Forgiveness, Status, and Entering the Kingdom
Matthew 19:13 and Mathew 18–19
Matthew Lesson #109
February 14, 2016
“Father, thank You for Your Word. We thank You for Your written Word, we thank You for the living Word, the living Word whose mind is partially revealed to us in the Scripture. It’s the Scripture that’s alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword because it represents the truth, which is why Jesus prayed, ‘Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth.’
There’s power in Your Word because it’s the truth that orients us to reality and orients us to life as you’ve designed it. It orients us to the ultimate purpose for our lives that we might find meaning and hope not in the details of life but in our relationship to You through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Now Father as we study today, as we review what we have studied, as we focus upon the key doctrine that’s developed in Matthew, which is being a disciple of Jesus Christ, we pray that you might challenge us that we might be responsive to that challenge to push on in our spiritual life, and not be satisfied with where we are or what we’ve gained, but that our goal will always be pressing on to the high calling of Jesus Christ as expressed by the Apostle Paul. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 19. We’re going to continue our study today in verse 13, and I want to read this section because I want to have it in our minds. We’re not going to do much with it today.
I started to look at this yesterday and the day before, actually earlier in the week. The more I thought about it, the more I studied my way through it, and this is one of the more interesting and challenging—I don’t think it’s that challenging, but I’ve understood it for a while, but I think for a lot of people it’s a very challenging passage.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought this is really locked into the context of Matthew, and we need to understand that before we go forward.
So about 3:00 in the morning when I was lying wide awake, I thought, “Well, I need to go back and point out how this fits in the context.”
As I was putting on the final touches this morning, I realized I had about eight pages of notes, and I wasn’t done with the introduction yet.
But it’s a good review, and as I’ve pointed out many times, I like to stop after we’ve gone through two or three chapters and go back and look at the forest so we can understand the trees a little better.
Let me read this chapter because there will be things I allude to in the introduction that you need to have in your mind.
Matthew writes, “The little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
Now what’s all this about children? We’ve seen it once before. We need to connect the dots.
What’s this about the Kingdom of Heaven? We’ve seen this, too.
“And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
What’s interesting is that those three verses talking about the children are always connected to the next event and precede the next event in every synoptic Gospel. You can’t understand the one without the other. They are integrally related.
“Now behold, one came and said to Him ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ ”
“So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ ”
“He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ ”
“Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and your mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
“The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ ”
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ ”
That statement right there is the interpretive key to the whole section because what do you have to do to be saved, to have eternal life? You have to believe, not follow.
“Follow Me” tells me this is not about how to get to Heaven or how to be justified. “Follow Me” tells me that this is about discipleship, and it’s not about getting saved and getting eternal life; that is, going to Heaven when you die.
So He says, “Follow Me.”
“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
Most people stop there. We so atomize these Gospel accounts looking at these individual sections that we lose the fact that in the original, there were no chapter divisions and no verse divisions and no little headings telling us—that it goes from this to this.
What’s hard for many of us is that we have to mentally remove those verse divisions and remove those chapter divisions so we can actually catch the flow of what’s going on here.
The conversation continued, “Then Jesus said to His disciples. ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ ”
Once again, we see this interchange between two phrases, Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God. They are synonymous, but what does that have to do with what is going on?
“When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ ”
We read that and we think, “How do we get into Heaven?” Because I’ve said ad infinitum, ad nauseam, the word “saved” in Scripture does not just mean getting into Heaven when we die.
It has other allusions, and many times it is talking about how to experience the fullness of our new relationship with Christ, not just getting it.
“Who then can be saved?” they say.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ”
“But Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You”—there’s that word again, “follow.” Jesus said follow Me, and Peter has caught that, and he said, “Well, we’ve left everything, and we followed You—‘Therefore what shall we have?’ ”
Matthew 19:28, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have”—what does He say?—“… followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ ”
Their reward in the future is connected to how well they followed Jesus. This isn’t talking about getting justified so you go to Heaven when you die.
Verse 29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters for father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Pay attention to that verse. Just lock it back in your memory for just a little while.
Okay, there’s a lot there. It’s going to take some time to go through it, but it’s really pretty simple. What we have to do is realize that this has a context. And what we’re looking at is the broad themes of this context, going back to Matthew 17, the focus on forgiveness, status in the kingdom, and entering the kingdom.
