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Why is it so important to God that we forgive others when they sin against us?

Matthew 18:21-35 


The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant


Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?" 


Jesus said to him, "I don't tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven. Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn't pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and kneeled before him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!' The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 

"But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 

"So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you!' He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord called him in, and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt, because you begged me. Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?' His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, until he should pay all that was due to him.


So My heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don't each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds." 


Why is it so important to God that we forgive others when they sin against us?


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?

Ver. 21. And I forgive him? till seven times: How many good people even at this day think if they forgive an offending brother some few times, that they have done more than commanded, and deserved to be chronicled, canonized! It was a fault in Peter to presume to prescribe to Christ how often He should enjoin him to forgive. Peter is still the same; ever too forwardly and forth putting.

Verse 22: Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Ver. 22. Until seventy times seven: Infinities, toties quoties. God multiplieth pardons, Isaiah 55:7; so should we. "Love covereth all sins," Proverbs 10:12, so large is the skirt of love’s mantle. Between God and us the distance is infinite, and if it were possible, our love to Him, and to our friends in Him, our foes for Him, should fill up that distance, and extend itself to infiniteness. We may without sin be sensible of injuries (a sheep is as sensible of a bite as a swine), but it must be with the silence of a sheep, or at utmost the mourning of a dove, not the roaring of a bear, or bellowing of a bull, when baited. All desire of revenge must be carefully cast out; and if the wrong doer say, I repent, you must say, I remit, and that from the heart; being herein like that king of England, of whom it is said that he never forgot anything but injuries. Every Christian should keep a continual jubilee, nexus solvendo et nexas remittendo, by loosing bonds and remitting wrongs, εορταζωμεν1 Corinthians 5:8.

Verse 23: Therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

Ver. 23. Which would take account of his servants: This God doth daily. 1. In the preaching of the law with its direction or correction, which He that trembleth not in hearing, saith that martyr, shall be crushed to pieces in feeling. 2. In trouble of conscience, which when open, tells us all we have done, and writes bitter things against us, though they be legible only (as things written with the juice of lemons) when held to the light fire of God’s fierce wrath. 3. In the hour of death; for every man’s death’s day is his particular doom’s day. 4. At the day of judgment, when we shall appear to give an account, 2 Corinthians 5:10. Good therefore is the counsel of Cicero, 4 in Verr., Ita vivamus ut rationem nobis reddendam arbitremur, Let us so live, as that we forget not our last reckoning. Rationem cum domino crebro putet Villicus, Let the steward often reckon with his master, saith Cato.

Verse 24: And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

Ver. 24. Which owed him ten thousand talents: A talent is said to be 600 crowns; 10,000 talents are well nigh 12 tons of gold. As often therefore as thy brother offends thee, think with thyself what a price is put into thy hands, what an opportunity is offered thee of gaining so great a prize, of gathering in so rich a harvest.

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.

Ver. 25. His lord commanded him to be sold: Those that sell themselves to do wickedly with Ahab, will sure repent them sore of their bargain, when God shall sell them off to the devil; who when he hath well fed them (as they do their slaves in some countries for like purpose) will broach them and eat them, saith Mr. Bradford, chaw them and champ them, world without end in eternal woe and misery. One reason why the wicked are eternally tormented, is, because being worthless, they cannot satisfy God’s justice in any time; and He will be no loser by them.

Verse 26: The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Ver. 26. The servant therefore fell down: This was the ready way to disarm his master’s indignation, and procure his own peace, viz., to submit to justice and implore mercy. Thus Abigail pacified David; the prodigal, his father; nay, Benhadad, Ahab, that non-such, as the Scripture describes him. The very Turks at this day, though remorseless to those that bear up, yet receive humiliation with much sweetness. Humble yourselves under God’s great hand, saith St James, and He will lift you up, James 4:10. The Lion of Judah rends not the prostrate prey.

Verse 27: Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

Ver. 27. Loosed him and forgave him the debt: Every sin is a debt; and the breach of the Ten Commandments set us in debt to God ten thousand talents. He requires no more but to acknowledge the debt, and to come before Him with a Non sum solvendo, tendering Him His Son our all-sufficient surety, and He will presently cancel the handwriting that was against us: He will cross the black lines of our sins with the red lines of Christ’s blood, and we shall be acquitted forever.

Verse 28: But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

Ver. 28. And he laid hands on him, and took him…: Had he truly apprehended the pardon of his own sins, he would not have been so cruel to others. Had he thoroughly dyed his thoughts in the rich mercies of God, he would have shown more mercy to men. Therefore the apostles (when our Savior had bidden them forgive, though it were often in the same day) said unto the Lord, "Increase our faith." As who should say, The more we can believe thy love and mercy to us, the readier shall we be to do all good offices to men. But how rigid and cruel was David to the Ammonites, while he lay in his sin, and before he had renewed his faith, 2 Samuel 12:30-31.

Verse 29: And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

Ver. 29. And his fellow servant fell down: This had been sufficient to have broken the heart of a better man than he was any. The more manly and valiant any are, the more gentle and mild to the submissive, as was Alexander and Julius Caesar; and on the contrary, the more base and cowardly, the more hard-hearted and bloody, as Minerius, the pope’s champion, who at the destruction of Mernidol, in France, being entreated for a few poor souls that had escaped his all-devouring sword, although they had no more but their shirts to cover their nakedness, he sternly answered, I know what I have to do; not one of them shall escape my hands, I will send them to dwell in hell among the devils. But what came of it? His raging fury ceased not to proceed, till the Lord shortly after brought him, by a horrible disease (his guts by little and little rotting within him) to the torments of death and terrors of hell.

Verse 30: And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

Ver. 30. And he would not, but went…: The true portraiture of an ungrateful and cruel man that plucketh up the bridge before others, whereby he had passed over. He that will lend no mercy, how doth he think to borrow any?

Verse 31: So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

Ver. 31. So when his fellow servants: The angels, say some, who when they see us backward to business of this nature, are sorry, and say our errand to their and our common Lord, Angeli vident, dolent, et Domino omnia referunt (Aret.). The angels see, are grieved and refer all matters to God. Or the saints on earth groan out their discontents, against the unmerciful, to God, who soon hears them, for He is gracious, Exodus 22:27; the cries of the poor oppressed do even "enter into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth," James 5:4.

Verse 32: 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:

Ver. 32. O thou wicked servant: Wicked with a witness, as that wicked Haman, so Esther called him, Ezra 2:6, who never till then had heard his true title. God will have a time to tell every man his own; and for those that are now so haughty and passionate, that none dare declare their way to their face, God will lay them low enough in the slimy valley, where are many already like them, and more shall come after them, Job 21:31-32.

Verse 33: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?

Ver. 33. Shouldst not thou also…: Which because he did not, his patent was called in again into the pardoning office, and he deservedly turned over to the tormentor. God will set off His own and all hearts else, from a merciless man, from a griping oppressor, as he did from Haman; not a man opened his mouth to intercede for him, when he fell before that Jewess, the queen. "For he shall have judgment without mercy," saith St James, "that hath showed no mercy;" whereas "mercy rejoiceth against judgment," as a man doth against his adversary, whom he hath subdued, James 2:13.

Verse 34: And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

Ver. 34. And his lord was wroth: So God is said to be, when He chides and smites for sin, as men used to do in their anger; but somewhat worse than they, for His anger "burneth to the lowest hell, "Deuteronomy 32:22.

Verse 35: So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.

Ver. 35. If ye from your hearts forgive not: Forget as well as forgive, which some protest they will never do, neither think they that any do. But what saith the heathen orator to this unchristian censure? If any think that we that have been once out can never heartily forgive, and love one another again, he proveth not our false heartedness, but showeth his own. Siqui sest qui neminem in gratiam putat redire posse, non nostram is perfidiam arguit, sed indicat suam. Cicer. eph 37, lib. 2.

Verses 21-35: Christian Worshippers Encouraged The Cruel Creditor.


This part of the discourse concerning offences is certainly to be understood of personal wrongs, which is in our power to forgive. Now observe,


I. Peter's question concerning this matter (Matthew 18:21) Lord, how oft shall my brother trespass against me, and I forgive him? Will it suffice to do it seven times?


1. He takes it for granted that he must forgive Christ had before taught His disciples this lesson (Matthew 6:14, 15), and Peter has not forgotten it. He knows that he must not only not bear a grudge against his brother, or meditate revenge, but be as good a friend as ever, and forget the injury.


2. He thinks it is a great matter to forgive till seven times he means not seven times a day, as Christ said (Luke 17:4), but seven times in his life supposing that if a man had any way abused him seven times, though he were ever so desirous to be reconciled, he might then abandon his society, and have no more to do with him. Perhaps Peter had an eye to Proverbs 24:16. A just man falleth seven times or to the mention of three transgressions, and four, which God would no more pass by, Amos 2:1. Note, There is proneness in our corrupt nature to stint ourselves in that which is good, and to be afraid of doing too much in religion, particularly of forgiving too much, though we have so much forgiven us.


II. Christ's direct answer to Peter's question I say not unto thee, Until seven times (He never intended to set up any such bounds), but, Until seventy times seven a certain number for an indefinite one, but a great one. Note, It does not look well for us to keep count of the offences done against us by our brethren. There is something of ill-nature in scoring up the injuries we forgive, as if we would allow ourselves to be revenged when the measure is full. God keeps an account (Deuteronomy 32:34), because He is the Judge, and vengeance is His but we must not, lest we be found stepping into His throne. It is necessary to the preservation of peace, both within and without, to pass by injuries, without reckoning how often to forgive, and forget. God multiplies His pardons, and so should we, Psalm 77:38, 40. It intimates that we should make it our constant practice to forgive injuries, and should accustom ourselves to it till it becomes habitual.


III. A further discourse of our Savior’s, by way of parable, to show the necessity of forgiving the injuries that are done to us. Parables are of use, not only for the pressing of Christian duties for they make and leave an impression. The parable is a comment upon the fifth petition of the Lord's prayer, Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. Those, and those only, may expect to be forgiven of God, who forgives their brethren. The parable represents the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, the church, and the administration of the gospel dispensation in it. The church is God's family, it is His court there He dwells, there He rules. God is our master His servants we are, at least in profession and obligation. In general, the parable intimates how much provocation God has from His family on earth, and how untoward His servants are.


There are three things in the parable.


1. The master's wonderful clemency to his servant who was indebted to him he forgave him ten thousand talents, out of pure compassion to him, Matthew 18:23-27. Where observe,


            1. Every sin we commit is a debt to God not like a debt to an equal, contracted by         buying or borrowing, but to a superior like a debt to a prince when a recognizance         is forfeited, or a penalty incurred by a breach of the law or a breach of the peace       like the debt of a servant to his master, by withholding his service, wasting his lord's   goods, breaking his indentures, and incurring the penalty. We are all debtors we            owe satisfaction, and are liable to the process of the law.


            2. There is an account kept of these debts, and we must shortly be reckoned with         for them. This king would take account of his servants. God now reckons with us by             our own consciences conscience is an auditor for God in the soul, to call us to        account, and to account with us. One of the first questions that an awakened       Christian asks, is, How much owest thou unto My Lord? And unless it be bribed, it         will tell the truth, and not write fifty for a hundred. There is another day of reckoning coming, when these accounts will be called over, and either passed or disallowed,         and nothing but the blood of Christ will balance the account.

            3. The debt of sin is a very great debt and some are more in debt, by reason of sin,        than others. When he began to reckon, one of the first defaulters appeared to            owe ten thousand talents. There is no evading the enquiries of divine justice your         sin will be sure to find you out. The debt was ten thousand talents, a vast sum,             amounting by computation to one million eight hundred and seventy-five thousand         pounds sterling a king's ransom or a kingdom's subsidy, more likely than a servant's debt see what our sins are, [1.] For the heinousness of their nature they       are talents, the greatest denomination that ever was used in the account of money             or weight. Every sin is the load of a talent, a talent of lead; this is wickedness,   Zechariah 5:7, 8. The trusts committed to us, as stewards of the grace of God, are             each of them a talent (Matthew 25:15), a talent of gold, and for every one of them       buried, much more for every one of them wasted, we are a talent in debt, and this raises the account. [2.] For the vastness of their number they are ten thousand, a         myriad, more than the hairs on our head, Psalm 40:12. Who can understand the           number of his errors, or tell how often he offends? Psalm 19:12.


            4. The debt of sin is so great that we are not able to pay it He had not to       pay. Sinners are insolvent debtors the scripture, which concludes all under sin, is a       statute of bankruptcy against us all. Silver and gold would not pay our debt; Psalm           49:6, 7. Sacrifice and offering would not do it our good works are but God's work in            us, and cannot make satisfaction we are without strength, and cannot help        ourselves.


            5. If God should deal with us in strict justice we should be condemned as insolvent        debtors, and God might exact the debt by glorifying Himself in our utter ruin. Justice            demands satisfaction, Currat, lex--Let the sentence of the law be executed. The         servant had contracted this debt by his wastefulness and willfulness, and therefore might justly be left to lie by it. His lord commanded him to be sold, as a bond-slave         into the galleys, sold to grind in the prison-house his wife and children to be sold,            and all that he had, and payment to be made. See here what every sin deserves           this is the wages of sin. [1.] To be sold. Those that sell themselves to work    wickedness, must be sold, to make satisfaction. Captives to sin are captives to             wrath. He that is sold for a bond-slave is deprived of all his comforts, and has    nothing left him but his life, that he may be sensible of his miseries which is the            case of damned sinners. [2.] Thus he would have payment to be made, that is, something done towards it though it is impossible that the sale of one so worthless        should amount to the payment of so great a debt. By the damnation of sinners    divine justice will be to eternity in the satisfying, but never satisfied.


            6. Convinced sinners cannot but humble themselves before God, and pray for    mercy. The servant, under this charge, and this doom, fell down at the feet of his        royal master, and worshipped him or, as some copies read it, he besought him his   address was very submissive and very importunate Have patience with me, and I             will pay thee all, Matthew 18:26. The servant knew before that he was so much in         debt, and yet was under no concern about it, till he was called to an account.            Sinners are commonly careless about the pardon of their sins, till they come under       the arrests of some awakening word, some startling providence, or approaching    death, and then, Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? Micah 6:6. How easily,           how quickly, can God bring the proudest sinner to His feet Ahab to his sackcloth,        Manasseh to his prayers, Pharaoh to his confessions, Judas to his restitution,           Simon Magus to his supplication, Belshazzar and Felix to their trembling. The            stoutest heart will fail, when God sets the sins in order before it. This servant doth         not deny the debt, nor seek evasions, nor go about to abscond.


            But, [1.] He begs time Have patience with me. Patience and forbearance are a   great favor, but it is folly to think that these alone will save us reprieves are not           pardons. Many are borne with who are not thereby brought to repentance (Romans       2:4), and then their being borne with does them no kindness. [2.] He promises             payment Have patience awhile and I will pay thee all. Note, It is the folly of many            who are under convictions of sin, to imagine that they can make God satisfaction           for the wrong they have done Him as those who, like a compounding bankrupt,    would discharge the debt, by giving their first-born for their transgressions (Micah           6:7), who go about to establish their own righteousness, Romans 10:3. He that had             nothing to pay with (Matthew 18:25) fancied he could pay all. See how close pride         sticks, even to awakened sinners they are convinced, but not humbled.


            7. The God of infinite mercy is very ready, out of pure compassion, to forgive the           sins of those that humble themselves before Him (Matthew 18:27) The lord of that   servant, when he might justly have ruined him, mercifully released him and, since    he could not be satisfied by the payment of the debt, he would be glorified by the       pardon of it. The servant's prayer was, Have patience with me the master's grant is       a discharge in full. Note, [1.] The pardon of sin is owing to the mercy of God, to His   tender mercy (Luke 1:77, 78) He was moved with compassion. God's reasons of         mercy are fetched from within Himself He has mercy because He will have             mercy. God looked with pity on mankind in general, because miserable, and sent           His Son to be a Surety for them He looks with pity on particular penitents, because         sensible of their misery (their hearts broken and contrite), and accepts them in the         Beloved. [2.] There is forgiveness with God for the greatest sins, if they be         repented of. Though the debt was vastly great, He forgave it all, Matthew 18:32.             Though our sins be very numerous and very heinous, yet, upon gospel terms, they   may be pardoned. [3.] The forgiving of the debt is the loosing of the debtor He   loosed him. The obligation is cancelled, the judgment vacated we never walk at             liberty till our sins are forgiven. But observe, Though he discharged him from the            penalty as a debtor, he did not discharge him from his duty as a servant. The   pardon of sin doth not slacken, but strengthen, our obligations to obedience and we       must reckon it a favor that God is pleased to continue such wasteful servants as we have been in such a gainful service as His is, and should therefore deliver us, that         we might serve Him, Luke 1:74. I am thy servant, for thou hast loosed my bonds.


2. The servant's unreasonable severity toward his fellow-servant, notwithstanding his lord's clemency toward him, Matthew 18:28-30. This represents the sin of those who, though they are not unjust in demanding that which is not their own, yet are rigorous and unmerciful in demanding that which is their own, to the utmost of right, which sometimes proves a real wrong. Summum jus summa injuria--Push a claim to an extremity, and it becomes a wrong. To exact satisfaction for debts of injury, which tends neither to reparation nor to the public good, but purely for revenge, though the law may allow it, in terrorem--in order to strike terror, and for the hardness of men's hearts, yet savors not of a Christian spirit. To sue for money-debts, when the debt or cannot possibly pay them, and so let him perish in prison, argues a greater love of money, and a less love of our neighbor, than we ought to have, Nehemiah 5:7.


See here,

            1. How small the debt was, how very small, compared with the ten thousand     talents which his lord forgave him He owed him a hundred pence, about three    pounds and half a crown of our money. Note, Offences done to men are nothing to    those which are committed against God. Dishonors done to a man like ourselves             are but as peace, motes, gnats but dishonors done to God are as talents, beams,         camels. Not that therefore we may make light of wronging our neighbor, for that is       also a sin against God but therefore we should make light of our neighbor’s   wronging us, and not aggravate it, or study revenge. David was unconcerned as        the indignities done to him I, as a deaf man, heard not but laid much to heart the sins committed against God for them, rivers of tears ran down his eyes.


            2. How severe the demand was He laid hands on him, and took him by the         throat. Proud and angry men think, if the matter of their demand be just, that will     bear them out, though the manner of it be ever so cruel and unmerciful but it will         not hold. What needed all this violence? The debt might have been demanded             without taking the debtor by the throat without sending for a writ, or setting the    bailiff upon him. How lordly is this man's carriage, and yet how base and servile is     his spirit! If he had been himself going to prison for his debt to his lord, his     occasions would have been so pressing, that he might have had some pretence for       going to this extremity in requiring his own but frequently pride and malice prevail         more to make men severe than the most urgent necessity would do.


            3. How submissive the debtor was His fellow servant, though his equal, yet        knowing how much he lay at his mercy, fell down at his feet, and humbled himself         to him for this trifling debt, as much as he did to his lord for that great debt for the       borrower is servant to the lender, Proverbs 22:7. Note, Those who cannot pay their             debts ought to be very respectful to their creditors, and not only give them good             words, but do them all the good offices they possibly can: they must not be angry at   those who claim their own, nor speak ill of them for it, no, not though they do it in a    rigorous manner, but in that case leave it to God to plead their cause. The poor             man's request is, Have patience with me he honestly confesses the debt, and puts        not his creditor to the charge of proving it, and only begs time. Note, Forbearance,         though it be no a quittance, is sometimes a piece of needful and laudable charity.         As we must not be hard, so we must not be hasty, in our demands, but think how     long God bears with us.


            4. How implacable and furious the creditor was (Matthew 18:30) He would not have       patience with him, would not hearken to his fair promise, but without mercy cast        him into prison. How insolently did he trample upon one as good as himself, that    submitted to him! How cruelly did he use one that had done him no harm, and             though it would be no advantage to himself! In this, as in a glass, unmerciful        creditors may see their own faces, who take pleasure in nothing more than to    swallow up and destroy (2 Samuel 20:19), and glory in having their poor debtors'     bones.


            5. How much concerned the rest of the servants were They were very    sorry (Matthew 18:31), sorry for the creditor's cruelty, and for the debtor's calamity.       Note, The sins and sufferings of our fellow-servants should be a matter of grief and     trouble to us. It is sad that any of our brethren should either make themselves    beast of prey, by cruelty and barbarity or be made beasts of slavery, by the       inhuman usage of those who have power over them. To see a fellow-servant, either            raging like a bear or trampled on like a worm, cannot but occasion great regret to         all that have any jealousy for the honor either of their nature of their religion. See            with what eye Solomon looked both upon the tears of the oppressed, and the     power of the oppressors, Ecclesiastes 4:1.


            6. How notice of it was brought to the master They came, and told their lord. They         durst not reprove their fellow-servant for it, he was so unreasonable and       outrageous (let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than such a fool in       his folly) but they went to their lord, and besought him to appear for the oppressed             against the oppressor. Note, That which gives us occasion for sorrow, should give           us occasion for prayer. Let our complaints both of the wickedness of the wicked       and of the afflictions of the afflicted, be brought to God, and left with Him.


3. The master's just resentment of the cruelty his servant was guilty of. If the servants took it so ill, much more would the master, whose compassions are infinitely above ours. Now observe here,


            1. How he reproved his servant's cruelty (Matthew 18:32, 33) O thou wicked     servant. Note, Unmercifulness is wickedness, it is great wickedness. [1.] He     upbraids him with the mercy he had found with his master I forgive thee all that debt. Those that will use God's favors, shall never be upbraided with them, but   those that abuse them, may expect it, Matthew 11:20. Consider, It was all that debt, that great debt. Note, The greatness of sin magnifies the riches of pardoning       mercy: we should think how much has been forgiven us, Luke 7:47. [2.] He thence       shows him the obligation he was under to be merciful to his fellow-servant Shouldst       not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on           thee? Note, It is justly expected, that such as have received mercy, should show         mercy. Dat ille veniam facile, cui venia est opus--He who needs forgiveness, easily     bestows it. Senec. Agamemn.


            He shows him, First, That he should have been     more compassionate to the   distress of his fellow servant, because he had himself     experienced the same           distress. What we have had the feeling of ourselves; we can     the better have           the fellow feeling of with our brethren. The Israelites knew the heart             of a     stranger, for they were strangers and this servant should have better known     the       heart of an arrested debtor, than to have been thus hard upon such a             one. Secondly, That he should have been more conformable to the example of his    master's tenderness, having himself experienced it, so much to his advantage.             Note, The comfortable sense of pardoning mercy tends much to the disposing of           our hearts to forgive our brethren. It was in the close of the day o atonement that         the jubilee trumpet sounded a release of debts (Leviticus 25:9) for we must have       compassion on our brethren, as God has on us.


            2. How he revoked his pardon and cancelled the acquittance, so that the judgment        against him revived (Matthew 18:34) He delivered him to the tormentors, till he             should pay all that was due unto him. Though the wickedness was very great, his       lord laid upon him no other punishment than the payment of his own debt. Note,             Those that will not come up to the terms of the gospel need be no more miserable         than to be left open to the law, and to let that have its course against them. See         how the punishment answers the sin he that would not forgive shall not be            forgiven He delivered him to the tormentors the utmost he could do to his fellow             servant was but to cast him into prison, but he was himself delivered to the         tormentors. Note, The power of God's wrath to ruin us, goes far beyond the utmost         extent of any creature's strength and wrath. The reproaches and terrors of his own    conscience would be his tormentors, for that is a worm that dies not devils, the             executioners of God's wrath, that are sinners' tempters now, will be their tormentors     forever. He was sent to Bridewell till he should pay all. Note, Our debts to God are        never compounded either all is forgiven or all is exacted glorified saints in heaven     are pardoned all, through Christ's complete satisfaction damned sinners in hell are       paying all, that is, are punished for all. The offence done to God by sin is in point of        honor, which cannot be compounded for without such a diminution as the case will       by no means admit, and therefore, some way or other, by the sinner or by his             surety, it must be satisfied.


Lastly, Here is the application of the whole parable, (Matthew 18:35) So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you. The title Christ here gives to God was     made use of, Matthew 18:19, in a comfortable promise It shall be done for them of         My Father which is in heaven here it is made use of in a terrible threatening. If    God's governing be fatherly, it follows thence, that it is righteous, but it does not            therefore follow that it is not rigorous, or that under His government we must not be     kept in awe by the fear of the divine wrath. When we pray to God as our Father in         heaven, we are taught to ask for the forgiveness of sins, as we forgive our debtors. Observe here,


1. The duty of forgiving we must from our hearts forgive. Note, We do not forgive our offending brother aright, nor acceptably, if we do not forgive from the heart for that is it that God looks at. No malice must be harbored there, nor ill will to any person, one or another no projects of revenge must be hatched there, nor desires of it, as there are in many who outwardly appear peaceable and reconciled. Yet this is not enough we must from the heart desire and seeks the welfare even of those that have offended us.


2. The danger of not forgiving So shall your heavenly Father do. 


            1. This is not intended to teach us that God reverses His pardons to any, but that    He        denies them to those that are unqualified for them, according to the tenor of the    gospel though having seemed to be humbled, like Ahab, they thought themselves,        and others thought them, in a pardoned state, and they made bold with the comfort             of it. Intimations enough we have in scripture of the forfeiture of pardons, for         caution to the presumptuous and yet we have security enough of the continuance of them, for comfort to those that are sincere, but timorous that the one may fear,   and the other may hope. Those that do not forgive their brother's trespasses, did    never truly repent of their own, nor ever truly believe the gospel and therefore that           which is taken away is only what they seemed to have, Luke 8:18. (2.) This is     intended to teach us, that they shall have judgment without mercy; that has             showed no mercy, James 2:13. It is indispensably necessary to pardon and peace, that we not only do justly, but love mercy. It is an essential part of that religion   which is pure and undefiled before God and the Father, of that wisdom from        above, which is gentle, and easy to be entreated. Look how they will answer it         another day, who, though they bear the Christian name, persist in the most         rigorous and unmerciful treatment of their brethren, as if the strictest laws of Christ           might be dispensed with for the gratifying of their unbridled passions and so they             curse themselves every time they say the Lord's prayer.





Parable of the Unmerciful Debtor (Mt 18:21-35).


21. Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? In the recent dispute, Peter had probably been an object of special envy, and his forwardness in continually answering for all the rest would likely be cast up to him; and if so, probably by Judas, notwithstanding His Masters' commendations. And as such insinuations were perhaps made once and again, he wished to know how often and how long he was to stand it. 


till seven times? This being the sacred and complete number, perhaps his meaning was, Is there to be a limit at which the needful forbearance will be full?


22. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven That is, so long as it shall be needed and sought: you are never to come to the point of refusing forgiveness sincerely asked. (See on Lu 17:3, 4).


23. Therefore, "with reference to this matter." is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. Or, would scrutinize the accounts of his revenue collectors.


24. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. If Attic talents are here meant, 10,000 of them would amount to above a million and a half sterling; if Jewish talents, to a much larger sum.


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. (See 2Ki 4:1; Ne 5:8; Le 25:39).


26. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, or did humble obeisance to him. 
saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. This was just an acknowledgment of the justice of the claim made against him, and a piteous imploration of mercy.


27. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. Payment being hopeless, the master is first moved with compassion; next, liberates his debtor from prison; and then cancels the debt freely.


28. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants. Mark the difference here. The first case is that of master and servant; in this case, both are on a footing of equality. (See Mt 18:33). 


which owed him an hundred pence. If Jewish money is intended, this debt was to the other less than one to a million. 


and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat. He seized and throttled him. 
saying, Pay me that thou owest. Mark the mercilessness even of the tone.


29. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. The same attitude, and the same words which drew compassion from his master, are here employed towards himself by his fellow servant.

30. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt… Jesus here vividly conveys the intolerable injustice and impudence which even the servants saw in this act on the part of one so recently laid under the heaviest obligation to their common master.


32, 33. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant…. Before bringing down his vengeance upon him, he calmly points out to him how shamefully unreasonable and heartless his conduct was; which would give the punishment inflicted on him a double sting.


34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors. More than jailers; denoting the severity of the treatment which he thought such a case demanded.  till he should pay all that was due unto him.


35. So likewise, in this spirit, or on this principle, shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.


Why forgiveness is so important – Matt 18:21-35


Forgiveness is a big of an issue to a large percentage of Christians.  We all cling to the fact we need forgiveness from God and we even expect Him to freely give it since His word says He will.


But what often goes overlooked and is a struggle for many of us is the stipulation God put on it …. We must forgive those who have done us wrong in order for God to forgive us.

Jesus uses this parable since it’s a perfect example of how we plea for forgiveness from God, because we realize we deserve to be sold (or delivered) to something/someone much worse for how we have wronged (our debt, sins) God.  But being a merciful and loving God, He is the example of the lord in this parable, seeing our humbleness due to our acknowledgement of our sins against Him and the consequences we deserve, and is faithful and just to forgive us of all of our unrighteousness.


But for some reason, we take it lightly what He has done for us, ignoring the magnitude of the price that was paid for our forgiveness and making it a much smaller debt in our minds than it truly is in reality.  We forget we are the ones that owed the 10,000 talents and yet we treat it as if we were forgiven for 1 talent.


In turn, we encounter someone who has done something that hurt us, whether it be insulting us or wronged us in some other way, and we want to hold a grudge and find it hard to forgive that person or just choose not to do so.  We become like the slave who goes and elevates the debt against them higher than the one our Lord has forgiven us of as if it is a much worse offense.

But as Jesus puts it in the parable, God will deal very harshly with us for that just as the lord in the parable does with the slave.

Forgiveness isn’t easy, especially when to us the offense seems great, but we must never forget that nothing anyone does to us can compare to the offense we have made against God and yet He loves us enough to forgive us anyways.  He does demand that in turn, we must forgive those who are offensive to us and by doing so, we begin to understand and unravel just how incredible and amazing God’s love for us truly is.

Jesus had recently been speaking about how to deal with brothers who sin against you (see Matt. 18:15ff).  This must have brought to Peter’s mind a related question: 

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Up to seven times?’” (vs. 21).  Some would fault Peter for putting a limit on forgiveness.  It is an easy thing for us to fault him, because we already know Jesus’ answer!  We must give him some credit, for he was suggesting that, in forgiveness, he goes beyond what was taught him by the religious leaders of the day. 

“Jewish rabbis are said to have taught people to bear injury three times and then to regard duty as done; if this is so, Peter’s suggestion of ‘seven times’ was liberal extension and could be regarded as magnanimous”. Peter was on the right track.  Peter was taking for granted that he must forgive his brother, and that he must forgive him much.

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven’” (vs. 22).  The point in Jesus’ answer is not that we are to keep count of forgiving, count up to seventy-seven, and stop at seventy-eight.  No one in their right Christian mind would keep such a count.  The point is, of course, to keep forgiving an innumerable number of times.  Many of us have problems with this and are not following the teachings of our Lord.  Our Lord’s attitude was to seek the best in people, and to be quick to forgive.  The attitude of so many of us is to expose the worst in people, and to be quick to condemn.  Such an attitude is not a proper Christian attitude.  “What a happy world it would be if this rule of our Lord’s was more known and better obeyed!  How many of the miseries of mankind are occasioned by disputes, quarrels, lawsuits, and an obstinate tenacity about what men call ‘their rights’!”

Jesus goes on to tell a parable that teaches us Christians, who have been forgiven so much by our Lord, that we should also forgive others, or be guilty of the worst hypocrisy.  He begins:  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him” (vss. 23–24).  In this parable, the king represents God, and the servant, a Christian forgiven of his sins.  “Ten thousand talents is a huge amount of money.  A “talent” was actually a weight, approximately 30 kg. (or around 60 lbs).  So the debtor in the parable owed his master 10,000 talents of either gold or silver (which precious metal is not specified in the parable).  In either case, the amount that he owed was enormous, into the millions of dollars.  It was, effectively, unpayable by one employed as a servant.  The servant’s debt, of course, is representative of our debt to God:  our sins are so numerous, and God is so holy, we can never repay this debt.  “Sacrifice and offering would not do it; our good works are but God’s work in us, and cannot make satisfaction; we are without strength, and cannot help ourselves”.  We must realize something:  Every sin that we commit adds to our debt to God.  There is an account kept of these debts, and they must be repaid, or forgiven by God (the creditor), upon His terms.

As was his right, the master in the parable initially set about to punish the servant harshly:  “Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt” (vs. 25).  Who would argue against the right that the master had to punish the debtor?  Yet, there are many who would argue against God’s right to judge His debtors.  When reading the parable, one cannot help but thinking what a fool the servant must have been:  to build up such a large debt.  We, in thinking this, are condemning ourselves, though.  What fools we are to sin so much and build up such a great debt to our loving God!

Naturally, the servant begs for leniency:  “The servant fell on his knees before him.  ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’” (vs. 26).  The servant was either a fool or a liar, for it was quite impossible, given the enormity of the debt, for him to “pay back everything.” “This servant-debtor thought he only needed patience; but indeed he needed forgiveness!  It seems strange that he did not see this, since the debt was so great, and he had nothing wherewith to pay, but was utterly bankrupt:  yet it is a well-known fact, that men do not see their true condition before the Lord God, even when they perceive that in many things they come short”.  The servant asks for “patience”, but the master must already have shown great patience up to this point, given that the debt had built up to such an enormous sum.  Our God too shows great patience with us, allowing us ample time to come to repentance.  But there will be a time when we will be called to account for our debt of sin.  As the writer of Hebrews teaches:  “[M]an is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment (Heb. 9:27).  

The master responded to the servant’s plea:  “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go” (vs. 27).  Reflecting the nature of God, the master’s mercy exceeded what was asked.  Much more than a temporary reprieve of patience to pay off an unpayable debt, the servant was totally forgiven his debt.  God is very ready to enact compassion and mercy.  Significantly though, “the servant was not forgiven until he came to his lord in humility”.

It is also noteworthy that we find here no response of gratitude by the servant to his master for the forgiveness shown him.  Instead, “when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.  He grabbed him and began to choke him.  ‘Pay back what you own me!’ he demanded” (vs. 28).  We can see right away, from the violence with which he accosts his debtor, that the forgiven servant was not humbled, or affected spiritually in any way by being forgiven.  It is as if he did not understand the value of the great mercy he had been shown.  Now, the amount owed him, “a hundred denarii”, though not insignificant, was much, much less than what he owed his master.  A denari was typically the amount of wages paid for a day’s work.  So he was owed, at most, in the thousands of dollars (“a hundred denarii”), while he had owed his master millions of dollars (“ten thousand talents”).

The debtor pleads his case:  “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back’” (vs. 29).  Would not this plea have brought to mind his own to his master?  The main difference between the pleas is that the servant’s debtor actually did have a possibility of paying back the debt; whereas the forgiven servant owed so much that there really was no chance that he could repay such a sum. 

The forgiven servant showed no mercy:  “But he refused.  Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt” (vs. 30).  This parable is so accurate in its depiction of human nature.  We are so ready to accept forgiveness from God.  In fact, we act as though somehow God owes us His forgiveness.  And then, by our subsequent actions, we demonstrate that we do not fully appreciate all that God has done for us.  We are so ready to condemn our brothers, and hold grudges, for the wrongs they do us, rather than forgive them.

We should pay careful attention to the sequel of the forgiven servant’s actions:  “When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.  Then the master called the servant in.  ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed” (vs. 32–34).  Jesus brings home the point of the parable:  This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (vs. 35).  If we do not forgive our brothers, we demonstrate that we do not truly understand the forgiveness God has shown us, that we do not truly understand the Gospel message.  “Those who receive extraordinary grace should act in accordance with the grace they receive”.  “This is not intended to teach us that God reverses His pardons to any, but that He denies them to those that are unqualified for them.  Though having seemed to be humbled, like Ahab, they thought themselves, and others thought them, in a pardoned state, and they made bold with the comfort of it”.  We must take to heart the words we say as often as we recite the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).

Kingdom Forgiveness

In the Gospel of Matthew there are five great discourses of Jesus: the Sermon on the Mount (ch. 5-7); the commissioning of the disciples (ch. 10); the parables of the kingdom (ch. 13); life in the church (ch. 18); and the end of the age (ch. 24-25).

The passage for this study on forgiveness is a part of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 18 on life in the church. The chapter begins with a discussion of Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (vv. 1-9), followed by the parable of the Lost Sheep (vv. 10-14) which underscores the truth that in God's eyes even "one of these little ones" has such immense value that the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes after the one that has wandered off. This is followed by instructions to the church on How to Deal with a Brother who has Sinned (vv. 15-20). It is in this context that Peter asks how often he must forgive an offending brother (vv. 21-22). In answer, Jesus tells the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (vv. 23-34), followed by a final warning (v. 35).

1. Peter's Question about the Limits of Forgiveness (18:21-22)             21. Then Peter came to Jesus and asked. Peter's question was in response to the             statement of Jesus in vv. 15-17 outlining the procedure to follow in restoring    an        offending Christian back to life in the Christian community.

Seven times. Jewish tradition limited forgiveness to three times, perhaps based on Amos 1:3, 6, 9 and Job 33:29-30 (note Luke 17:4). Peter thought his willingness to forgive seven times was much more generous than Jewish tradition and thus surpassing the righteousness of Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20).

