Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral virtue, and in your moral virtue,
knowledge ;

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Matthew Chapter 18 part 1

Chapter 18 is a famous , well known chapter of the bible. The "must come as a child" verses are here as well as the "cut off your hand and feet and pluck out your eye" verses and the forgive "seventy times seven" verses. All of these topics have been debated, written about, and over analyzed for years. My goal is to help you remember  that these verses can be found in Matthew Chapter 18. As always, I will do my best to give you something to think about that will hopefully help you remember.
The literal beginning to Chapter 18 is "In that hour". The same hour that Peter pulled the tax money out of the fishes mouth (Matt 17:27). The disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Just to give a little back ground, we are told in Mark 9:33-34, that when the disciples arrived in Capernaum, (which is where our narrative in Matthew picks up) Jesus asked them what they had been discussing on the way. Verse 9: 34 in Mark  says that they kept silent because they had been discussing which of them was the greatest.
This is one of those passages where if we do not remember that these men were human beings with sinful, frail natures, just like our own, we will miss some very important teaching points in this passage. 
The disciples had prideful ambitions. They were still waiting for Jesus to set up His kingdom on earth, they knew that He would be putting together His government and they were starting to try to guess where they would personally fit into Jesus's plans. In Matthew 20:21 we see the mother of James and John asking if her son's could sit at  the Lord's  right and His left when He established His kingdom. According to Eerdman's, it is clear that she was not asking this for her sons to be honored with this after their deaths. She was asking for this honor to be bestowed when Jesus set up the earthly kingdom which they all thought was eminent. Nope, this was self seeking, worldly ambition on the part of the disciples.  
Jesus does not address the problem with them directly. Instead, to answer their question about who was the greatest, He calls a little child to himself. It was probably a child able to run to Him but still small enough for Him to easily gather the child into His arms (Mark 9:36).  He then tells  the disciples in Matthew 18:3-5,  that unless they are completely changed and become like little children, they cannot enter the kingdom of God and that they needed to become humble, like a little child, if they wanted to be the greatest in heaven.
Try to get the mental picture here. He takes a a small child and sets it before a group of big, strong, full of their own importance, men and says, become like this and then you will be the greatest. 

Besides raising 5 children of my own, I teach a Sunday school class, almost every Sunday. The children in this class are between the ages of 3-7. They come into class at 3, very uncivilized and leave at 7, able to sit through church with a list of big kid questions to answer. The 3 year olds need mom just about every other Sunday and are only staying, (on the Sundays they do stay), for the popcorn and cookies. All of them in this age group are honest, they never hide their emotions. They are exuberant with their praise and their love of the grown ups in their lives. They clearly love the idea of going to heaven (because all things are possible) and are very willing to pray for forgiveness of their sins and accept Jesus as their savior. 

An older sibling in the class once pointed out to me that his younger brother, who joined the class at 3, had not accepted Jesus yet. When we discussed it again , he waited anxiously for his brother to give his answer to the question of accepting Christ.

They are humble to a fault. They know that they don't know everything. They take the word of God at face value and listen attentively especially if there is  some amazing detail in the passage I'm reading to them. They are little sinners, but forgive and easily forget transgressions against them and transgressions that they have committed. I look at them and think "this is how God wants me to be before Him"

Verse 18:5 is amazing. Jesus says " whoever receives one such child in my name receives me". I am not a Greek scholar, so I use a Greek lexicon to look up words and meanings. I also use Eerdman's Pulpit Commentaries because he literally gives the Greek  meanings of the passages before the commentaries.
That said, the important word in this passage is "receives" . The words first literal meaning is "to take by the hand". According to Eerdmans, this means to truly love, to show tender affection, to provide for in every way. Emotionally, physically and spiritually.
 At first this verse did not seem to go with the rest of the passage but as I thought and prayed over this I could see that Jesus is telling us that this is where His heart is. In Luke 18:15 it tells us that they were bringing babies to Him so that He might touch them. It says that the disciples were trying to keep the little children away. In Luke 18:16, Jesus says, "Permit the children to come to Me and do not hider them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. (18:17) Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter at all"
"They are greatest in the kingdom" "The Kingdom of God is made up of such as these""whoever does
not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter at all". Is it possible that Jesus was reminded of  His heavenly home when He saw little children here on earth ? That  when we look at little children here on earth,  what we see is  as close as we are  going to get to seeing what we and the others are going to be like in heaven?

This would explain why the heart of God seems so caring toward the orphan and the fatherless child., and why He pronounces such a sever punishment on any who would stumbles them. In  Matt. 18:6, Jesus talks about a millstone being put around the neck and being cast into the sea for stumbling a little one. We lose a lot in the translation of this verse because of the times and the cultural differences. It literally says, the millstone that has to be pulled around by an ass. Jesus is making a point here about the size of the millstone. The Jews did not execute their people this way, but the pagans did. To be drowned with a millstone around your neck to keep your body from floating up, would be an abhorrent death to the Jews. For your family not to be able to bury you would be considered the worst of tragedies. The Jews have very strict traditions they follow when a loved one dies, including some one sitting with the body until it is buried, which needs to be within a short time because they do not approve of any kind of embalming.  They have many traditions that are strictly adhered to to honor a dead loved one. It is actually very interesting reading, but the point here is that Jesus was giving them a scenario of the worst possible death for a Jew to endure.
Jesus knows that little children need love and care. They are easily damaged by the grown ups in there lives and He makes it clear how serious an infraction this is. Little children are His people. The kingdom of God is filled with people like them. 
This is getting long and I haven't even addressed the amazing verse about " their angels continually beholding the face of God". (18:10) I think that will have to come later.

This will have to be Part 1 of Chapter 18. Keep reading your bibles ladies! God speaks through His word. I am praying for all you. Practice you memory tools as you go to sleep, or as you wait at a stop light,  or anytime you are waiting. We spend a lot of time in America hurrying so we can wait . Turn that time into God's time.
I'm not sure what we will use to remember this chapter yet. I will post it when I figure it out.
Much love

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