Now one of the most important things that you’ve heard me say many, many times is that we have to understand context.
Context to Bible study is like location to real estate. The three laws of real estate are location, location, location, and the three laws of Bible study are context, context, context. It’s the same thing. Where is it located?
So often we go to passages and we take them out of context. We may be drawing implications from some of those verses, but we have to make sure that we understand what is being said and what’s not being said in the original context when Jesus is talking.
This is one of the great values and importance in verse-by-verse Bible teaching. You will not learn this, and a pastor will not learn this if he is doing topical studies on five basic things you can do to have a happy and productive marriage, or how to be successful in your job, or how to avoid depression and be happy—these little sermonettes that people get where pastors just take verses out of context.
I remember when I was in seminary taking a course on pastoral psychology and counseling, and the two men who taught the class both had their PhDs and their MDs. They were psychiatrists, and they were doctors. They had spent many, many years with the very fine Christian organization called “The Navigators,” and they had memorized a lot of Bible verses.
But what they were doing was what a lot of people do: they just proof-texted. “Verses sound good, so we’re going to stick it in here.”
We’ve seen passages where even in this context where we’ve seen examples of this, where you have people who say, “Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.”
“When two or three of us pray, we’re going to have more power?” That’s heresy! That’s not what that verse is talking about!
In context, prayer is nowhere to be found. In context it’s about where two or three of us confirm a church disciplinary action against someone, then Jesus is in our midst. It’s a discipline passage. It’s not a prayer passage.
So if we don’t pay attention to context, we just claim all kinds of promises that aren’t ours and have nothing to do with our spiritual life. So you really have to look at context.
Yesterday, I did a little lesson in context. A bunch of us got the opportunity, a bunch of us that work out at the CrossFit gym where I work out, got the opportunity to go over here to the Texas Rock Gym, which is off of Campbell Rd., and it’s one of these rock climbing gyms.
They’ve got all kinds of walls, and they’ve got about 55 or more routes that you can climb. It was really interesting. I haven’t done any rock climbing in a lot of years, and it was a great opportunity to just go over and have a little fun. But I got a couple of great illustrations out of it too.
One is that when you look at this wall, this is what it looks like. You’ve just got a lot of details there. All of those are handholds and footholds. There are all kinds of different colors, but basically compared to Bible study, this is like all the words in the text.
You just have a lot of data there. And when you’re first sitting there, you’re trying to take in everything. You haven’t climbed anything, like me you haven’t climbed anything in a while, so you’re pretty much looking at eye level, “Okay, what am I going to do to start off with?”
The way these things are set up—now this isn’t a picture from the gym where I went—but the way these things are set up is you have certain routes that are marked. Where I was climbing yesterday, the routes were all mixed in together. These are a little more separated, but that helps in illustrating what I’m talking about.
The green ones, that’s one route. The red ones are another route. The yellow ones are another route. The black or charcoal, that’s even another route. What you’re supposed to do, each route is going to have a different level of challenge to it.
So what you have to do when you’re sitting there and you see all this detail, you have to learn to focus on what’s the main route. It’s like Bible study. You have to focus on what’s the theme.
As you start off, you’re just really focused on “can I make it to the next handhold?” “Where am I going?” You’re thinking about all these other things that are going on. About the third time I went up the wall, I was a little more successful.
But by then, I realized that what I had to do was take a step or three back and just look at the whole wall and get the context of the route I was going to climb.
That’s like Bible study. It’s the same principal of looking at a map and orienting to the whole area before you start focusing in on your individual route. Context is important. So you have to focus on the context. And sometimes that just takes a lot of time.
I can’t tell you how much I’m learning going through Matthew and, I don’t know, we’ve been here two years, and I read it over and over, and I’m always amazed at what I pick up, especially after I’ve gone three or four chapters down the road, and all of a sudden I realize, “Wow! This really does connect back to what was going on.”
So let’s get a review. Turn back to Matthew 17 and let’s walk our way through these chapters and remind ourselves of what has been going on.
At the end of Matthew 16, Jesus is going to take three disciples, and He’s going to exercise a politically incorrect activity called discrimination.
He’s going to take three of His disciples up on the Mount of Transfiguration where they are going to get some additional insight, additional revelation, and an additional look at Jesus that the others don’t get.