22. Seventy-seven times. The phrase may also be translated "seventy times seven." But regardless of the exact translation, it means unlimited. This expression may be a deliberate allusion to Lamech's revengeful and bitter words in Gen 4:24: "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." Now in Jesus there is the possibility of a radical reversal from seventy-sevenfold vengeance to seventy-sevenfold forgiveness.

Peter's question indicated that he still wanted to count how many times he should forgive. Jesus was in effect telling him not to count.

2. A Parable About a Forgiven Servant (18:23-27)

23. Therefore attaches the following parable to the dialogue between Peter and Jesus. However, the parable is not an exact answer to Peter's question about how many times he must forgive. Jesus may have originally spoken the parable at another occasion, although it still relates to the topic of forgiveness.

The kingdom of heaven is like. As in many of the parables of Jesus, this phrase does not mean that the Kingdom of God is like any one element in the parable, but it is like the parable taken as a whole. In this parable, the Kingdom of Heaven is not like the king; it is like the parable in its entirety with all the things that happen in it.

In the parables of Jesus a king often stands for God. But if the king in this parable stands for God, the parable raises some disturbing questions about God's forgiveness, as will be seen below. The characters in the parables of Jesus are often morally questionable. Therefore one must look for the truth of a parable in the impact of the story as a whole, not in the moral quality of the individual characters in the story.

A king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. The reference may be to the custom of a gentile king who demanded an accounting from high officials to whom he had given the responsibility of collecting taxes from provinces within the kingdom.

24. A man who owed him ten thousand talents. This amount is so large that it cannot possibly be a personal loan. Even as taxes from a province it is an incredibly huge amount. Ten thousand was the largest number in the first century. The value of a talent varied from six to ten thousand denarii. A denarius was a common laborer's daily wage. A minimum daily wage in the United States would be approximately $40 ($5 an hour multiplied by 8 hours). Ten thousand denarii, or one talent, would be the equivalent of $400,000 in today's economy. Ten thousand talents would be over four billion dollars ($4,000,000,000). Needless to say, Jesus used ten thousand talents as a ridiculously exaggerated sum of money that the servant owed the king.

Was brought to him. The Greek verb here implies that the servant was dragged to the presence of the king for questioning and settlement of the case. He may have even been in prison already.

25Since Jewish law forbade the selling of a person's wife and his children to pay a debt, we must conclude that the king in the parable was gentile. There were no Israelite kings during the lifetime of Jesus. In His parables Jesus often depicted conditions that existed at the time and were a common knowledge.

But even if the wife, his children and all that he had were to be sold, there would not be ten thousand talents. The sale of people into slavery did not bring in that much money. Jesus intended for his hearers to conclude that this was a hopeless situation.

26. Fell on his knees before him. In Greek the verb also means "he worshiped him," which is another indication that both king and servant were gentiles since Jews did not worship human beings. The servant prostrated himself before the king in a desperate plea for mercy. The servant did not ask the king to forgive him but to be patient with him and he would pay back everything, which is impossible and ridiculous in light of the astronomical debt.

27. The king did much more than show patience: he took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. The Greek word for "took pity" occurs several times in Matthew and is used of Jesus' compassion on the crowds (9:36; 15:32) and on the two blind men (20:34).

3. Forgiven but Unforgiving (18:28-30)

This section of the parable is identical in structure to the first part. This similarity of structure helps the hearer to notice all the more the stark contrast between the king's conduct and the conduct of the forgiven but unforgiving servant. First, there is the first servant's demand that his fellow servant repay his debt (v. 28); then, the fellow servant's plea for forbearance (v. 29); and finally, the first servant's calloused treatment of his fellow servant (v. 30).

28. In contrast to the fantastic debt of the first servant, the fellow servant's debt of a hundred denarii was a mere trifle. It is equivalent to $4,000, or one millionth of the first servant's forgiven debt. In light of the king's gracious treatment, the conduct of this servant toward his fellow servant was particularly repugnant: He grabbed him and began to choke him. He demanded that the whole amount right then and there.

29. The conduct and words of the fellow servant in this verse are almost identical to the conduct and words of the first servant in verse 26, with two exceptions. First, the word "worship" is absent here. Secondly, the promise that the servant makes to pay back the owed amount does not have "everything" in this verse as it does in verse 26. This is all the more significant because the first servant's promise to pay back "everything" was simply a hollow promise. The fellow servant's plea here for patience and his promise to repay the debt were at least within the realm of possibility. Yet the irony is that the forgiven servant was not even willing to be patient, let alone cancel the debt.

30. Having a person thrown into prison until he could pay the debt was a common practice in the first century. Again, the two servants in this parable were probably a part of a hierarchical system where one official was accountable to the one above him for a certain amount of tax to be collected. If government officials in charge of collecting taxes were suspected of cheating or for some reason unable to come up with the expected amount, they were often imprisoned and tortured (cf. v. 34). This would force them to tell their superiors where they may have hidden some of the funds.

Since the king forgave the first servant, there was no need for him to be so demanding of his fellow servant. The hearer cannot help but respond in anger to the unreasonable conduct of the first servant.

4. The Fate of the Unforgiving Servant (18:31-34)

31. The other servants... were greatly distressed. Now the hearers of the parable identify with these servants who saw the injustice done and reported it to the king. The hearers are drawn into the story and feel that now this unjust servant will get his due.

32-33. As expected, the king revokes his previous decision and condemns the unforgiving servant for his unjust treatment of his fellow servant. When the king says, "You wicked servant," the hearers of the parable feel good that justice was now being done to this servant who had received forgiveness but refused to grant it.

34. The king took back his offer of forgiveness. Instead, he turned the unforgiving servant over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. As this drama unfolds, the hearers of the parable cheer the king for his sense of justice.

Yet precisely at this point we must stop and take a second look. Why are we as hearers angered at the conduct of this unjust servant? Why do we rejoice at the decision of the king to revoke his forgiveness to this rascal? And if the king is a metaphor for God, what kind of God is this that in anger He revokes His forgiveness and condemns a person to eternal torture? If we as Christians are expected to forgive seventy-seven times, why can't God? Or is it possible that our angry response to the unjust servant is a telltale sign of our own unforgiving spirit? Perhaps we as hearers need to examine our own hearts and repent of our harsh judgment of others.

5. Warning Against Unwillingness to Forgive (18:35)

35 "This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

35. Refusal to forgive will make it impossible for us to understand and experience the forgiveness of God for us. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). Then commenting on that prayer, Jesus said, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, Your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, Your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14-15).

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus expected His disciples to be perfect "as Your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). The perfection demanded here is that of love, not only to one's neighbor, but also to one's enemies. After all, God "causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).

Matthew 18: 21-35 - The Problem of Unforgiveness   Peter is seeking a rule or a way to put a limit on forgiveness. He figures seven times was a lot, possibly more than Jesus would require, but Jesus responds with the call that forgiveness is not limited. It is actually the canceling of a debt. It is as if someone owed you one thousand dollars, but he or she could not pay you back. You forgive the debt, which means you never expect to receive the money back. The amount owed to you is no longer owed or expected. You give up your right to seek the repayment of that debt.


As Christians, we who have been saved and have received His mercy are called to give mercy to others when we are wronged! Refusing to forgive makes us the ones who destroy relationships and forfeit the opportunity to glorify our Lord. We imprison ourselves in isolation, cutting ourselves off from real life and from seeing God's redemptive power in action. Unforgiveness is a price that is way too high for any true Christian to pay. Forgiveness gives us the freedom to move on and to build bridges for right relationships and growth. Unforgiveness blows up those bridges that we must cross if we would obtain personal healing and maturity.

1.   Forgive. How often shall we forgive, Peter asks? It is the realization of how much we have been forgiven by Christ (Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) that enables us to forgive the insignificant things that are done to us. It involves refusing to be resentful to others, and ignoring the wrongs that we have received so relationships can be healed through the expression of Christ's love.

a.   Seventy times seven was not a math formula for 490; rather, it was a colloquialism meaning, forever. It was also a Jewish saying, meaning, never to hold a grudge. Jesus is confirming that we are to let it go.


                              i.      Holding onto grudges imprisons us in bitterness and derails us from our growth in Him. Some rabbis taught that the number three was sufficient in the amount of times to forgive.


                              ii.      Perhaps Peter, in saying seven, was being over twice as generous.


b.   Certain King. Jesus is not referring to a Jewish king, but rather a Gentile ruler, perhaps a Greek king.


c.   Servants were the upper level slaves, the house servants, like butlers or personal servants, who were also managers in charge of the rest. Examples of these would be Joseph's position under Potiphar, and then the jailer in Genesis, chapter 39. Most of these upper level servants, called "satraps," led better lives than most of the free people who were peasants. 


d.   Settle accounts. Satraps would often gather the taxes for the king. Perhaps in this case, the means and methods of collecting did not meet the king's standards; perhaps it involved embezzlement, or bad management, or the people could not pay the king's demands and the collector was sympathetic. It is interesting that a king would allow a servant to get that much in debt.


e.   Ten thousand talents would be the entire annual income for a very rich king. A talent is usually one year's wages for the rich, and a sliver talent was up to 6,000 days of wages for an average worker.


f.     A denarii was the daily wage for a worker. The amounts of Jesus parable could also be hyperbole speech, as Jesus often uses exaggerations to grab people's attention.


g.   Some rabbis saw sins as debts before God.  


2.   Master, have patience with me. Most kings in the ancient era would never have accepted an excuse. Here, a person begs for forgiveness and receives it, when he neither deserves nor is entitled to it.


a.   It would be impossible for a servant ever to pay such a debt; it would be like a pastor, who makes very little money, personally saying that will get California out of its deficit!


b.   Moved with compassion. Most kings were ruthless and unfeeling. Here is a picture of benevolence and grace. It is the kind of grace our Lord gives us, grace without a possibility of earning it and, certainly, undeserving of it (Psalm 45:2; Gal. 5:4; Eph. 2:5-10). Some of the Egyptian Pharaohs would forgive taxes when the crops failed; seeking to collect upon such a debt would only hinder their future tax earnings.

c.   Because we receive grace, we should also impart it to others (2 Cor. 6:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:10-11; 2 Pet. 1:2-4).


d.   Laid hands on him. He was owed a hundred days of wages, an exponentially much, much smaller amount than that for which he was forgiven.  He chose not to apply this principle of grace; rather, he became as ruthless to another as the king should have been with him. 


e.   Choking refers to the anger this man had. When we do not exercise grace, we become infused with bitterness that blinds us from God and others. It is a heinous attribute we must never exercise!


f.     A person who was in prison where no wages could be earned could never pay off a debt. It then became the responsibility of the family, if they chose to redeem him (Lev. 25:25-34; Rom. 4:3-10).


g.   Forgiveness is bankruptcy; once filed, the creditor may not retrieve the debt, and it is wiped out. We need to see the cancellation of the debt as a write-off, and not some form of embezzlement. When we forgive, we forget; that is, we are no longer to even have a desire for restitution, pay back, or punishment.


3.   Saw what he had done. The king became angry, and justifiably so. This king, perhaps, had the motivation to receive more revenue by showing how benevolent he was. Now, this servant had ruined that idea as well as the king's income.


a.   God is not determined by income or wealth but by our trust and obedience in Him. It is trust not wealth that forms real authentic relationships with others. How do you suppose God feels when we do as this servant did? The king was angry because the servant's actions reflected negatively on Him! How do our actions reflect on our Lord?


b.   Torture. The law forbade torture and it was never practiced officially; it was, perhaps, rarely practiced at all in Judaism. However, Gentile kings would use it as a tool to extract information or receive penance. When we do not forgive, it is not the wrongdoer who is tortured; they "feel" they got off free. It is we who refuse to forgive who are tortured! A forgiving attitude is freedom, and contentment is a result of our rebirth (John 3:3).


c.   Forgiveness, on our part, does not earn salvation. Forgiveness is a response we give to others because of what Christ has given us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). We receive forgiveness as a part of our salvation. So, because we have been forgiven for such a high debt, why would we not forgive others for such a small debt? The cost of forgiveness was extremely high for our Lord, and not at all high for us in comparison! It is a part of our fallen nature to receive forgiveness and still not experience forgiveness, so we refuse to share forgiveness (Rom 12:10)

d.   The reason we forgive is solely and simply because Christ has done so with us, and calls us to do likewise with others. It is not about how we may feel; it is about what He has done!


Forgiveness is an aspect of God's love for us, and shows us how we are to love others (1 Cor 13: 4). When God tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs, He means we are not to go around with a list, writing down or keeping track of the faults of one another. Rather, we are to look for the positive things that happen in our relationships, and to affirm others.

We are to seek reconciliation and forgiveness, never strife or dissention. We should not go around with a negative attitude, but, rather, with one that is positive, enthusiastic, and equipping to God's people. We are not to keep track of the mistreatments we may receive from friends or our spouse. Because God loves us so much, He does not keep a scorecard of our sins as long as we honestly repent of them. We do not need to reflect or gossip about the flaws of other people in order to elevate ourselves. God refuses to do that to us. Love lets things such as resentment and anger go so they do not build up and destroy us and our relationships (Matthew 18:21-35; Mark 11:25; Hebrews 13:21-21). Authentic Love does not keep a scorecard!


1.   Have you ever gotten yourself into debt besides for a home or car-perhaps credit cards? If so, what did you do? What do you think of people who go bankrupt because of miscellaneous and frivolous spending with credit cards?

2.   Be honest; in what ways do you put a limit on forgiveness?

3.   What do you think Peter's motive was in this passage?

4.   Why should a Christian be generous with forgiveness?

5.   How can the realization of how much we have been forgiven by God help fuel our ability and willingness to forgive someone?

6.   In what ways have you seen Christians being resentful to others or holding a grudge? How does this glorify our Lord or build up their character? Why do they do it?

7.   Have you ever seen someone-perhaps you-who was imprisoned in isolation because he or she refused to forgive? How so? What does bitterness do to that person?

8.   How does refusing to forgive help destroy relationships and opportunities to glorify our Lord?

9.   Why did the king exercise such grace and mercy? How is the king's mercy like our Lord's?

10. This servant begged for forgiveness and received it when he neither deserved not was entitled to it. So, why would he "shake down" a fellow servant who owed him so little in comparison?

11. The Bible tells us that because we have received grace, we should also impart it to others. So, why should we? Why would we not want to?

12. How is forgiveness like canceling a debt or declaring bankruptcy?

13. When the king became angry, was it justifiable? Why, or why not?

14. How you do suppose God feels when we do as this servant did?

15. Why would a Christian not be generous with forgiveness?

16. When should we not forgive?

17. Why is unforgiveness a price that is way too high for any true Christian to pay?

18. How is forgiveness an aspect of God's love for us and our love for others?

19. What can you do to make sure forgiveness is offered more freely so you can build a bridge to relationships and growth?

20. Who do you need to seek reconciliation and forgiveness from? What are you going to do about it?

When Jesus taught (as often as not) He taught in parables. He did this in part to meet the "prophetic" declaration of Psalm 78 to open the mouth in parables  and "dark sayings of old" (Psalm 78:2, cf. Matthew 13:35), and in part because it was a means of separating those with ears to hear and those with hardened hearts (cf. Matthew 13:10-17). But some parables, apparently, are less unclear than others.

This particular parable in Matthew 18:23-35, which compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who is intent on settling his debts, is neither opaque nor particularly difficult to translate for the modern context. God as banker, parent, or even loan shark, works to convey the same harsh irony of the story in which a king forgives much but the one of whom much is forgiven forgives nothing. This parable is in no way unclear, or difficult to comprehend (unlike the parable of the lost sheep which is counter-intuitive; the parable of the sower which needs explanation in the text of the gospel itself; or the treasure hidden in a field which is almost nonsensical).

This may be because it is directed to the inner circle of disciples and is not meant to confuse or challenge the thinking of the crowds. Or it may be because it is in direct response to Peter's question about the nature and need for forgiveness which opens the selected passage. Whatever the rhetorical reason(s) may be, this parable is relatively clear. We are exhorted to forgive as we have been forgiven. The parable itself needs little if anything in the way of explanation, and the preacher's most challenging task may be to simply let the parable speak for itself without trying too hard to open, interpret, or expound upon it. Let the text be what it is.

With that in mind we notice two different thoughts about forgiveness in conversation with the parable of the unforgiving servant.

First. Forgiveness in this parable is both an extravagant and a precious thing. An equation of the respective debts that are in play here can be helpful. A "talent" is a measure of weight, close to about 130 lbs, which could be used for gold and silver (and presumably other precious metals). In monetary terms then the talent has to do with a weight of (most likely) silver, and was roughly equal to about 15 years worth of wages for the typical worker. The king in our parable is owed 10,000 talents, or about 150,000 years worth of income, which works out to more than 3,000 financial life sentences.

This is no little debt. A denarius (plural = denarii) is a small silver coin that was roughly the daily wage for the typical worker. The slave in our parable is owed 100 denarii. This is no trifling debt, but neither is it earth-shattering. As the parable is essentially comparative, comparing the relative values of debts owed might serve to bring the point of parable more sharply to bear.

One talent is equal to 5,475 denarii. In the backwards thinking of the king the equation looks like this: T x 104 < FS; where FS is the life of the forgiven slave, and T is the talent, the wages of sin. In the Kingdom of Heaven forgiveness is exponentially powerful. Even 10,000 talents worth of guilt and debt are counted as nothing compared to the new life of the forgiven sinner.

In the backwards thinking of the unforgiving servant the equation is reversed when it is applied to someone else: US < d x 102; where US is the life of the unforgiving slave, and d is the denarius, the debt the first slave clings to as his right. To put the comparative equation simply, in the eyes of the sinner 100 coins are more precious than the life of another human being; in the eyes of God 54,750,000 coins (the equivalent value of 10,000 talents in denarii) are nothing to be considered next to the fate of the sinner. Forgiveness, as laid out in this parable, is extravagant in the extreme, and more precious by far than the wages of sin.

Second. Forgiveness in the Gospel of Matthew is not only relational it is reciprocal and reliant. When teaching His disciples to pray Jesus would have us say, "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). This fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer is echoed in the lesson of this parable about the kingdom, reflecting it back in reverse. We ought to forgive as our King has forgiven us, Jesus says.


In answering the disciples' request for help in praying Jesus teaches them that forgiveness, both the giving and the receiving of it, is reciprocal, one cannot have it without doing it. "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). In answering Peter's request for help in understanding how far forgiveness needs to go Jesus teaches that God's forgiveness surpasses both our deserving and our comprehension of it; we who have first been forgiven must, therefore and thereupon, forgive those who have wronged us so much more lightly.


The point of this parable is clear, and its demands both in the context of the Gospel of Matthew and its application in our congregations today are urgent. Forgiveness lies at the heart of our faith in God and our love of one another. Forgiveness, which we receive from God our King in the person of Jesus, is what our King expects from His subjects in their dealings with each other.


Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors; as a prayer this puts the emphasis on what we will receive in turn for the forgiveness we have offered. Forgive your brother or sister from your heart; the parable turns the tables, teaching us that we have been first forgiven and encouraging us to forgive in turn. Taken together, this is a composite picture of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the kingdom we practice, both of which are driven by forgiveness.


Matthew 18:21-35

The parable we have before us deals with the healing of hurts between people, that is, the way to resolve differences, to heal the breaches that frequently come between members of families and members of churches, to dissolve the resentments and settle the bitter feuds and the fights that sometimes break out.

Some time ago a psychologist said that Christians were very much like porcupines on a cold winter's night. The cold drives them to huddle together to keep warm, but as soon as they get close to another they start jabbing each other with their spines and that forces them to move apart; thus they are forever coming together and moving apart in a kind of slow dance.

There may be a great deal of truth to that. You will remember the little jingle that says,

To dwell above with saints we love, Oh that will be glory. But to dwell below with saints we know, Well, that's another story.

But now we want to speak about forgiving one another; the only way to break through the resentment barrier that separates us from each other. Forgiveness, of course, is the virtue we most enjoy, and least employ, in our Christian experience. We all love to be forgiven, we expect it, and want it. But we find it a struggle to forgive; we resist it, and refuse oftentimes to do it.

We are like a little boy who was saying his prayers. As he went down the list of his family, asking God to bless them, he omitted his brother's name. His mother said to him, "Why didn't you pray for Cliff?" He said, "I'm not going to ask God to bless Cliff because he hit me." And his mother said, "Don't you remember Jesus said to forgive your enemies?" But the little boy said, "That's just the trouble. He's not my enemy; he's my brother!"

Perhaps many of us have the same difficulty, as did the Apostle Peter. He too was faced with this same problem, the problem of forgiving his brother. In Matthew 18, in a great passage in which our Lord has been dealing with the question of relationships between those who belong to Him, we find Peter, in his impetuous bluntness, coming to Christ with a question.

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:21-22 RSV)

As we read this account we wonder if Peter was not actually thinking of his literal brother, Andrew. Peter and Andrew were brothers and had grown up together. They had joined the band of those transparent people who never can hide anything. Perhaps he actually has in view some offense of Andrew here.

At any rate, Peter feels that he is being very magnanimous here in suggesting that he forgives him seven times. There was good reason for him to think it was magnanimous. The rabbis taught that you only needed to forgive someone three times at the most. The fourth time you could do whatever you liked. They even taught that God did this, based upon a misunderstanding of a text in the prophet Amos, in which Amos repeatedly uses the formula, "for three sins, and for four" Amos 1:3) God brings judgment upon such-and-such a city. Thus they taught that God Himself never forgave more than three times. You can see from this that Peter feels he has gone to the utmost limit when he doubled that, added one for good measure, and suggests that he might be willing to forgive his brother seven times.

Now, there is humor in our Lord's reply. There are many passages which we oftentimes misunderstand and take seriously, and misunderstand because we take them seriously -- though our Lord is speaking humorously. If we would put it in modern parlance, what He says is, "Peter, would you believe four hundred and ninety times?" In effect our Lord is saying, it is not a question of how often, i.e., how many times should I forgive my brother. That is not really the question. There is a deeper matter beneath that. The real question is, "Why should I forgive at all? When you see that you should forgive, and then you will see, Peter, that there is no limit at all, that forgiveness is the kind of thing that ought to go on without limit." He has only chosen this figure of 490 times as a play upon what Peter has said to Him, but it really suggests an unlimited forgiveness. So, to answer that deeper question, "Why should I forgive my brother," our Lord gives us this parable of the unforgiving steward. The opening part of it is found in Verses 23-30:

"Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt." (Matthew 18:23-30 RSV)

The valuable of this parable lies in seeing that it is a picture of us. The Lord Jesus is here holding up a mirror in order that we might see ourselves. We are the servant who has been forgiven a vast and staggering amount of money, and God is the great king that has forgiven us. These ten thousand talents is an incredible amount. According to the margin a talent was worth about a thousand dollars. Ten thousand talents are ten million dollars which, in those days, would be a king's ransom. The entirely yearly income of a kingdom would hardly be that much.

When the settling of accounts came, this man was confronted with this vast debt and he could not pay it. The king ordered that justice be carried out and that the man, his wife and children, and all that he had are sold, as was possible in those days. Even then it would be far, far short of the amount of this debt. In desperation the man makes an impossible promise. He falls on his knees and says to the king, "Have patience, sir, and I will pay you everything." Now he could never do that. If he worked all his lifetime, and his family also, he would never be able to pay ten million dollars. But in desperation he cries out, and the king's heart is moved by the man's impossible situation, and, out of pity toward him, he forgives him, at staggering cost to himself. It means, of course, that this king assumed the debt himself, allowing it to go unpaid and thus impoverishing his treasury. This is no trifling matter. It was at staggering cost to himself that the king forgave the debt.

We must see ourselves in this if we are going to be helped by this word of Jesus. We must see that the sum of our offenses against God through the years constitutes this kind of a debt, an absolutely impossible amount. Our rebellions, our selfish acts and thoughts, our willful choices, our lovelessness toward one another, and the hurt we have caused others, our pride, our anger, our lusts, our bitterness, our hates, and our lies; all these add up through the years to a staggering debt we owe God and which we cannot pay. But then there comes the good news, the wonderful good news of the gospel. There came a day when we stood in the presence of God and heard Him pronounce those word, "Forgiven, in Christ's name." The debt was wiped away. In one moment it was gone. How well we remember, as we look back to it, the glory of that moment when we realized that before God we stood cleansed, blameless, and free; the debt was paid and we were free.

Jesus places, in direct contrast to this, another account which He says occurred immediately, as this man went out from his experience of being so unbelievably forgiven. "As he went out," he met a man who owed him twenty dollars that is the amount of a hundred denarii, and seizing him by the throat he said, "Pay me what you owe." But when the second man says exactly the same words the first had said just a few moments before, "Have patience with me and I'll pay you everything," instead of forgiving him this paltry amount, he throws him into prison till he shall pay the full amount.

That, says Jesus, is what we do when we refuse to forgive each other even the most insulting and injurious offenses. No matter how bad it may appear to us, no matter how hurt we are by what someone has done to us, in comparison to what God has forgiven us, it is like comparing twenty dollars to ten million dollars of debt. And these two events are occurring simultaneously in our lives, in immediate context, just as Jesus said.

There is not one of us here who is a Christian, who does not realize that he did not stop sinning when he was first forgiven in Christ. Despite the increasing light and power that has come to us as we have learned more of the provision for life that God has made available, we have still experienced much failure. Not a day goes by but that we do not stand in desperate need of the forgiving word of the great King. Again and again he cancels out the debt as we come in our guilt and abandon, in the consciousness that we have terribly failed, hearing anew the tender forgiving word. And yet, when someone offends us, how quickly we revert to the basis of justice and start demanding, "Pay me what you owe." "I demand an apology." "Give me my rights." "Let me have what's coming to me." "Treat me like I deserve." "I demand to be treated with respect." How many times do we utter such words?

In the rest of the story our Lord reveals the two great reasons why Christians must forgive those who offend them.

"When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servants as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers [the margin says, accurately, "the torturers"] till he should pay all his debt. So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:31-35 RSV)

There are two reasons revealed here why Christians must forgive each other: First, we must forgive because anything less is hypocritical. We cannot demand justice from others because we do not stand on that ground ourselves. As the king said to this servant, "You wicked servant! Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" This is what Jesus is saying to us. We must forgive one another because we have already been forgiven. Is not that the ground the Apostle Paul takes in Colossians 3, and in Ephesians 4:31?

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 RSV)

That is the basis of Christian forgiveness. Jesus says that, when we refuse to do this, when we hold a grudge, or are difficult or bitter and refuse to settle an issue, then we are doing exactly what this unrighteous steward does here. In the very moment of our own forgiveness we are demanding justice, when we ourselves cannot and do not stand on that level.

The sign that we are acting on the basis of justice and not mercy is that, like this servant, we act harshly. That is the invariable mark we are demanding justice and not acting in forgiveness or mercy. We speak severely and sharply to the other. The servant took him by the throat and said, "Pay me what you owe me." It is always the mark that we are demanding justice when we speak caustically to one another. This is one of the most destructive problems in homes. It is the reason why parents and children are often unable to communicate with one another.

Parents act this way frequently. We consign our children to a prison of rejection and scorn by the fact that we demand justice of them when we ourselves do not stand on that basis. We speak harshly to them, severely. We scold them and act terribly offended by their misdeeds. But, of course, when we do that we are victims of the deceitfulness of sin. We feel that we are defending righteousness, that we are showing our great concern for the truth, for justice and righteousness. But that is never the way it comes across to them. The way it strikes them is that we are being hypocritical, that we are asking them to live on a standard that we ourselves do not fulfill, that we are asking them to be always right, always truthful, always honest, always good, when we ourselves cannot do this. That is what causes rejection on the part of children toward parents, and the feeling that they are hypocritical and not honest.

There is a passage in Second Peter which describes the graces God gives; the grace of self-control, of godliness, of brotherly affection and of loving concern. Peter adds this very revealing word:

Whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (2 Peter 1:9 RSV)

That is frequently our problem. We demand of others that they act in a way that we ourselves could never achieve, and therefore harshness creeps into our voice. We are severe and unbending, rigid in our demands. It is not that discipline is not necessary, or that we do not need to deal with wrong. The problem is the spirit in which we do it. The minute we revert to the basis of justice we are following the law of retaliation, and the law of retaliation always has an escalating clause in it. Your radio is too loud, so I pound on the wall. You squawk; I roar. The next time we meet, you won't speak to me. So I take advantage of you in a business deal, and soon the thing has escalated till it involves, if the conditions are such, a large group of people and can break out into actual violence and warfare. That is what happens when we deal in the demands of justice toward each other.

But what our Lord is saying is that forgiveness is possible because we have been forgiven. Because this vast and staggering debt against us has been wiped out by the grace of God, we have the capability of forgiving also. These words are not addressed to anyone who is not a Christian. We cannot expect men of the flesh to live on this level. They may forgive an offense, but, even then, it is not on the same ground as Christians. They may remit a penalty, but there is a spirit of hardness and rejection that goes with it. But Christian forgiveness eliminates that hardness. The inner attitude is changed, and there is an acceptance of the person, and an understanding and sympathy extended that permits an honest look at the problem, and opens the door for help. That is the first reason Jesus said we must forgive each other, because we have been forgiven so very much ourselves.

The second reason we must forgive is because of the torment which an unforgiving spirit inflicts upon us.

"And in anger his lord delivered him to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. So also My heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:34-35 RSV)

This is but a further amplification of what our Lord is saying in the Sermon on the Mount. He says there, "If you forgive not others their trespasses neither will My Father forgive yours," Matthew 6:15 RSV). That has been greatly misunderstood by many as teaching that the Sermon on the Mount puts God's blessing on a basis of works, that God is saying to men in general, "Unless you forgive others, I won't forgive you." But that indicates a distorted understanding of the passage. The Sermon on the Mount is addressed to those who have already been forgiven by God. It is addressed to those in whom the Spirit of God lives and therefore God knows they have the ability and capacity to forgive. But if they will not exercise it, the Lord Jesus says, if they insist upon going back to the ground of justice with others, well, then, that is the way God will handle them. If we insist on justice, we will be given justice ourselves. As James tell us, "Judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy," (James 2:13). The result will be that we are "delivered to the torturers."

This is a marvelously expressive phrase to describe what happens to us when we do not forgive another. It is an accurate description of gnawing resentment and bitterness, the awful gall of hate or envy. It is a terrible feeling. We cannot get away from it, we cannot escape it. We find ourselves powerless to avoid it. We feel strongly this separation from another, and, every time we think of them, we feel within the acid of resentment and hate eating away at our peace and calmness. This is the torturing that our Lord says will take place. In the book of Hebrews we read, "Let no root of bitterness springing up trouble you," (Hebrews 12:15). Notice where the trouble occurs? It hits you, not the other fellow. Jesus says that if you do not do this, this torture will go on for as many years as you refuse to forgive. It will never stop.

Our Lord is telling us that forgiveness occurs when we stop saying, "Look what you're doing to me," and start saying, "What can I do to relieve your hurt?" That is when we forgive, when we are no longer concerned about self, but are concerned about what we are doing to someone else as retaliation for what they have done to us. The thing that makes forgiveness possible is to remember how our Lord puts this principle. Can we not forgive twenty dollars' worth of injury, when we have been forgiven ten million, ourselves? That is always our situation. Therefore, if there is a grudge, if we have been harboring resentment, if there is a feeling of antipathy, if we do not want to speak to someone else, if we feel cut off from another, two things have happened: We have reacted as an ungrateful wretch to the grace that has been extended to us, just as this unforgiving steward did.

Second, we have consigned ourselves to bitterness of heart, to the eating of the acid of resentment to our own hurt. This is why nothing will ever take place toward the healing of the world until there is the healing of the church, the healing of the heart, and the healing of hurts, one with another, by the grace God has shown to us. Let us move over onto this ground, and live on this level.


Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dealing so honestly with us. We know you do not show us these things in order to leave us feeling condemned and guilty, but rather that we might take again of the riches of grace, once again hear the word of the great King, "All is forgiven." In the glory of that restored relationship, realizing that this vast debt has been set aside on our behalf, we can turn to our brother and say, "I'll forget it," and live, Lord, as You have lived toward us. We pray this may find its application in practical ways in the lives of each one of us. In Jesus' name, Amen.









He forgives us for our sins so we should forgive those that sin against us.  Just like we want/need forgiveness we also need to forgive those that hurt us.


In forgiving others that have sinned against us, we show them the mercies & love of Christ


As Christians we are to be obedient to God’s Word and be Reflections of Christ. How can we be reflections if HIS perfect Spirit is darkened by sin or Not Forgiving? We can't! we are to be HIS property. Holy!


Because god forgives us. it pleases god when we forgive others, even though it is hard for me sometimes, but none of us is really any good compared to Jesus and the example he left us and all his disciples. we must press on to be like them.


Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. It's God's way.


It is important to God that we forgive others when they sin against us because it makes you a better person and at peace with yourself and God. It’s better to have friends than enemies.....


None of us are perfect and at times, we must ask the Lord for forgiveness and if we are unwilling to forgive others, why do we think the Lord so look so kindly toward us.  We must remember and practice the Golden Rule.


We are not deserving of forgiveness from God if we do not forgive those that sin against us..."forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".


That if we don't forgive others our Father in heaven will not forgive us. To forgive other is to show our love to other as our Father in heaven gives us love.


"The opposite of peace is conflict -- war.  With conflict comes anger.  Unresolved anger opens up legal doors for demonic spirits to enter the protective shield God places about a believer.  Once inside our defensive perimeter, these demonic spirits can inflict greater harm to the believer unless they are driven back outside one’s protective perimeter. 


The greatest weapon God has given believers to deal with anger against those who hurt us, or do us wrong, is the weapon of forgiveness.  Forgiving those who hurt us slams the legal door against demonic forces that would otherwise have legal right to enter our defense zone and bring even greater harm to us.    Therefore … It is WISDOM to forgive those who hurt us!  GREAT wisdom!”... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you. Ephesians 4:3


When you think about the enormity of what God has forgiven us for and continues to forgive our sinful nature, who are we not to forgive anybody for their wrong doing? As Christians, the more we get to know Jesus and what he did for this fallen world the more we realize we have no right not to be unforgiving to others.

That's why it is so important to God! Amen! 



So that we can be forgiven.


Jesus have mercy on us and forgive us our sins by his crucifixion on the cross, so why can’t we forgive our fellow brothers so our Heavenly Father can forgive us our sins.


Jesus showed us mercy and forgives our sins therefore we must forgive others also. Jesus said we must forgive others so that our Heavenly Father also forgive us our sins


It is so important to God because he allowed his only son to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins (the whole world), we should therefore forgive our ordinary fellow human for him to forgive us.


It is important to forgive since forgiveness is the essence of the gospel & Jesus also forgave us of all our sins not to remember them no more. so in the same way we are forgiven, we should also forgive


It is important to God that we forgive others when they sin against us so that God also forgives us our sins what we have committed.  We should not forget that unless we don't forgive others for what they have done to us God also will not forgive us.


It is important to God that we forgive each other because it shows how we understand His love for us and make us dependable upon each because when l forgive a person, it won't be difficult for that person to forgive me when l have done him/her wrong.


The Bible says we must do unto others what you would have them do unto us. Most of us want to be forgiven so we must also be willing to forgive them. This is very important to God because he has forgiven us and so he expects us to show the same courtesy to others. It also teaches us to have compassion for others which is what God wants us to have


We need to learn to forgive others as God has forgiven us. And if we cannot, then we are no better than the evil server described in the scriptures. And deserve what punishment that is doled out to us.


It is so important to God that we forgive others because our God is a merciful God, He recommends us to forgive others as He forgave us through the blood of His only begotten son-Jesus. For if you do not forgive The Heavenly father shall not forgive you.


God Himself always listens and forgives us each time we say we are sorry. He did this by giving up His Son to die on the cross so that we can be saved from our sins. In the same way He expects us to forgive others.


God forgave our sins by sending His only begotten Son to die in our place to give us eternal life.


Jesus experienced both physical pain and spiritual separation of God to wash and save us from our sins; in His victory and resurrection, showing us the way to eternal life.

In doing so, they modeled with their example and taught us the Way, the Truth and the Life, to gain access to that eternal Life: Loving each other the Way They unconditionally love us!

Not forgiving our brothers is against God and Jesus teachings, hence:"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins" (Matt. 6:14-15. Jesus emphasized it in His teaching of how to pray to our Father: "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."


Also, as expressed in Lucas 6:37:"Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and you shall be forgiven"

In summary, our best evidence of following and obeying God, and Jesus teachings, and loving each other the way They love us, is sincerely forgiving and showing compassion for our brothers, from the bottom of our heart.


By: Gregorio Magdaleno
Category: The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
Why is it helpful to confront a brother alone first, before involving others in confronting him?

Matthew 18:15-20 


A Brother Who Sins Against You


"If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. But if he doesn't listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector. Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven. Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." 


Why is it helpful to confront a brother alone first, before involving others in confronting him?


The procedure for dealing with sin by an assembly member (Matthew 18:15-20).


