Verse 29 “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered the legal expert by now giving the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It is helpful here to know that the Jews and the Samaritans despised each other. Verse 30-35 “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves (attacked by robbers), which stripped him of his raiment (clothing), and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest (Jewish priest) that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite (another Jewish priest – probably on his way to his duties in the temple), when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence (equal to two day’s wages), and gave them to the host (the innkeeper), and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” In great, detail Jesus just described all that the Samaritan did for this man. This Samaritan is pictured as understanding what it meant to help someone in need, to be a caring neighbor, regardless of racial tensions between the Samaritans and the Jews.
Having finished the story, Jesus asked the expert in the law Verse 36 “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” The legal expert had no choice but to answer Verse 37 “And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.” The Samaritan had been the true neighbor. The Samaritan had loved his neighbor far better than the injured man’s own religious leaders. “Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Wow, what a powerful teaching and message for all of us.
Finally, the 10th chapter of Luke ends with a short story in verses 38 through 42. Like the good Samaritan it involves another reversal. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching, while Martha was busying herself fixing a meal. In Mary we see what it means to be a lover of Christ, for she is seen three times in the Gospels – each time at the feet of Jesus. Martha complains in Verse 40 “Lord, doest thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.” Martha assumed Jesus would honor her request that He rebuke Mary. Instead, Jesus commended Mary, welcoming her to learn from Him. Sometimes, I think we are so busy doing, doing – fulfilling church callings and going to church meetings etc. – that we don’t take time to learn from Him by reading His Word and communing with Him in prayer.
Well, that concludes our review of Matthew 18 and Luke 10.
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