You know, modern man and human viewpoint looks at that and say, “Oh, how unfair of Jesus!” You know, a bunch of idiots. Anyhow, that’s what happens in human viewpoint. You impose a false standard; you get the false answer.
So Jesus is going to take them up, and that is what has happened in this particular section—Jesus has just begun to teach them something at the end of Matthew 16.
So in verse 21 we read, “From that time Jesus began to”—what?—“show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised the third day.”
We’re going to see that the focus on His coming death, burial, and resurrection is mentioned several times in the coming chapters. Now the question is why?
The answer is because He’s training them, so that they can assume leadership of this new organization that’s going to come into being after His ascension, which is the church. He’s training them for the time when He is no longer here. We have to keep that in mind.
He’s talking to His disciples who are already born-again believers. They are justified. They’re regenerate. They are saved, and their destiny is with the Lord, where He says in John 14 that “I go to prepare a place for you that where I am that you may be with Me also.”
We have to establish that He’s talking to people whose destiny is Heaven. But what He’s talking to them about, what He’s training them about is discipleship.
There’s only one of the four Gospels that really emphasizes discipleship, and that is Matthew. Matthew records the last commandment of Jesus to His disciples, and that is, “Go and make disciples.”
Again and again and again through Matthew, Matthew emphasizes for us the higher standard Jesus is setting for those who want to be more than just a couch potato in their Christian life—that we have to follow Jesus. We have to take up our cross and follow Him.
All of these are commands are related to what’s involved in growing and maturing as a believer, and they have nothing to do with our ultimate goal after we die. But people confuse that all the time.
So on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus reveals His glory. This is the first point in the review—there are 12:
1. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed His glory to a subset of these disciples: Peter, James, and John.
At least three things are accomplished:
The first thing that’s accomplished is they saw the glory of the Lord. They come to a better, higher level of understanding that He really isn’t just a man. He is the eternal God. They see His glory.
Second thing is that God the Father speaks to them. After Peter starts to put his foot in his mouth, God the Father says basically, “Shut up, Peter. Listen up. Don’t talk. Listen to My Son. Hear Him.”
Third, Moses and Elijah appear, and they talk to the Lord according to the Luke account, while this phrase isn’t emphasized in Matthew. In the Luke account, Moses and Elijah talk to Jesus about His soon-coming death.
2. Matthew will insert that. This is the second point. In Matthew 17:9–13, Matthew brings out this same dimension.
So Luke says that Jesus and Elijah and Moses are talking about His soon-coming death.
Then Matthew says that when they came down from the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anybody about what you saw until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” He’s teaching them again about His death and resurrection.
All this is setting the context in Matthew, remember, for their future ministry.
3. Third thing that we see in Matthew 17 in verses 14–20 is when they came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. You’ve got Jesus and Peter, James and John, and they discover that the other nine disciples have been getting in a bit a kerfuffle with the Pharisees over casting a demon out of a young child, and they can’t do it because they don’t have any faith. That’s why Jesus says, “You don’t have faith and that is why you couldn’t cast the demon out.”
The Pharisees have basically put them on the spot, and they’re apparently trying to cast the demon out through the usual means, and things just weren’t going very well for them. They hadn’t learned the lesson of faith—the disciples couldn’t handle it because they were not operating on faith.
Now Jesus in His emphasis of the lack of faith is showing them that if they are going to succeed as disciples, then they have to operate not on the world’s modus operandi—they have to operate on Jesus’ modus operandi. They have to operate on faith.
They can’t achieve the right thing the wrong way. They have to do God’s work God’s way. Any other way is going to be ineffective. So they have to understand that they have to trust Him and correctly apply His teaching and correctly apply Bible doctrine.
4. The fourth thing that we learned, the fourth thing in the review is that as they return and go through Galilee, which is described in Mark 9:30–32, as they were returning to go through Galilee, Jesus again warns the disciples that He will be crucified and that on the third day He will be resurrected.
This is seen in Matthew 17:22–23. “ ‘The Son of Man,’ He says, ‘Is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. And they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.’ And they were exceedingly sorrowful.”
They just don’t get it yet. That’s what we learn also from other passages. It just doesn’t communicate. What is happening is their presuppositional grid—they’re still thinking the Messiah’s going to be glorified and bring in the kingdom—and their presuppositional grid hasn’t shifted yet; so when He says “white”, they’re still looking at “black”.