1. In the story there is a brother, a spiritual brother in context, who has sinned against you (singular). “Against you” is in the Majority Text, but not the Egyptian text (Critical Text). Luke 17:3-4 has a similar teaching and there Luke does include “against you” (sing) in both Egyptian and Majority Text. The one sinned against is the one to go to the brother and to privately convince him of his wrong. This protects the sinner and the assembly. See Matthew 18:21-22 where in this context Peter asks how many times he should forgive his brother when his brother sins against him.


2. Verse 16 is the next step if the sinning brother will not respond. Take one or two witnesses with you to confirm that you are attempting reconciliation. This follows the court procedure of Deuteronomy 19:15. The point of all this is to bring about repentance and restoration and not to make matters worse (Leviticus 19:17; James 5:19-20; and 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).


3. Verse 17 is the third step. If the sinning brother will not listen to you or to you and the witnesses, then you bring it to the group. If he still is obstinate, then you stay away from him, let him be to you (singular) as a Gentile and a tax collector. The primary rift is between the sinning brother and the one sinned against, not with the assembly. “Tell it to the assembly” probably simply means that the brother has sinned and refused repentance. It does not necessarily mean tell all the details to the assembly. Notice that the instruction is to stay away from, not to excommunicate the person.


            3.1. The purpose of all this action is restoration, not more division. The more       details and the more public it all is, makes it very difficult for restoration.


            3.2. The word translated church is the word ekklesia, which means church or     body of Christ later in the New Testament after the church began. The first use of     church after the Matthew passage is in Acts 5:11. Here it likely refers to the       assembly, either synagogue or group of disciples. The latter seems the best in  context. The disciples surely would have understood it in the sense of the Jewish        assemble or their own band of disciples. These disciples will have their fights.


4. Verse 18 reminds them that this is God’s procedure and He is ahead of them. We have plural pronouns and Jesus is referring to the disciple group.


5. Verse 19 and 20 are part of this context. It likely means agreement about praying for the sinning brother or prayer for the right way to deal with this case. It is doubtful whether it is an open prayer promise.


6. In summary, this section gave a procedure to bring about restoration of a fellow member who had sinned against one in the assembly.


7. How often should I forgive someone? This is how kingdom citizens should forgive (Matthew 18:21-35).


            7.1. This follows the previous context. Obviously if there is sin against you and it is        repeated, the natural question will be “how often should I forgive?” The answer is         as many times as necessary (Matthew 18:21-22).


            7.2. The slave asked for mercy with regard to paying his debts. The master gave     him compassion and released him from the debt. This is forgiveness by grace. The           debt was legal and right. The master took the loss. This is the lesson for us.         Compassionate forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-27).


            7.3. The next part of the story has the forgiven slave doing exactly what he begged       his master not to do to him (Matthew 18:28-30). He went to one who owed him and     demanded payment. The fellow slave asked for compassion and patience (29), but   the forgiven slave would not show compassion and forgive him. He had him             arrested (30).


                        7.3.1. This was not forgiveness. The first slave did not learn and he did not                     apply. Hence the lesson for him was wasted. He rejected the grace                               forgiveness that was shown to him. This was not applying what he had                                 experienced.


7.4. The lord learned of what had happened and judged the slave guilty. He required payment of the debt. The slave was disciplined.


7.5. We learn that the disciples (and we) should forgive as the Lord forgave them (and us). Lack of forgiveness brings God’s divine discipline (Matthew 18:35). This tells us that disciple to disciple was a high priority with God, and should be for us.


Doctrine of Forgiveness -Biblical Doctrine of Forgiveness


1. What does forgive mean?


1.1. To grant pardon and to stop blaming someone, to no longer hold guilty.


2. Who has the authority to forgive?


            2.1. God


            2.2. Scripture: Matthew 9:2-6; Mark 2:5-10; Luke 5:20-24; James 5:15; 1 John 1:9;         1 John 2:2.

            3. Who appreciates forgiveness the most?


            3.1. The one who realizes he has been forgiven much.

            3.2. Scripture: Luke 7:36-48.


4. What is the basis for real forgiveness?


            4.1. The substitutionary sacrifice of one who takes the punishment for another—    Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.


            4.2. Scripture: Acts 5:31; Acts 13:38; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews            9:11-14 and 26-28.


5. How often should one forgive others?


            5.1. As often as one sins against me.

            5.2. Scripture: Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32.


6. What is required for judicial forgiveness?


            6.1. Faith in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who was judged in our place.

            6.2. Scripture: Acts 10:43.


7. Whom do we forgive and when?


            7.1. Believers who have sinned against us and when ever needed.

            7.2. Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:7, 10; 2 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:32;         Colossians 3:13.


8. Illustrations of forgiveness.


8.1. Old Testament.


            8.1.1. Joseph forgave his brothers (Genesis 50:17-21).

            8.1.2. God forgave David (Psalm 32:5).

            8.2. New Testament.

                        8.2.1. Paul and the church forgave the sinner brother in Corinth (2                                   Corinthians 2:1-11).

                        8.2.2. Jesus forgave the prostitute (Luke 7:36-48).

                        8.2.3. God forgives believers (1 John 1:9).


9. Who will not be forgiven?


            9.1. Those who rejected Jesus the Messiah during His ministry on earth. They   slandered the Holy Spirit Him by saying that Satan produced the miracles through   Jesus and not the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10).

            9.2. Those disciples who refused to forgive others (Matthew 6:15)


10. What happens to believers who will not forgive others?


            10.1. God disciplines them (Matthew 18:35).

            10.2. Not forgiving others becomes like a festering wound that is painful and will             break open and contaminate others.


Verses 15-20


The Removal of Offences.


Christ, having cautioned His disciples not to give offence, comes next to direct them what they must do in case of offences given them which may be understood either of personal injuries, and then these directions are intended for the preserving of the peace of the church or of public scandals, and then they are intended for the preserving of the purity and beauty of the church. Let us consider it both ways.


I. Let us apply it to the quarrels that happen, upon any account, among Christians. If thy brother trespass against thee, by grieving thy soul (1 Corinthians 8:12), by affronting thee, or putting contempt or abuse upon thee if he blemish thy good name by false reports or tale-bearing if he encroach on thy rights, or be any way injurious to thee in thy estate if he be guilty of any of those trespasses that are specified, Leviticus 6:2,3 if he transgress the laws of justice, charity, or relative duties these are trespasses against us, and often happen among Christ's disciples, and sometimes, for want of prudence, are of very mischievous consequence. Now observe what the rule is prescribed in this case,


1. Go, and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. Let this be compared with, and explained by, Leviticus, Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart that is, "If thou hast conceived a displeasure at thy brother for any injury he hath done thee, do not suffer thy resentments to ripen into a secret malice (like a wound, which is most dangerous when it bleed inwardly), but give vent to them in a mild and grave admonition, let them so spend themselves, and they will expire the sooner do not go and rail against him behind his back, but thou shalt in any ways reprove him. If he has indeed done thee a considerable wrong, endeavor to make him sensible of it, but let the rebuke be private, between thee and him alone if thou wouldest convince him, do not expose him, for that will but exasperate him, and make the reproof look like a revenge." this agrees with Proverbs 25:8,9, "Go not forth hastily to strive, but debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself, argue it calmly and amicably and if he shall hear thee, well and good, thou hast gained thy brother, there is an end of the controversy, and it is a happy end let no more be said of it, but let the falling out of friends be the renewing of friendship."


2. "If he will not hear thee, if he will not own himself in a fault, nor come to an agreement, yet do not despair, but try what he will say to it, if thou take one or two or more, not only to be witnesses of what passes, but to reason the case further with him he will be the more likely to hearken to them because they are disinterested and if reason will rule him, the word of reason in the mouth of two or three witnesses will be better spoken to him" (Plus vident oculi quam oculus--Many eyes see more than one), "and more regarded by him, and perhaps it will influence him to acknowledge his error, and to say, I repent."


3. "If he shall neglect to hear them, and will not refer the matter to their arbitration, then tell it to the church, to the ministers, elders, or other officers, or the most considerable persons in the congregation you belong to, make them the referees to accommodate the matter, and do not presently appeal to the magistrate, or fetch a writ for him." This is fully explained by the apostle (1 Corinthians 6:1-20), where he reproves those that went to law before the unjust, and not before the saints (Matthew 18:1), and would have the saints to judge those small matters (Matthew 18:2) that pertain to this life, Matthew 18:3. If you ask, "Who is the church that must be told?" the apostle directs there (Matthew 18:5): Is there not a wise man among you? Those of the church that are presumed to be most capable of determining such matters and he speaks ironically, when he says (Matthew 18:4), "Set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church those, if there be no better, those, rather than suffer an irreconcilable breach between two church members." This rule was then in a special manner requisite, when the civil government was in the hands of such as were not only aliens, but enemies.


4. "If he will not hear the church, will not stand to their award, but persists in the wrong he has done thee, and proceeds to do thee further wrong, let him be to thee as a heathen man, and a publican take the benefit of the law against him, but let that always be the last remedy appeal not to the courts of justice till thou hast first tried all other means to compromise the matter in variance. Or thou mayest, if thou wilt, break off thy friendship and familiarity with him though thou must by no means study revenge, yet thou mayest choose whether thou wilt have any dealings with him, at least, in such a way as may give him an opportunity of doing the like again. Thou wouldest have healed him, wouldest have preserved his friendship, but he would not, and so has forfeited it." If a man cheats and abuses me once, it is his fault if twice, it is my own.


II. Let us apply it to scandalous sins, which are an offence to the little ones, of bad example to those that are weak and pliable, and of great grief to those that are weak and timorous. Christ, having taught us to indulge the weakness of our brethren, here cautions us not to indulge their wickedness under pretence of that. Christ, designing to erect a church for Himself in the world, here took care for the preservation, 1. Of its purity, that it might have an expulsive faculty, a power to cleanse and clear itself, like a fountain of living waters, which is necessary as long as the net of the gospel brings up both good fish and bad. 2. Of its peace and order, that every member may know his place and duty, and the purity of it may be preserved in a regular way and not tumultuously. Now let us see,


1. What is the case supposed? If thy brother trespass against thee. 


            1. "The offender is a brother, one that is in Christian communion, that is baptized,           that hears the word, and prays with thee, with whom thou joinest in the worship of        God, stately or occasionally." Note, Church discipline is for church members. Them       that are without God judges, 1 Corinthians 5:12, 13. When any trespass is done            against us, it is good to remember that the trespasser is a brother, which furnishes        us with qualifying consideration.


            2. "The offense is a trespass against thee if thy brother sin against thee (so the word is), if he do anything which is offensive to thee as a Christian." Note, A gross    sin against God is a trespass against His people, who have a true concern for His   honor. Christ and believers have twisted interests what is done against them Christ             takes as done against Himself, and what is done against Him they cannot but take        as done against themselves. The reproaches of them that reproached thee are     fallen upon me, Psalm 69:9.


2. What is to be done in this case. We have here,


            1. The rules prescribed, Matthew 18:15-17. Proceed in this method:


            First, "Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. Do not stay till he     comes to thee, but go to him, as the physician visits the patient, and the shepherd goes after the lost sheep." Note, We should think no pains too much to take for the           recovering of a sinner to repentance. "Tell him his fault; remind him of what he has

            done, and of the evil of it, show him his abominations." Note, People are loth to see        their faults, and have needed to be told of them. Though the fact is plain, and the fault    too, yet they must be put together with application. Great sins often amuse         conscience, and for the present stupefy and silence it and there is need of help to             awaken it. David's own heart smote him, when he had cut off Saul's skirt, and when     he had numbered the people but (which is very strange) we do not find that it     smote him in the matter of Uriah, till Nathan told him, Thou art the man.


            "Tell him his fault, elenxon auton--argue the case with him" (so the word signifies)        "and do it with reason and argument, not with passion." Where the fault is plain and        great, the person proper for us to deal with, and we have an opportunity for it, and         there is no apparent danger of doing more hurt than good, we must with meekness       and faithfulness tell people of what is amiss in them. Christian reproof is an         ordinance of Christ for the bringing of sinners to repentance, and must be managed    as an ordinance. "Let the reproof be private, between thee and him alone that it    may appear you seek not his reproach, but his repentance." Note, It is a good rule,     which should ordinarily be observed among Christians, not to speak of our         brethren's faults to others, till we have first spoken of them to themselves, this            would make less reproaching and more reproving that is, less sin committed, and         more duty done. It will be likely to work upon an offender, when he sees his             reprover concerned not only for his salvation, in telling him his fault, but for his    reputation in telling him of it privately.


            "If he shall hear thee", that is "heed thee, if he be wrought upon by the reproof, it is         well, thou hast gained thy brother thou hast helped to save him from sin and ruin,            and it will be thy credit and comfort," James 5:19,20. Note, The converting of a soul         is the winning of that soul (Proverbs 11:30) and we should covet it, and labor after it,          gain to us and, if the loss of a soul be a great loss, the gain of a soul is sure no small       gain.


            Secondly, If that doth not prevail, then take with thee one or two more, Matthew 18:16. Note, We must not be weary of well-doing, though we see not presently the    good success of it. "If he will not hear thee, yet do not give him up as in a             desperate         case say not, It will be to no purpose to deal with him any further but go     on in the       use of other means even those that harden their necks must be often           reproved,         and those that oppose themselves instructed in meekness." In work of        this kind         we must travail in birth again (Galatians 4:19) and it is after many pains           and throes       that the child is born.


            "Take with thee one or two more: 1.To assist thee they may speak some pertinent convincing word which thou didst not think of, and may manage the matter with   more prudence than thou didst." note, Christians should see their need of help in            doing good, and pray in the aid one of another as in other things, so in giving        reproofs, that the duty may be done, and may be done well. 2. "To affect him he will         be the more likely to be humbled for his fault, when he sees it witnessed against         by two or three." Deuteronomy 19:15. Note, Those should think it high time to             repent and reform, who see their misconduct become a general offence and       scandal. Though in such a world as this it is rare to find one good that all men             speak well of, yet it is more rare to find one good whom all men speak ill of. 3. "To       be witnesses of his conduct, in case the matter should afterward be brought before the church." None should come under the censure of the church as obstinate and         contumacious, till it be very well proved that they are so.


            Thirdly, If he neglect to hear them, and will not be humbled, then tell it to the        church, Matthew 18:17. There are some stubborn spirits to whom the likeliest         means of conviction prove ineffectual yet such must not be given over as incurable,   but let the matter be made more public, and further help called in. Note: 1. Private             admonitions must always go before public censures if gentler methods will do the         work, those that are more rough and severe must not be used, Titus 3:10. Those         that will be reasoned out of their sins, need not be shamed out of them. Let God's         work be done effectually, but with as little noise as may be His kingdom comes with     power, but not with observation. But, 2. Where private admonition does not prevail,        there public censure must take place. The church must receive the complaints of         the offended, and rebuke the sins of the offenders, and judge between them, after         an impartial enquiry made into the merits of the cause.


            Tell it to the church. It is a thousand pities that this appointment of Christ, which was designed to end differences, and remove offences, should itself be so much a       matter of debate, and occasion differences and offences, through the corruption of   men's hearts. What church must be told, is the great question. The civil magistrate,     say some The Jewish Sanhedrim then in being, say others but by what   follows, Matthew 18:18, it is plain that he means a Christian church. "Tell it to the         church, that particular church in the communion of which the offender lives make         the matter known to those of that congregation who are by consent appointed to             receive information of that kind. Tell it to the guides and governors of the church,            the minister or ministers, the elders or deacons, or (if such the constitution of the            society be) tell it to the representatives or heads of the congregation, or to all the         members of it let them examine the matter and, if they find the complaint frivolous         and groundless, let them rebuke the complainant if they find it just, let them rebuke         the offender, and call him to repentance, and this will be likely to put an edge and         an efficacy upon the reproof, because given," 1."With greater solemnity and, 2.     "With greater authority." It is an awful thing to receive a reproof from a church, from   a minister; a reprover by office and therefore it is the more regarded by such as pay     any deference to an institution of Christ and His ambassadors.


            Fourthly, "If he neglect to hear the church, if he slight the admonition, and will     neither be ashamed of his faults, nor amend them, let him be unto thee as a    heathen man and publican let him be cast out of the communion of the church,             secluded from special ordinances, degraded from the dignity of a church member,         let him be put under disgrace, and let the members of the society be warned to   withdraw from him, that he may be ashamed of his sin, and they may not be     infected by it, or made chargeable with it." Those who put contempt on the orders       and rules of a society, and bring reproach upon it, forfeit the honors and privileges         of it, and are justly laid aside till they repent and submit, and reconcile themselves       to it again. Christ has appointed this method for the vindicating of the church's    honor, the preserving of its purity, and the conviction and reformation of those that        are scandalous. But observe, he doth not say, "Let him be to thee as a devil or     damned spirit, as one whose case is desperate," but "as a heathen and a publican,             as one in a capacity of being restored and received in again. Count him not as an            enemy, but admonish him as a brother." The directions given to the church of             Corinth concerning the incestuous person, agree with the rules here he must     be taken away from among them (1 Corinthians 5:2), must be delivered to         Satan for if he be cast out of Christ's kingdom, he is looked upon as belonging to           Satan's kingdom they must not keep company with him, Matthew 18:11,13. But when by this he is humbled and reclaimed, he must be welcomed into communion         again, and all shall be well.


            2. Here is a warrant signed for the ratification of all the church's proceedings     according to these rules, Matthew 18:18. What was said before to Peter is here       said to all the disciples and in them to all the faithful office-bearers in the church, to         the world's end. While ministers preach the word of Christ faithfully, and in their             government of the church strictly adhere to His laws (clave non errante--the key not            turning the wrong way), they may be assured that He will own them, and stand by        them, and will ratify what they say and do, so that it shall be taken as said and       done by Himself. He will own them,


            First, In their sentence of suspension Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be           bound in heaven. If the censures of the church duly follow the institution of Christ,      His judgments will follow the censures of the church, His spiritual judgments, which         are the sorest of all other, such as the rejected Jews fell under (Romans 11:8),         a spirit of slumber for Christ will not suffer His own ordinances to be trampled upon,       but will say amen to the righteous sentences which the church passes on obstinate             offenders. How light so ever proud scorners may make of the censures of the   church, let them know that they are confirmed in the court of heaven and it is in     vain for them to appeal to that court, for judgment is there already given against them. They that are shut out from the congregation of the righteous now shall             not stand in it in the great day, Psalm 1:5. Christ will not own those as His, nor            receive them to Himself, whom the church has duly delivered to Satan but, if   through error or envy the censures of the church be unjust, Christ will graciously           find those who are so cast out, John 9:34,35.


            Secondly, In their sentence of absolution Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall         be loosed in heaven. Note, 1. No church censures bind so fast, but that, upon the         sinner's repentance and reformation, they may and must be loosed again.     Sufficient is the punishment which has attained its end, and the offender must then             be forgiven and comforted, 2 Corinthians 2:6. There is no impassable gulf fixed but        that between hell and heaven. 2. Those who, upon their repentance, are received         by the church into communion again may take the comfort of their absolution in heaven, if their hearts be upright with God. As suspension is for the terror of the             obstinate, so absolution is for the encouragement of the penitent. St. Paul speaks         in the person of Christ, when he saith, To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive        also, 2 Corinthians 2:10.


Now it is a great honor which Christ here puts upon the church, that He will condescend not only to take cognizance of their sentences, but to confirm them and in the following verses we have two things laid down as ground of this.


1. God's readiness to answer the church's prayers (Matthew 18:19) If two of you shall agree harmoniously, touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them. Apply this,


            1. In general, to all the requests of the faithful praying seed of Jacob they shall    not seek God's face in vain. Many promises we have in scripture of a gracious     answer to the prayers of faith, but this gives a particular encouragement to the            joint-prayer "the requests which two of you agree in, much more which many agree             in." No law of heaven limits the number of petitioners. Note, Christ has been       pleased to put an honor upon, and to allow a special efficacy in, the joint-prayers of           the faithful, and the common supplications they make to God. If they join in the         same prayer, if they meet by appointment to come together to the throne of grace   on some special errand, or, though at a distance, agree in some particular matter of       prayer, they shall speed well. Besides the general regard God has to the prayers of            the saints, he is particularly pleased with their union and communion in those prayers. See 2 Chronicles 5:13Acts 4:31.


            2. In particular, to those requests that are put up to God about binding and losing to        which this promise seems more especially to refer. Observe, 


            First, That the power of church discipline is not here lodged in the hand of a single         person, but two, at             least, are supposed to be concerned in it. When the           incestuous Corinthian was to be cast out, the church was gathered together         (1 Corinthians 5:4), and it was a punishment inflicted of many, 2 Corinthians 2:6. In an affair of such importance, two     are better than one, and in the multitude of   counselors there is safety.


            Secondly, It is good to see those who have the management of church discipline,   agreeing in it. Heats and animosities, among those whose work it is to remove           offences, will be the greatest offence of all. 


            Thirdly, Prayer must evermore go along with church discipline. Pass no sentence,         which you cannot in faith ask God to confirm. The binding and loosing spoken of         (Matthew 16:19) was done by preaching, this by praying. Thus the whole power of     gospel ministers is resolved into the word and prayer, to which they must wholly give themselves. He doth not say, "If you shall agree to sentence and decree a thing, it shall be done" (as if ministers were judges and lords) but, "If you agree to         ask it of God, from Him you shall obtain it." Prayer must go along with all our   endeavors for the conversion of sinners see James 5:16


            Fourthly, The unanimous petitions of the church of God, for the ratification of their         just censures, shall be heard in heaven, and obtain an answer "It shall be done, it        shall be bound and loosed in heaven God will set His fiat to the appeals and     applications you make to Him." If Christ (who here speaks as one having authority)             say, "It shall be done," we may be assured that it is done, though we see not the            effect in the way that we look for it. God doth especially own and accept us, when         we are praying for those that have offended Him and us. The Lord turned the captivity of Job, not when he prayed for himself, but when he prayed for his friends             who had trespassed against him.


2. The presence of Christ in the assemblies of Christians, Matthew 18:20. Every believer has the presence of Christ with Him but the promise here refers to the meetings where two or three are gathered in His name, not only for discipline, but for religious worship, or any act of Christian communion. Assemblies of Christians for Holy purposes are hereby appointed, directed, and encouraged.

            1. They are hereby appointed the church of Christ in the world exists most visibly in           religious assemblies it is the will of Christ that these should be set up, and kept up,         for the honor of God, the edification of men, and the preserving of a face of religion           upon the world. When God intends special answers to prayer, He calls for a solemn            assembly, Joel 2:15, 16. If there be no liberty and opportunity for large and numerous        assemblies, yet then it is the will of God that two or three should gather   together,         to show their good-will to the great congregation. Note, When we cannot do what we would in religion, we must do as we can and God will accept us.


            2. They are hereby directed to gather together in Christ's name. In the exercise of    church discipline, they must come together in the name of Christ, 1 Corinthians 5:4.            That name gives to what they do an authority on earth, and an acceptableness in         heaven. In meeting or worship, we must have an eye to Christ must come together             by virtue of His warrant and appointment, in token of our relation to Him, professing           faith in Him, and in communion with all that in every place call upon Him. When we       come together, to worship God in a dependence upon the Spirit and grace of Christ     as Mediator for assistance, and upon His merit and righteousness as Mediator for             acceptance, having an actual regard to Him as our Way to the Father, and our         Advocate with the Father, then we are met together in His name.


            3. They are hereby encouraged with an assurance of the presence of Christ There    am I in the midst of them. By His common presence He is in all places, as God but            this is a promise of His special presence. Where His saints are, His sanctuary is,   and there He will dwell it is His rest (Psalm 132:14), it is His walk (Revelation 2:1)    He        is in the midst of them, to quicken and strengthen them, to refresh and comfort   them, as the sun in the midst of the universe. He is in the midst of them, that is, in           their hearts it is a spiritual presence, the presence of Christ's Spirit with their spirits that is here intended. There am I, not only I will be there, but I am there as if He    came first, is ready before them, they shall find Him there He repeated this promise        at parting (Matthew 28:20), Lo, I am with you always. Note, The presence of Christ in the assemblies of Christians is promised, and may in faith be prayed for and             depended on There am I. This is equivalent to the Shechinah, or special presence   of God in the tabernacle and temple of old, Exodus 40:34, 2 Chronicles 5:14.


            Though but two or three are met together, Christ is among them this is an   encouragement to the meeting of a few, when it is either, 


            First, of choice. Besides the secret worship performed by particular persons, and    the       public services of the whole congregation, there may be occasion sometimes        for        two or three to come together, either for mutual assistance in conference or joint        assistance in prayer, not in contempt of public worship, but in concurrence with it             there Christ will be present. Or, 


            Secondly, By constraint when there are not more than two or three to come             together, or, if there be, they dare not, for fear of the Jews, yet Christ will be in the            midst of them, for it is not the multitude, but the faith and sincere devotion, of the           worshippers, that invites the presence of Christ and though there be but two or       three, the smallest number that can be, yet, it Christ make one among them, who is         the principal one, their meeting is as honorable and comfortable as if they were two           or three thousand.


Verse 15: Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Ver. 15: If thy brother shall trespass. As trespass he will, "for it must needs be that offences come, "Matthew 18:7, such is human frailty. Two flints may as soon smite together, and not fire come out, as two or more men converse together and not trespasses in one kind or other fall out. A heathen could say, Non amo quenquam nisl offendam: for so, I shall know whether he love me or no, by his forbearing of me. And Augustine saith, Qui desinit sustinere, desinit amare, He that ceaseth to bear with me, ceaseth to love me. Here therefore our Savior, after He had deterred His from doing wrong, instructeth them how to suffer wrong. If it be not considerable, it must be dissembled. As if it be,

Go and tell him υπαγε: Get thee gone to him presently, lest else the sore rankle, and thou hate him in thy heart, Leviticus 19:17 : say not, he should come to me…. but get thee to him with speed. Lech lecha, as God said to Abraham, up and be packing; stand not to strain courtesy with him when both have haste; but seek peace and ensue it; it is best to be first in a good matter. Remember, said Aristippus to Aeschines (with whom he was fallen out), that though I were the elder man, yet I first sought to thee. Verily, said Aeschines, thou art not only an elder, but a better man than I for I was first in the quarrel; but thou art first in seeking reconciliation. Nae tu profecto vir me longe melior es... Plutarch.

Tell him his fault: God’s little ones are so to be loved, as not to be let alone in their trespasses; but freely and friendly admonished, that they may see their sin and amend their way, as Denkius did when admonished by Oecolampadius. He being a learned man held this heresy, that no man or devil should be damned eternally, but all saved at last... But being also a humble man, he repented; being converted by Oecolampadius, in whose presence he died at Basil of the plague, but piously, A.D. 1528.

Thou hast gained thy brother: To God and thyself, and if to God, to thyself surely forever, as Philemon (how much more Onesimus!) to Paul, to whom they therefore owed themselves also. Sir Anthony Kingston thus spake to Mr Hooper a little before his martyrdom: I thank God that ever I knew you, for God did appoint you to call me, being a lost child. For by your good admonitions and wholesome reproofs, whereas I was before both an adulterer and fornicator, God hath brought me to forsake and detest the same.

Verse 16: But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

Ver. 16: Then take with thee one or two more: Such as are faithful, and able both to keep counsel and to give counsel; that so, if we cannot lead him by the hand to Christ, we may bear him in his bed, as they did the palsy man, and so bring him to Christ by the help of friends.

That in the mouth of two or three: To blame then are they that proceed upon every idle supposition, suspicion, report, or rumour. Three manners of persons (said Father Latimer) can make no credible information. 1. Adversaries, for evil will doth never speak well. 2. Ignorant men and those without judgment. 3. Whisperers and blowers in men’s ears, which will spew out in hugger mugger more than they dare avow openly. To all such we must turn the deaf ear: the talebearer and tale-hearer are both of them abominable and shut out of heaven, Psalms 15:3.

Verse 17: And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.

Ver.17. Tell it unto the church: That is, unto the church governors, the church representatives, as some think. Not the pope, whom Papists make the church virtual, and who, like a wasp, is no sooner angry but out comes a sting; which being out, is like a fool’s dagger, rattling and snapping without an edge. Hence in the year 833, when Pope Gregory IV offered to excommunicate Ludovicus Pius, the emperor, with his followers, the bishops that stood for the emperor affirmed, that they would by no means yield to the pope’s pleasure therein, sed si exeommunicaturus veniret, excommunicatus abiret cum aliter se habeat antiquorum canonum authoritas.  And in the year 1260, Leonard, an English doctor, answered the pope’s envoy, who pleaded that all churches were the pope’s; that they were his indeed (so it went then for current, but) tuitione non fruitione, defensione non dissipatione. If he should cast out Jonah and keep Ham in the ark, they would decline and disclaim his censures. Jac. Revius. Hist. Pontiff

Let him be unto thee as an heathen and a publican: Neither meddle nor make with him; have thou neither sacred nor civil society with him. The Jews hated the presence, the fire, the fashion, and the books of a heathen: as now a Papist may not join with a Protestant in any holy action, no, not in saying over the Lord’s prayer, or saying grace at table. Howbeit of old a Jew might eat at the same table with a heathen, Leviticus 25:44, and come to the same temple with publicans, so they were proselytes, Luke 18:9-14 But they might do neither of these to an obstinate excommunicate, no more may we. Rebellion is as witchcraft, and obstinacy as bad as idolatry, 1 Samuel 15:23.

Verse 18: 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.

Ver. 18. Whatsoever ye shall bind: Let no man despise your censure, for I will ratify it. Whatever you bind, forbid, prohibit... As whatever ye loose, that is, command, permit, shall be seconded and settled by Me in heaven, so that your word shall surely stand. Further, to bind, saith Cameron, is to pronounce a thing profane; to loose is to pronounce it lawful; as when the Jews say that David and Ezekiel bound nothing that was not bound in the law.

Verse 19: Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.

Ver. 19. If two of you shall agree: How much more than a whole church full of you! Great is the power of joint prayer, Acts 12:12Daniel 2:18. Those in the Revelation whose prayers went up as a pillar of incense, and came before the Lord as the sound of many waters; the thundering legion, the Christians in Tertullian’s time, that came, an army of them, not more to beseech than to besiege God by their prayers. This made Henry III, King of France, forbids the Protestant householders in his dominions to pray with their families. And a great queen said that she feared more the prayers of John Knox and his accomplices than an army of 30,000 men. The house shook where the disciples were praying, Acts 4:31.

The devil was forced to throw in the obligation to Luther and some others that were praying for a young man that had yielded himself body and soul to the devil for money, and had written the bond with his own blood. The Popish soldiers that went against the Angrognians in France, said that the ministers of that town with their prayers conjured and bewitched them, that they could not fight. While Moses, Aaron, and Hur lift up their hands and minds together in the mount, Joshua beats Amalek in the valley. He prevailed precando, more than he did proeliando. Now for the fruit of prayer, said those brave spirits at Edgehill battle, where there was never less seen of man and more of God, as the noble general thankfully acknowledged.

Verse 20: For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.

Ver. 20. There am I in the midst: As to eye their behavior, so to hear their suits. All that He requireth is, that they bring lawful petitions and honest hearts; and then they shall be sure to receive whatsoever heart can wish or need require. A courtier that is a favorite, gets more of his prince by one suit many times than a tradesman or husbandman haply doth with 20 years’ labor: so doth a praying Christian get much goods at God’s hands, as having the royalty of His ear and the command of whatsoever God can do for him. Isaiah 45:11; "Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me." Hence that transcendent rapture of Luther in a certain prayer of his: Fiat voluntas mea, Domine. Lord, do my pleasure. And hence that request of St Bernard to a certain friend of his to whom he had given divers directions for strictness and purity, Et cum talis fueris, saith he, memento mei: when thou art become such a one, think on me in thy prayers.

Matthew 18:15-20: Is Matthew 18:15-20 currently the most abused text in Scripture?

D. A. Carson makes at least two points that are of considerable importance in the current context; that much of the time this passage is invoked in situations where it is clearly not applicable, and that it is sometimes deployed as a way of avoiding having to take a stand against that which is wrong.  Regarding the second point, this paragraph by Carson stands out:

There is a flavor of play-acting righteousness, of disproportionate indignation, behind the current round of "Gotcha!" games. If Person B charges Person A, who has written a book arguing for a revisionist understanding of the Bible, with serious error and possibly with heresy, it is no part of wisdom to "Tut-tut" the narrow-mindedness of Person B and smile condescendingly and dismissively over such judgmentalism. That may play well among those who think the greatest virtue in the world is tolerance, but surely it cannot be the honorable path for a Christian. Genuine heresy is a damnable thing, a horrible thing. It dishonors God and leads people astray. It misrepresents the gospel and entices people to believe untrue things and to act in reprehensible ways. Of course, Person B may be entirely mistaken. Perhaps the charge Person B is making is entirely misguided, even perverse. In that case, one should demonstrate the fact, not hide behind a procedural matter. And where Person B is advancing serious biblical argumentation, it should be evaluated, not dismissed with a procedural sleight-of-hand and a wrong-headed appeal to Matthew 18.

In recent years a noticed upsurge of appeals has been made to Matthew 18.  This likely has something to do with the way the Internet has changed the dynamic of public conflict in the church.  With controversies unfolding in real time over the course of hours and days as opposed to months and years, it is much more difficult for those in power to manage such episodes, and Matthew 18 is attractive in that it seems to provide such people with leverage by which to stifle dissent. Michel Foucault, the late French critical social theorist who taught us to analyze the power relationships behind discourse, would have a field day with such uses of Matthew 18. And perhaps, Foucault was wrong in reducing discourse to expressions of power, but he was right in calling our attention to the influence of power relationships.


Often the assumption seems to be that any complaint against an individual or institution must be preceded by a "Matthew 18 process."  But on the face of it, Matthew 18:15-20 deals with matters of private offense that can, in principle, be settled by the process of reconciliation outlined.  It manifestly does not deal with matters of public false teaching.  As Carson rightly notes, that sort of thing is dealt with by other passages such as Titus 1:9.  It also does not provide a one-size-fits-all template for church discipline.  And, at the risk of sounding Foucaultian, we should note that Matthew 18:15-20 does not address the question of what is  required in cases involving significant power disparity, e.g., the administrator at a Christian organization who abuses subordinates or the pastor who sexually abuses young people. 


This is also a text that has an uncanny capacity to double back and bite those who misuse it.  Witness this instance: the leadership of a local church undertook to censure an individual who was not a member of that congregation and without even speaking with that individual first.  The reason cited for this censure was the fact that the individual had not followed a "Matthew 18 process" before publicly criticizing what he took to be heresy emanating from the pulpit of that church. The irony of all this was apparently lost on the leadership in question.  It seems that those who publicly carp about the failure of others to follow Matthew 18:15-20 sometimes do not follow it themselves. They are making a charge, and by the logic of their own position they should go to the alleged offender first.  Moreover, those who cite Matthew 18:15-20 as an excuse for not confronting public false teaching then have an obligation privately to confront the error they recognize.


Why these wrongheaded appeals do to Matthew 18:15-20 gain so much traction in Evangelical circles? It probably has something to do with a naïve Biblicism that values simplistic proof-texting over the careful exegesis and application of Scripture.  It probably has something to do, as Carson suggests, with an exaltation of tolerance as the "greatest virtue."  But most of all, it likely has to do with a simple failure to take biblical truth seriously.


Opening prayer


Almighty and ever-living God, your Spirit made us your children, confident to call You Father. Increase Your Spirit within us and bring us to our promised inheritance. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, You’re Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.




In the Gospel we read and meditate on the second half of the Discourse of the Community. The Gospel speaks about fraternal correction (Mt 18, 15-18) and of prayer in common (Mt 18, 19-20); followed by The Gospel about pardon (Mt 18, 21-22) and presents the parable of pardon without limitations (Mt 18, 23-35). The key word in this second part is “to forgive”. The accent is on reconciliation. In order that there may be reconciliation which will allow the little ones to return, it is important to know how to dialogue and to forgive, because the foundation of fraternity is the gratuitous love of God. It is only in this way that the community will be a sign of the Kingdom. It is not easy to forgive. There is a certain grief which continues to strike the heart as with a hammer. There are persons who say: “I forgive, but I do not forget!” There is: resentment, tensions, clashes, diverse opinions, and offences, provocations which render pardon and reconciliation difficult.

The organization of the words of Jesus in the five Great Discourses of the Gospel of Matthew indicates that at the end of the first century, the communities had very concrete forms of catechesis. The Discourse of the Community (Mt 18, 1-35), for example gives updated instructions of how to proceed in case of any conflict among the members of the community and how to find criteria to solve the conflicts. Matthew gathers together those phrases of Jesus which can help the communities of the end of the first century to overcome the two more acute problems which they had to face at that moment, that is, the exodus of the little ones because of the scandal given by some and the need to dialogue in order to overcome the rigor of others in accepting the little ones, the poor, in the community.


Matthew 18, 15-18: Fraternal correction and the power to forgive.


These verses give simple norms of how to proceed in case of conflicts in the community. If a brother or a sister should sin, if they had behavior not in accordance to the life of the community, they should not be denounced immediately.


