-As the disciples came to Capernaum they were arguing about which of them was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven and asked Jesus to settle the dispute (Matthew 18:1-6, Mark 9:33-37, Luke 9:46-47). Jesus knew their prideful heart’s condition and settled the matter by bringing a small child before them with these words, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3-4).” He then relates to them how anyone who receives a child, receives Him and the One (the Father) who sent Him. He also warns them that whoever causes one such child to stumble, it would be better for them to have a heavy millstone (weight) hung around their neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6). *Application* Jesus was cutting right to the heart of the matter in exposing motivations and intentions. Humility is the key for us as believers to be great in the eyes of the LORD. His authority is what we must submit to and faithfully serve one another (Galatians 5:13). It is by humble childlike faith that we come to Jesus and receive what He has for us without pretense or ulterior motives. We must rely on Him for everything just as a child depends on his/her parents for sustenance and provision. This is the point Jesus is making to His prideful, self-absorbed disciples. How about you? How will you pursue greatness in the Kingdom of God?
-Now the theme of stumbling blocks (people that cause others to do wrong, Jesus is primarily speaking of the false religious teachers more than likely here) is discussed by Jesus with a warning that it is inevitable that they come (Matthew 18:7). Their doom is fatal and certain and there is clear warning for them not to do what they do in leading little children astray. *Application* It always grieves my spirit to hear of parents, leaders, and teachers of the young who do not use their influence in a Godly way. In fact the news is filled with horrific crimes that are committed against the young and innocent almost constantly. Take this warning seriously. You have a part in training up the next generation. They will stumble if you neglect the Lord’s command.
-The warning against being a stumbling block revolves around temptation (Matthew 18:8-9). I don’t believe this is a literal application Christ is promoting in these verses, but an awareness that sin indeed is to be dealt with in seriousness to the utmost. He is teaching on the eternal reality of separation from God and the consequences of unforgiven sin in a person’s life. *Application* We must eradicate sin in our lives no matter what the cost. The intensity of sin should bring us face to face with the fact that God will not tolerate it. Conforming to His image means that we consider the members of our flesh as dead to self and alive unto God (Romans 6:1-14). By His grace we are saved to go and sin no more (John 8:11)!
-As Christ teaches on, He warns against looking down on others with despising hearts (Matthew 18:10). “The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11).” The heart of God is shown in this passage as He desires that none perish (Matthew 18:14). The rescue effort is on in earnest, and when that lost one is found there is great rejoicing as they are brought back into the fold of the Lord. There is great celebration over the lost being found in both earth and Heaven. *Application* Repentance is the changing of the mind away from sin and the things of the world towards the mind of Christ and the ways of the LORD. The Lord loves your return to Him and all that entails. He is seeking you out because He loves you and wants to rescue you from the destruction of the enemy. When you come to Him and receive His grace through faith know that there is tremendous rejoicing from on High and in every place where the Spirit of the Lord reigns! What a concept this is to internalize! This is what the Kingdom message is all about!
-The next section, on the theme of forgiveness (Matthew 18:15-35), starts out with instructions on the proper process of reproving a brother in Christ who has sinned (some latter manuscripts add the phrase “against you” to emphasize a personal offense). One on one loving confrontation in private is the first step in the process. If that doesn’t resolve the conflict, one or two Christian negotiators are recommended so that every fact may be confirmed. Then, if need be, the offender is to be brought before the congregation in the family of God to get restoration and forgiveness. If the person won’t repent after these three positive steps, they are to be treated as an outsider (in context a Gentile or tax collector that is outside a covenant relationship with the Lord). The end result of this process is the biblical theme of unity under God’s direction in His body, the church. There should be agreement, and in this context of gathering together in His Name, Christ is there by His presence to bind the believers together (Matthew 18:20). *Application* This simple principle, when used, will resolve practically every conflict which occurs in the church of the Living God. The problems come when we circumvent this process and get too many other people involved too soon. One on one loving reconciliation typically solves the issues. Conflict expands and hurt occurs when gossip and taking sides occurs too early in the process. Resolve in your heart to abide by this Matthew 18 principle in reconciling problems caused by sin in your local body of Christ. Sin will happen, but we can live together in harmony if we will lovingly call it out and deal with it God’s way.
-Then we find Peter asking the Lord how many times he shall pardon his brother who has sinned against him thinking that seven times should be sufficient. Jesus extends that to seventy times seven, which is biblically a number for completion and rest. What He was meaning is that there should be complete forgiveness against your brother no matter how many times he sins against you. Then He related a parable of an unmerciful servant to His disciple.
-There was a king who was owed ten thousand talents (a talent was worth more than 15 years’ wages of a laborer) by his servant. His servant begged for patience and forgiveness upon the debt that was owed and received it with the promise to repay everything in time. The king showed him compassion, but the servant went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him money (100 denarii, or 100 day’s wages) and began to grab and choke the slave demanding payback. When the slave asked for mercy and patience himself, the servant was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he could be paid back what was owed. The fellow slaves were deeply grieved by this event and went and reported to their lord all that had happened. Upon hearing of the servant’s unforgiving spirit, the king summoned him before him and rebuked the servant for not forgiving and not showing mercy as he had been forgiven and given patience. The king, moved with anger, handed the servant over to the torturers until he should repay all he was owed. Jesus then said the Heavenly Father will do the same to us, if we do not forgive our brother/sister from the heart (Matthew 18:35). *Application* What debt have you been forgiven by the Lord of lords and King of kings? How have you extended that grace to others who have wronged you in this life? It is vitally important as we see here in Scripture by the words of Jesus to forgive completely from the heart every single wrong that has been done to us. Just as He commands in His model prayer, we must forgive as we have been forgiven (Matthew 6:12). Show all the mercy, grace, compassion, and love our Heavenly Father shows and you will have nothing to fear.