That’s the power of presupposition. They are not letting their presupposition be transformed by what He’s saying. They’re just blind to it. The disciples can’t understand this.
5. The fifth thing is in the next lesson that Matthew relates in verses 24–27. After they’ve come down from the mountain and they’ve had this encounter, Jesus cast out the demon.
He rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. Then while they’re moving back from that location toward Capernaum, He reminds them again that He’s going to be crucified, and they’ll kill him.
Then apparently James and John went their way, and He and Peter are going on to Capernaum, and then they have this question that’s raised to Peter, “Well, doesn’t your Teacher pay the temple tax?”
Jesus miraculously provides the payment of the temple tax that will pay for them, teaching Peter that God is going to provide for his logistical needs.
God’s going to sustain him; a critical thing that you have to learn if you’re going to be in any form of pastoral ministry, any form of professional ministry, that God is going to supply the needs.
So that’s the fifth part in this progression.
6. Now what’s happened here in Matthew 17 is Jesus has discriminated against the other nine. He’s taken these three (Peter, James, and John) and He’s given them some special training and some special lessons that are for them alone, and also for Peter alone, and aren’t for the others.
Well, this generated a certain amount of jealousy among the others, and they started asking this question, “These guys seem to be getting some special privileges. Are they going to be sitting next to Jesus in the kingdom? Who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom?”
They start focusing on the issue of status. And this is what leads Jesus to shift gears in the training, starting in Matthew 18.
In verse 1 we read, “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ ”
This has to be understood to set the context not only for chapter 18 but also for chapter 19 because the last verse in Matthew 19 says what? “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
That frames everything between Matthew 18:1 and the end of chapter 19, Matthew 19:30. That is so important to understand.
The last couple of weeks, we did the lesson dealing with marriage and divorce, and I pointed out that most people go there to find out if they can get a divorce. But the point of that whole passage isn’t about how you can get an escape clause in your marriage.
The whole point is you’ve got to ratchet your understanding of marriage and what you have to do to maintain the marriage up about five notches. It’s not about getting a divorce. It’s about having a God-honoring marriage.
So in Matthew 18 Jesus shifts gears, and the occasion for this is this issue of who’s the greatest, who is going to have the greatest status in the kingdom. Jesus decides to give them a little object lesson.
He brings in a little child. Notice the child is introduced here at the beginning, and we go back to the child towards the end of the chapter in this series of events.
What I have here for you is I want to give you some cross references. Mark 9:33–37 gives us Mark’s account:
“Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’
“But they kept silent”—a little embarrassed probably. They got found out—“they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.
“And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ ”
Didn’t we just read that? See, I inserted Matthew 19:30 there. At the very end of chapter 19, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
See, I want you to understand this sets the context. This tells us that we’re not talking about how to get to Heaven when you die, how to make sure that when you die you are face-to-face with the Lord. This is talking about something beyond that. It’s talking not about getting into Heaven, but the quality and the extent of our appreciation and understanding in serving the Lord for all of eternity—what happens when we get into the kingdom.
So verse 36, “Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them”—for His object lesson. “And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.’ ”
We have all kinds of sermons, as I pointed out when we went through this, that people start talking about how this is all about children, and it’s not about children at all. The child represents something, and in that culture the child didn’t represent humility.
I will not ask for a show of hands, but how many of you saw humility in your two-, three-, four-, five-, and six-year-old kids when they were growing up?
It doesn’t represent people who are not self-absorbed. I’m not going to ask you to point out which of your children were not self-absorbed between the ages of birth and whatever they are now. That is the orientation of the sin nature. Jesus isn’t pointing that out.
In that culture in the ancient Near East, children had no status whatsoever. It was not only better for children not to be heard but also not to be seen—they weren’t to be heard or seen. They were just excluded. They weren’t anybody.
See, what Jesus is getting at is to be disciples, you have to understand it’s not about status, it’s about service. When you’ve focused on serving the Lord, the status question becomes irrelevant. It’s about serving the Lord.
So that’s what He’s doing. He says you’ve got to be like this little child; a nobody. In the eyes of the world nobody’s looking at you to be somebody special because you are a servant of Christ. You have to recognize that that will be a negative, not a positive, in the eyes of the world. That’s the basis and foundation of this particular lesson.