First, it is necessary to try to speak with them alone. Then it is necessary to try to know the reasons of the other. If no results are obtained, then it is necessary to take two or three persons of the community to see if it is possible to obtain some result. Only in extreme cases, it is necessary to expose the problem to the whole community. And if the person refuses to listen to the community, then they should be considered by you as “a sinner or a pagan”, that is, as someone who is not part of the community. Therefore, it is not you who excludes, but it is the person himself/herself who excludes himself/herself. The community gathered together only verifies or ratifies the exclusion. The grace to be able to forgive and to reconcile in the name of God was given to Peter (Mt 16, 19), to the Apostles ( Jn 20, 23) and, here in the Discourse of the Community, to the community itself (Mt 18, 18). This reveals the importance of the decisions which the community assumes in regard to its members.

Matthew 18, 19: Prayer in common. The exclusion does not mean that the person is abandoned to his/her own fate. No! The person may be separated from the community, but will never be separated from God. In the case in which the conversation in the community does not produce any result, and the person does not want to be integrated in the life of the community, there still remains the last possibility to remain together with the Father to obtain reconciliation, and Jesus guarantees that the Father will listen: “If two of you agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by My Father in Heaven; for where two or three meet in My name, I am there among them”.


Matthew 18, 20: The presence of Jesus in the community. The reason of the certainty of being heard by the Father is the promise of Jesus: “Because where there are two or three who meet in My name, I am there among them!” Jesus is the centre, the axis, of the community, and, as such, together with the Community, it will always be praying with us to the Father, in order that He may grant the gift of the return of the brother or the sister who have excluded themselves.


Personal questions:


• Why is it so difficult to forgive? In our community, is there some space for reconciliation? In which way?


• Jesus says: "For wherever there are two or three who meet in My name, I am also there among them”. What does this mean for us today?


Concluding Prayer


Praise, servants of Yahweh, praise the name of Yahweh. Blessed be the name of Yahweh,
henceforth and forever. (Ps 113,1-2)


A Careful Read (Matt. 18:15-20)


This is a narrative about a woman of integrity, deep faith and sincere commitment to the church, She had been hired to be a pastoral assistant, and in that role she had contributed substantial time and amazing gifts to the congregation.


As she worked with the congregation, her roots in the faith grew, as well as her knowledge and experience. Her voice gained clarity and authority. So when she noticed a problem, in this case the pastor’s misuse of power, she confronted the situation and challenged him. The senior pastor tried to silence her and ignore her. Reluctantly, she asked the executive council to hear her concern, but council members refused. The pastor had told them that the discussion must remain between the two of them. He quoted Matthew 18 in support of this decision: "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point Out the fault when the two of you are alone." By complying with the pastor and his use of a biblical directive, the council members allowed him to protect himself and them from the truth.


Matthew 18:15-20 is one of many scripture texts that have been used to harm others. These six verses are not meant to be a declaration of power, nor do these verses mean that if two or three people agree on something, then they can ignore others and do whatever they want. These six verses are about listening and accountability and about a larger vision of God’s kingdom.


If one looks at these verses in the context of chapter 18, one notices the hyperbole Jesus uses in a series of brief teachings. Some of these teachings we choose to take literally, and some we don’t. For example, we don’t drown others for being "stumbling blocks." And we don’t encourage people to pluck out their eyes or cut off body parts because they’ve sinned. And most shepherds would not abandon 99 sheep to go looking for one sheep.


Jesus’ exaggerated response to Peter’s question about forgiveness in verse 21 shows that He knows we want forgiveness to be a quick and simple answer although it’s not.


What is the kernel of truth that is embedded in each of these teachings, especially in verses 15-20? What is Jesus trying to teach the disciples by using such exaggeration? Chapter 18 begins with the disciples coming to Jesus with the question, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Jesus being wide-eyed at what He was hearing. Were they seriously asking this of Jesus, whose ministry had always focused on the least?


Yet He doesn’t dismiss their self-centered and self-righteous question. He takes them seriously, listens carefully and then responds, not with a direct or literal answer, but with several teachings and with exaggeration. Jesus pushes the disciples to think, to listen and to be accountable to others for the power they hold. The exaggeration allows the disciples the opportunity to learn without being embarrassed and to listen without becoming defensive. Jesus points them back to the "children," the "little ones," "the one that went astray," "the one not listened to" and "the fellow slave." The Kingdom of God is not concerned with "who’s the greatest," Jesus teaches; the Kingdom of God is about using power to care for the least and most vulnerable.


Matthew 18:15-20 can be used to set up a vulnerable person to be even more vulnerable, as in the opening story. By the power of his role and by his misuse of scripture, the pastor disempowered the woman, denied her the process of being heard, protected himself and silenced the truth. Hiding behind their reading of this text, the pastor and the executive council avoided listening, stopped conversation and the possibility of healing, and joined their voices with the disciples in asking, "Who’s the greatest?" Is that what Jesus is pointing us to in this text? Or is that what we point to when we think we’re the greatest?


We must listen to and read texts like these carefully and honor the questions and tensions they raise for us. If we listen with "new ears" we always will hear something different from what we expect. That’s why Jesus uses hyperbole: to help the disciples hear the gospel of God’s love indifferent ways, through different experiences, with different language and images. If the Bible is a closed word and merely an answer book, then we’re in trouble. We’ll continue to use scripture to attack others and thus perpetuate violence against one another and justify such harm in God’s name. In this, we will limit God. That’s not an exaggeration.


Jesus could have used His power to tell the disciples exactly what He thought of their question, but He chose to listen, to open up conversation and to teach. The Bible invites us to enter into an ongoing conversation of Christians who struggle with what it means to live faithfully in relationship and to look beyond ourselves


Jesus’ exaggeration in this text goes beyond what the disciples can comprehend and what we can comprehend: it goes beyond the tokenism of inclusiveness to a radical inclusivity where we take the other seriously, listen to the other, and dare trust that he or she belongs in God’s love as much as we do.


Gospel According to Saint Matthew


Christ teaches humility, to beware of scandal, and to flee the occasions of sin: To denounce to the church incorrigible sinners, and to look upon such as refuse to hear the church as heathens. He promises to His disciples the power of binding and loosing: and that He will be in the midst of their assemblies. No forgiveness for them that will not forgive.


Matthew 18:15-20: Insiders and Outsiders


Matthew 18:15-20 is an insider's text for outsiders. From Matthew's perspective, Jesus is both warning and assuring those inside the young Christian church. It is a church, however, whose members stand outside the main streams of both religious and civil practice.


For Christians today reading it as insiders, the text may evoke nods of approval at some memorable statements by Jesus. Start poking around a bit, though, and a host of questions arises.


Who exactly is "your brother"? Who decides what constitutes sinning? Isn't it rather racist to use the designation of "gentile" in such a derogatory manner? Why does Jesus pick on tax collectors? Where is the unconditional love of Jesus if people are being excluded and shunned? What precisely does it mean for Jesus to be among those gathered in His name? Good questions.


So, nearly 2,000 years later, whether Christian or not, we approach this text as outsiders. How do we make sense of it? Some background will help. One good possibility for the setting of this Gospel was Antioch of Syria, now located in Turkey near the modern border of Syria. There was a significant Jewish community there in the latter half of the first century, but they likely endured regular hostilities experienced along with other Jews throughout the Roman Empire.


After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E., Jews struggled to define themselves. This task was complicated by the growing presence of a Jewish group who were called "Christians." They were followers of Jesus, a Galilean Jew who had been crucified by Rome decades earlier but was now hailed by them as the risen Messiah fulfilling Israel's long-awaited hopes.


This group of Christians faced even greater struggles with their own identity. They claimed their Jewish heritage, but they were finding it difficult to practice their convictions in the Jewish synagogues. From a gentile and Roman perspective, however, they were regarded with suspicion as promoters of some kind of new and potentially dangerous superstition. These outsiders to society had started meeting in their own assemblies (to become known as "churches") in tension with both Jewish synagogues and pagan temples.


For such a group to survive, strong boundaries would be needed. Members understood themselves to have become aligned with a new family. They were brothers and sisters, defined not by race or nationality but by allegiance to Jesus. This reality is reflected in Matthew's Gospel. He also is aware, however, that some members must have been tempted to return to the familiarity of their former ways or sought to compromise their practices so that they could fit in better with the rest of the culture. For Matthew, this was sinning, and such persons were wolves in sheep's clothing (7:15), hearers but not doers (7:24-27), bad fish among the good (13:47-50), weeds among the wheat (13:24-30), hypocrites (24:51) and worthless slaves (25:30).


For Matthew, these persons were no better than gentiles who had been born outside of God's promises to Israel and tax collectors who by choice had aligned themselves with the Roman oppressors. For Matthew, the ways were clear: either you were a committed insider among this group of outsider followers of Jesus, or you could go to "the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."


That sounds awfully brutal, but Matthew is certainly not the only one ready to expel the sinners. It's not simply a matter of religious zeal. Today, you are potentially risking your life just by cheering for the wrong sports team. Internet anonymity has made it possible to spew the worst kinds of vile against anyone with whom you disagree, but even supposedly civil town hall meetings have become contentious free-for-alls. On a larger scale, history is littered with the remains of clashes between insiders and outsiders, natives and (illegal) aliens. Clever leaders have always known how to manipulate support by defining "good us" over against "evil them." In politics, compromise has become a sign of weakness, and cooperation is a liability for which you may be targeted. (How's that budget thingy working out?) It seems that it is no longer sufficient to be in basic agreement on principles. Now people are being measured by the passion of their allegiance and the purity of their convictions.


WATCH President Obama and the Politics of Religion:


It's a particularly difficult matter for politicians in the United States who must be religious enough and firm enough in their political positions to still get enough votes to be elected. Regardless, there are going to be "questions," some fair and some unfair. Is President Obama Christian or Muslim? Is Michelle Bachmann anti-Roman Catholic? Are the Mormon GOP presidential candidates Christian at all?


So, does this text inevitably create division and antagonism? Insiders and outsiders? Is Matthew's portrayal of Jesus simply helpful or inspiring because we ________ (fill in the blank with your preferred flavor of Christianity) like to think it has located us on God's side, on the right side?


Look at the Matthew 18:15-20 text again. There is indeed a sense that you will know a sin when you see it, but verses 15 and 16 start by laying out a path to reconciliation not condemnation. There is even the good strategy of starting the process privately and in person, and then, if needed, bringing in others to assure integrity to that process. The real problem in this text is verse 17: "If the [sinning] member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a gentile and a tax collector" (NRSV). I've indicated above why these epithets are perceived so negatively, but here is where it also gets interesting. Matthew, who is so concerned about the purity and faithfulness of Christian life within the believing community, is no less concerned about Christian mission outside the community. In Jesus' day, it was a mission that featured the inclusion of tax collectors, including one named Matthew (9:10-13). In Matthew's day, it was a mission that specifically extended to gentiles and all nations, most famously expressed in Jesus' closing farewell, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations." (28:19)


The translation of verse 17 quoted above is accurate, but Eugene H. Peterson in "The Message" has expressed a deeper truth in the text. "If [the sinning fellow believer] still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love". Peterson's rendering doesn't deny the reality of sin or minimize the differences we actually have. Peterson does remind Christians, however, that our core principle is unity based on God's love, not exclusion based on someone else's sin.


In that light, take the last verse of today's text as a word of hope when Jesus says, "Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20 NRSV). When I am inside the church, I believe Jesus is present among us. When I am outside the church, perhaps with a group of two or three or more, I hope, for the sake of our own well-being and that of the church and country and world, that we can begin with at least a sense of commonality based on love. It might be the first step for us all to move into a more peaceable and just world.











It will help you to know if what he is being accuse for was done knowingly, before passing judgment on him.


If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. But if he doesn't listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established

this would give a brother a chance  to repent or make a positive change. it is  also a sign of concern and love for the brother


Because you aren't advertising their problems or issues. It is OUR duty as Christians if we see our brothers or sisters stumble(or sin) We have a sense of Obligation to help them.(Galatians6:2)As Brothers in CHRIST. The gentle love of CHRIST can lead them from sin. If they don't repent, “It is our duty to take another Believer to get them to repent as 'Their blood' will be on our hands should they die in sin."


It is best to confront a person one on one because he/she can explain the situation without being intimidated by a group. We may interpret something different than it actually was.


It is helpful to confront a brother alone first, before involving others in confronting him because it’s the business between us. If we could settle the matter without bothering others is the blessing from above.


It is better to do it alone then with a group of people to show how sincere you are in heart and that you do not want any trouble.


In my opinion, I think it is helpful to confront a brother alone first because, he is your brother and you will be able to talk to him honestly with an open heart and with love and respect showing him or her how much they've hurt you. They will listen to you, sometimes they may not say anything at that moment, but with time, they will know that they are really wrong and needs to say sorry or at least, let you know why they did what they did.

If after a while they did not say anything. talk to them again alone and if no show of remorse or sorry from them, than you can involve others to confront them in your presence, so no misunderstanding of talks.


By confronting the brother alone first one avoids embarrassing the brother, shows a brotherly concern to resolve the problem. By confronting the brother alone he may feel the matter is resolved between you and him so it is not publicized to other people.


If I have something to settle with a fellow brother, I will first talk to him alone to see if we can settle the difference between us.  This saves him the embarrassment of involving other people and makes it easier for the two of us to talk things out.  If someone has a problem with me, I would appreciate it if he would come to me by himself and not bring other people with him.  For me, it is easier  to talk one on one, rather than involving other people, who usually have no interest in the matter anyway.  Also, forgiveness is sometimes the best way to settle a difference if the matter cannot otherwise be settled.


When you confront a brother, you are trying to prove that he is wrong.

When you have witness' you are trying to prove that you are correct.

Everybody has beliefs in a number of things but to change a belief that a brother has sinned against you, often may need time and pray before confrontation.  


To show him love. To show him that Jesus helps everyone. You have to have faith. Talk to him first before you get help from anyone else. God will help you through anything.


It is helpful because one is at will to tell his fault as may be afraid if more than two are present . When we tell one another sins and agree, we are able to gain back our Brother into the Kingdom of God. This is helpful as every word may be established , and whatever agreed on earth is bound in Heaven and whatever released will be released in Heaven. When our Brother did not listen, we can take the step to tell others or the Church . All these are done because of the love of God upon mankind. Amen.


When you involve others it can only lead to feelings of contention. You are talking about someone to someone else. So basically you are talking behind someones back. You are not showing that you are trying to win your brother over out of love. You are showing that you are trying to get other people on your side so that you have back up when you do confront the other person. I think that we do this out of fear of rejection. Or fear of hurting anothers feelings. However, not going directly to the source of the problem only adds fuel to the fire. 7 out of 10 times the person with whom you are angry probably doesn't even know it.


Confronting him first means that you have compassion on him.  When you speak the truth in love and appeal to his spiritual nature as a brother/sister, he usually is able to talk, confess and repent.

If he shows no remorse and does not listen or repent, ask 2 or 3 people to come with you. They serve  as witnesses to every word spoken.


It is better to confront a person alone to settle the matter between the two of you first and it be kept private. before involving others and the matter be made public and humiliate and disgrace the other person Because Jesus teaches us to forgive others and be forgiver. Those who hear the words of God and puts it into practice does not need an outsider to solve family problems. The bible teaches about love and forgiveness. Therefore it is better to confront a brother alone rather than involving others and letting our family problems exposed to someone outside our family.


Because you may not need to involve others and it can be kept between the two of you, and God.


Confrontation is not to be done as a reaction to being injured out of selfish anger, but as a proactive act of service to the one being confronted. We are not to elevate ourselves above others, bur follow Christ’s example and consider one another more important than ourselves


Confronting ones brother over differences is the best because it helps to restore what makes a brother in the true since come true This makes it easier to restore love, confidence, caring and the needed understanding to resolve any misunderstanding if any.


It is helpful to confront a brother alone first, so that he knows his mistake and admits it and feels sorry for what he has done and asks for forgiveness before involving others. In this

way nobody will know about the family problem and everything will be settled with love and understanding.

By: Gregorio Magdaleno
Category: A Brother Who Sins Against You
Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
In what ways are those who do not know Jesus like lost sheep?

 Matthew 18: 10-14

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

See that you don't despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost. 

"What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn't he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray? If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Even so it is not the will of Your Father Who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. 


In what ways are those who do not know Jesus like lost sheep?


Verse 11: For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

Ver. 11. For the Son of man came….: Therefore angels are so active and officious about them. This the reprobate angels could not bring their hearts to yield to, and therefore fell through envy from their first estate: and whereas the society of angels was much maimed by their fall, their room, say some, is supplied by the saints, whom therefore they take such care of and content in.

Verse 12: How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

Ver. 12. Doth he not leave the ninety and nine: Angels are exceeding many, and that number cannot be known of us in this world, Daniel 7:10Psalms 68:17; "The chariots of God are 20,000, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai," that is, those myriads of angels made Sion as dreadful to all her enemies as those angels made Sinai at the delivery of the law. But the application of this parable makes it plain, that the hundred sheep are God’s elect little ones; all which are set safe by Christ upon the everlasting mountains, and not one of them lost, John 10:27-29Matthew 24:31Matthew 24:36-41

Verse 13: And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

Ver. 13. And if so be that He find it: As He will most surely, for none can take them out of His hands; nor can He discharge His trust, should He suffer any one of them to wander and perish, as they will do undoubtedly, if left to themselves, such is their sheepish simplicity, Isaiah 53:6. God hath charged Christ to see to the safekeeping of every true sheep, John 6:39-40, and He performed it to the full, John 17:12. As for that son of perdition there excepted, he was never of Christ’s body, yet is excepted, because he seemed to be, by reason of His office.

Verse 14: Even so it is not the will of Your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Ver. 14. It is not the will of your Father: Happy for us, that we are kept by the power of God to salvation, 1 Peter 1:5, for else it were possible for us to fall away and perish: an intercession there might be, nay, an utter excision from Christ, were not His left hand under us, and His right hand over us, Song of Solomon 2:6, and both His hands about us, to clasp and hold us fast to Himself. But His right hand is our Jachin, and His left hand our Boaz, 1 Kings 7:21. Both which pillars in the porch of Solomon’s temple did show, not only by the matter whereof they were made, but also by the names whereby they were called, what steadfastness the elect stand in before God, both for present and future. For present they have strength in themselves; for future, God will so establish them with His grace that they shall never wholly depart from Him. As for reprobates, God saith of them, that that will die, let it die; they shall die in their sins, as the Lord threateneth the Jews; which is a thousand times worse than to die in a ditch or in a dungeon.

The Lord’s Care for His Own

It is not the will of My Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (v. 14).   Matthew 18:10–14


After a brief interlude in which Jesus warns us to separate ourselves from those things that tempt us, our Savior returns in today’s passage to a discussion of how the children of the kingdom must treat one another. Matthew 18:10 records His warning that we not “despise one of these little ones.” Given that chapter 18 has thus far emphasized our need for humility (vv. 1–9), Christ is telling us that we must not become puffed up with self-pride and look down on other Christians. Despising another believer means to treat him with disrespect, refusing to receive him as our equal in God’s eyes (see v. 5).


We are to learn from verses 10–14 that to treat any fellow believer with contempt is extremely serious since God and the holy angels are so concerned for their well-being. First of all, the angels in heaven dwell continually before our Creator, beholding His face (Matt. 18:10), which probably means in this context that they are attentive to the Father’s will and always ready to obey His commands. Should He release them, these angels will move at His order to minister to His children (Heb. 1:14). Fear of reprisal from these creatures should be enough to make any of us treat our fellow Christians well.


Secondly, and far more significant, God’s “care extends itself to every particular member of the flock, even the lowest”. He shepherds His people, working to keep errant believers from finally perishing (Matt. 18:12–14). Since we are called to imitate God (Eph. 5:1), we all must minister to one another. Of course, the elders of the church are the primary shepherds of the Lord’s flock (1 Peter 5:1–5). Nevertheless, we must still bear the burdens of one another (Gal. 6:2) and love wandering brothers and sisters back into the fold. Oftentimes, we will not reach out to others who are stuck in sin or who have harmed us because we think they are beyond redemption. Such an attitude betrays an arrogance that believes we who live holy lives are more deserving of God’s love than others. Such an attitude is not the mark of our Father’s humble children, who alone will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 18:1–4).


God is not willing that any of His own should perish (Matt. 18:14), and so He shepherds us, using His staff to discipline us if that is what is necessary to keep us in the fold. One way in which the Lord exercises this shepherding is through the love of Christians one for another. We must all grieve when we see brothers or sisters stumble and do all that we can to rescue them. Especially if you are a church leader, do not abandon your sheep.


The Father's love for His children. 18:10-14.


A. The Context.


As observed, all the sections of this chapter are interrelated. Thus vv. 10-14, like vv. 2-9, speak of "these little ones" (this very expression occurs in vv. 6, 10, 14), i.e., of the "little children." As in vv. 2-9 God the Son expressed His loving concern for the little people in His church, so here He speaks of the active and protective love of God the Father (vv. 10, 14). Furthermore, as we shall see, vv. 10-14 prepare well for the passage about the erring brother (vv. 15-20).


B. The Angels. 18:10.


The angeloi are described not as protectors of the children, but as intercessors for the children before the throne of God. The angels possess no independent authority; and the only delegated authority of which this verse speaks, is not for mediating power but for invoking it. Jesus represents the Father and Him alone, as the source of protection for members of the church.


"The idiom 'see the face of' [blepousi to pros©pon] here connotes access to a sovereign.... The addition 'always' indicates unrestricted access". The link between v. 10b and v. 10a (note the connecting gar, "for") indicates that the angels' task is to invoke the Father's protecting care upon those very members who are under attack from others in the church. This link may also suggest that the angels invoke judgment upon those guilty of offending the "little ones."


The above does not exclude the idea of angels as protectors. It is true that Mt never speaks expressly of "guardian angels" for believers. Yet the fact that Jesus speaks of "their angels," suggests the inclusion of this function (cf. 4:11; 26:53). The fact remains that angels best protect those under their care by invoking the aid of the sovereign God.


C. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. 18:12-14.


1. The context. With the NIV, we omit v. 11, "The Son of Man came to save what was lost" (cf. Lk 19:10). The reason for the later insertion of the verse was apparently to link v. 10 to vv. 12-14 (Metzger, TC, 45). Yet even without v. 11, there is a noteworthy connection between v. 10 and vv. 12-14. The parable illustrates God's gracious initiative, in response to the angels' appeals. Not limited to working through angelic mediators, the Father Himself goes forth to act; such is His care for His children. The interpolation of v. 11 reflects the fact, affirmed in Lk 19:10, that the Father acts by the agency of His Son.


2. The parable itself; cf. Lk 15:3-7. The animal wanders away from the sheepfold and the shepherd. Once it becomes known that this sheep is missing, the shepherd leaves the other 99 (having left them in safe keeping, it is implied) and goes "to look for the one that wandered off." But then we observe a difference between the two versions of the parable:


Whereas in Lk the shepherd searches until he finds the sheep, in Mt it is left uncertain whether the sheep is found. Cf. Lk 15:5 ("And when he finds it...") to Mt 18:13 ("And if he finds it...").


3. The meaning of the parable. We now observe a further difference between the two parables (which explains the differences already noted). The lost sheep in Lk represents a sinner who stands outside the community of faith, and who is now, by the Father's initiative, being drawn, for the first time, into that community. But in Mt the lost sheep represents a member of the church who has drifted into sin. The verb plana©, "wander," not used at all in the Lukan parable, is found three times in Mt 18:12-13.


To this wandering sheep the Father is now reaching out in order to restore him to the community of believers. Luke speaks of lost persons who have never been saved, Matthew of (at least ostensibly) saved persons who are in danger of being lost again. That the parable in Mt leaves it uncertain whether the sheep is found, underscores the extreme gravity of the situation, and the real possibility of apostasy. (Is not the condition of the wandering disciple even more perilous than that of the unbeliever, precisely because the former has partaken of the blessings of the New Age and participated in the life of its people? Cf. Heb 6:4-6; 2 Pet 2:21.)


Jesus concludes: "In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost" (v. 14). In other words, the Father wills that those who wander (or are driven) from the church, not be abandoned, but that every effort be made to restore them in love. In the following section Jesus commands His disciples to follow His Father's example; by doing so they shall fulfill His Father's will.


The Lost Sheep | Matthew 18:10-14   The default of God’s heart is always towards mercy and His ear is always trained to hear the poor, the downtrodden and the needy.  Like the good shepherd that leaves his large flock to look for one lost sheep, God cares for those of His that are lost.  This is why the Father sent His son Jesus, to seek and save the lost and to lead them to safety.  Out of His love and mercy the Father sent His Son to be the Good Shepherd for us, and to rescue us when we wander from His grace.  

And because the Father loves His sheep, He will not allow them to be mistreated forever.  Jesus reminds His hearers that His little ones are always heard in His Father’s throne room and that their angels in heaven are always given an audience.  Though God’s children will suffer for a little while on earth, their suffering should not give their antagonists any comfort.   God will rescue His people and will punish those who terrorize His children.

If we love God and are for God, we should not look down on anyone, particularly a brother or sister in Jesus.  Those who are now poor, disabled, elderly, physically or mentally frail share in the same inheritance by faith in Christ as those who are physically healthy, productive and strong.  Since Christians are to imitate their Father in heaven, they are to be merciful and kind to the weak, and they are to be His helpers as He seeks to rescue His lost sheep.

Textual Observations on Matthew 18:10-14 vs. Luke 15:3-7



Narrative Features


1) One sheep is lost or gone astray; 2) Ninety-nine sheep are not lost or gone astray; 3)   The ninety-nine are left by the shepherd to search for the one. 4) The rejoicing over the recovery of the one lost or gone astray is, or will be, greater than the rejoicing over the ninety-nine not lost or gone astray.


Rhetorical Features


1) Each parable account begins with a question; 2) Each evangelist expects the beginning question to be answered negatively; 3) Each account ends with an interpretation linking the story to divine activity.




Narrative Features


1) Matthew’s sheep are “on the mountains” while Luke’s are “in the wilderness”; 2)      Luke’s description of how the recovered lost sheep is carried is not found in Matthew; 3)    Luke’s details on calling together friends and neighbors to celebrate the recovery of the lost sheep are not found in Matthew; 4) Luke’s shepherd speaks to his friends and neighbors saying “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Matthew’s shepherd is silent.


Rhetorical Details


1) Matthew tells the parable about a hypothetical shepherd, but Luke addresses the parable directly to the scribes and Pharisees who become the shepherd in the story; 2)      Matthew describes “the one” sheep as “gone astray,” but Luke describes it as “lost”; 3)      The sheep gone astray in Matthew may not be found, while Luke says the search for the lost sheep continues until it is found; 4) The interpretation of the parable in Matthew focuses on “the will of the Father” towards the sheep gone astray. The interpretation in Luke focuses on the “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”; 5) Matthew interprets the sheep gone astray as “little ones” and does not provide an interpretation for the 99 sheep. Luke interprets the lost sheep as a sinner who repents and interprets the 99 sheep as the righteous ones who do not need repentance.


Literary Context Comparison: Context Matthew 18      Luke 14-16


Before the parable:


The chapter begins with a question from Jesus’ disciples about who will be greatest. Jesus answers by describing greatness in the kingdom in terms of “changing” and “becoming like children.” This is followed by Jesus’ dire warnings not to cause “these little ones” to stumble. Jesus then discusses consequences for stumbling. The parable is then introduced by Jesus’ command to not despise the little ones who have angels in heaven that “continually see the face of My Father.”       Chapter 14 of Luke finds Jesus having dinner with a leading group of Pharisees. During the dinner, there are several disputes and Jesus tells the parable of the great banquet. The chapter ends with Jesus addressing the large crowds about the high costs of discipleship. The parable of the lost sheep is introduced by an accusation from the scribes and Pharisees concerning Jesus’ table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners.


After the parable:


Jesus continues with teaching about how to handle believers who stumble or cause others in the church to stumble. Peter then asks a question about forgiving a fellow believer who stumbles, which prompts Jesus to teach on forgiveness. The chapter concludes with the parable of the unforgiving servant.  In chapter 15, the lost sheep parable is followed by two more parables: the lost coin and the lost son. Chapter 16 begins with the parable of the dishonest manager, which is followed by ridicule from the Pharisees. Jesus responds to the ridicule by telling the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.


Jesus’ ministry:


The last recorded location before the parable is told is Capernaum. The disciples have just witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration. After telling the parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus and the disciples left Galilee and went, with large crowds in tow, towards Judea beyond the Jordan. Jesus has begun His travel to Jerusalem. Chapter 15 is surrounded on both sides by more teaching and parables in response to various forms of opposition. The lost sheep parable is told in direct response to an accusation from the scribes and Pharisees.


Interpretation: The Parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:10-14


Literary Context


The discourse in chapter 18 begins with a question from Jesus’ disciples about who will be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. In His response, Jesus equates high status in the kingdom with childlikeness.


1. This was an extremely countercultural call for humility that far surpassed the requirements for humility in rabbinic teaching.


2. Jesus goes on to identify Himself with the children and thereby identifies Himself with all those who are humble, powerless, without status, and dependent on others.


3. After defining His kingdom as a home for the powerless, Jesus warns the disciples about becoming a stumbling block to these “little ones.”


4. In New Testament usage, being a stumbling block implied that a person had caused another to turn from following Christ.


5. The punishment Jesus describes for leading others astray is very harsh. He was adamant about protecting the little ones in His kingdom. After His telling of the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus continues with His teaching by describing how the kingdom community should handle those who have become stumbling blocks.


6. His process for accountability is always focused on restoring the one who has strayed, even when expulsion from the community is required.


7. Peter responds to Jesus with a question about forgiving a fellow believer. Jesus’ reply is meant to imply that forgiveness should be infinite. He follows up this teaching with the parable of the wicked tenants, which provides a model for forgiveness within the kingdom that is based on the abundance of God’s grace seen in the king’s write-off of a laughably enormous amount of debt.


8. In this set of teaching, Jesus casts a vision for kingdom relationships that are simultaneously responsible and gracious because they are rooted in the depths of God’s forgiveness and oriented towards the Redeemer’s work of reconciliation in the world.


Unique Features


Verses 10 and 11 are unique to Matthew and begin the parable account by linking it to the previous teaching about the protection of little ones from stumbling blocks. The term “little ones” is intentionally ambiguous and does not refer to a “special, sociologically separate group.”


9. The ambiguity allows the parable to speak to a wider audience that includes the “little ones” as well as those who despise them.


10. Verse 11 has been interpreted in many ways, but, in the least, it indicates the special place of the powerless before God.


11. In verses 12 and 13, Matthew tells of a sheep that has “gone astray.” In contrast to Luke’s gospel, this phrase refers to one who has “fundamentally flawed behavior”


12. That breaks fellowship with Christ but not in an unrecoverable way. The extended question in verse 12 emphasizes the shepherd’s behavior and invites its readers to answer for themselves.


13. Verse 14 provides Matthew’s unique interpretation of this parable, which is surprising “because it refers to the shepherd’s behavior more than his joy.”


14. The emphasis of Matthew’s interpretation falls on God’s desire for the “little ones” to be saved.


15. Conclusions


Matthew’s parable of the lost sheep “summons those who share God’s concerns for the lost sheep” to go beyond the call to “simply not… cause stumbling.”


16. The true shepherd always follows God’s example in searching for the lost sheep.


17. By doing so, the shepherd embodies God’s own “searching love” towards the little ones gone astray.


18. When the parable is seen in the context of chapter 18, it becomes a lesson in the nature and demands of humility that Jesus names as the defining characteristic of the kingdom in 18:3-4. On their journey towards humility, followers of Christ will inevitably go astray.


19. When this occurs, members of the community will seek them out if they truly desire humility. Since humility includes an acknowledgment of dependence on others, the kingdom of “little ones” will not be able to stand by and watch when one of its own, even its lowliest, goes astray. The kingdom community denies the immense worth of each individual to God and the community when they refuse to search for those gone astray. Matthew uses the parable of the lost sheep to encourage the church to embody their humility by diligently pursuing those who stumble to restore and maintain the community of “little ones.”


The Parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15:3-7


Literary Context


Luke precedes his telling of the parable of the lost sheep in chapter 15 by recounting Jesus’ experience of eating dinner at the house of a leading Pharisee in chapter 14.


20. At the dinner table, Jesus teaches them to show humility when they take their seats.


21. He identifies “the crippled, lame, and blind” as the proper recipients of their hospitality instead of those who would have the means to repay them.


22. He tells a parable about a great dinner where the invited guests make excuses and refuse to come; the poor are invited and partake of the feast instead.


23. Through this new teaching on hospitality, Jesus turned the “socially constructed reality” of the ancient Mediterranean world upside down and offered the Pharisees a “scandalous alternative.”


24. Luke completes chapter 14 with Jesus teaching the large crowds that the same sorts of things that appeared as excuses from the invited guests in the parable of the great dinner are now the very things they must surrender to follow Jesus.


25. However, as Luke will show in chapter 15, there are those who have “lost [their] taste”


26. And refuse this invitation to the great dinner. The parable of the lost sheep is followed by the parable of the lost coin and lost son in chapter 15.


27. All three parables describe an incident of loss that ends with recovery and joyous celebration which is related to the joy in heaven over the repentance of sinners.


28. The themes of feasting and hospitality to those who once were lost are continued in chapter 16 as Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest manager,


29. Which teaches the “appropriate use of wealth to overstep social boundaries between rich and poor in order to participate in a form of economic redistribution grounded in kinship.”


30. Unique Details          


Luke sets the stage for the parable of the lost sheep through the grumbling of the scribes and Pharisees over Jesus’ continued table fellowship with tax collectors and sinners in Luke 15:1-2.


31. The three parables Jesus tells are in response to this grumbling and are directed towards the scribes and Pharisees.


32. Unlike the sheep that has “gone astray” in Matthew, the one sheep in Luke has been “lost.” When applied to a person, this word refers to “an ultimate loss of salvation.”


33. Luke’s shepherd searches until the lost sheep is found, which legitimates the seemingly overzealous response of the shepherd since “in the context of losing and finding, the one is temporarily more important than the ninety-nine.”


34. The shepherd’s rejoicing at the recovery of the lost sheep reveals the level of commitment that has driven the shepherd throughout the search.


35. The subsequent invitation to friends and neighbors to share the joy of the shepherd with feasting and celebration serves first as a justification for Jesus’ actions and secondarily as an invitation to the church to do likewise.


36. Luke’s interpretation of the parable in verse 7 draw’s the reader’s attention to God’s joyous response in heaven when just a single individual is restored.


37. The emphasis of the verse is on the “necessity of celebration that follows recovery” and not on how one is restored.


38. Conclusions


The three “lost” parables in Luke 15 serve together as both a defense of Jesus’ ministry amongst the outcast and impure and as an invitation for all to join Him in the joyous celebration of the Kingdom.


39. The parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin point especially to the celebration in heaven over sinners who repent, which gives a “clear sense that Jesus is performing the acts of God.”


40. As the audience imagines themselves as the shepherds in the parable of the lost sheep, they realize that they also would rejoice upon finding the one that was lost. Luke uses the parable to encourage the church to take up the “outward-looking concern for the winning of sinners” and to “share in the joy of God in [their] restoration.”


41. Seen in the context of hospitality toward the outcasts established in chapters 14 and 16, the parables of chapter 15 reveal the necessity of celebration in the life of the kingdom community.


Matthew 18:10-14 – The Parable of the Lost Sheep




Jesus' parable of the lost sheep makes the point that the Father's will is that not one of the "little ones" be lost to the Kingdom.




Jesus' parable of the lost sheep continues the theme of greatness in the Kingdom by likening the "little ones" of concern in 18:1-9 to "lost sheep," who are the central concern of the Father in heaven. Matthew's story parallels the motif of searching for and rejoicing over the one lost sheep out of ninety-nine of Luke's version (see Luke 15:3-7), but here the parable is directed more pointedly to the theme of Matthew's context: the assertion that it is the Father's will that not one "little one" will be lost to the kingdom.


Matthew Chapter 18, Children, Forgiveness


I.     Introduction to Chapter 18: “Children, Forgiveness.”


1. Who is the greatest in the kingdom? The one with childlike humility and faith (Matthew 18:1-5).

2. Do not be a stumbling block (Matthew 18:6-14).

3. The procedure for dealing with sin by an assembly member (Matthew 18:15-20). 4. How often should we forgive someone (Matthew 18:21-35).


II. Exposition


1. Who is the greatest in the kingdom? The one with childlike humility and faith (Matthew 18:1-5): Childlike humility and faith and the Kingdom of Heaven.


1.1. Humble as a child.


            1.1.1. Children have no illusions of greatness. They accept people without         cynicism.


            1.1.2. Children were looked down upon in the ancient world of the NT times. The            disciples were questioning Jesus about rank and honor in the future Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1). Jesus called a child to Him and used the child as a prop to illustrate His answer to the disciples. The child came to Jesus, without             hesitation        (Matthew 18:2).


            1.1.3. This paragraph is not about gaining eternal salvation. The disciples are     believers in Jesus Messiah (Matthew 16:16). The word “converted” in the NASB         misleads people. The word is strefw.  It generally means to turn, to change, to turn       around. Here Jesus is saying that the disciples need to change from seeking honor             and prestige and first place and become like children. A child is trusting. A child is         not as concerned about the first place of honor.


1.2. Change from cynicism and pride and become humble and trusting like a child. In verse 3 Jesus speaks of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Does that mean a person must do something to gain entrance? There are at least two ways to handle this. Both appear to be correct, but the second seems to fit the context best.


            1.2.1. Faith in someone to do something for us requires humility, because there is         a sense in which we know that we cannot do something to gain what we want. Humility characterizes little children. They are accepting of people. They are not         arrogant and self sufficient. So, without a childlike humility a person will never             believe the gospel and hence not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, or


            1.2.2. Another way of understanding this “will not enter” is to realize that Jesus is           using strong statements to get His point across. Here then, in the context “enter”         would refer to enter and enjoy the full benefits, e.g., be one of the greatest in the   Kingdom of Heaven, verse 4.


1.3. Humility is the key to service and to rewards and honor (Matthew 18:5).


            1.3.1. It requires humility to receive a little child in Jesus name, or in the same    way that Jesus receives the child. One cannot be arrogant and properly receive a         child the way Jesus does. And, if one does this, he also is identifying with Jesus         and accepting Him and His will.

1.4. In summary, the Lord puts a premium on childlike humility and faith. That conduct is necessary for pleasing Him now and for honor in the kingdom. The saying is true, character counts.


            1.4.1. Doctrine of humility.

            1.4.2.   Class discussion on good character traits.


2. Do not be a stumbling block to children (Matthew 18:6-14). To be a stumbling block is bad. There will always be stumbling blocks in life, and there will always be bad people who are stumbling blocks, but the disciples (and we) are not to be among them.


2.1.    A stumbling block is something or someone that causes a believer or unbeliever to fall or become injured physically or spiritually such as sin or to have doubts about the faith. Here the stumbling block harms a person’s faith by 1. Giving a bad example of how to live; or, 2. Giving bad doctrine; or,  3.  Treating someone ungraciously.


2.2.    There will always be stumbling blocks in life.


2.3.    God judges the stumbling block person (Matthew 18:6-7). This section outlines the judgment against a stumbling block.


            2.3.1.      Matthew 18:6. Anyone who hinders the Christian life of a believing child.         By application this warns against anyone who harms the faith of a believer. Anyone who contradicts God’s word or ridicules God’s word to believers is under God’s     judgment. This is a serious warning with many applications. The millstone and             drowning depicts the serious judgment. Drowning would stop his attacks on       believers and hence prevent even worse judgment. Drowning was especially     feared by the Jews.


            2.3.2.   Matthew 18:7. The world has stumbling blocks (7a). They are inevitable.             Beware. The person who promotes the block is judged by God (7b). A person is a        stumbling block because he causes another to reject the message of Jesus.


            2.3.3.   Matthews 18:8. Anything in an individual—his hand, foot, or eye are         examples—that causes himself to stumble at the gospel and reject Jesus Christ is            a stumbling block to himself. He would be better off without the stumbling block in     life than to miss the gospel and enter eternal fire.


            2.3.4.   Matthew 18:9. Therefore get rid of whatever causes you to stumble. Fiery           hell in verse 9 speaks of judgment by God. The point is that relationship with God is     the most important thing in all of life. Anything that blocks or hinders or confuses            that issue is dangerous and should be avoided.


               Barclay on the fire of hell.  “But there is one clue which we do have.                   This passage speaks of the Gehenna of fire. Gehenna was the valley of                                    Hinnom, a valley below the mountain of Jerusalem. It was forever accursed,                because it was the place where, in the days of the kingdom, the renegade                     Jews had sacrificed their children in the fire to the pagan god Moloch.                             Josiah had made it a place accursed. In later days it became the refuse                         dump of Jerusalem; a kind of vast incineration. Always the refuse was                             burning there, and a pall of smoke and a glint of smoldering fire surrounded                 it.” (The Gospel of Matthew: Volume 2, ed. William Barclay, lecturer in the             University of Glasgow, The Daily Study Bible, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: The                       Westminster Press, 2000, c1975. 182.)


            2.3.5. The Heavenly Father searches for stray believers, especially children       (Matthew 18:10-14). These strays may have been made to go astray by stumbling     blocks.


               To despise little ones is to think against them (καταφρονήσητε aorist                             subjunctive with mh.  It is a strong command means to look down on or to                     consider of little value. It is a strong command.


               The little children have angels, apparently protective angels who                         have access to God the Father. The implication is that He is very interested                 in them and their welfare. The disciples would have a tendency to get above                        themselves and ignore children. That was not Jesus’ desire.


               Verse 11 is not in the Egyptian text, but is in Luke 19:10. This is                         why the messiah came to earth.


               Matthew 18:12-14 teaches that Jesus values all of His sheep, here                    probably children believers. Just like a good shepherd, He searches for the                       stray and returns it to the fold. The word “perish” in verse 14 seems to refer                 to physical death from straying from the messiah. Bad decisions cause                         believers to stray from living in fellowship with the Lord. Here we see God’s                    value of believers and His desire for them to remain safe in His flock. He                     even seeks to recover them. The Prodigal Son in Luke 15 presents the                                 same principle.


2.4.    In summary:


            2.4.1.   It is very dangerous for a person to be a stumbling block or cause of failure        of faith or sin in another believer, and especially in young children.


            2.4.2.   Furthermore, God tries to bring the stumbling or stray believer back into fellowship with Himself and the other believers. That is important to Him. See   Galatians 6:1 for the church believer’s privilege of helping a believer to recover.

















They are lost but God still tries to reach them.  Once they are found He will rejoice.


They are moving without a direction, without a purpose, lost in worldly affairs, hearing the voice of the flesh and not of Jesus, not having the guidance of Jesus, living blind and guided by another blind person.


Because to not know Jesus is like being lost in this world, and He wants to find us and bring us back. Amen


 "They are the same as a man in a dark cave with no light. People 'Lost in sin' often times will never realize they are sinning because GOD has never entered their lives. Therefore they never knew what Light Is/was. Many like living their lives in darkness because it 'Hides the evil they do'. (Read 1stPeter2:22-25)We have all gone astray like 'Lost sheep’. If we were perfect, "We wouldn't need God."He (Christ) is our Sheppard and "We are to Know His Voice."(John10:14-18)


A lost sheep has no shepherd to take care of them.  They will lack protection of a shepherd who will protect them from wolves.    So likewise those who do not know Jesus will have not the care that Jesus gives to His sheep.  They will be wandering about without protection from the wolves of this world.


Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Those who do not follow in His words are like the lost sheep who does not know the truth and life that leads to eternal life. He is dead spiritually and lives life far away from God. and thus not receiving the reward that God has promised.


They are like lost sheep, because Jesus is only the Savior of the entire whole world, but one thing people should understand, human being is mainly living here on Earth to follow something, either follow the world or follow Jesus Christ, one of these two. And if they do not know Jesus Christ, then they are like lost sheep, because they follow their own lost, sin, killing, alcohol, prostitution, corruption, injustice etc these things all destroying people who follow these characters, they can die off, with HiV/Aid, plus other distraction. But if they repent from their evil dowers (WORKS) Jesus Christ can lead them in to good New Life. Thank Jesus Christ, Welcome, leading our live in Jesus Name Amen. 


For they believe in the world, they think they can do anything successfully without God and don't need God. They don't believe the words of God.

When one goes astray in faith or becomes self-centered or gets filled with pride and ventured alone in this time the devil is roaming like a wounded lion, then of course one can be said to be a lost sheep.


Because they are spiritually blind


They do not know their house what love is they cannot find true. They run around without direction.


"We come in to a close relationship with Christ and through life we find ourselves distant to the God we once held close and can feel very lost even though we know Christ as our savior. It is in times like these we often cry out to God “why have you left me? Where have you gone?” But the promise we have is “I will never leave you or forsake you.”


They face danger of being attacked by all sorts of evil due to their vulnerability & unbelief


They are like the lost sheep because they don’t belief in Jesus. Once they belief in Jesus they will share the glory of the Lord.


If you do not know Jesus, you have no way of knowing the right road to travel.  If you have never been introduced to the glorious world of God's Kingdom, you have no clue about the beautiful world that is available to you.  Like a lost baby lamb, you do not know the good from the dangers that you will face without Jesus leading the way. 


Jesus has been sent to the world by the God to save the humanity particularly, the sinner section.  However, if we don’t have faith in Him, if we do not recognize Him, we are going to be perished


Jesus is our Savior and Brother who came to this world to save us.  If we do not know Jesus than we are like the lost sheep who does not know where to go and what to do.


Because Jesus is the only way if you don't know Jesus you are lost. Sheep depend on man for its health and survival the same way we must depend on God.


They just go on materialistic world, and don’t trust on lord, they believe that they can do everything with their efforts but they forget that when we put our natural efforts than lord puts his power into it...and it turns into super natural powerful result...


One way is leaving in an earthly manner and neglecting the commandments of God.


They no longer hear God's voice and don’t know where they are headed. They have lost their ways and have no sense of direction. They are not guided by God.


They are like lost sheep because they do not know where they are heading to but like a lost sheep, if he can hear and recognize his master’s voice, he can direct his movement to his master. Jesus is ever ready to receive us with lovely kisses if only we will realize that yes we have gone astray but now I say lord am back, please forgive all my sins. HE is a merciful Lord, ready to forgive as many as confess from their heart.

By: Gregorio Magdaleno
Category: The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
What are the childlike qualities necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

Matthew 18:1-9 


The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven


In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?"

Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the midst of them, and said,
 "Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in My name receives Me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea. 


"Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire. 


What are the childlike qualities necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?



Who is the Greatest?


In recent sections, Jesus has been speaking frequently of His upcoming humiliation at the hands of His enemies.  Jesus never preached self-advancement or self-aggrandizement.  He always and ever preached, and indeed lived humility.  As there never was a greater pattern of humility, so there never was a greater preacher of it, than Christ; He took all occasions to command it, to commend it, to His disciples and followers. 


It is surprising then that the disciples would even dare broach this question:  “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (vs.1). The very fact that they asked that question showed that they had no idea at all what the Kingdom of Heaven was.  We learn the disciples were arguing about who of them was the greatest (see Mark 9:33ff; Luke 9:46ff).  One could only imagine the argument that they had.  “They strive who it should be, each having some pretence or other to it.  Peter was always the chief speaker, and already had the keys given him; he expects to be lord-chancellor, or lord-chamberlain of the household, and so to be the greatest.   Judas had the bag, and therefore he expects to be lord-treasurer, which, though now he come last, he hopes, will then denominate him the greatest.  Simon and Jude are nearly related to Christ, and they hope to take place of all the great officers of state, as princes of the blood.  John is the beloved disciple, the favorite of the Prince, and therefore hopes to be the greatest.  Andrew was first called, and why should not he be first preferred?” 


And all this took place in light of Jesus’ very recent teaching to them:  If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24).  Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble.  They look so much at the crown, that they forget the yoke and the cross”.  “They seem to have become increasingly sure that Jesus was the Messiah, which meant that the messianic kingdom was just around the corner, and that in turn meant for them that the top places in the kingdom were up for grabs”


Jesus, no doubt, surprised them with His answer:  “He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And He said:  ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven’” (vss. 2–4).  Ironically, the disciples, in their arguments about who was the greatest, were acting like schoolyard children; it is not that sort of child-like behavior about which Jesus was speaking.  Rather, it is the humility displayed by a little child placed in the midst of grown men.  Notice that Jesus called a little child and had him stand among them (vs. 2).  The large, bearded, swaggering men must certainly have intimidated the little child to a state of humility before them.  “Surrounded by grown men, the child must have looked insignificant, which of course is Jesus’ point”.


The Kingdom of Heaven is not like earthly kingdoms. In earthly kingdoms military might or earthly wealth is what counts.  It is the ability to overthrow others or to outsmart them or to outbid them that matters.  The person who asserts himself is the one who gets on.  But Jesus’ kingdom is quite different.  Paradoxically, it is the person who is like the little child who is the greatest.  Being in the kingdom does not mean entering a competition for the supreme place, but engaging in lowly service”.


With the child still among the disciples, as a prop, Jesus continues His teaching:  “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (vss. 5–6).  The child here is representing the humble believer.  Jesus tells us that the way we treat a believer, He will consider us to be treating Jesus in the same way.  If we welcome” the believer into our homes, Jesus will consider that we are welcoming Him into our homes.  Conversely, there will be serious consequences for us if we cause the believer to stumble into sin.  Evil people in this world love to see Christians stumble into sin.  They love to have the opportunity to trot out the saying, See!  All Christians are hypocrites!  Wicked men often think it great sport to induce a Christian to sin, especially one who seems very meek and gentle.  If they can make him violently angry, or lead him into excessive levity, to say nothing of gross vices, they are prodigiously amused and gratified.  Such persons ought to remember these solemn and awful words of the compassionate Savior


Jesus continues:  Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!  Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!(vs. 7).  God hates sin:  make no mistake about this.  Sadly, though, because of the state of fallen man, such things must come.”  However, just because sin is inevitable, this does not lessen the punishment for sinners:  “…but woe to the man through whom they come.”  “The world being what it is and people being what they are, it is inevitable that ‘the things that cause people to sin’ will make their appearance.  But that they are certain to come does not excuse the person who brings them about”.


Jesus goes on with some teaching concerning the seriousness of sin:  “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (vss. 8–9). 


Jesus repeats some of the teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5:29).  “Those hard sayings of Christ, which are displeasing to flesh and blood, need to be repeated to us again and again”.  This teaching of Jesus is shocking, and is, of course, meant to be shocking.  Jesus is teaching us the seriousness of sin.  “He is using picturesque language to make clear that He looks for a complete and thorough repudiation of evil”.


None of us would ever want to cut a hand off, or gouge out an eye.  Yet, we waltz lightly, willingly, knowingly into sin, day after day.  Jesus is teaching us that we must make extraordinary effort to get rid of the cause of sin.  “What it is that is here enjoined: We must part with an eye, or a hand or a foot, that is, that, whatever it is, which is dear to us, when it proves unavoidably an occasion of sin to us”.  Now, there are no examples in the Bible of people cutting off limbs to get rid of the source of sin, but there are examples of people making extraordinary efforts to be rid of the cause of sin.  “When Abraham quitted his native country, for fear of being ensnared in the idolatry of it, and when Moses quitted Pharaoh’s court, for fear of being entangled in the sinful pleasures of it, there was [figuratively speaking] a right hand cut off.  We must think nothing too dear to part with, for the keeping of a good conscience”


Note in these last few verses, Jesus alludes to judgment for sinners after death.  He implies that judgment is worse than having “a large millstone hung around one’s neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (vs. 6).  He speaks of “eternal fire” (vs. 8), and the fire of hell” (vs. 9).  Jesus, being the Son of God, would know about eternal judgment, for judgment comes from God.  “Jesus leaves His hearers in no doubt as to the seriousness of the eternal state of sinners”.  We often here teaching that waters down eternal punishment.  Some say, “God would never do that!”  But, who are you, O man, to say what God would or would not do.  Again, Jesus, who knows about such things, speaks of eternal punishment for the unsaved.  “Let no man deceive us with vain words upon this awful subject.  Men have arisen in these latter days who profess to deny the eternity of future punishment and repeat the devil’s old argument, that we shall not surely die’(Gen. 3:4).  Let none of their reasoning stand fast in the old paths.  The God of love and mercy is also a God of justice:  He will surely requite”.


The good news is that, sinner though we are, we can avoid eternal punishment.  Jesus has paid the price for our sins, if we would accept this great gift of His.  God truly is love.  He is the God of grace and forgiveness, through His Son Jesus Christ.  May the Lord be praised!


Matthew 18:1-9. Strife among The Twelve who should be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, with relative teaching. ( Mr 9:33-50; Lu 9:46-50).


Mt 18:10-35. Further teaching on the same subject including the parable of the unmerciful debtor. Same Subject (Mt 18:10-20).


10. Take heed that ye despise (stumble) not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in Heaven. A difficult verse; but perhaps the following may be more than an illustration: Among men, those who nurse and rear the royal children, however humble in themselves, are allowed free entrance with their charge, and a degree of familiarity which even the highest state ministers dare not assume. Probably our Lord means that, in virtue of their charge over His disciples (Heb 1:13; John 1:51), the angels have errands to the throne, a welcome there, and a dear familiarity in dealing with "His Father which is in Heaven," which on their own matters they could not assume.


11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost (or "is lost.") A golden saying, once and again repeated in different forms. Here the connection seems to be, "Since the whole object and errand of the Son of man into the world is to save the lost, take heed lest, by causing offenses, ye lose the saved." That this is the idea intended we may gather from Mt 18:14.


12, 13. How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray ...This is another of those pregnant sayings which our Lord uttered more than once. See on the delightful parable of the lost sheep in Lu 15:4-7. Only the object there is to show what the good Shepherd will do, when even one of His sheep is lost, to find it; here the object is to show, when found, how reluctant He is to lose it. Accordingly, it is added,


14. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. How, then, can He but visit for those "offenses" which endanger the souls of these little ones?


15. Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother …Probably our Lord had reference still to the late dispute, Who should be the greatest? After the rebuke, so gentle and captivating, yet so dignified and divine, under which they would doubtless be smarting, perhaps each would be saying, It was not I that began it, it was not I that threw out unworthy and irritating insinuations against my brethren.


Be it so, says our Lord; but as such things will often arise, I will direct you how to proceed. First, Neither harbor a grudge against your offending brother, nor break forth upon him in presence of the unbelieving; but take him aside, show him his fault, and if he own and make reparation for it, you have done more service to him than even justice to yourself. Next, If this fail, take two or three to witness how just your complaint is, and how brotherly your spirit in dealing with him. Again, if this fails, bring him before the Church or congregation to which both belong. Lastly, if even this fails, regard him as no longer a brother Christian, but as one "without", as the Jews did Gentiles and publicans.


18. 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. Here, what had been granted but a short time before to Peter only (see on Mt 16:19) is plainly extended to all the Twelve; so that whatever it means, it means nothing peculiar to Peter. It has to do with admission to and rejection from the membership of the Church. But see on John.


19. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.


20. For where two or three are gathered together in My name (or "unto my name.") 
there am I in the midst of them
. On this passage, so full of sublime encouragement to Christian union in action and prayer; observe, first, the connection in which it stands. Our Lord had been speaking of church meetings before which the obstinate perversity of a brother was in the last resort to be brought, and whose decision was to be final, such honor does the Lord of the Church put upon its lawful assemblies. But not these assemblies only does He deign to countenance and honor. For even two uniting to bring any matter before Him shall find that they are not alone, for My Father is with them, says Jesus.


Next, observe the premium here put upon union in prayer. As this cannot exist with fewer than two, so by letting it down as low as that number, He gives the utmost conceivable encouragement to union in this exercise. But, what kind of union? Not an agreement merely to pray in concert, but to pray for some definite thing. "As touching anything which they shall ask," says our Lord, anything they shall agree to ask in concert. At the same time, it is plain He had certain things at that moment in His eye, as most fitting and needful subjects for such concerted prayer. The Twelve had been "falling out by the way" about the miserable question of precedence in their Master's kingdom, and this, as it stirred their corruptions, had given rise, or at least was in danger of giving rise, to "offenses" perilous to their souls. The Lord Himself had been directing them how to deal with one another about such matters.


"But now shows He unto them a more excellent way." Let them bring all such matters, and everything whatsoever by which either their own loving relationship to each other, or the good of His kingdom at large, might be affected, to their Father in heaven; and if they be but agreed in petitioning Him about that thing, it shall be done for them of His Father which is in Heaven. But further, it is not merely union in prayer for the same thing, for that might be with very jarring ideas of the thing to be desired, but it is to symphonious prayer, the prayer by kindred spirits, members of one family, servants of one Lord, constrained by the same love, fighting under one banner, cheered by assurances of the same victory; a living and loving union, whose voice in the divine ear is as the sound of many waters.


Accordingly, what they ask "on earth" is done for them, says Jesus, "of My Father which is in Heaven." Not for nothing does He say, "Of My Father", not "Your Father"; as is evident from what follows: "For where two or three are gathered together unto My name", the "My" is emphatic, "there am in the midst of them." As His name would prove a spell to draw together many clusters of His dear disciples, so if there should be but two or three, that will attract Himself down into the midst of them; and related as He is to both the parties, the petitioners and the Petitioned, to the one on earth by the tie of His assumed flesh, and to the other in heaven by the tie of His eternal Spirit, their symphonious prayers on earth would thrill upward through Him to heaven, be carried by Him into the holiest of all, and so reach the Throne. Thus will He be the living Conductor of the prayer upward and the answer downward.


Matthew 18:1-9 – Greatness in the Kingdom




Jesus instructs His disciples on true greatness in the Kingdom. Greatness in the Kingdom depends on having the humility of a child and welcoming such "little ones."

Analysis Rather than being the topic of an argument among themselves as in Mark (Mark 9:33 34), the disciples in Matthew come appropriately to Jesus with their questions about who is greatest in the kingdom. Jesus responds that entrance into the Kingdom depends on having the humility of a child, and greatness in the kingdom means to have the kind of hospitality that recognizes and welcomes such little ones. The consistent use of children and "little ones" to describe the members of the kingdom marks a pointed contrast to the disciples' question about greatness (see also 19:13-15).


The opposite of such welcoming of "little ones" is treated in 18:6-9. The word variously translated as "stumbling block" or "temptation to sin" is the same word that is translated as "offense" in Matthew 11:6 and links these passages around the theme of following Jesus. The stumbling block refers to anything that occasions one of these "little ones who believe in Me" (18:6) to be lost to the Kingdom. Exaggerated language describes the seriousness of rooting out any defect that would get in the way of anyone's belonging to the Kingdom. This is serious business, but serious especially for those who fail to hold fast the little ones. 


Matthew 18:   Verse 1: At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Ver. 1. At the same time: When He by paying tribute had been teaching them humility and modesty, they most unseasonably discover their folly and ambition. Likewise, another time, after He had been washing their feet, and giving them the sacrament, Luke 22:15-20 See in them the depravity, the canker of our natures, and what cause God had to complain, Hosea 7:1; "When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered," as if it had been on purpose to spite Me, and spit venom in My face.

Came the disciples: Peter also with the rest, Matthew 18:21, though Bellarmine will needs have it otherwise (as if he were now at sea), because he shall bear no part of the blame: take heed of that that were sin, Hosea 12:8.

Who is the greatest (Quaerunt non quaerenda, saith Aretius): They should rather have inquired how to get into heaven than who should be highest in heaven. Ridiculum illud est, initia ignorare, et ultima rimari. But they dreamed of a distribution of honors and offices (as once in the days of David and Solomon), a worldly monarchy, like the kingdoms of the earth; as afterwards the Church was, and still is, transformed by antichrist into the image of the beast, that is, of the Roman Empire: yet they call it the kingdom of heaven, because they had heard Christ many times call it so.

In the Kingdom of Heaven: In the state and condition of the Church Christian. So to this day among the Jews the Kingdom of the Messiah is called Malcuth hashamajim, the Kingdom of Heaven; and rightly so: for, 1. The King is heavenly. 2. He hath heaven for His throne, whence He puts forth His power. 3. His subjects are heavenly minded, and trade for heavenly commodities. 4. Their country is heaven though their stay be a while upon earth, where they are pilgrims and strangers. 5. The government of this kingdom is wholly heavenly and spiritual.

Verse 2: And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them,

Ver. 2. And Jesus called a little child: Christ calling for a little child, who neither thinks great things of himself nor seeks great things for himself, rightly and really confutes their preposterous ambition and affectation of primacy.

Verse 3: 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.

Ver. 3. Except ye be converted: Except ye turn over a new leaf, and cast away these fond conceits and crotchets, these golden dreams of an earthly kingdom, and your high preferment therein, make you that you cannot look upwards.

And become as little children: In simplicity, humility, innocence, ignoscence; not in childishness, peevishness, pragmaticalness, talkativeness, open heartedness.

Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven: One sin allowed excludes out of the kingdom, be it but ambition or some such inward evil, such as the world takes no notice of, makes no matter of. Inward bleeding killeth many times, and God by killing Jezebel’s children with death (i.e. throwing them to hell) will make all the Churches know that He searcheth the inwards, Revelation 2:23.

Verse 4: Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Ver. 4. Whosoever therefore shall humble:  Children are not lifted up with pride, for the great things they are born to, neither mind they high places: but the child of a prince will play with the poorest, and make him his mate. Christians should not mind high things, but condescend to the meanest, and be carried by them, as the word signifieth ( συναπαγομενοιRomans 12:16; especially since we are all born again by the same seed, there is no difference at all in our birth or inheritance. Why then look we so big one upon another? Why do we slight or browbeat any? Have we not all one Father?

The same is greatest in the kingdom: He that can most vilify and nullify himself, shall be highest in heaven. When had David the kingdom given him in possession, but when he was as a weaned child? When was Mephibosheth advanced to David’s table, but when he made himself a dog, and therefore fit only to lie under the table, a dead dog, and therefore fit only for the ditch? He that is in the low pits and caves of the earth sees the stars in the firmament; when they who are on the tops of the mountains discern them not. He that is most humble seeth most of heaven, and shall have most of it: for the lower the ebb, the higher the tide, and the lower the foundation of virtue is laid, the higher shall the roof of glory be overlaid.

Verse 5: And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.

Ver. 5. And whoso shall receive one such: Luke 9:48 hath it, "whosoever shall receive this child in My name." Meaneth our Savior the child, or those that were humble as that child? Both surely. See here how highly Christ regards and rewards humility, even the picture of it in little ones. Now, if the shadows of this grace have such a healing virtue, what then hath the body? If the leaves be so sovereign, what then the fruit?

Verse 6: But whosoever 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.

Ver. 6. But whosoever shall offend: By false doctrine, or loose life, or making a prey of their simplicity and humility, which many times draws on injury. A crow will stand upon a sheep’s back, pulling off wool from her side. She dare not do so to a wolf or a mastiff. 

That a millstone were hanged: The nether millstone, called in Greek the ass, either because it is the larger and thicker of the two; or because the millstone was drawn about by the help of the ass, μυλος ονικος. This kind of punishment the greatest malefactors among the Jews were in those days put to, as saith St Jerome. And hereby is set forth the heaviest of hell torments Revelation 19:20. And for his city Babylon, a mighty angel is seen to take up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all." This, by an elegant and emphatic gradation, notably sets forth the remediless ruin of Rome; in that an angel, a strong angel, taketh a stone, and a great stone, even a millstone, which he letteth not barely fall, but casteth, and with impetuous force thrusteth, into the bottom of the sea, whence nothing ordinarily is recovered, much less a millstone, thrust from such a hand with such a force.

Drowned in the depth of the sea: In that part of the sea that is farthest off from the shore: q.d. he is a brat of fathomless perdition, he shall be desperately drowned in destruction, ita ut in aquae summitate rursus non ebulliat, so that he would not bubble again to the surface of the water. So the Romans served their parricides, and the Grecians other grievous malefactors: they wrapped them up in lead, and cast them into the deep.

Verse 7: 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!

Ver. 7. Woe to the world, because of offences: σκανδαλον, proprie tendicula, hoc est, lignum illud curvum, quo moto decipula clauditur. The world, besides the offences they give to the saints, they give and take much hurt one from another, and so heap up wrath; while, besides their own, they bring upon themselves their other men’s sins to answer for.

It must needs be that offences come: By God’s permission, Satan’s malice, and man’s wickedness: Venenum aliquando pro remedio fuit (Senec. de Benef.). God often draws good out of evil, as wine draws a nourishing virtue from the flesh of serpents: as the skilful apothecary, of the poisonous viper, maketh a wholesome treacle, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

Verse 8: Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

Ver. 8. If thy hand or foot offend thee: Matthew 5:29-30, our Savior forbids all His to defile themselves with the filth of sin; here, to offend others thereby. 


Verse 9: And if thine eye offends 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.

Ver. 9. Pluck it out: This is the circumcision of the heart, the mortification of earthly members, which is no less hard to be done than for a man with one hand to cut off the other, or to pull out his own eyes, and then rake in the holes where they grew. And yet, hard or not hard, it must be done; for otherwise we are utterly undone forever. Hypocrites, as artificial magicians, seem to wound themselves, but do not: as stage players, they seem to thrust themselves through their bodies, whereas the sword passed only through their clothes. But the truly religious lets out the life blood of his beloved lusts, lays them all dead at his feet, and burns their bones to lime, as the king of Moab did the king of Edom, Amos 2:1. As Joshua put down all the Canaanites, so doth grace all corruptions. As Asa deposed his own mother, so doth this, the mother of sin. It destroys them not by halves, as Saul, but hews them in pieces before the Lord, as Samuel.

Verse 10: Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

Ver. 10. Take heed that ye despise not, Look to it if you do, a foul mischief is towards you. Look to it as you tender your own safety here or salvation hereafter. Cast not the least contempt upon Christ’s little ones. As little as they are, they have a great Champion, Isaiah 37:22-23, and so many angels to right them and fight for them, that a man had better anger all the witches in the world than one of these little ones. I tell you, some great ones have been fain to humble themselves, and to lick the very dust of their feet sometimes, that they might be reconciled to them, Isaiah 60:14. If Cain do but lower upon Abel, God will arraign him for it, Genesis 4:6. Why is thy countenance cast down? Why dost look so doggedly? If Miriam do but mutter against Moses, God will spit in her face, Numbers 12:14 : and if Aaron had not made the more haste to make his peace by repentance, he also had tasted of the same sauce.

Their angels do always behold the face: Angels in the Syriac are named אפנים of the face, because it is their office and honor to look always on God’s face. They are sent about God’s messages to this earth, yet are never out of their heaven, never out of the vision of their Maker. No more are godly men, when busied in their callings. And howsoever slighted in the world, yet angels are sent forth for their safeguard and service, Hebrews 1:14, for the accomplishment of all designs for the saints’ good, they stand always looking God full in the face, to receive commandments.

The Law of precedence in the Kingdom


Mark tells us that the disciples, as they journeyed, had been squabbling about pre-eminence in the kingdom, and that this conversation was brought on by our Lord’s question as to the subject of their dispute. It seems at first sight to argue singular insensibility that the first effect of His reiterated announcement of His sufferings should have been their quarrelling for the lead; but their behavior is intelligible if we suppose that they regarded the half-understood prophecies of His passion as indicating the commencement of the short conflict which was to end in His Messianic reign.


So it was time for them to be getting ready and settling precedence. The form of their question, in Matthew, connects it with the miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth, in which there was a very plain assertion of Christ’s royal dignity, and a distinguishing honor given to Peter. Probably the ‘then’ of the question means, since Peter is thus selected, are we to look to him as foremost? Their conception of the kingdom and of rank in it is frankly and entirely earthly. There are to be graded dignities, and these are to depend on His mere will. Our Lord not only answers the letter of their question, but cuts at the root of the temper which inspired it.


I. He shows the conditions of entrance into and eminence in His kingdom by a living example. There were always children at hand round Him, when He wanted them. Their quick instinct for pure and loving souls drew them to Him; and this little one was not afraid to be taken by the hand, and to be afterwards caught up in His arms, and pressed to His heart. One does not wonder that the legend that he was Ignatius the martyr should have been current; for surely the remembrance of that tender clasping arm and gentle breast would not fade nor be fruitless. The disciples had made very sure that they were to be in the kingdom, and that the only question concerning them was how high up in it they were each to be. Christ’s answer is like a dash of cold water to that confidence. It is, in effect, ‘Greatest in the Kingdom! Make sure that you go in at all, first; which you will never do, so long as you keep your present ambitious minds.


Verse 3 lays down the condition of entrance into the kingdom, from which necessarily follows the condition of supremacy in it. What a child is naturally, and without effort or merit, by reason of age and position, we must become, if we are to pass the narrow portal which admits into the large room. That ‘becoming’ is impossible without a revolution in us. ‘Be converted’ is corrected, in the Revised Version, into ‘turn,’ and rightly; for there is in the word a distinct reference to the temper of the disciples as displayed by their question. As long as they cherished it they could not even get inside, to say nothing of winning promotion to dignities in the kingdom.


Their very question condemned them as incapable of entrance. So there must be a radical change, not unaccompanied, of course, with repentance, but mainly consisting in the substitution of the child’s temper for theirs. What is the temper thus enjoined? We are to see here neither the entirely modern and shallow sentimental way of looking at childhood, in which popular writers indulge, nor the doctrine of its innocence. It is not Christ’s teaching, either that children are innocent, or that men enter the kingdom by making themselves so.


But the child is, by its very position, lowly and modest, and makes no claims, and lives by instinctive confidence, and does not care about honors, and has these qualities which in us are virtues, and is not puffed up by possessing them. That is the ideal which is realized more generally in the child than analogous ideals are in mature manhood. Such simplicity, modesty, humility, must be ours. We must be made small ere we can enter that door. And as is the requirement for entrance, so is it for eminence. The child does not humble himself, but is humble by nature; but we must humble ourselves if we would be great.


Christ implies that there are degrees in the kingdom. It has nobility, but of such a kind that there may be many greatest; for the principle of rank there is lowliness. We rise by sinking. The deeper our consciousness of our own unworthiness and weakness, the more capable is we of receiving the divine gifts, and therefore the more fully shall we receive them. Rivers run in the hollows; the mountain-tops are dry. God works with broken reeds and the princes in His realm are beggars taken from the dunghill. A lowliness which made itself lowly for the sake of eminence would miss its aim, for it would not be lowliness. The desire to be foremost must be cast out, in order that it may be fulfilled.


II. The question has been answered, and our Lord passes to other thoughts rising out of His answer. Verses 5 and 6 set forth antithetically our duties to His little ones. He is not now speaking of the child who served as a living parable to answer the question, but of men who have made themselves like the child, as is plain from the emphatic ‘one such child,’ and from verse 6 (‘which believe on Me’).


The subject, then, of these verses is the blessedness of recognizing and welcoming Christ like lowly believers, and the fatal effect of the opposite conduct. To ‘receive one such little child in My name’ is just to have a sympathetic appreciation of, and to be ready to welcome to heart and home, those who are lowly in their own and in the world’s estimate, but princes of Christ’s court and kingdom. Such welcome and furtherance will only be given by one who himself has the same type of character in some degree. He who honors and admires a certain kind of excellence has the roots of it in himself. A possible artist lies in him who thrills at the sight or hearing of fair things painted or sung. Our admiration is an index of our aspiration, and our aspiration is a prophecy of our attainment. So it will be a little one’s heart which will welcome the little ones, and a lover of Christ who receives them in His name. The reception includes all forms of sympathy and aid. ‘In My name’ is equivalent to ‘for the sake of My revealed character,’ and refers both to the receiver and to the received. The blessedness of such reception, so far as the receiver is concerned, is not merely that he thereby comes into happy relations with Christ’s foremost servants, but that he gets Christ Himself into his heart. If with true appreciation of the beauty of such a childlike disposition, I open my heart or my hand to its possessor, I do thereby enlarge my capacity for my own possession of Christ, who dwells in His child, and who comes with Him where He is welcomed. There is no surer way of securing Him for our own than the loving reception of His children. Whoso lodges the King’s favorites will not be left unvisited by the King. To recognize and reverence the greatest in the kingdom is to be oneself a member of their company, and a sharer in their prerogatives.


On the other hand, the antithesis of ‘receiving’ is ‘causing to stumble,’ by which is meant giving occasion for moral fall. That would be done by contests about pre-eminence, by arrogance, by non-recognition. The atmosphere of carnality and selfishness in which the disciples were moving, as their question showed, would stifle the tender life of any lowly believer who found himself in it; and they were not only injuring themselves, but becoming stumbling-blocks to others, by their ambition. How much of the present life of average Christians is condemned on the same ground! It is a good test of our Christian character to ask; would it help or hinder a lowly believer to live beside us?


How many professing Christians are really, though unconsciously, doing their utmost to pull down their more Christ like brethren to their own low level! The worldliness and selfish ambitions of the Church are responsible for the stumbling of many who would else have been of Christ’s ‘little ones.’ But perhaps we are rather to think of deliberate and consciously laid stumbling-blocks. Knowingly to try to make a good man fall, or to stain a more than usually pure Christian character, is surely the very height of malice, and presupposes such a deadly hatred of goodness and of Christ that no fate can be worse than the possession of such a temper.


To be flung into the sea, like a dog, with a stone round his neck, would be better for a man than to live to do such a thing. The deed itself, apart from any other future retribution, is its own punishment; yet our Lord’s solemn words not only point to such a future retribution, which is infinitely more terrible than the miserable fate described would be for the body, but to the consequences of the act, as so bad in its blind hatred of the highest type of character, and in its conscious preference of evil, as well as so fatal in its consequences, that it were better to die drowned than to live so.