So in verse 3, as I’ve pointed out (and we’ve studied this), when Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children,”—what He’s saying is, unless you change your mind and get off your arrogant high horse trying to be somebody and turn and recognize that you are a nobody—it’s not about status—then you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
But the problem is people look at that phrase “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” and they think that that means getting into Heaven when we die.
But the whole context here is He’s talking to people who are already going to get into Heaven when they die, so He’s got to be talking about something more than that.
Then He says in verse 4, “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
If He’s talking about getting into Heaven when you die, then what He is saying is that the condition for getting into Heaven when you die is you have to humble yourself. That’s works! So He can’t be talking about salvation.
One more thing is, as He wraps it up, He says, “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.”
But Luke adds something to that: Jesus says, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”
See, this is what He’s talking about—it’s status. The whole issue here is getting rid of this idea that I have to have status in this Christian life. So the point here is this: a disciple has to focus on service, and not status.
We see that “enter the kingdom” is a phrase that is often thought to be a synonym for “getting into Heaven,” but the context here tells us that “entering the kingdom” means much more than that. It means enjoying all of the dimensions of blessing and privilege that are in the kingdom.
What are the conditions for salvation? The conditions for salvation are clearly stated numerous places in Scripture.
Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith”—not through humility, not through service, not through joining a church, it’s—“for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves.”
The “that” in that phrase refers to the whole process of salvation. That process of salvation is not something that you can do on your own.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith”—and that salvation through faith by grace is—“not of yourselves”—it is not of works—“lest any man should boast.” Very clear. You don’t do anything. It’s just a matter of trust.
In John 20:30–31, John wrote, “These are written”—that is, these signs in John—“these are written that you may believe”—there’s that word again. Faith is the noun; PISTIS. “Believe” is the verb; PISTEUO in John 20.
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing”—and humbling yourself; did He say that?
No—“that by believing you may have life in His name.” It’s faith alone.
The word PISTIS, the noun, is used 227 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it is used as faith for justification, and in other passages it is talking about faith related to spiritual growth or faith for claiming a specific promise.
For example, in Matthew 8:13, Jesus said to the centurion after He had healed his servant, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” See, he’s not believing the gospel for eternal life, he is believing that Jesus can heal his servant. That’s related to the spiritual life.
Matthew 9:28, “When He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ” This isn’t believing for eternal life. This is believing for Jesus being able to heal you, Jesus solving your problem. This is related to the spiritual life.
Matthew 21:22, “Whatever things you ask in prayer,” Jesus said, “Believing”—or by believing—“you will receive.” This is not related to getting eternal life and going to Heaven when you die. This is talking about faith in the Christian life.
So, you have to discern in all these passages whether the faith that is being spoken of is faith related to the gospel—trusting in Christ and His death on the Cross for eternal life, or whether it’s the fullness of life.
In Romans 4:3–5, Paul says, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ” That’s what we refer to as Phase 1 Salvation—justification.
It is distinct from believing in reference to Phase 2, which is salvation from the power of sin and that is our spiritual life.
Paul goes on to say in Romans 4:4, “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
Now the point is that if Jesus is talking about Phase 1 justification, then He’s saying it isn’t works. You have to humble yourself. That means He can’t be talking about Phase 1, He’s got to be talking about Phase 2.
So He is talking about the life of the disciples and what is expected of them as disciples. And that they’re to become like this child. They are to become non-status-seeking believers seeking to serve God and not man.
7. Then He goes on in this particular section, and He talks about the dangers that can come—this is the seventh point—that these little children represent the humble disciple who’s serving the Lord. They aren’t seeking status but service.
Those who might cause such a disciple to go off course into false teaching or heresy—identified as stumbling in the next couple of verses—and will come under tremendous discipline.
So Jesus warns in Matthew 18:7, “Woe to the world because of offenses”—causing stumbling; getting a disciple, a humble disciple, childlike disciple off course. “For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!”
8. Then in verses 8 and 9, He warns that this is serious, that you need to take whatever extreme measures you can. He uses hyperbole. He’s not actually talking about plucking out your eye or cutting off a hand or a foot. He’s saying this is so important you need to do whatever you can not to be caught up in a situation where you are taken off course.