III. Verses 10-14 set forth the honor and dignity of Christ’s ‘little ones.’ Clearly the application of the designation in these closing verses is exclusively to His lowly followers. The warning not to despise them is needed at all times, and, perhaps, seldom more, even by Christians, than now, when so many causes induce a far too high estimate of the world’s great ones, and modest, humble godliness looks as dull and sober as some russet-coated little bird among gorgeous cockatoos and birds of paradise. The world’s standard is only too current in the Church; and it needs a spirit kept in harmony with Christ’s spirit, and some degree of the child-nature in ourselves, to preserve us from overlooking the delicate hidden beauties and unworldly greatness of His truest disciples.


The exhortation is enforced by two considerations, a glimpse into heaven, and a parable. Fair interpretation can scarcely deny that Christ here teaches that His children are under angel-guardianship. We should neither busy ourselves in curious inferences from His reticent words, nor try to blink their plain meaning, but rather mark their connection and purpose here. He has been teaching that pre-eminence belongs to the childlike spirit. He here opens a door into the court of the heavenly King, and shows us that, as the little ones are foremost in the Kingdom of Heaven, so the angels who watch over them are nearest the throne in heaven itself. The representation is molded on the usages of Eastern courts, and similar language in the Old Testament describes the principal courtiers as ‘the men who see the King’s face continually.’ So high is the honor in which the little ones are held, that the highest angels are set to guard them, and whatever may be thought of them on earth, the loftiest of creatures are glad to serve and keep them


Following the Revised Version we omit verse 11. If it were genuine, the connection would be that such despising contradicted the purpose of Christ’s mission; and the ‘for’ would refer back to the injunction, not to the glimpse into heaven which enforced it.


The exhortation is further confirmed by the parable of the ninety and nine, which is found, slightly modified in form and in another connection, in Luke xv. Its point here is to show the importance of the little ones as the objects of the seeking love of God, and as so precious to Him that their recovery rejoices His heart. Of course, if verse 11 be genuine, the Shepherd is Christ; but, if we omit it, the application of the parable in verse 14 as illustrating the loving will of God becomes more direct. In that case God is the owner of the sheep. Christ does not emphasize His own love or share in the work, reference to which was not relevant to His purpose, but, leaving that in shadow, casts all the light on the loving divine will, which counts the little ones as so precious that, if even one of them wanders, all heaven’s powers are sent forth to find and recover it.


The reference does not seem to be so much to the one great act by which, in Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice, a sinful world has been sought and redeemed, as to the numberless acts by which God, in His providence and grace, restores the souls of those humble ones if ever they go astray. For the connection requires that the wandering sheep here should, when it wanders, be ‘one of these little ones’; and the parable is introduced to illustrate the truth that, because they belong to that number, the least of them is too precious to God to be allowed to wander away and be lost. They have for their keepers the angels of the presence; they have God Himself, in His yearning love and manifold methods of restoration, to look for them, if ever they are lost, and to bring them back to the fold. Therefore, ‘see that ye despise not one of these little ones,’ each of whom is held by the divine will in the grasp of an individualizing love which nothing can loosen.


Matthew 18:1-9


Growing up in the 1960’s, we learned the meaning of “counter-culture”


1. A whole group of people called “hippies” who marched to a new set of values.


2. They called it “the new morality”, which Christians said was just “the old immorality.”


3. But “counter-culture” really describes a way of living that is at odds with the prevailing wind in the culture.


4. We saw this again and again in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus would say “you have heard it said, but I tell you…”


5. And here in this passage, Jesus makes a startling declaration that goes to the foundation of the worldly system.


6. disciples ask a important question, the answer is shocking.


I.          What is Valued in the Kingdom of Heaven?


1. They ask this question “who?”, but they are not looking for a name.

2. Knowing the disciples as humans, it’s clear they are looking for a job description of sorts, a list of qualifications that they might work on.


Il) “If I want to make it to the top, what education, what talents, what marketable skills do I need to achieve the stature of “the greatest?”


3. Are we surprised that they were asking this question? Matthew 20:20-21


4. What should we focus on, so our resume looks as good as possible?


5. This is always going to be a problem in a believing community that lives in the world.


6. The incessant creep of worldly values into the life of the community


III. A Shocking Object Lesson


1. Disciples must have been puzzled when Jesus calls a little child over.


2. But even more when Jesus started to speak.


3. They had asked expecting to hear a list of qualifications, and instead they get v3


4. Starts with the “I’m serious” phrase, and then introduces three shocking ideas.


5. 1st, “change”: Turn around and get off the path the culture has put you on.


6. But what’s wrong with this path? Jesus says, “I will show you”


7. 2nd  ...”Become like little children”


8. And this is not a leadership requirement, but entry level qualifications.


9. Of course, this brings up two huge questions


10. What is it about childhood that is consistent with Kingdom characteristics?


11. What is it about unregenerate adulthood that is inconsistent with Kingdom characteristics?


12. Because we need to recognize this: that Jesus is telling us that these are two different paths, the pursuit of two opposite sets of characteristics; one the Kingdom of Heaven, and the other the kingdom of this world.


III.        Contrast of Two Divergent Paths.


1. Here is the divergence, v4


2. “Humble yourself and become”


3. Active verb, “to make lower, to humble.” So it is a choice.


4. OK, so let’s look at this in chart form


Humble Child: Not afraid to ask for help, to say “I can’t”, not self conscious, typically trusting, loves easily, forgives easily, non-competitive, does not take everything personally.


Proud Adult: Afraid to admit need, say “I can’t”, learned to distrust, must be in control, competitive, struggles to forgive, takes


Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible - Matthew 18


The gospels are, in short, a record of what Jesus began both to do and to teach. In the foregoing chapter, we had an account of His doings, in this, of His teachings probably, not all at the same time, in a continued discourse, but at several times, upon divers occasions, here put together, as near akin.


We have here,


I. Instructions concerning humility, Matthew 18:1-6.


II. Concerning offences in general (Matthew 18:7), particularly offences given,


            1. By us to ourselves, Matthew 18:8,9.


            2. By us to others, Matthew 18:10-14.


            3. By others to us which are of two sorts,


                        (1.) Scandalous sins, which are to be reproved, Matthew 18:15-20.

                        (2.) Personal wrongs, which are to be forgiven, Matthew 18:21-35.


See how practical Christ's preaching was He could have revealed mysteries, but He pressed plain duties, especially those that are most displeasing to flesh and blood.


Verses 1-6: The Importance of Humility.


As there never was a greater pattern of humility, so there never was a greater preacher of it, than Christ he took all occasions to command it, to commend it, to His disciples and followers


I. The occasion of this discourse concerning humility was an unbecoming contest among the disciples for precedence they came to Him, saying, among themselves (for they were ashamed to ask Him, Mark 9:34), Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? They mean not, who by character (then the question had been good, that they might know what graces and duties to excel in), but who by name. They had heard much, and preached much, of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of the Messiah, His church in this world but as yet they were so far from having any clear notion of it, that they dreamt of a temporal kingdom, and the external pomp and power of it.


Christ had lately foretold His sufferings, and the glory that should follow, that He should rise again, from whence they expected His kingdom would commence and now they thought it was time to put in for their places in it is good, in such cases, to speak early.


Upon other discourses of Christ to that purport, debates of this kind arose (Matthew 20:19,20Luke 22:22,24) He spoke many words of His sufferings, but only one of His glory yet they fasten upon that, and overlook the other and, instead of asking how they might have strength and grace to suffer with Him, they ask Him, "Who shall be highest in reigning with Him." Note: Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble. They look so much at the crown, that they forget the yoke and the cross. So the disciples here did, when they asked: Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?


1. They suppose that all who have a place in that kingdom are great, for it is a kingdom of priests. Note: Those are truly great who are truly good and they will appear so at last, when Christ shall own them as His, though ever so mean and poor in the world.


2. They suppose that there are degrees in this greatness. All the saints are honorable, but not all alike so one star differs from another star in glory. All David's officers were not worthies, nor all his worthies of the first three.


3. They suppose it must be some of them that must be prime ministers of state. To whom should King Jesus delight to do honor, but to them who had left all for Him, and were now His companions in patience and tribulation?


4. They strive who it should be, each having some pretence or other to it. Peter was always the chief speaker, and already had the keys given him he expects to be lord-chancellor, or lord-chamberlain of the household, and so to be the greatest. Judas had the bag, and therefore he expects to be lord-treasurer, which, though now he come last, he hopes, will then denominate him the greatest. Simon and Jude are nearly related to Christ, and they hope to take place of all the great officers of state, as princes of the blood. John is the beloved disciple, the favorite of the Prince, and therefore hopes to be the greatest. Andrew was first called, and why should not he be first preferred? Note: We are very apt to amuse and humor ourselves with foolish fancies of things that will never be.


II. The discourse itself, which is a just rebuke to the question, Who shall be greatest? We have abundant reason to think, that if Christ ever intended that Peter and his successors at Rome should be heads of the church, and his chief vicars on earth, having so fair an occasion given Him, He would now have let His disciples know it but so far is He from this, that His answer disallows and condemns the thing itself. Christ will not lodge such an authority or supremacy anywhere in His church whoever pretend to it are usurpers instead of settling any of the disciples in this dignity, He warns them all not to put in for it.


Christ here teacheth them to be humble,


1. By a sign (Matthew 18:2) He called a little child to Him, and set him in the midst of them. Christ often taught by signs or sensible representations (comparisons to the eye), as the prophets of old. Note: Humility is a lesson so hardly learned, that we have need by all ways and means to be taught it. When we look upon a little child, we should be put in mind of the use Christ made of this child. Sensible things must be improved to spiritual purposes. He set him in the midst of them not that they might play with him, but that they might learn by him. Grown men, and great men, should not disdain the company of little children, or think it below them to take notice of them. They may either speak to them, and give instruction to them or look upon them, and receive instruction from them. Christ Himself, when a child, was in the midst of the doctors, Luke 2:46.


2. By as sermon upon this sign in which He shows them and us,


(1.) The necessity of humility, Matthew 18:3. His preface is solemn, and commands both attention and assent Verily I say unto you, I, the Amen, the faithful Witness, say it, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Here observe, What it is that He requires and insists upon.


First, "You must be converted, you must be of another mind, and in another frame and temper, must have other thoughts, both of yourselves and of the Kingdom of Heaven, before you be fit for a place in it. The pride, ambition, and affectation of honor and dominion, which appear in you, must be repented of, mortified, and reformed, and you must come to yourselves." Note: Besides the first conversion of a soul from a state of nature to a state of grace, there are after-conversions from particular paths of backsliding, which are equally necessary to salvation. Every step out of the way by sin must be a step into it again by repentance. When Peter repented of his denying his Master, he was converted. 


Secondly, You must become as little children. Note, Converting grace makes us like little children, not foolish as children (1 Corinthians 14:20), nor fickle (Ephesians 4:14), nor playful (Matthew 11:16) but, as children, we must desire the sincere milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2) as children, we must be careful for nothing, but leave it to our heavenly Father to care for us (Matthew 6:31) we must, as children, be harmless and inoffensive, and void of malice (1 Corinthians 14:20), governable, and under command (Galatians 4:2) and (which is here chiefly intended) we must be humble as little children, who do not take state upon them, nor stand upon the punctilios of honor the child of a gentleman will play with the child of a beggar (Romans 12:16), the child in rags, if it have the breast, is well enough pleased, and envies not the gaiety of the child in silk little children have no great aims at great places, or projects to raise themselves in the world they exercise not themselves in things too high for them and we should in like manner behave, and quiet ourselves, Psalm 131:1,2. As children are little in body and low in stature, so we must be little and low in spirit, and in our thoughts of ourselves. This is a temper which leads to other good dispositions the age of childhood is the learning age.


What stress He lays upon this Without this, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Note: Disciples of Christ have needed to be kept in awe by threatening, that they may fear lest they seem to come short, Hebrews 4:1. The disciples, when they put that question (Matthew 18:1), thought themselves sure of the Kingdom of Heaven but Christ awakens them to be jealous of themselves. They were ambitious of being greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven Christ tells them, that, except they came to a better temper, they should never come thither. Note: Many that set up for great ones in the church, prove not only little, but nothing, and are found to have no part or lot in the matter. Our Lord designs here to show the great danger of pride and ambition whatever profession men make, if they allow themselves in this sin, they will be rejected both from God's tabernacle and from His holy hill. Pride threw the angels that sinned out of heaven, and will keep us out, if we be not converted from it. They that are lifted up with pride, fall into the condemnation of the devil to prevent this, we must become as little children, and, in order to do that, must be born again, must put on the new man, must be like the holy child Jesus so He is called, even after His ascension, Acts 4:27.


(2.) He shows the honor and advancement that attend humility (Matthew 18:4), thus furnishing a direct but surprising answer to their question. He that humbles himself as a little child, though he may fear that hereby he will render himself contemptible, as men of timid minds, who thereby throw themselves out of the way of preferment, yet the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Note: The humblest Christians are the best Christians, and most like to Christ, and highest in his favors are best disposed for the communications of divine grace, and fittest to serve God in this world, and enjoy Him in another. They are great, for God overlooks heaven and earth, to look on such and certainly those are to be most respected and honored in the church that are most humble and self-denying for, though they least seek it, they best deserve it.


(3.) The special care Christ takes for those that are humble He espouses their cause, protects them, interests Himself in their concerns, and will see that they are not wronged, without being righted.


Those that thus humble themselves will be afraid, That nobody will receive them but (Matthew 18:5), Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name, receiveth Me. Whatever kindnesses are done to such, Christ takes as done to Himself. Whoso entertains a meek and humble Christian, keeps him in countenance, will not let him lose by his modesty, takes him into his love and friendship, and society and care, and studies to do him a kindness and doth this in Christ's name, for his sake, because he bears the image of Christ, serves Christ, and because Christ has received him this shall be accepted and recompensed as an acceptable piece of respect to Christ.


Observe, Though it be but one such little child that is received in Christ's name, it shall be accepted. Note, The tender regard Christ has to His church extends itself to every particular member, even the meanest not only to the whole family, but to every child of the family the less they are in themselves, to whom we show kindness, the more there is of good will in it to Christ the less it is for their sakes, the more it is for His and He takes it accordingly. If Christ were personally among us, we think we should never do enough to welcome him the poor, the poor in spirit, we have always with us, and they are His receivers. See Matthew 25:35-40.


They will be afraid that everybody will abuse them the basest men delight to trample upon the humble Vexat censura columbas--Censure pounces on doves. This objection He obviates (Matthew 18:6), where He warns all people, as they will answer it at their utmost peril, not to offer any injury to one of Christ's little ones. This word makes a wall of fire about them he that touches them, touches the apple of God's eye.


Observe, First, The crime supposed offending one of these little ones that believe in Christ. Their believing in Christ, though they be little ones, unites them to Him, and interests Him in their cause, so that, as they partake of the benefit of His sufferings, He also partakes in the wrong of theirs. Even the little ones that believe have the same privileges with the great ones, for they have all obtained like precious faith. There are those that offend these little ones, by drawing them to sin (1 Corinthians 8:10,11), grieving and vexing their righteous souls, discouraging them, taking occasion from their mildness to make a prey of them in their persons, families, goods, or good name. Thus the best men have often met with the worst treatment in this world.


Secondly, The punishment of this crime intimated in that word, Better for him that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. The sin is so heinous, and the ruin proportionally so great, that he had better undergo the sorest punishments inflicted on the worst of malefactors, which can only kill the body. Note:


1. Hell is worse than the depth of the sea for it is a bottomless pit, and it is a burning lake. The depth of the sea is only killing, but hell is tormenting. We meet with one that had comfort in the depth of the sea, it was Jonah (Matthew 2:2, 4, 9) but never any had the least grain or glimpse of comfort in hell, nor will have to eternity.


2. The irresistible irrevocable doom of the great Judge will sink sooner and surer, and bind faster, than a mill-stone hanged about the neck. It fixes a great gulf, which can never be broken through, Luke 16:26. Offending Christ's little ones, though by omission, is assigned as the reason of that dreadful sentence, Go ye cursed, which will at last be the doom of proud persecutors.


Verses 7-14 - Cautions against Offences.


Our Savior here speaks of offences, or scandals,


I. In general, Matthew 18:7. Having mentioned the offending of little ones, He takes occasion to speak more generally of offences. An offence is,


1. Which occasions guilt, what by enticement or affright tends to draw men from that which is good to that which is evil.


2. Which occasions grief, which makes the heart of the righteous sad. Now, concerning offences, Christ here tells them,


1. That they were certain things it must needs be, that offences come. When we are sure there is danger, we should be the better armed. Not that Christ's word necessitates any man to offend, but it is a prediction upon a view of the causes considering the subtlety and malice of Satan, the weakness and depravity of men's hearts, and the foolishness that is found there, it is morally impossible but that there should be offences and God has determined to permit them for wise and holy ends, that both they which are perfect, and they which are not, may be made manifest. See 1 Corinthians 11:19Daniel 11:35. Being told, before, that there will be seducers, tempters, persecutors, and many bad examples, let us stand upon our guard, Matthew 24:24Acts 20:29,30.


2. That they would be woeful things and the consequence of them fatal. Here is a double woe annexed to offences:

            1. A woe to the careless and unguarded, to whom the offence is given Woe to the         world because of offences. The obstructions and oppositions given to faith and        holiness in all places are the bane and plague of mankind, and the ruin of        thousands. This present world is an evil world, it is so full of offences, of sins, and             snares, and sorrows a dangerous road we travel, full of stumbling-blocks,           precipices, and false guides. Woe to the world. As for those whom God hath     chosen and called out of the world, and delivered from it, they are preserved by the     power of God from the prejudice of these offences, are helped over all these stones             of stumbling. They that love God's law have great peace, and nothing shall offend         them, Psalm.


            2. A woe to the wicked, who willfully give the offence But woe to that man by whom       the offence comes. Though it must needs be, that the offence will come, that will be    no excuse for the offenders. Note, Though God makes the sins of sinners to serve   His purposes, that will not secure them from his wrath and the guilt will be laid at         the door of those who give the offence, though they also fall under a woe who take        it. Note, They who any way hinder the salvation of others, will find their own   condemnation the more intolerable, like Jeroboam, who sinned, and made Israel to    sin. This woe is the moral of that judicial law (Exodus 21:33-22:6), that he who             opened the pit, and kindled the fire, was accountable for all the damage that        ensued. The antichristian generation, by whom came the great offence, will fall         under this woe, for their delusion of sinners (2 Thessalonians 2:11,12), and their            persecutions of saints (Revelation 17:1,2,6), for the righteous God will reckon with     those who ruin the eternal interests of precious souls, and the temporal interests of        precious saints for precious in the sight of the Lord is the blood of souls and the     blood of saints and men will be reckoned with, not only for their doings, but for the     fruit of their doings, the mischief done by them.


II. In particular, Christ here speaks of offences given,


1. By us to ourselves, which is expressed by our hand or foot offending us in such a case, it must be cut off, Matthew 18:8, 9. This Christ had said before (Matthew 5:29, 30), where it especially refers to seventh-commandment sins here it is taken more generally. Note, Those hard sayings of Christ, which are displeasing to flesh and blood, need to be repeated to us again and again, and all little enough. Now observe,


            1. What it is that is here enjoined? We must part with an eye, or a hand, or         a foot, that is, that, whatever it is which is dear to us, when it proves unavoidably an     occasion of sin to us. Note,


                        1. Many prevailing temptations to sin arise from within ourselves our own                        eyes and hands offend us if there were never a devil to tempt us, we should                       be drawn away of our own lust: nay, those things which in themselves are             good, and may be used as instruments of good, even those, through the                 corruptions of our hearts, prove snares to us, incline us to sin, and hinder us                 in duty.


                        2. In such a case, we must, as far as lawfully we may, part with that which                     we cannot keep without being entangled in sin by it. First, it is certain, the                 inward lust must be mortified, though it be dear to us as an eye, or a                             hand. The flesh, with its affections and lusts, must be mortified, Galatians                5:24. The body of sin must be destroyed corrupt inclinations and appetites                     must be checked and crossed the beloved lust that has been rolled under                     the tongue as a sweet morsel, must be abandoned with abhorrence.                                  Secondly, The outward occasions of sin must be avoided, though we thereby              put as great violence upon ourselves as it would be to cut off a hand, or                                    pluck out an eye. When Abraham quitted his native country, for fear of being                       ensnared in the idolatry of it, and when Moses quitted Pharaoh's court, for             fear of being entangled in the sinful pleasures of it, there was a right hand cut                    off. We must think nothing too dear to part with, for the keeping of a good                               conscience.


            2. Upon what inducement this is required It is better for thee to enter into life        maimed, than, having two hands, to be cast into hell. The argument is taken from     the future state, from heaven and hell thence are fetched the most cogent         dissuasive from sin. The argument is the same with that of the apostle, Romans            8:13.


                        1. If we live after the flesh, we shall die having two eyes, no breaches made                   upon the body of sin, inbred corruption like Adonijah never displeased; we             shall be cast into hell-fire. 


                        2. If we through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live that is                    meant by our entering into life maimed, that is, the body of sin maimed and             it is but maimed at the best, while we are in this world. If the right hand of                        the old man be cut off, and its right eye be plucked out, its chief policies                                    blasted and powers broken, it is well but there is still an eye and a hand                         remaining, with which it will struggle. They that are Christ's have nailed the                     flesh to the cross, but it is not yet dead its life is prolonged, but its dominion               taken away (Daniel 7:12), and the deadly wound given it, that shall not be                    healed.


1. Concerning offences given by us to others, especially Christ's little ones, which we are here charged to take heed of, pursuant to what He had said, Matthew 18:6. Observe,


            1. The caution itself Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. This is         spoken to the disciples. As Christ will be displeased with enemies of His church, if        they wrong any of the members of it, even the least, so He will be displeased with        the great ones of the church, if they despise the little ones of it. "You that are           striving who shall be greatest, take heed lest in this contest you despise the little            ones." We may understand it literally of little children of them Christ was        speaking, Matthew 18:2, 4. The infant seed of the faithful belong to the family of            Christ, and are not to be despised. Or, figuratively true but weak believers are             these little ones, who in their outward condition, or the frame of their spirits, are like        little children, the lambs of Christ's flock.


                        1.] We must not despise them, not think meanly of them, as lambs despised                   (Job 12:5). We must not make a jest of their infirmities, not look upon them                with contempt, not conduct ourselves scornfully or disdainfully toward them,                     as if we cared not what became of them we must not say, "Though they be                     offended, and grieved, and stumble, what is that to us?" Nor should we                           make a slight matter of doing that which will entangle and perplex them.                        

                        This despising of the little ones is what we are largely cautioned against,                        Romans 14:3, 10,15,20,21. We must not impose upon the consciences of             others, nor bring them into subjection to our humors, as they do who say to             men's souls, Bow down, that we may go over. There is a respect owing to                     the conscience of every man who appears to be conscientious.


                        2. We must take heed that we do not despise them we must be afraid of the                   sin, and be very cautious what we say and do, lest we should through                                   inadvertency give offence to Christ's little ones, lest we put contempt upon                     them, without being aware of it. There were those that hated them, and cast                         them out, and yet said, Let the Lord be glorified. And we must be afraid of                         the punishment "Take heed of despising them, for it is at your peril if you                         do."


            2. The reasons to enforce the caution. We must not look upon these little ones as         contemptible, because really they are considerable. Let not earth despise those            whom heaven respects let not those be looked upon by us with respect, as his        favorites. To prove that the little ones which believe in Christ are worthy to be    respected, consider,


                        1. The ministration of the good angels about them in heaven their angels             always behold the face of My Father. This Christ saith to us, and we may                 take it upon His word, who came from heaven to let us know what is done                   there by the world of angels. Two things He lets us know concerning them,


                        First, That they are the little ones' angels. God's angels are theirs for all His                    is ours, if we be Christ's.1 Corinthians 3:22. They are theirs for they have a                 charge concerning them to minister for their good (Hebrews 1:14), to pitch               their tents about them, and bear them up in their arms. Some have                                    imagined that every particular saint has a guardian angel but why should we                   suppose this, when we are sure that every particular saint, when there is                        occasion, has a guard of angels? This is particularly applied here to the little                     ones, because they are most despised and most exposed. They have but               little that they can call their own, but they can look by faith on the heavenly                     hosts, and call them theirs. While the great ones of the world have                                   honorable men for their retinue and guards, the little ones of the church are                     attended with glorious angels which bespeak not only their dignity, but the                     danger those run themselves upon, who despise and abuse them. It is bad                being enemies to those who are so guarded and it is good having God for                   our God, for then we have His angels for our angels.


                        Secondly, That they always behold the face of the Father in heaven. This                       bespeaks 1. The angels' continual felicity and honor. The happiness of                                     heaven consists in the vision of God, seeing Him face to face as He is,                               beholding His beauty this the angels have without interruption when they                       are ministering to us on earth, yet even then by contemplation they behold                         the face of God, for they are full of eyes within. Gabriel, when speaking to                       Zacharias, yet stands in the presence of God, Revelation 4:8Luke 1:19.                 The expression intimates, as some think, the special dignity and honor of                    the little ones' angels the prime ministers of state are said to see the king's             face (Esther 1:14), as if the strongest angels had the charge of the weakest                   saints.


            2. It bespeaks their continual readiness to minister to the saints. They behold the           face of God, expecting to receive orders from Him what to do for the good of the         saints. As the eyes of the servant are to the hand of his master, ready to go or         come upon the least beck, so the eyes of the angels are upon the face of God,            waiting for the intimations of His will, which those winged messengers fly swiftly to         fulfill they go and return like a flash of lightning, Ezekiel 1:14. If we would behold           the face of God in glory hereafter, as the angels do (Luke 20:36), we must behold     the face of God now, in readiness to our duty, as they do, Acts 9:6.


            The gracious design of Christ concerning them (Matthew 18:11). For the Son of             man is come to save that which was lost. This is a reason, First, Why the little ones'     angels have such a charge concerning them, and attend upon them it is in         pursuance of Christ's design to save them. Note, The ministration of angels is             founded in the mediation of Christ through Him angels are reconciled to us and, when they celebrated God's goodwill toward men, to it they annexed their           own. Secondly, Why they are not to be despised because Christ came to save them, to save them that are lost, the little ones that are lost in their own eyes       (Isaiah 66:3), that are at a loss within themselves. Or rather, the children of men.    

            Note, 1. Our souls by nature are lost souls as a traveler is lost, that is out of his             way, as a convicted prisoner is lost. God lost the service of fallen man, lost the            honor He should have had from him. 2. Christ's errand into the world was to save     that which was lost, to reduce us to our allegiance, restore us to our work, reinstate         us in our privileges, and so to put us into the right way that leads to our great end to       save those that are spiritually lost from being eternally so. 3. This is a good reason    why the least and weakest believers should not be despised or offended. If Christ           put such a value upon them, let us not undervalue them. If He denied Himself so     much for their salvation, surely we should deny ourselves for their edification and             consolation. See this argument urged, Romans 14:15, 1 Corinthians 8:11, 12. Nay, if     Christ came into the world to save souls, and His heart is so much upon that work,     He will reckon severely with those that obstruct and hinder it, by obstructing the        progress of those that are setting their faces heavenward, and so thwart His great    design.


The tender regard which our heavenly Father has to these little ones, and His concern for their welfare. This is illustrated by a comparison, Matthew 18:12-14. Observe the gradation of the argument the angels of God are their servants, the Son of God is their Savior, and, to complete their honor, God Himself is their Friend. None shall pluck them out of My Father's hand, John 10:28.


Here is, 


First, The comparison, Matthew 18:12, 13. The owner that had lost one sheep out of a hundred, does not slight it, but diligently enquires after it, is greatly pleased when he has found it, and has in that a sensible and affecting joy, more than in the ninety and nine that wandered not. The fear he was in of losing that one, and the surprise of finding it, adds to the joy. Now this is applicable, 1. To the state of fallen man in general he is strayed like a lost sheep, the angels that stood were as the ninety-nine that never went astray wandering man is sought upon the mountains, which Christ, in great fatigue, traversed in pursuit of him, and he is found which is a matter of joy. Greater joy there is in heaven for returning sinners than for remaining angels. 2. To particular believers, who are offended and put out of their way by the stumbling-blocks that are laid in their way, or the wiles of those who seduce them out of the way. Now though but one of a hundred should hereby be driven off, as sheep easily are, yet that one shall be looked after with a great deal of care, the return of it welcomed with a great deal of pleasure and therefore the wrong done to it, no doubt, will be reckoned for with a great deal of displeasure. If there be joy in heaven for the finding of one of these little ones, there is wrath in heaven for the offending of them. Note, God is graciously concerned, not only for His flock in general, but for every lamb, or sheep, that belongs to it. Though they are many, yet out of those many He can easily miss one, for He is a great Shepherd, but not so easily lose it, for He is a good Shepherd, and takes a more particular cognizance of His flock than ever any did for He calls His own sheep by name, John 10:3. See a full exposition of this parable, Ezekiel 34:2, 10, 16, and 19.


Secondly, The application of this comparison (Matthew 18:14) It is not the will of Your Father, that one of these little ones should perish. More is implied than is expressed. It is not His will that any should perish, but, 1. It is His will, that these little ones should be saved it is the will of His design and delight: He has designed it, and set His heart upon it, and He will effect it is the will of His precept, that all should do what they can to further it, and nothing to hinder it. 2. This care extends itself to every particular member of the flock, even the meanest. We think if but one or two be offended and ensnared, it is no great matter, we need not mind it but God's thoughts of love and tenderness are above ours. 3. It is intimated that those who do anything by which any of these little ones are brought into danger of perishing, contradict the will of God, and highly provoke Him and though they cannot prevail in it, yet they will be reckoned with for it by Him, who, in His saints, as in other things, is jealous of His honor, and will not bear to have it trampled on. See Isaiah 3:15, What mean ye, that ye beat my people? Psalm 76:8, 9.


Observe, Christ called God, Matthew 18:19, My Father which is in heaven He calls Him, Matthew 18:14,Your Father which is in heaven intimating that He is not ashamed to call His poor disciples brethren for have not He and they one Father? I ascend to My Father and Your Father (John 20:17) therefore ours because His. This intimates likewise the ground of the safety of His little ones that God is their Father, and is therefore inclined to succor them. A father takes care of all his children, but is particularly tender of the little ones, Genesis 33:13. He is their Father in heaven, a place of prospect, and therefore He sees all the indignities offered them and a place of power, therefore He is able to avenge them. This comforts offended little ones, that their Witness is in heaven (Job 16:19); their Judge is there, Psalm 68:5.


Matthew 18:1-9 - Who, What, When, Why and Where.


These are important foundational questions to use in Bible Study. They are especially important in Matthew 18; one of the most miss-interpreted texts in the Bible.


Reading the text in its context will give us the foundation in which God will use to bless our soul.


Who? Disciples, Tax collectors, A little Child / God’s Children


What? Issue of greatness in Heaven, Conversion / Faith, Dependant Believers / Humility, Entering the Kingdom of Heaven, Living as a Kingdom ambassador


When? After prophesy of His (Christ’s) own death and resurrection, During a time of teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven


Why? To teach the truth about saving faith, To teach the truth about living in Christ / Surrendered and dependant


Where? Capernaum


A.     Miss-Use of Texts


  • We can become childish and not be mature in decision making

  • We Need to be Child-like, not childish

  • Hurting children will cause us to be sent to the lake of fire

  • Hurting children is certainly bad. However, this is not the context of this passage.

  • This passage speaks of Believers in Christ (see vs. 6) “Believe in Me”. Including all believers is good, but especially young ones.

  • Offence here is not physical harm

  • The offence here is false teaching, especially neglecting the right teaching of scripture to children.

  • The offence is leading new converts to the sin they repented from

  • The offence here is ridiculing and judging those who come with what seems to be dumb questions desiring to know Christ more intimately






























    "Purity, Innocence and uncalloused Hearts and unquestionable Faith. Last but not least, Obedience to OUR Father in Heaven and Earthly Parents as the 10 Commandments Command US to: Honor your Mother and Father. WE should be Honoring GOD OUR Father in Heaven."


    Child-like faith... just believing in God without doubt or hesitation and being truthful and humble at the same time


    To enter the Kingdom of Heaven one should be guided by the spirit of the LORD the word of God says that those who are guided by the spirit of the LORD are the children of God. But first is to accept Jesus Christ so that he gives you authority to become children of God


    Humbleness, gentleness, meekness, innocence, believing


    Honest, truthful, loving, caring, giving and trusting. They see with The Eye's Of God! Pure and without worldly influence!


    To enter the Kingdom of Heaven one should be humble and innocent as a child. A child always is trustworthy, faithful and pure in heart.


    Love, trust and belief are three of the most childlike qualities necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Chillaren leve envarone, trust envarone and relieve in envarone


    To be childlike we would take the word of the Gospels as meaningful in our lives. Like children we would be confident in talking to like minded people about any questions they may have about the Gospels.

    Children are enthusiastic and believe what they are told from a teacher they respect. 


    We must humble ourselves and believe in our Father in Heaven. We must let go of the treasures of this world and know that the Father has treasures in Heaven. We must be willing to listen and obey just like a child listens to their parents. 


    The childlike qualities necessary are trust, faith, humility and forgiveness. (Luke 10:21) At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

    (Matt 19:14) Jesus said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these". When he had placed His hands on them, he went on from there.


    First to received Jesus Christ as personal savior. The grace of Father can help to live like child,   Forgiveness.  


    Pureheart, forgiveness, spootless, love....


    Innocence, willingness and being eager to learn, believing in and trusting the lessons and scriptures being told to you.


    These childlike qualities are mainly humility obedience, faith and loyalty to God.


    The natural unconditional love for god and have faith and believe in him completely without any doubts...


    Children love unconditionally, they are genuine, happy and they don't prejudge.


    The Childlike qualities are: Obedient, Respect, Learning, Free from negative thoughts, Love, Purity of mind and Souls, Eager to learn, Teachable, Righteousness, and many more


    Obedience, Innocence, faith and humility are the childlike qualities that are necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.


    Children are very loving and obedient; they tend to believe strongly in their parents. Children are honest and can easily forget when they are hurt. They cry when they are hungry but forget immediately when they are given food. They are angry just for a time giving and forget about their anger when consoled. So in the same way Jesus wants us to behave in like manner. He wants us to forget and forgive even when we are hurt or when we are angry. He wants us to be satisfied with whatever He gives us. He wants us to stop complaining etc.


    Because we must humble ourselves so that God can exalt us. Children need direction of parents to guide them and show them the way. The same applies to us.


    Children believe what their parents tell them when they are very young. We as Christians must have this belief in Jesus, trusting and relying on his word the same or stronger than when we were children believing every word our parents told us.


    God sees the heart.... He knows we  deceive ourselves into believing we're good enough to make the grade for heaven by our good works ... Jesus is trying to send us a wake-up call so we won't substitute religious stuff for the simple, childlike faith needed to enter his kingdom.

    By: Gregorio Magdaleno
    Category: The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
    Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
    Why did Jesus choose to obtain the stater from a fish rather than from a more conventional source of money?

    Matthew 17:24-27 


    The Temple Tax


    When they had come to Capernaum, those who collected the didrachma coins came to Peter, and said, "Doesn't your teacher pay the didrachma?" He said, "Yes." 


    When he came into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive toll or tribute? From their children, or from strangers?" 

    Peter said to Him, "From strangers." 


    Jesus said to him, "Therefore the children are exempt. But, lest we cause them to stumble, go to the sea, cast a hook, and take up the first fish that comes up. When you have opened its mouth, you will find a stater coin. Take that, and give it to them for Me and you." 


    Why did Jesus choose to obtain the stater from a fish rather than from a more conventional source of money?

    Matthew 17:24-27.


    We have read that Jesus did keep kosher, He kept the Law of Moses; what makes sense, He said no jot or tittles of the law are abolished until all is finished, which happened when He died. But, in Matt. 17:24-27, why did Jesus say that sons of God don't have to pay the temple tax, but only the others? Wasn't it commanded in Ex. 30:11-16? He paid the tax only not to offend the tax collectors. Could we clarify this?

    The Answer:

    This even, recorded in Matthew 17:24-27, is the occasion on which Jesus sent Peter to fetch from the mouth of a fish a shekel for the payment of temple tax, one-half shekel for each of them. While Exodus 30:11-16 was the basis upon which the tax was levied annually, it had not always been so. The Sadducees and Pharisees argued about it as they did almost everything else. As far as we can tell, it was some time after the time of Nehemiah (10:32) that the half-shekel became a compulsory annual tax on all Jews; see Matt. 17:24. After the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, it was continued as a special tax by the Romans under the name of Fiscus Judaicus. To add insult to injury it was paid into the treasury of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. (Ellison, H. L., Daily Study Bible Series: Exodus, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press) 2001, c1982.) The fact is, however, that it was a recognized tax at the time of Jesus; thus, the argument of some that Jesus resisted because it was not a legal tax cannot be correct. In fact, Jesus did not resist the payment of the tax at all. The only question that He raised was whether it was properly imposed upon Him.

    Let’s keep in mind what had occurred in Matthew 16. Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The tax had become known as a temple tax by the time of Christ. Since the temple was the house of His Father He raised a question with Peter as to the propriety of taxing His Father’s son. Peter, as did all, recognized that kings of the earth who levied taxes levied them against those who were not members of their family. Thus, Jesus would be exempt from the tax because, as Peter had recognized, He was the Son of God. Having established His exemption, Jesus proceeded to address the issue from another perspective; the tax should be paid so that His exercising His right would not be a stumbling block to the revenue officers and others. He sent Peter fishing in a manner that demonstrated that He was in fact the Lord over creation, He had the power to know about a fish with a shekel in its mouth, just enough to pay the tax for the two of them.

    The Lord’s willingness to pay the tax was another demonstration of His submission to the law of God. He told Peter to take the shekel and “give it unto them for Me and thee.” Note that He made a distinction between Himself as the exempted son and Peter as the non-exempted subject.

    God's Plan of Salvation:

    You Must Hear the Gospel;

    You Must Believe;

    You Must Repent;

    You Must Confess;

    You Must Be Baptized for the Remission of Sins;

    You Must Be Faithful Unto Death;

    Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:

    17:24-27 Peter felt sure that his Master was ready to do what was right. Christ spoke first to give him proof that no thought can be withholding from Him. We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offence; but we must sometimes deny ourselves in our worldly interests, rather than give offence. However the money was lodged in the fish, He who knows all things alone could know it and only almighty power could bring it to Peter's hook. The power and the poverty of Christ should be mentioned together. If called by providence to be poor, like our Lord, let us trust in His power, and our God shall supply all our need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. In the way of obedience, in the course, perhaps, of our usual calling, as He helped Peter, so He will help us. And if any sudden call should occur, which we are not prepared to meet, let us not apply to others, till we first seek Christ.

    Pulpit Commentary

    Verses 24-27: The coin in the fish's mouth. This is one of the three miracles of our Lord which are peculiar to this Gospel. Matthew seems to concern himself particularly with matters which present Jesus as King-Messiah; and this occurrence was in his view specially notable, as herein Christ claimed for Himself a royal position, Son in His Father's house. Verse 24. Capernaum. Once more before the final scene He visited the spot so dear to His human heart "His own city." They that received tribute money (οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες). This is an unfortunate rendering, as it may be taken to countenance an erroneous view of the demanded impost, found in many ancient and some modern commentaries, which vitiates their whole interpretation. According to this opinion, the tribute was a civil payment, like the denarius of Matthew 22:19, levied by the Roman government, or a capitation tax imposed by Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee (of which tax, however, we have no historical proof).

    That this is a misunderstanding is plain from many considerations. In the first place, the collectors are not τελῶναι, publicans, but quite another set of people, called they that received the didrachmas. Again, the officers of government would not have made their demand mildly in an interrogative form, "Doth not your Master," etc.? But would have exhibited that violent and offensive behavior which made them so hated among the Jews. The political tax is never termed didrachma, but always census, as in Matthew 22:17, 19; nor could Jesus have given the answer which is reported below, if the tax had been one levied in the interest of any earthly monarch, be it Caesar or Herod. The didrachma is a term denoting a well known rate, concerning which we have full information from many sources: biblical, Talmudic, and traditional. The didrachma was a silver coin equal to two Attic drachms, or, in Jewish money, to one half shekel of the sanctuary, something under florin in weight. It was the amount of an ecclesiastical rate levied for religious purposes. Originally (Exodus 30:13) exacted as an acknowledgment and a thank offering, a ransom, as it were, for the lives rescued from Egypt, it had been used in the wilderness in providing the framework of the tabernacle and the ornamentation of its pillars.

    Based on this practice arose a custom that every male Israelite of twenty years old and upwards should annually contribute to the temple treasury the sum of a half shekel. Dr. Edersheim reckons the tribute in our Lord's time to have been equivalent to £75,000 per annum. The money was stored in the temple treasury, and was expended partly in the purchase of the daily sacrifices, victims, incense, etc., in the payment of rabbis and other officials connected with the temple, in maintaining the efficiency of the water supply, and in keeping in repair the vast and magnificent buildings in the temple area. After all this outlay, there was always a large sum in hand, which proved a strong temptation to the greed of conquerors, and the sacred coffers were often plundered; and even after many previous spoliations, we read that Crassus ( B.C. 54) carried off no less than two and a half million sterling.

    The tax was due by the twenty-fifth of the month Adar (equivalent to February March), and the collectors who were appointed to or took upon themselves the office, opened stalls in; every country town for the reception of the money. For many centuries the rate was of a voluntary nature, considered, indeed, a religious duty, and to be evaded by no one, Pharisee or Sadducee, who wished to be regarded as an orthodox believer, but its payment had not been secured by any legal process. Lately, indeed, the penalty of distrait had been enacted in order to obtain the tax from defaulters; but it is doubtful whether this was generally enforced. Possibly the appointed day had now arrived, and the collectors thought right to stir in the matter. Came to Peter. They applied to Peter instead of directly to Christ, perhaps out of respect for the latter, and from a certain awe with which He inspired them. Besides, Peter was their fellow townsman, and they doubtless knew him well His natural impulsiveness might have induced him to answer the call. It may also have been his own house, the other eleven being apparently staying with other friends, and Jesus with him ("Me and thee," ver. 27).

    We may suppose that Jesus had complied with the demand on former occasions, when sojourning in His Galilean home, so that the present application was only natural. Doth not your Master (o( Dida/skalo u(mw = n, your Teacher) pay tribute (the didrachma)? Perhaps the form of the question might be better rendered, "Your Teacher pays the two drachms, does He not?" The pronoun "your" is plural, because they recognized that Jesus was at the head of a band of disciples, who would be influenced by His example.

    We may in this inquiry see other motives besides the obvious one. If Jesus paid the rate now without question, He would prove that He was nothing more than an ordinary Jew, with no claim to a higher origin or a Divine mission. Though not a priest or Levite, Jesus might have claimed exemption as a recognized rabbi, and the collectors may have desired to ascertain whether He would do this. There was, too, at this time a sect which, in its furious patriotism, refused to contribute ought to the temple so long as the holy city was profaned by the presence of the heathen. Did Christ belong to this body? And would He carry out their programme? If from any cause He declined the contribution, this abstention would give a handle to those who were not prepared to endorse his claims: the breach of such a generally recognized obligation would raise a prejudice against Him, and weaken the effect of His acts and teaching. Some such motives may have contributed to inspire the question now asked. 


    Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:

    And when they were come to Capernaum ... Called Christ's own city, Matthew 9:1 where He dwelt some time Matthew 4:13 and Peter had an house, Matthew 8:14 "they that received tribute money", or the "didrachms"; in Talmudic language, it would be (i), "they that collect the shekels": for not the publicans, or Roman tax gatherers are meant; nor is this to be understood of any such tribute: there was a tribute that was paid to Caesar, by the Jews; see Matthew 22:17 but that is expressed by another word, and was paid in other money, in Roman money, which bore Caesar's image and superscription; and was exacted of them, whether they would or not: but this designs the collection of the half shekel, paid yearly for the service of the temple: the original of this custom, was an order of the Lord to Moses, upon numbering the people; that everyone that was twenty years of age and upwards, should give half a shekel as atonement money, or as a ransom for his soul; which was to be disposed of for the service of the tabernacle, Exodus 30:12.

    This does not appear to have been designed for a perpetual law, or to be paid yearly; nor even whenever the number of the people was taken, but only for that present time: in the time of Joash king of Judah, a collection was set on foot for the repair of the temple; and the collection of Moses in the wilderness, was urged as an argument, and by way of example; nor is any mention made of the half shekel, nor was any sum of money fixed they should pay; but, according to the account, it was entirely free and voluntary. In the time of Nehemiah, there was a yearly charge of the "third" part of a "shekel", for the service of the temple; but this was not done by virtue of a divine order, or any law of Moses, with which it did not agree; but by an ordinance the Jews then made for themselves, as their necessity required. Aben Ezra (k) indeed says that this was an addition to the half shekel.

    Now in process of time, from these instances and examples, it became a fixed thing, that every year a half shekel should be paid by every Israelite, excepting women, children, and servants, towards defraying the necessary charges of the temple service, and this obtained in Christ's time. There is a whole tract in the Jewish Misna, called Shekalim; in which an account is given of the persons who are obliged to pay this money, the time and manner of collecting it, and for what uses it is put: and so it continued till the times of Titus Vespasian, who, as Josephus says (l), laid a tax of two drachms, the same with the half shekel, upon the Jews; and ordered it to be brought yearly into the capitol at Rome, as it used to have been paid into the temple at Jerusalem.

    We need not wonder that we hear of receivers of the half shekel at Capernaum; since once a year, on the "fifteenth" of the month Adar, tables were placed, and collectors sat in every city in Judea, as they did on the "twenty fifth" of the same month, in the sanctuary (m). The value of the half shekel, was about "fifteen pence" of our money. The Syriac version renders the word here used, "two zuzim of head money": now a "zuz" with the Jews, answered to a Roman penny, four of which made a "shekel" (n); so that two of them were the value of an half "shekel"; it is further to be observed, that shekels in Judea, were double the value of those in Galilee, where Christ now was: five "shekels" in Judea, went for ten in Galilee, and so ten for twenty (o).

    The receivers of this money came to Peter; not caring to go to Christ Himself; but observing Peter a forward and active man among his disciples, they applied to him; or rather, because he had an house in this place, at which Christ might be:  and said, doth not your master pay tribute? or the "didrachms", the half "shekel" money. Had this been the Roman tribute, the reason of such a question might have been either to have ensnared Him, and to have known whether He was of the same mind with Judas, of Galilee, that refused to pay tribute to Caesar; or because they could not tell whether He was reckoned as an inhabitant, or citizen of that city; for, according to the Jewish canons (p), a man must be twelve months in a place, before he is liable to tribute and taxes; or because they might suspect Him to be exempted, as a doctor, or teacher for the Jewish doctors, wise men, and scholars, were freed from all tribute and taxes (q) even from the "head money", the Syriac version here mentions; and which was a civil tax paid to kings (r); to which sense that version seems to incline: the rule concerning wise men or scholars, is this (s). 

    "They do not collect of them for the building a wall, or setting up gates, or for the hire of watchmen, and such like things; nor for the king's treasury; nor do they oblige them to give tribute, whether it is fixed upon citizens, or whether it is fixed on every man.'' 

    But this was not the Roman tax, nor tribute, on any civil account, but the half shekel for religious service: and it may seem strange that such a question should be asked; and especially since it is a rule with them (t), that "all are bound to give the half shekel, priests, Levites, and Israelites; and the strangers, or proselytes, and servants, that are made free; but not women, nor servants, nor children; though if they gave, they received it of them.'' 

    But a following canon (u) explains it, and accounts for it: on the fifteenth "(i.e. of the month Adar,) the collectors sit in every province or city, (that is, in the countries,) , "and mildly ask everyone": he that gives to them, they receive it of him; and he that does not give, , "they do not oblige him to give": on the five and twentieth they sit in the sanctuary to collect, and from hence and onward, they urge him that will not give, until he gives; and everyone that will not give, they take pawns of him.'' 

    So that it seems, there was a different usage of persons, at different times and places: our Lord being in Galilee at Capernaum, was treated in this manner. 

    (i) Maimon. Hilch. Shekalim, c. 2. sect. 4. (k) In Neh. x. 32. (l) De Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 20. (m) Misn. Shekalim, c. 1. sect. 3. Maimon. Hilch. Shekalim, c. 1. sect. 9. (n) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 11. 2. Vid. Targum & Kimchi in 1 Sam. 3. Maimon. in Misn. Shekalim, c. 2. 4. & Hilch. Shekalim, c. 1. sect. 3.((o) Misn. Trumot, c. 10. sect. 8. & Cetubot, c. 5. sect. 9. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 59. 1.((p) T. Hieros. Bava Bathra, fol. 12. 4. T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 8. 1.((q) Maimon. & Bartenora in Pirke Abot, c. 4. sect. 5. (r) Gloss. in T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 100. 2. & Nedarim, fol. 62. 2. & Bava Metzia, fol. 73. 2.((s) Maimon Talmud Tora, c. 6. 10. (t) Ib. Hilch. Shekalim, c. 1. sect. 7. (u) Ib. sect. 9. 

    Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:

    Mt 17:24-27. The Tribute Money: The time of this section is evidently in immediate succession to that of the preceding one. The brief but most pregnant incident which it records is given by Matthew alone, for whom, no doubt, it would have a peculiar interest, from its relation to his own town and his own familiar lake.

    24. And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money, the double drachma; a sum equal to two Attic drachmas, and corresponding to the Jewish "half-shekel," payable, towards the maintenance of the temple and its services, by every male Jew of twenty years old and upward. For the origin of this annual tax, see Ex 30:13, 14; 2Ch 24:6, 9. Thus, it will be observed, it was not a civil, but an ecclesiastical tax. The tax mentioned in Mt 17:25 was a civil one. The whole teaching of this very remarkable scene depends upon this distinction.

    came to Peter, at whose house Jesus probably resided while at Capernaum. This explains several things in the narrative.

    and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? The question seems to imply that the payment of this tax was voluntary, but expected; or what, in modern phrase, would be called a "voluntary assessment."

    In Jesus’ day, every Jewish male over 20 years of age was required to pay a yearly temple tax of two drachmas, or a didrachma. This was the equivalent of about two days’ wages. When a question arose about paying this tax, Jesus instructed Peter: “Go to the sea, cast a fishhook, and take the first fish coming up and, when you open its mouth, you will find a stater coin. Take that and give it to them for Me and you.” Matthew 17:24-27. 

    Many scholars believe that the stater coin mentioned here was, in fact, the tetradrachma. This coin was worth four drachmas, or the equivalent of the temple tax for two persons. The tetradrachma was far more common and more readily available than the didrachma. The New Bible Dictionary thus comments: “It would appear that Jews frequently united to pay the Temple tax in pairs.”  Additionally, any individual who wanted to pay the tax for just one person was liable for an agio, a fee for changing money. This charge could be as high as 8 percent. However, those who paid for two people at the same time were exempt from this charge. So even in this minor detail, the account recorded by Matthew agrees with what is known about common practices in Jesus’ time. 

    Jesus was exempt from this tax, since the temple was His Father’s house and no king imposes a tax on His own son. Jesus said as much; yet He paid that tax. In fact, He even used a miracle to produce the needed money! Why pay a tax from which He was properly exempt? As Jesus Himself said, it was “that we do not cause them to stumble.”

    Paying taxes (Matthew 17:24-27 and 22:15-22):

    In Jesus’ day, Jews paid taxes both locally to the Jewish temple and to the pagan government in Rome. Matthew records two separate instances depicting Jesus’ view on paying these taxes. The first incident is recorded in Matthew 17:24-27 where the collectors of the temple tax ask Peter whether Jesus pays that tax. Jesus, knowing of this conversation, asks Peter, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” Peter answers, “From others.” Jesus responds, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

    The second incident is found in Matthew 22:15-22. It concerns the Roman tax. There the Pharisees and Herodians want to entrap Jesus with the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” Jesus knows the malice in their hearts and responds with a cutting question: “Why are you putting Me to the test, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the tax.” When they hand Him a denarius, He asks, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They respond, “The emperor's.” Jesus ends the conversation with the words, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

    Our true citizenship is in God’s kingdom, and we devote our resources to God’s purposes. But we give to earthly powers what is due. Paying taxes is one of the bedrock obligations we as citizens or residents undertake for the services we enjoy in any civilized society. Those services include the work of first responders (police, firefighters, medical people, etc.) as well as the social nets in place to assure justice or aid for the poor, the aged, and others in need. The Roman Empire was not governed primarily for the benefit of the common people, yet even so it provided roads, water, policing, and sometimes relief for the poor. We may not always agree on the type or extent of services our governments should provide, but we know that our taxes are essential in providing for our personal protection and for the help of those who cannot help themselves.

    Even though not all of government activity serves God’s purposes, Jesus does not call us flout the tax requirements of the nations where we reside (Romans 13:1-101 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Jesus is saying in essence that we do not necessarily have to resist paying taxes as a matter of principle. When possible, we should “live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18,Hebrews 12:14; cf. 1 Peter 2:12), while also living as lights shining in the darkness (Matthew 5:13-16Philippians 2:15). To work at our jobs and to refuse to pay our taxes in a way that brings dishonor to God’s kingdom would be neither peaceable nor winsome.

    This has direct applications to work. Workplaces are subject to governmental laws and powers, in addition to taxes. Some governments have laws and practices that may violate Christian purposes and ethics, as was true of Rome in the first century. Governments or their employees may demand bribes, impose unethical rules and regulations, subject people to suffering and injustice, and use the taxes for purposes contrary to God's will. As with taxes, Jesus does not demand that we resist every one of these abuses. We are like spies or guerrillas in enemy territory. We can’t get bogged down in fighting the enemy kingdom at every stronghold. Instead, we must act strategically, always asking what will most further the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. Of course, we must never engage in abusive practices for our own benefit.

    Key Thought:

    What a weird story and even more strange is why it would be placed here in the flow of the narrative. But it is here as a reminder to us that we do live in an earthly world with earthly obligations and earthly influences. While our values and our Messiah's glory may not be displayed in a way that the world understands, our responsibility to be good citizens and to participate in society is essential. We can't influence people to come to Christ if they don't respect our desire to be people of integrity as we reflect the character of our Savior in the world in which others live.

    Today's Prayer:

    Loving Father, please protect my influence from the harm that comes from slanderers and evil critics who want to do away with my Christian influence. Please forgive me for my past transgressions, cleanse me and make me Holy, and empower me to follow Jesus with bold courage and faithful integrity. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

    Matthew 17:24-27

    Matthew 17:24-27

    24. And when they came to Capernaum, those who received the didrachma came to Peter, and said, Does not your Master pay the didrachma? 25. He saith, Yes. And when he came into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive tribute or custom? From their own children, or from strangers? 26. Peter saith to Him, From strangers. Jesus saith to him, Then are the children free. 27. But that we may not offend them, go thou to the sea, throw a hook, and take that fish which cometh first up; and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou wilt find a stater: take that, and give it for Me and for thee.



    Matthew 17:24. And when they came to Capernaum. We must attend, first of all, to the design of this narrative; which is, that Christ, by paying tribute of His own accord, declared His subjection, as He had taken upon Him the form of a servant, (Philippians 2:7,) but at the same time showed, both by words and by the miracle, that it was not by obligation or necessity, but by a free and voluntary submission, that He had reduced Himself so low that the world looked upon Him as nothing more than one of the common people. This was not a tax which was wont to be demanded on crossing the sea, but an annual tribute laid individually on every man among the Jews, so that they paid to tyrants what they were formerly in the habit of paying to God alone.

    For we know that this tax was imposed on them by the Law, that, by paying every year half a stater, (Exodus 30:13,) they might acknowledge that God, by whom they had been redeemed, was their supreme King. When the kings of Asia appropriated this to themselves, the Romans followed their example. Thus the Jews, as if they had disowned the government of God, paid to profane tyrants the sacred tax required by the Law. But it might appear unreasonable that Christ, when He appeared as the Redeemer of His people, should not Himself be exempted from paying tribute. To remove that offense, He taught by words, that it was only by His will that He was bound; and He proved the same thing by a miracle, for He who had dominion over the sea and the fishes might have released Himself from earthly government. 

    Doth not your Master pay? Some think that the collectors of the tribute intended to throw blame on Christ, as if He were claiming exemption from the common law. As men of that class are insolent and abusive, these words may be interpreted as having been spoken by way of reproach. It was customary for every man to be enrolled in his own city; but we know that Christ had no fixed habitation in one place. Those people therefore inquire if He be exempted from the law on the ground of His frequent removals from place to place. 

    25. He saith, Yes. Peter's reply contains a modest excuse to satisfy them: "He will pay," says he; from which we infer that Christ had formerly been accustomed to pay, for Peter promises it as a thing about which there was no doubt. That they address him rather than the other disciples was because Christ lived with him; for if all had occupied the same habitation, the demand would have been made on all alike.

    Some scholars claim very that it is frivolous a pretense, to make Peter a partner in the dignity of Christ. "He chose him (they say) to be his vicar, and bestowed on him equal honors, by making him equal to Himself in the payment of tribute." But in this way they will make all swine-herds vicars of Christ, for they paid as much as He did. And if the primacy of Peter was manifested in the paying of tribute, whence comes that exemption which they claim for themselves? But this is the necessary result of the shameful trifling of those who corrupt Scripture according to their own fancy.

    What thinkest thou, Simon? In this Christ gave a proof of His Divinity, by showing that nothing was unknown to Him. But what is the object of His discourse? Is it to exempt Himself and His followers from subjection to the laws? Some explain it thus, that Christians have a right to be exempted, but that they voluntarily subject themselves to the ordinary government, because otherwise human society cannot be maintained. However, the meaning appears to be more simple; for there was danger lest the disciples might think that Christ had come in vain, because, by paying tribute cut off the hope of deliverance; and therefore He simply affirms that He pays tribute, solely because He voluntarily refrains from exercising His right and power. Hence it is inferred that this takes nothing from His reign. But why does He not openly claim His right? It is because His kingly power was unknown to the collectors of the tribute. For, though His kingdom be spiritual, still we must maintain, that as He is the only Son of God, He is also the heir of the whole world, so that all things ought to be subject to Him, and to acknowledge His authority. The meaning, therefore, is, that God has not appointed kings, and established governments over mankind, in such a manner as to place Him who is the Son in the same rank indiscriminately with others, but yet that, of His own accord, He will be a servant along with others, till the glory of His kingdom be displayed.

    Nothing else was intended by Christ than to claim for Himself the honor of a King's Son, so as to have at least a home privileged and exempted from the common law. And therefore it is also highly foolish in the Anabaptists to torture these words for overturning political order, since it is more than certain, that Christ does not say anything about a privilege common to believers, but only draws a comparison from the sons of kings, who, together with their domestics, are exempted. 

    27. Throw a hook. Christ had not always full coffers, and was not compelled by poverty to give this order to Peter, but that He did so in order to prove by a miracle, that He had a more extensive dominion than all earthly kings, since He had even fishes for His tributaries. And we do not read that this was done more than once, because one proof was enough for His whole life. Thou wilt find a stater. A stater was of the same value as a shekel, namely, four drachms or two didrachma. 

















    To show that He can use anything to get what he wants at any time

    There are many preachers,  etc. that harp on Malachi. They seek money. GOD doesn’t need money. WE do as a tool to help GODS WORD be spoken throughout the World in Peoples Native Tongues."Are WE Giving to GOD what is HIS?"(Our ALL) You shouldn’t have to pay tithes in money necessarily. It HAS been a way to share. "I believe it Honors OUR Father in Heaven when WE Tithe in action, like helping widows, orphans, elderly and sick that cannot help themselves. I used to make a lot of money working construction. It was Empty. The Real paycheck is going home at the end of the day having done GODS Perfect Will. To Love one another as You Love yourselves and Love GOD above ALL things." Are you giving CHRIST as HE gave for US? As GOD leads each of US individual members of HIS Body, WE will give money, clothes or whatever CHRISTHOLY SPIRIT guides US to give."Personally, I try and give every way possible."

    JESUS as a King was exempt from The Israelite law of paying didrachma.(A law set aside for Israelites over 20 years of age.Exodus30:15)Yet as in Matthew22:21-22,Mark2:17and Luke20:25 JESUS said to:"Render unto man/Caesar the ruler there, the moneys owed; And to Give to GOD ALL that IS GODS! JESUS IS/Always will be a Heavenly King sent to earth(John3:16) and was Born an Earthly King as well." Funny how the so-called religious leaders of that day were to know The Scriptures;(As are we)and yet; They never showed up to Pay Respect for This Heavenly King Prophesied for 1,000's of years Before CHRIST' Coming. The Maji (Wise men DID) Proving CHRIST to be an Earthly King as well as The Son of GOD!(We should be showering HIM with Respect all day every day in thoughts, deeds and actions)They traveled in packs not to be robbed by desert thieves and brought vast riches to HIM "WE owe ALL Things including OUR Bodies, Minds and Souls."Here CHRIST shows another Miracle to Peter. That HE had GODS Power over Death and Life and HE was not to cause them to stumble. HE had Peter get a fish which had their stater;(A half- sacred shekel every Israelite had to pay over 20 years of age) One Shekel to pay Both of their Staters and fulfill their laws in Full Obedience as WE should be!

    Jesus chose to obtain the starter from a fish rather than from a more conventional source of money because he wanted to show his power for doing anything and obey the Law.  Jesus also showed his solidarity with Peter.

    Jesus chose to obtain the starter from a fish rather than from a more conventional source of money to show that He has power over nature and He that can use anything to fulfill the desire of God. He knew that His followers will understand Him better as some of them were the fishermen. Jesus was teaching His followers that it is not a sin to pay tax to the government . However , God wants us to be the fishers of men to make an investment in the kingdom of God. Jesus did not desire to separate kings and strangers but to show that He loves all and that He need all to enter into the kingdom of God.

    One never knows where our strength or resources will come from but our faith in God tells us that they will be provided for us by the Almighty.

    On the coin issue, Jesus had already asked them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is to Him, but here He wanted to set the example and also to proof that He was there to fulfill the law.

    Because He is the source of everything and either money or anything else...it’s the human race which didn’t understand that lord is father of all creation

    Jesus wanted to teach that He is the controller of the world and all riches on the earth belong to Him and He can get  anywhere, whenever and whatever He desires or orders'

    Jesus proved to them that He is more powerful than the so called earthly kings who needed to collect tax for their survival. Jesus being the head of the church, the King, did not require any tax collection for His survival. He proved to them that if he wanted He could fetch money even from the fish that lived in water.

    Although there may be people who will be willing to pay the money for Jesus, He did not want to depend on others to provide for His needs.  He is the provider of the needs of others.  He also wants to prove that it is good to work for whatever you need, and that He is the Lord of all.  He can use any means and method to meet our need.

    It was to fulfill His mission that He came to serve and not to be served and l think He wanted to prove to people that everything comes through hard work like in this case Peter was to go and fish in order to get the stater.

    It takes hard work before we can obtain money and offer unto God. Then, To Offer unto Him, it should come from our heart. 

    in my opinion, if He took it from man it would have defeated the object of the lesson. Al things are possible with the Lord. He came to serve not to be a served of man.

    With God everything is possible and He is the source and provider. Here the message tells us that without Him we will achieve only the wind.

    This was to show us that he is our provider and we can always go to him and ask him for anything. He does not need anything from us but it’s us who need him for assistance.. So instead of getting from another source he gets from a fish to show that he is there to serve us

    By: Gregorio Magdaleno
    Category: The Temple Tax
    Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
    How can one increase his faith to be the size of a mustard seed? (see also Luke 17:5-19)

    Matthew 17:14-23 


    The Healing of a Boy with a Demon


    When they came to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him, saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is epileptic, and suffers grievously; for he often falls into the fire, and often into the water. So I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him." 


    Jesus answered, "Faithless and perverse generation! How long will I be with you? How long will I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." Jesus rebuked Him, the demon went out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour. 


    Then the disciples came to Jesus privately, and said, "Why weren't we able to cast it out?" 

    He said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind doesn't go out except by prayer and fasting." 


    While they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up." 


    They were exceedingly sorry.


    How can one increase his faith to be the size of a mustard seed? (See also Luke 17:5-19)



    Jesus Honors One Person's Faith on Behalf of Another (17:14-15)

    A man brings his son to the One with power to deliver him. Some of the symptoms depicted here resemble those of epilepsy, which may imply that demons gaining control over the human central nervous system can sometimes cause epileptic-type phenomena. This observation doesn’t mean that epilepsy is always caused by demons; the differentiation of the two in 4:24 and the numbers of committed Christians who suffer from epilepsy distinguish the two. Some contemporary accounts tell of spirits seeking to make people burn themselves.

    Jesus accepts the father's faith on behalf of his son. Those who support infant baptism have found in this text a principle they believe supports it; those who emphasize the importance of personal faith at baptism are not persuaded by the analogy. But in either case the principle applies for many other kinds of prayer (10:8; 18:15-20; 1 Jn 5:16) and encourages us in our faith for others' needs (8:13; 9:2; 15:28).

    Jesus Summons Us to Grow in Active Faith (17:16-18)

    Jesus expected His disciples to have sufficient faith to repeat His miracles by this point (vv.16-17, 20). Unbelieving…generation (v. 17) applied generally to Jesus' contemporaries (11:16; 12:39-45; 13:39, 45; 16:4; 23:36; 24:34), but in this case specifically to His disciples, who proved unable to stand in for Him in His absence (17:16). Disciples were by definition apprentices in training to assume the role of their teachers. Jesus had already sent His disciples out and they had healed the sick and driven out demons (10:8). Had they not seen enough to believe (8:26)?

    Matthew expected his audience to learn from these recorded signs of Jesus, just as the first disciples did when they witnessed them. We who read these accounts in the Bible should be growing in our faith relationship with Jesus, as the disciples did who first walked with Him. How often the needs around us go unmet because we neglect radical trust in God, especially on behalf of others' needs?

    The Disciples Lacked the Most Basic Level of Faith (17:19-20)

    Jesus explicitly attributes their inability to the smallness of their faith (6:30; 8:26; 14:21; 16:8), pointing out that even a mustard seed's worth of faith would be sufficient to cast out not merely demons but mountains (17:20; 21:21; 1 Cor 13:2). The disciples already recognized how small a mustard seed was (Mt 13:32). Ancient peoples thought of mountains as rooted far beneath the earth, so "moving mountains" was a typical Jewish teacher's image for doing what was virtually impossible. With this illustration Jesus indicates that even were we casting out mountains rather than demons, we would only be scratching the surface of a life of faith. What could we do with faith greater than that of a tiny mustard seed! Like children who have only begun to walk, most of us have only begun our adventure of faith.

    Faithful Obedience to God Invites Martyrdom As Well As God's Power (17:22-23)

    We may become too infatuated with God's power and protection (v. 20); God sometimes calls us into danger. God twice honored Elijah's call for fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10-12), but then instructed him to accompany the third captain (who feared God enough to provide the prophet safe passage). Jesus' disciples had preferred the glories of the messianic kingdom to suffering (Mt 16:16, 21-22; 17:4); like them, we must avoid missing the point of His triumphant empowerment (1 Cor 13:2; Lk 10:17-20). Faith means willingness to go where God leads, not power to avert all unpleasant circumstances. We mature as the Lord leads us through hard tests for His name's sake, forcing us to actively trust His provision and power.

    Jesus gives us access to tremendous power for accomplishing His will. Jesus' own example shows us, however, that those who have an intimate faith relationship with God act in compassion for others' needs rather than exploiting power frivolously (Mt 4:3-10).

    Coming Down the Mountain

    Matthew 17:14-21


    This great chapter shows us Jesus in His glory [last time], as well as Jesus in His power.


    It’s nice to have a bright, shining mountaintop experience, but what happens when we descend back to regular life?  Peter loved to talk, and often it was the wrong thing he had to say.  Peter suggested in v. 4, “Let’s just stay here!”  But this is earth, and it’s sin cursed, and while we are here, there’s a cross to bear, and work to be done.  We cannot be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.


    “To live above with those we love, oh, that will be glory! But here below, with those we  know, now that’s another story!”


    Peter wanted to build 3 shrines to these who appeared.  It was a mistake for Peter to put Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus. God the Father sets him straight in v. 5...and only God Himself could successfully interrupt Peter when he started talking. 


    Moses was there, and truly he was a great man, representing the law of God.  But Jesus was the One shining on this day, because He was the fulfillment of the law.  His sinless life fulfilled the moral law, His sacrificial death fulfilled the ceremonial law, and one day when He rules and reigns He will even fulfill the judicial law of God!


    It’s nice to have mountaintop experiences, but there are millions below in the valley of need, and Jesus wants us to descend to them and help pull them back up to glory.


    They come down the mountain, and they find someone who is desperately in need.  So now we move from Jesus in His glory to Jesus in His power...v. 14-16 is a good picture of earth.  We have a crazy world, a compassionate Savior, and sadly, crippled disciples. 


    The church today has lots of money, many programs, but no power!  The world needs help, and they should be able to get anything they need thru the church, but they have to go to the world because the church is so powerless.


    This was a hard case, a convulsing, foaming at the mouth little one...he had a demon.  And the devil wants our children too, from a young age.  He wants to get into their minds, and many parents are blind to the fact that they are allowing it in their own homes!  Movies, TV, video games, books, board games, magazines and more are penetrating little hearts and minds.


    Bob Pittman, founder of MTV said, “At MTV, we don't shoot for the 14-year olds, we own them.” Satan is happy to baby-sit our children if we’ll just plop them in front of anything without discernment.  Some say, “They’re going to learn stuff at school or out in the world anyhow.”  True, but that doesn’t mean we as parents have to put our stamp of approval on sin by letting them learn it all right in our own homes under our noses!  That’s like saying, “I don’t care if there’s a snake loose in my child’s room.  Eventually they are going to encounter one in the woods anyway.”  True, but I want them to know it’s dangerous and run from it, not embrace it because I didn’t see any harm!


    We can’t keep laughing at the gay TV shows...we’re sending the wrong message, and we’re all being desensitized to it.  We can’t keep allowing all the profanity on our TVs, and just shake our heads when we hear it, or soon we won’t hear it at all! 


    This father brought his son to the disciples, and they were powerless to help.  They should have been able to cast the demon out in Jesus name.  In Matthew 10:1 Jesus gave them the power and authority to do so.  What happened between Mt. 10 and Mt. 17 for them to wind up like Samson? Three reasons they lost their power:


    ·        Lack of faith

    ·        Lack of prayer

    ·        Lack of discipline


    Our churches are taking form like a well oiled machine...all are getting aligned, but if we’re not careful, we’ll lose our power like Samson, like these disciples, and not even know it!  Don’t lose faith in God because of success...that’s having faith in you.  Don’t stop praying...we need to pray more than ever because we’re having success and Satan knows it!  Don’t get lazy in your spiritual walk...discipline needs to be a part of everyday life.


    V. 21 is about prayer and fasting.  When you get really serious about having God’s power, you’re ready to fast, and you’re ready to have a spiritual breakthrough!  You’ll grow in faith and discipline at the same time. Fasting is giving up something physical to focus on something spiritual.  You can fast from food, from TV, from physical pleasures of any kind.  How badly do you want the power?


    In Acts they prayed for 10 days, preached for 10 minutes, and 3,000 got saved.  Will you come out and pray for just 10 minutes?  Will you have a private prayer life?  You shouldn’t pray only in public if not in private.


    Enjoy the times on the mountain, but when you come down from that high and your feet hit the floor, it matters that you walk straight.  And in a world such as ours it takes power to fulfill God’s purpose, to carry your cross.  You have to be changed if you want to change your world!


    Lord, help us to be people of faith, of discipline, and lay hold on the real power thru prayer and fasting.


    Matthew 17:14-23


    In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst!


    If we spend much time reading the Scriptures, the sequence of events and the Apostles actions will begin to amaze, even flabbergast us. We just read about the Transfiguration of Christ. This Gospel picks up 5 verses later, with the Lord and His Disciples having just coming down off Mt. Tabor. The Disciples, three of them having just experienced the Transfiguration, having just seen the revelation of the fullness of the glory of God in Christ, are presented with a test.


    Scripture teaches us that gifts from God, like the Apostles experience on Mt. Tabor, come with testing, to help us preserve what we’ve received and to continue to grow. So the Disciples are faced with a test. A man brings them his son, who suffers from epilepsy. He says the boy often falls, or throws himself in other Gospel accounts, into fire and into water. Not only is the boy afflicted with a terrible, and at that time totally untreatable disease, his family also has to fear for his bodily safety because of the things he does when he suffers from his illness. So this man, having obviously heard of Christ, heard that Christ is a great healer and teacher, some even say He’s the Messiah. So with this knowledge, the father brings his son to Christ. Matthew says he first brought the boy to Christ’s disciples. The disciples were already known by their association with Christ, and they had already been given the power to cast out demons and to heal the sick. But the disciples were unable to heal the boy. What a terrible moment in time that must have been, living and working with the Messiah, witnesses of the full glory of God, they were unable to do one of the things He gave them power to do. So the man brings his son to Christ, tells Him of the terrible affliction the boy suffers, and tells Him that the disciples were unable to help. Perhaps He could help the boy.


    Then Jesus says some startling words—“O perverse and faithless generation…how long shall I bear with you?” He then has the boy brought to Him, casts out the demon, and the child is cured. Later, in private, the disciples ask, “Why couldn’t we heal the boy?” Christ goes back to the startling words He spoke at the miracle “Because of your unbelief…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”


    In another of the Gospel accounts the contrast between belief and unbelief is made even stronger. Before the miracle, Christ asks the boy’s father: “Do you believe I can do this?” And the father responds, “Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” It’s astonishing that after all they have witnessed the miracles, the feedings, the healings, even the Transfiguration that the disciples could still be told that they don’t believe. What does Christ mean when He tells them they lack faith?


    Sometimes we like to approach the Christian life in very much the same way we approach everything. If it makes sense, then it must be right. If I see some proof, then I can believe. So we read the Bible, we “understand” it, we accept the witness of the Church Pastors, our elders, even our own experiences with God. And therefore we believe. But in the Scriptures we’re reminded that the wisdom and way of God is not the wisdom and way of men. The Apostles have no problem believing when Christ is standing before them in glory, or when He’s performing miracles before their very eyes. But when it comes to believing that they also have been given this power, their faith suddenly falters. But it made sense, they saw it, they lived it. But when it came right down to it, they still lacked true faith in Christ.