You need to stay the course as a childlike disciple. This is going to involve forgiveness. That is what starts to get developed in this next section. He transitions to forgiveness in this section.
There are two parables. The first parable is the Parable of the Lost Sheep. This is so important because they are all sheep. That means they are all believers. Let that sink in. One of the sheep gets lost, and the shepherd goes to look for him.
There’s a verse in here that is stated, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” We often take that out of context and use that for salvation, but the context is talking about the believer who has stumbled and has gone off course into apostasy or false teaching.
We also distort verse 14 where Jesus says in the conclusion, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” See, they’re already a little one. They are already a humble disciple. But they’ve stumbled, and they’ve gone off course.
The “perishing” here isn’t the Lake of Fire. The “perishing” is divine discipline and judgment in time and the loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
As Jesus transitions here, He is warning that anyone who causes a disciple, a sheep, to stumble is headed for divine disciple and a loss of eternal status at the bema seat.
9. The ninth thing, and this is a section that’s unique, is that this whole Parable of the Lost Sheep is unique to Matthew. The Father seeks the lost sheep. He’s going to forgive the lost sheep. He’s going to restore the lost sheep, and that sets the stage for the next lesson.
The next lesson is introduced in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if your brother sins,” Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
The emphasis here is that probably if you have another Christian who’s putting a stumbling block, is going to lead you astray, take you off course, then you need to go deal with that. You need to talk to them personally, and if they don’t respond, then take somebody else and eventually, there’s going to be some kind of temporal discipline as a result of that.
10. So under my tenth point of the review, this lesson on seeking out the brother who sins is then expanded in the next section by Peter’s question.
Peter’s question is, “Well, how often do I need to forgive my brother who sins against me? I mean, this guy keeps trying to lead me off course. I know, I’ll be gracious. I’ll forgive him seven times.”
Jesus says, “No, you’re going to forgive him up to seventy times seven, not just seven times.” This means you’re always going to forgive him. This is the crux of this whole section. From Matthew 19 this issue of forgiveness is critical to the Christian life.
11. Now under point 11, what I want to do is develop this. Jesus uses that question to further develop the disciples’ training and our training because He only answers his question. He says, “I don’t say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Then Jesus launches into this parable. “Therefore”—this is a conclusion. Let’s drive the point home with a parable—“the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Here’s the story. You have a servant who owes the king a vast amount of money. So much—it’s 10,000 talents. It’s a lifetime worth of earnings. He just can’t pay it back. It’s impossible. And he was unable to pay it back.
Matthew 18:25, “His master commanded that he be sold with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
“The servant fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
“The master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”
So now he’s been forgiven this debt where he owed 10,000 talents—he owed a lifetime of income. He’s forgiven that debt, but he doesn’t learn the lesson of forgiveness.
“And he goes out and finds one of his fellow servants who owes him 100 denarii”—that’s like a couple of weeks’ worth of work—“and lays hands on him and takes him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe.’
“But his fellow servant fell down, ‘Have patience with me and I will pay you all.’ ”
But the first servant, the forgiven servant, initially forgiven servant says, “No, I’m going to throw you into prison till you pay the debt—until you pay it all.”
“So when his fellow servants heard this, they went to the master, told him what had happened, and the master called him”—now this is what you need to see. I kind of skimmed over this because I ran out of time. I’m running out of time today, but I’m not going to skim over it.
Matthew 18:30 gives us an understanding of these pronouns. “And he would not”—that is, he, the forgiven servant, “he would not forgive the other servant”—the fellow servant. “And he”—the forgiven servant—“would not, but went and threw him”—that is, the fellow servant—“into prison til he”—the fellow servant—“should pay the debt.”
That identifies who these pronouns are going to be. Now this is critical.
Verse 33, the master calls him in and says, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant as you received compassion?”
Verse 34, “And his master was angry, and delivered him”—that is, the wicked servant now. This is the one who was initially forgiven—“He delivered him to the torturers until he”—that is, the fellow servant—“should pay all that was due to him”—the wicked servant.
See, here’s what’s happening. The master is going to take the first servant that was forgiven so much, “because you didn’t forgive your fellow servant, you’re going to be thrown into prison until the fellow servant pays you everything.”
What’s the point? The point is the only way the fellow servant’s going to be able to erase the debt is for the wicked servant to forgive the fellow servant. The point of the passage is that we have to forgive one another.
There are no asterisks there that indicate a sin that’s too great. Jesus told His disciples that we are to love one another as He loved us. And love is manifested through forgiveness.
So the only way for the wicked servant to avoid the divine discipline that will come from not forgiving is to forgive the debt of the fellow servant.
Now it’s in that context where He has raised the bar on what it means to forgive one another that Matthew inserts the confrontation with the Pharisees over marriage—I pointed this out last time.
They say, “Where’s the escape clause? How do we understand it?”
Jesus says, “Granted, there’s an exception, but here’s the real issue: and it’s that God created man and woman to be married together forever. He didn’t create them to get a divorce. So what you have to learn to do when you have tough times in your marriage is to forgive one another.”
He’s applying in the first part of Matthew 19 what He’s been talking about in two-thirds of the previous chapter—that that is essential if you’re going to be a mature disciple who is serving the Lord. And the disciples understood that.
That’s what’s emphasized in their response. They hear him, and they said, “If this is the case, if this is your standard for marriage, it’s better not to marry.”
Jesus isn’t saying you can’t divorce. He’s saying the real standard isn’t like Shammai who says you have to get a divorce if this exception occurs.
The point that Jesus is making is that granted, there are going to be times when that other person is just not going to be cooperative at all. In those cases, there’s an exception, but the mentality that you have is no matter how much you’ve been hurt, how much you’ve been offended, how much you’ve been embarrassed, you’ve got to forgive and move forward. That is the issue.
So that’s the context to come to these last two little critical episodes that we see in Matthew. Matthew 19:13–15 is the first episode.
“The little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them.” Quit bringing the children! But they hadn’t learned the lesson from the beginning of Matthew 18.
“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
And in the synoptic Gospels, in Mark and in Luke, it says exactly the same thing, “Do not prohibit them, for of such is the kingdom of God.”
So Mark uses “kingdom of God.”
Matthew uses “kingdom of Heaven.” They are synonymous terms, but what in the world is being emphasized here?
Luke adds as he presents this account, in Luke 18:17, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Too often we’ve heard that as a means of justification. We have to be reminded that, as I pointed out in the beginning of Matthew 18:3–4, this isn’t talking about justification. This is talking about being a disciple. This is talking about the standards of growing and maturing as a believer.
This is going to talk about the importance of forgiving one another. And this is going to emphasize that there is a standard of greatness that is predicated upon not seeking personal status, but serving the Lord.
To the unbeliever, what we have to express and make clear is that eternal life in Heaven when we die is not based on being humble, it’s not based on forgiving one another, it’s not based on having a great marriage, it’s not based on ritual, it’s not based on doing anything at all.
Jesus Christ did it all. He paid it all. On the Cross He said, “It is finished.” TETELESTAI, it means “paid in full.” He paid for sins, so that the gospel message is a gospel announcing that sins have been forgiven. Your debt with God has been erased. Accepting it as a free gift—that is justification by faith alone.
But to the believer, it doesn’t stop there. We ask the question, “After salvation, then what?” After salvation we’re called to be a disciple, to follow Jesus, to follow Him, to grow to maturity, and to exhibit Christ-like character.
It’s impossible on our own. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. We don’t have boot straps big enough, tough enough, strong enough to pull ourselves up by them. We have to walk by the Spirit.
But we have to make a decision each and every day and dozens of times during the day, “Am I going to be a disciple of Jesus and follow Him, or am I just going to live my life my way?”
We’ll find out how well we do at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but the challenge is what is our focus? Are we going to follow Jesus or not?
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to review, reflect, be reminded of the whole context of what is going on here in Matthew and Matthew’s challenge to us to be disciples.
Father, help us to understand the significance of that in each of our own lives and in the decisions we make.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone here that’s never trusted in Jesus as their Savior, understood that He died on the Cross and paid for everything, that nothing is needed for us to do or to add to what Jesus did. It’s simply faith alone, and we pray that that will be made clear.
Father, we pray for the rest of us that we might be reminded that we are to press on. We have a high calling in Jesus Christ. We are challenged to be disciples, to follow Jesus. We can’t do that on our own, we have to walk by the Spirit, we have to learn what that means, and we have to make Your Word the priority in our life. We pray that we would respond positively to that challenge. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”