    Christ told them if they even had the tiniest bit of faith, like a mustard seed, which is called the smallest of all seeds in the Scriptures. If they even have a tiny amount of faith, nothing would be impossible for them. In fact, in another passage Christ tells them they will do greater things than He does by the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith is not rational acceptance and understanding. If it were, the disciples would have had no problem healing the epileptic boy. They knew Jesus could do it. The faith Christ is speaking of is giving of oneself wholly to Him. If the disciples had fully dedicated themselves, in every way, to Christ, they could have healed the boy.


    And in fact, after the Resurrection, they do give themselves over entirely to God’s will. Performing countless miracles, spreading the Gospel message, and even dying for Christ. Faith is not believing what you see when you see it, that’s common sense. Faith is believing that every word of Christ is True, and then living those words.


    Christ calls us not only to believe in Him, that He’s real, and the stories in the Bible are true. Christ calls us to believe on Him, to believe the promises He made to us and to live exhibiting our belief in those promises. “Don’t worry about your clothing or your food, the Father will care for those things,” Christ said. “I come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly,” He preached. “Anything that you ask in My name, the Father will grant it.” “Where two are three are gathered in My name, I am in the midst.” Do we live like these promises are being fulfilled? Christ came to offer us life. To offer us the chance to be entirely healed of our sin, our evil self-destructive desires. And being healed of the brokenness of this world brings man life abundantly, both in this world and in the next. But we have to see things through the lens of the Gospel. Abundant life in the Gospel is communion with God, regardless of the physical and material situations we find ourselves in. Placing our entire life into the hands of Almighty God.


    And that’s not an easy thing to do. We like to be in control of ourselves. To hold back little things for us. But Faith of the sort Christ preaches is Faith that keeps nothing for itself, but offers everything to Christ. Faith that begs, “Not my will, but Thine.” Faith that lives,”It is no longer I, but Christ that lives in me.” True faith in God is not just a belief that the words of the Bible are true, God is real, and maybe I can go to heaven by admitting that.


    It wasn’t too long ago that even society felt it only common sense to acknowledge the existence of God. True faith is living the commandments of Christ, and knowing that God is faithful and just in all that He has said. In striving for this faith, our prayer should mirror the prayers of those in Scripture, many of which we’ve already mentioned. “Lord I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” “Not my will, but Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”


    “Lord help my will to be overshadowed by the life of Christ in me.” The only way to have true life, true healing, to be truly human, is to be “a little Christ.” “Lord, we believe. Fill our unbelief with the fullness of Thy eternal life.”

    Glory to Jesus Christ.



    Matthew 17:14-23


    When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai where God had given him the Law, he was confronted with the scene of Israel worshipping a golden calf. When Jesus came down from the mountain on which He had been transfigured He also encountered a scene of unbelief and spiritual conflict. In sharp contrast to the glory revealed on the mountain, Jesus is “brought down to earth” as He rejoins His disciples.


    If you compare Matthew’s account of this incident with the much longer one in Mark you will see that Matthew wants to emphasize the question of the disciple’s faith. He leaves out much of the account that does not pertain to that issue. Remember, this is the episode in which the father of the demon-possessed boy famously says, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Matthew is more interested in the disciples, their faith or lack of same, and the lesson the Lord taught here bearing on Christian discipleship.


    V.15 The verb that the NIV translates “has seizures” means literally is a lunatic, is moonstruck. It refers to a set of symptoms that scholars generally equate with epilepsy. That it was, in fact, a case of demon-possession is indicated later. But, of course, demon-possession often produced the symptoms typical of physical disorders.


    V.16 The disciples had previously driven out demons and healed the sick by the authority of Jesus. We read of that in 10:1. So, we think, they should have been able to heal this boy. Their failure and the reason for it becomes the burden of this incident as Matthew narrates it.


    V.17 The statement about the “unbelieving generation” is not made about the disciples alone, but it includes them. In their lack of faith they are all too typical of the rest of the Jews who lack faith in Jesus Christ. In 12:39 the Lord said a similar thing about that entire generation of Israel to whom the Messiah had come but who had rejected Him in their unbelief.

    The Lord’s statement, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” gives us a little sense of how much of a trial it must have been for Jesus to have to deal day after day with people who simply didn’t get it, who continually missed what was as clear as the noonday sun, who were, at best, spiritual pygmies.


    V.18 With apparent ease, Jesus did what His disciples could not do. He spoke and the boy was delivered of the demon and healed of his condition.


    V.19 The disciples were aware that they hadn’t the power to drive out the demon and seem puzzled by that fact. They had driven demons out before.


    V.20 The “faith deficit” that the disciples suffered from has already been raised in this Gospel three times before, most recently in 16:8. At that time “moving mountains” was a proverbial way of speaking about the most difficult, the most unlikely, and the most improbable of outcomes. Because of its use here the same phrase has become proverbial in all the languages of western culture. We say of a man who is capable of great accomplishment that he can “move mountains.” In the same way the “mustard seed” was in that time and place a proverbial image of the minute, the tiny. The Lord will return to this manner of speaking about the power of faith in 21:22.


    V.21 You will notice that v. 21 is missing. In the KJV that verse reads: “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” The verse is missing in many early manuscripts and seems rather clearly to have been imported into Matthew’s text from Mark 9:29.


    V.23 Once again we are reminded that through this entire period, from one occasion to the next, the Lord was speaking about His impending suffering and death. His prediction grieved His disciples, but did not lead to understanding.


    This is a familiar enough text. We have read and heard many times about how faith, even as small as a mustard seed, can move mountains. We have read how nothing is impossible for those who believe. Whether we really believe that any longer may be another question. But we know that Jesus said it.


    Some of us have believed so long for things that we have not received that we don’t know what to make of the Lord’s extravagant words here. We have mountains in front of us that we have tried to move and they have not moved. We certainly have not cast them into the sea as Jesus said faithful men and women would be able to do in 21:21. What are we to make of this statement?


    The more we think about it, in fact, the more confused we become. After all, Jesus rebuked His disciples on this occasion for having only a little faith but then turns around and immediately says that if one has faith even as small as a mustard seed, the smallest thing around, he can move mountains. If even the smallest faith can move mountains surely it should be able to cast out a demon, but these disciples, with their little faith, could not.


    What is more, we know these men were believing men, Judas excepted. You will sometimes hear people argue that the disciples were not really converted, did not become true followers of Christ until later, even after the resurrection, but this is clearly not the teaching of the Gospels. We have just heard Jesus tell Peter that his confession of Jesus as the Christ was an understanding, an insight that the Father in heaven had given him. On a previous occasion the Lord had specifically told them to praise God that their names were written in the book of life. All the four Gospels represent the disciples as genuine followers of Jesus from the beginning of their association with Him; represent them as real believers, as true Christians we might say.


    Even here the Lord does not say that they are unbelieving, but that they have little faith and that in their faith being small they were too like the unbelieving generation around them. But if these were men of beliefs, then they have some faith, and they should have been able to move the mountain of this boy’s demon-possession. As so often in the Gospels, the Lord’s remarks startle us, even at first hearing confuse us. We are meant to ponder them, to consider what they might mean, and in that careful consideration discover the real impact and application of His teaching.


    What are we to make of this statement that even the smallest faith can move mountains when the believing disciples were unable to help this boy precisely because they didn’t have enough faith? Most of us very easily and naturally identify ourselves with the disciples. We have no difficulty thinking that, had we been there, we would have failed as they did to help the boy. We would have been rebuked for our little faith. And we would have wondered as, no doubt they did, precisely what the Lord was saying to us when he said that, notwithstanding our failure, with faith as small as a mustard seed we could do the impossible.


    A solution begins to emerge when we compare the failure of the disciples to the seemingly effortless success of the Lord Jesus. They tried to cast the demon out and nothing happened. The Lord spoke a word and the boy was healed. What Matthew makes the significant contrast is the disciples’ impotence and the Lord’s power. But, of course, it was always the Lord’s power.


    When the disciples healed the sick and cast out demons when the Lord sent them out on tour, as we read in chapter 10, it was explicitly with His power and authority that the disciples acted. Here, in chapter 17, they do not have the Lord’s power. They have only their own and it is not nearly enough to drive a demon out of this boy.


    We are left to ponder this contrast. It was never their power, so why were they able to exercise it in one instance and not in another? The Lord explains that the difference was their faith or, better, their want of faith on this occasion. By their lack of faith they had lost connection to the power of God. Very likely the disciples had begun to think of the power they had exercised over demons as something that they possessed in their own right.


    Perhaps they had come to think of it as their power. That is easy to do if we enjoy success at something, to begin to attribute the success to ourselves. It would be hard, in fact, to avoid the temptation to do that. It would take wisdom and godliness always to remember that it is God’s power and not our own when we do such remarkable things and to act and pray accordingly, and nothing about the Gospel accounts of these men at this time leads us to believe that they were by now particularly wise or discerning men. Indeed, their failure to understand what the Lord repeatedly told them about His coming death is some indication of how slow these men were to learn the lessons of faith.


    Faith is nothing more than the power of God placed at the disposal of man.” It seems it was precisely that which the disciples had forgotten. It is so easy to forget it. It is so easy for us all to think of the practice of the Christian life as a kind of magic, a spiritual routine that results in predictable outcomes. In its more serious usage, “magic” is not the practice of sleight of hand, what magicians do nowadays to entertain an audience. “Magic” in its accepted sense, is that belief in a supernatural force, real or imagined, that is wielded in isolation from the ethical demands of God’s law and covenant. In this sense, magic was a constant temptation to God’s people in the ancient world and still today, for it includes all efforts to manipulate God apart from a genuine trust in him as a personal God and a genuine submission to His will.


    We are always finding our Christian faith being corrupted into nothing but magic. It happens whenever we find ourselves simply going through the motions of the Christian faith and life, contenting ourselves with an outward conformity, and are not living in the active conviction of the Lord’s presence, are not looking up to Him, personally, for our life, our godliness, our fruitfulness, are not living by the power of genuine prayer.


    Here is C.S. Lewis admitting how often he struggled with precisely that failure: “The trouble with me is lack of faith. I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence: but the irrational deadweight of my own skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day, steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so – the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced: but I often feel so.”


    Something like this must have been the case with the disciples that day as it is so often the case with us. Nothing less than constant spiritual vigilance can keep us from succumbing to this temptation to depersonalize our Christian faith and make it a matter of habit and procedure rather than living, active, personal confidence in a present Heavenly Father, Lord Christ, and Holy Spirit.


    If, as Luther said, “Faith is nothing else but a sure and steadfast looking to Christ,” how often is our faith small to non-existent. If we are to take ten looks at Christ for every look at ourselves, how much faith do we really have from this moment to that in our daily lives. Is it not the case that we are more likely to take ten looks at ourselves, or twenty, for every look at Christ?


    What had happened, it seems, was that the disciples had lost sight of the source of the power they had once wielded and, given the fact that they had no power in themselves to order demons about; they found themselves powerless, just as we so often do. These men were believers in the fundamental sense. They really were followers of Christ. That is why the Lord says that their problem was that their faith was small, little. But in the particular instance in question, in their unsuccessful effort to cast out the demon, they were acting in the spirit not of faith at all, not even of little faith, but of faithlessness, of unbelief.


    They were acting in their own strength and not with a conviction of their dependence upon the Lord. They had forgotten that it was His power and that their only access to that power was by a living confidence in a present Lord, in an active dependence upon what He and He alone could accomplish. That is faith and in that moment that is what they were lacking. And, of course, happens with us. We believe, we really do. But, fact is, far too many times in a day we think, speak, and act as if we do not believe; not really. In practice, too often by far, we are unbelievers, believers that we are notwithstanding.


    That solves the first part of the puzzle, in other words, how the Lord can say that of these men that they have but little faith and it was the smallness of their faith that defeated them, but then proceed to say that if they had but a tiny bit of faith they could move mountains.


    The second part of the puzzle is the statement about moving mountains and doing the impossible. There are so many mountains we long to move and we genuinely believe in Christ and we often have the spirit of real dependence upon Him, plead for His help to move our mountains, and yet they have remain where they are. They haven’t moved an inch.  One of the wonderful things about preaching the Bible is that we are always certain that whenever we say something like that, everyone knows precisely what it means.


    Everybody is already thinking about his own mountains; and, nobody else knows what their immovable mountains are, but we know they have them, we know they are thinking about them, and the following is relevant and important precisely because all of us have mountains to move and because, Christian like us have sought to move them by faith.


    But here is what we need to understand. What the Lord is talking about is the power of faith. If faith is the power of God at the disposal of man, nothing can stand in the way of the power that is wielded by faith. It is omnipotence and nothing less, because it is the power of God.


    But in speaking about faith’s power on this occasion, the Lord was not dealing with the very different question of what God’s will may be for the life of any of His followers. The

    Lord certainly does not mean here, as He makes clear enough on many occasions, that whatever we want to accomplish by faith in God’s power, we shall accomplish. God’s will remains a secret to us and must remain so. There are many mountains that the Lord places in our way that He intends to remain in place. It was so in our Savior’s life and it will be so in ours. Jesus has just said that at the end of chapter 16. What we have here, then, is not a blanket promise that God will empower us to change everything we would like changed in our lives or the lives of our loved ones or in the life of the world. It is true that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose, but it is not true that we have been given the right to define what “the good” will be that God works for and how it will come to pass in our lives. Indeed, in that immortal passage in Romans 8 Paul, like Jesus in Matthew 16, reminds us that there will be, must be much affliction, trouble, and sorrow in a Christian’s life and that it is precisely, supremely in those things that God works good in our lives.


    We must take our lessons one by one. And the lesson here is not about whether we may live what we would define to be a supremely successful life, that we may enjoy a superabundance of joy and prosperity in our lives. The lesson here is that true and living faith in Christ, because it connects us to divine power, because it puts the power of Christ at our disposal, makes possible the accomplishment of extraordinary things.


    But, then we ask, we all ask sooner or later: what impossible things, what extraordinary things is the Lord talking about? We tend to think, far too often, in very worldly ways at this point. We tend to think that the impossible things that faith accomplishes will be those things we most desire to enjoy in this world. We know what they are in your case; what we long for and what we think about and what we really want the Lord to give us. But think for a moment about these disciples to whom the Lord first addressed these remarks. When they came into the fullness of their faith, after the Lord’s resurrection and then again after Pentecost, what became of them. What did they accomplish by the power of Christ? What mountains did they move?


    They lived difficult lives. They suffered a great deal. They lost many things. But they turned the world upside down. They brought salvation to many places and to multitudes of people. They gave glory to God and bore the name of Christ in such a way as to cover it with honor in the world.


    There is a mountain worth moving! Our life is a beacon of light, our words the truth that sets men and women free, one’s character and conduct a window on the unseen world through which others may look to see God and heaven. With the entire history of the Bible and the history of the church since before us, that these are the mountains that are most regularly moved and even cast into the sea by the power of living faith in Jesus



    Listen to this from Alexander Whyte: “Give me a passionate man, a hot-headed man, and one that is headstrong and unmanageable; and with faith as a grain of mustard seed, I will, by degrees make that man as quiet as a lamb. Then give me a covetous man, an avaricious man, a miserly man; and with a little faith working like leaven in his heart, I will yet make him a perfect spendthrift for the church of Christ and for the poor. Then give me one who is mortally afraid of pain; and one who all his days is in bondage through fear of death; and let the spirit of faith once enter and take its seat in his heart and in his imagination, and he shall, in a short time, despise all your crosses and flames…. Then show me a man with an unclean heart and I will undertake, by his faith in Christ, to make him whiter than snow, till he will not know himself to be the same man.” 


    These may not be the mountains we first think of removing, but they are the mountains the world cannot move and that faith can. And they are the mountains we know it is God’s will that they should be and shall be moved. This is the great work of God in the world and if faith obtains access to God’s power, we are right to conclude that this divine power will be put to work accomplishing what God intends.


    So what are we Christians to take away from the Lord’s teaching here? 1) That faith is an active dependence upon a present Christ, that it is not a going through of Christian motions, but a genuine looking to Christ to act and to work. 2) And that faith, because it connects us to God’s great power, is mighty to achieve wonderful, surprising things that cannot be achieved by human strength.


    No serious, no earnest, no thoughtful Christian hears these words of the Lord who does not immediately acknowledge that this is a message we very much need to hear and take to heart. No sincere follower of Christ hears Him speak of the disciples’ little faith and of the power of faith even as small as a mustard seed without realizing that the great spiritual defect of his or her life has been unmasked, discovered, laid bare. We work so much more easily than we believe. We look to ourselves so much more often than we look to Him. We feel like the father of this poor boy, possessed by a demon and suffering from epilepsy, who heard the Lord Jesus and the first thing out of his mouth was “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” This is to say, Lord, I have faith, help me to practice it every hour of every day. Help me actually to look to you always and in every situation, to know you are present, to remember your promises, to count on them, to believe in your great power and ask you to exercise it on my behalf.


    We are inclined to think about faith as a fundamental intellectual conviction and spiritual commitment. It is that, to be sure. And the disciples had that. But faith is also and always must be a daily, hourly practicing of Christ’s presence, reliance upon Him, a looking to Him, and a depending upon Him. To the extent that we do not do that, we are people of little faith. At the moment we are not doing that we are, at that moment, people of little faith. When we turn to Him, however small and unimpressive our faith may be, when we look to Him and count on Him and speak to Him, at that moment our faith can move mountains and will.


    The disciples had faith, but they were not exercising their faith and that is the distinction that Jesus made. When Christians exercise their faith, really exercise it by placing their confidence directly, immediately, intentionally, personally in Jesus and His Word, and then the power of God is at their disposal.


    Who is Your Father?

    It's unfortunate that today's scripture readings, from the 10th Sunday of Matthew do not coincide with our celebration of Father's Day. As we know, the Church has its own sense of time and her lectionary system was constructed many centuries ago. Yet, we have two good examples of fathers today. In the Gospel (Mt.17:14-23) we see a father approaching Jesus and kneeling before Him and asking Him to heal his epileptic son (v.14-15). In the Epistle, St. Paul himself tells the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:9-16) that He is their father in Christ Jesus through the preaching of the good news (v.15) and he urges them, "Imitate me" (v.16).

    These two examples seem to contradict Jesus command in Matthew 23:9 "Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven." We learn from the pamphlet "Call No Man Father" by Richard Ballew (Conciliar Press) that most Protestants interpret this passage as a prohibition for using the word "father" to refer to a spiritual father. However, if strictly interpreted, the prohibition would extend to paternal fathers, grandfathers, city fathers, Church fathers etc.

    St. Paul uses the term father in many ways. In addition to today's epistle, he speaks of "Our fathers" (1Cor. 10:1) and "Fathers, do not provoke your children" (Colossians 3:21). Jesus Himself, telling the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, refers to "Father Abraham" (Luke 16:24-25). He also warned against using the title "Rabbi/Teacher" but acknowledged Nicodemus as a "teacher of Israel" (John 3:10). St. Luke called certain men in the Church of Antioch "prophets and teachers" (Acts 13:1). St. Paul recognized teachers/teaching as a gift of God in the Church (1Cor. 12:28; Eph. 3:11) and called himself "a teacher of the Gentiles" (2Tim. 1:11).

    So what does Jesus mean when He says, "call no man father"? Our Lord is contending with certain rabbis of His day who were using these specific titles to accomplish their own ends. Some of the rabbis were adding their own ideas of wisdom to the true tradition of Moses' teaching and thereby clouding it. Jesus points out this error in Mark 7, "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men"…He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do" (v.8-13).

    By saying, "You shall not be called rabbi", Jesus was telling His disciples not to use their position as fathers and teachers as an opportunity to build disciples around their own private opinions. Instead, with the coming of Christ, these rabbis, and indeed all who would teach God's Word, are to faithfully hand down the true tradition of only one Rabbi: Christ Himself.

    Jesus was also indicting the sinful character of the rabbis. They were exalting themselves above everyone around them. Hypocrisy, love of money, corruption, lack of service and self-love were other problems that Jesus criticized.

    St. Jerome says the fact that we have one God and one Son of God through nature does not prevent others from being understood as sons of God by adoption. Similarly, this does not make the terms father and teacher useless or prevent others from being called father.

    As Orthodox know, this early practice of referring to spiritual fathers and sons continued in the Church's life so that even today, monastic spiritual guides, father confessors, bishops and priests are frequently called "Father" by the people. What Jesus condemns is the use or acceptance of any titles and dignity which stands between God and man. Jesus is not primarily speaking here of words, but of an attitude. To consider a person a "Father" in a way that obscures the Fatherhood of God is what He criticizes. When Christians use it to refer to God's representatives, all it does is remind them of the Divine Father. In the same way Christ forbids us in Matthew 23:10 to submit ourselves to independent teachers who obscure the one Master Teacher.

    So, if someone asks us, "Who is your father?” we can answer, "I have my natural father whom I call 'dad' or 'baba'. And I have my spiritual father, the 'papa' or 'pater', the priest who leads me and guides through the gospel of Jesus Christ to my one God and Father in heaven who has adopted me as His child." Let us imitate our natural and paternal fathers as they prayerfully and humbly intercede to Christ our God for our physical and spiritual healing. Amen

    Draw near to God and He will draw near to you


    And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.” Matthew 17:17


    There is nothing easy about this statement. A man approached Jesus, fell to His knees before Him, and begged the Lord to have mercy on him and his son, who was demon-possessed. He had taken his son first to the disciples of Jesus and they could not help him, so now he goes to Jesus.


    Jesus’ response immediately takes us by surprise. Is He exasperated? Angry? To whom is He speaking? The disciples that were unable to help the man because of “the littleness” of their faith? The man? The whole crowd? Did Jesus mean that He had to put up with them or with their nonsense that got in the way of their progress?


    We know people who want to believe Jesus was never got upset with His followers or with people in general, but we cannot go along with them. Jesus cared too much to not get upset. He loved too deeply, felt compassion too strongly, and desired too greatly that they would know God and discover the joy of walking with Him.

    “Bring him here to Me.” Pure grace. Jesus did not deny the father his request, turn away the crowd, or walk away from His disciples. “Bring the problem to Me.” He would resolve it for them. But by expressing His feelings and reminding them that He would not always be there, He drew their attention to what He wanted from them more strongly than if He had merely healed the boy from the outset. Jesus wants us to “get it.”

    O Lord, we have learned to bring every problem, challenge, and frustration to You, whether great or small. What else can we do? We are slow learners. We pray that You will never leave us, but always put up with us. So, Lord, one more time . . . What is it we are learning right now?


    Faith That Moves Mountains - Matthew 17:14-23


    What is faith? One person has defined faith as: “it is a kind of voluntary, self-imposed frontal lobotomy.” Or in essence, pretending that things are true so that we can feel more secure.


    To quote Mark Twain: “Faith is believing what you know isn’t so.” Is that what faith is? At one blog these statements were made: “We all just decide one day to follow our god and spend the rest of our lives finding evidence that makes us feel good about that decision.”

    and “faith is an attitude in which the individual lets go of knowing.”


    Is that what faith is? Making a decision to go with whatever idea seems good to us, letting go of knowing and just believing in something? Recently there was a conversation at the Post Office with one of the clerks. He mentioned that he has often thought about leaving his job and starting his own business but he is too scared to do it. Someone responded to him “well, sometimes you just need to have a little faith, and give it a shot”. Is that what faith is – just trying something out and hoping for the best?


    In this section of scripture, King Jesus will be directing our attention to what faith truly looks like: “True faith (is) faith that, out of a deep, personal trust, expects God to work”


    Our text this morning will help us to see that “If we want to have faith that moves mountains we must put our faith in Christ” Faith that is little, Faith that moves mountains


    Faith that is little


    Jesus has been up on the mountain and there has been this amazing peek into His divine glory in the transfiguration. Now He comes down to find difficulty and confusion. No more “mountain-top” experience! A man comes with his demon-possessed son and falls at Jesus feet and asks for Jesus to be merciful and heal this boy.


    The problem is that the disciples were unable to cast out the demon. It’s important to note that this is the disciples unable to do what Jesus had given them authority to do earlier in Matthew: “And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1)


    Jesus rebukes the crowd and disciples by calling them “faithless and twisted” and says “how long am I to bear with you” “faithless and twisted” because He has been doing mighty miracles and teaching with authority and they have not come to embrace Him as the divine Messiah. They don’t have faith in Jesus, they are not trusting God because their ideas of who He is, are distorted. The evidence that they don’t trust God is that nobody can help this demon-possessed boy.


    We see a bit of the weight that Jesus must have experienced in His earthly ministry as He had among the people for some time, preaching and healing and He is still being rejected. Though He feels the burden of these unbelieving “spiritual pygmies” Jesus shows His mercy and power by rebuking the demon, “and the boy was healed instantly”


    The disciples come to Jesus and ask Him why they couldn’t cast out the demon, Jesus says “because of your little faith” What does Jesus mean “because of your little faith”? The word “little” may be better understood as “poor”. Jesus is talking about the quality of their faith


    This is not the first time that Jesus calls out those with “little faith. Two examples: Matthew 6:30 has Jesus describing those who are worried about what they will eat or what clothes that they wear instead of seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as “O you, of little faith”. Matthew 8:24-26 describes this account: “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep. [25] And they went and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” [26] And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”


    Many of the disciples had put their faith in Christ, they had declared “truly you are the Son of God”, but it was a weak faith, a poor faith, a “little” faith. They were not placing their full trust and confidence in God. Matthew 10 tells us that they had been able to cast out demons and heal the sick at first, but now their faith was malfunctioning, it was ineffective and so they were unable to cast out the demon. “Perhaps the disciples had been treating the power to cast out devils as a new possession of their own, a kind of magic, they would go through their routine and the devil would come out! But that is not the way it was. There was nothing in the disciples themselves that overcame demons. It was God who in every case gave the power, and it was necessary for them to look to Him and to act in humble faith.


    Their faith was ineffective because they had not come to truly depend on God. What Jesus is saying to the disciples and to us is that when we find ourselves unable to do what God commands us to do, it is because our faith is little and poor. Our confidence is not in the all-powerful might of the living God.


    Where are the areas in your life that you have a little, impoverished faith? What are the areas that you struggle to have a “deep, personal trust that expects God to work?” to enable you to do what He asks of you?


    Fulfilling the Great Commission


    Do I truly believe that God is mighty and powerful and that He saves people through the proclamation of the Gospel? We pray that God will open a door. Will I have faith to walk through that door as God acts on my behalf?


    Contentment in suffering


    In God’s sovereign providence He allows difficulty and suffering to come into our lives. Even though it is painful, do you truly believe that as His beloved child it is for your good and His glory? Can you join with the Apostle Paul and his attitude in suffering: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”


    Struggle with sin.


    Do I have faith to believe that God is acting by His Spirit in my life so that I can say NO to sin?


    Our response to failure

    The instruction to the disciples is for us as well. When we fail to do what God commands us to do, we are not supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and try harder. In our failure, Jesus calls us to examine our faith.


    When we don’t see God move, we can be prone to apathy or cynicism. Jesus has diagnosed the disciple’s problem and ours, that in our failures to do what God has called us to do, our faith is poor, it is little. Jesus goes on to talk about what a strong faith looks like. Jesus doesn’t just diagnose our problem; he turns and exhorts us to pursue true faith


    Faith that moves mountains


    [19] Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” [20] He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. [22] As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, [23] and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.”(Matthew 17:19-22)


    Jesus explains


    If the disciples had strong, functioning faith, even as small as a mustard seed, they would be able to “say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”


    He goes on to tell them that He is going to delivered into the hands of men and be killed but that He will be raised three days later. The disciples are distressed when they hear this news, again betraying that they do not fully understand the mission and power of Christ.


    What is this faith that moves mountains? “Faith is not a particular substance, the more of which the disciples have, the more they can accomplish. It is not a gift of magic that can be manipulated at will. Rather, faith is confidence that we can do what God tells us to do, it is “taking God at His word”


    This is the opposite of little or poor faith. The power of this faith is such that one needs only the smallest amount, Jesus says as small as a mustard seed. Jesus is telling us that it is not the quantity of our faith that is important but the quality of the faith. In the Jewish tradition, “moving a mountain” was a metaphor for doing what seems impossible. “nothing will be impossible for you” does not mean that we if we have faith we can do anything we feel like doing. We would be wise to remember that we are not sovereign, God is in charge.


    At the same time, Jesus calls us to have an expectancy that God can work. Let’s not have shriveled faith because of the reality of God’s sovereignty. The Word calls us to hold these things in tension. We can pray with faith, an expectancy of God being able to work on our behalf when we ask Him. There is mystery, God is sovereign yet when we pray He does things that He would not otherwise do.


    Example: Parents with lost children. Let your desperation teach you to pray. God is mighty in salvation, only He is able to open blinded eyes to see. Don’t give in to apathy or cynicism. God is mighty and able. I am a testimony to the faith-filled prayers of many in my life.


    The context is the disciples being unable to do what Jesus had called them to do, namely casting out demons.  If we have even the smallest of amount of true faith then we will be able to do the things that God has called us to do that might appear to be impossible and trust that He is able to do all things.


    How do we get this faith? Ask for it “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8). The same God, who has given us saving faith as a gracious gift, is the same one who we return to for faith that moves mountains. He is the fountain of faith! I believe, help me with my unbelief!


    Live near to God


    As the Gospel of Mark explains this account, Jesus tells the disciples that they needed to pray. So important! Prayerlessness is a result of little faith. Perhaps our prayers are ineffective because we have not added fervency to them “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. [18] Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:17-18)


    If we will near to God in persistent, fervent prayer and seek Him in His Word, we will have quality faith:


    George Mueller, Giant in faith: When Mueller was twenty-five, he went to Teignmouth, England, with his new wife, Mary, to pastor a small church. He gave up the small salary offered when he discovered it was paid through the rental of church pews. From that time on he resolved to live by faith. Mueller moved in 1832 to Bristol, England, to be the pastor of another church. There his famous work with the orphans began when two young children were thrown upon the church's care. Mueller had only two shillings to his name when he began the orphanage work, but over the next sixty years God sent more than $7,500,000 to supply their needs. New buildings were built or purchased, staff was hired, and the hundreds of children never missed a meal. Many times prayers were said over empty plates only to have food arrive at the last moment.


    Mueller resolved never to tell anyone what his needs were. He told them to God and confidently expected them to be met. During his life, Mueller started 117 schools which educated over 120,000 young people and orphans. He became pastor of Bethesda Chapel in Bristol. The church had some 2,000 members at his death.”


    “Faith has nothing to do with feelings or with impressions, with improbabilities or with outward experiences. If we desire to couple such things with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God, because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, the heart is at peace.” (Mueller)


    As we grow close to God in prayer and in His Word, we find a strong faith growing in us because we know the creator who is the sovereign, all-powerful King. We find Him infinitely trustworthy and able to more than we can ask or think.


    Set your eyes on Christ


    As we see His miraculous power in His perfect life, His substitutionary suffering on the cross, and the miracle of His resurrection, surely we will grow more confident in the power of God. And that is what Jesus was saying to the disciples in v. 17, their view of Him was twisted, they needed an accurate view of Him.

    Even in verse 22, Jesus declares that He will die but that He is going to be raised from the dead. We read that the Disciples are distressed, but consider their faith on the other side of the cross when they truly understand the power and magnificence of Christ in His death and resurrection.


    Peter was a man who struggled with faith, he even denied Christ 3 times. Yet after he is a witness to the cross and resurrection and he is filled with the Spirit at Pentecost, these are his words: [32] This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. [33] Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. [34] For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, [35] until I make your enemies your footstool.’[36] Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and

    Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”(Acts 2:32-36)


    Peter has come to see the mighty and power of God in Christ and in the amazing miracle of the resurrection and this gave him faith to preach the Gospel, to do what Jesus had called him to do, to be the rock upon which Christ’s church would be built. If you have a desire for effective faith to do what God has called you to do, you would be wise to meditate on the might power of God in the resurrection of Christ.


    Ephesians 2 tells us that this same power is at work towards us who believe! Do you have a deep, personal trust that expects God to work? If you see that your faith is small and poor then come to Jesus! Ask for faith, live close to God, and set your eyes on Christ You will have the strength to do all that Jesus calls you to do.


    If you are an unbeliever, if you have not come to know Christ as Savior and Lord, today is the day of salvation. Christ lived the perfect life that we should have lived, He bore sin and the wrath of God for sinners as He died on a cross, and He was raised from the dead three days later as proof that His sacrifice was acceptable to God for the forgiveness of sins. Will you come and put your faith in Him today?


    Christian, are you dismayed by “little”, poor faith? Would you place yourself in the category of “O you, of little faith?” Remember this: You are purchased by the blood of Christ, a new creation, created by the power of God, to do the will of God, for the glory of God. It is in Him that we will have the faith to do what He calls us to do, to do what appears impossible. Run to Him and find help. His ear is turned towards you. Christ calls us to have a deep, personal trust that expects God to work. He calls us to fix our eyes on all that He is as the mighty King, the gracious Savior who has triumphed over sin and the grave.


    It is Christ who has purchased our salvation and our faith in His cross and He who began this good work of gracious faith will complete it! Let us humble ourselves and admit that we are unable to obey His commands in our own strength. The good news is that God gives grace to the humble and He will grant us the faith so that “nothing will be impossible for you”.


    We sing Praise to the Lord, The Almighty. We serve a mighty God, As the song instructs us: “Ponder anew, what the almighty can do, if by His love He befriends you” His love is towards you, His ear is open; ponder anew what He can do in our lives as we walk in faith

    Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy


    Matthew 17:14 - Key Verse: 17:17 "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?  Bring the boy here to Me."


    In the last passage Jesus took Peter, James and John to the Transfiguration Mountain. Jesus showed them His transfigured appearance. 17:2 says, "There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." His figure immediately showed them that He was originally God. But He came to this world and was despised and rejected, and He wore ordinary people's clothes, old and rugged. Jesus took the disciples to the Transfiguration Mountain so that they might prepare for His upcoming death and resurrection without fear, but with courageous faith. It is indeed amazing to see Jesus' transfigured appearance on the Transfiguration Mountain. It is indeed amazing that later the apostle John in exile described His image. Revelation 1:14-16 says,


    "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."


    Jesus' transfiguration was also for the purpose of meeting the suffering servants, Moses and Elijah, so that Jesus might prepare Himself for His upcoming crucifixion, death and resurrection. In this passage Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy. Matthew's account of this event is different from the other Gospels in description and wording, but the main point is the same. Let's learn what the unbelieving generation is like and how to cast out demons.


    First, the boy's father (14-16). When Jesus, together with Peter, James and John, came down to the foot of the mountain where the other nine disciples were waiting, a great and baffling event was taking place. As soon as Jesus and His three disciples arrived, a man approached Jesus, knelt before Him, and beseeched Jesus, "Lord, has mercy on my son. He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him" (15-16).  This father was at a loss because his son was doing dangerous things. To him, it was sure that his son was having seizures. So he brought his son to Jesus' disciples, but they could not heal him.


    Through the experience of the evangelistic journey (Mk 6:7-13), Jesus' nine disciples were very sure that they could heal this boy, who was violently throwing himself into the fire and the water. It was because they had great experiences by driving out many demons and anointing many sick people with oil and healing them. They had healed many people. So they thought this one little boy would be no problem to heal. According to the other Gospels, some Pharisees and the desperate father were intently watching for the boy to be healed. At the moment, one of the disciples struck a pose, made a gesture and shouted, "Boy, you get well immediately!" But his condition was just the same. Several other disciples did the same. But the boy was not healed.


    At that time Jesus was coming down the Transfiguration Mountain. The boy's father met Jesus and told Him the truth about what had happened. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said.  "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." Jesus' disciples had cast out many demons and had healed the sick when God gave them the power of the Holy Spirit during their evangelistic journey. But this time they had no power of the Holy Spirit. So they became the objects of ridicule. They were greatly embarrassed. They learned that old experience doesn't work newly. Modern people would see such a boy as a psychiatric patient and take him to a mental clinic, give him heavy doses of drugs and make him worse, not better. What was the boy's real problem? It was demon possession.


    Second, Jesus rebuked the unbelieving generation (17-18)


    When Jesus saw the generation, He saw that the people were all unbelieving. History proves that there were unbelieving generations and there were believing generations. Believing generations were blessed by God, and unbelieving generations seemed to be cursed by God.


    "In God We Trust" was once in American people's hearts. "In God We Trust" enabled American people to cultivate this vast land. In order to cultivate this vast land, many American people died young, on average at age 40. They worked so hard to cultivate this country. Whenever we drive the highways of this land, we are amazed at the greatness of the highways all around the country. Our American forefathers cultivated this land when they had strong faith, in spite of innumerable hindrances and obstacles.


    Now there is a strong impression that America has changed to an unbelieving generation. Dr. Joseph Chung and Dr. John Lee were arrested on the Loyola campus and were handcuffed, simply because they were inviting students for Bible study. They slept overnight in a government motel. On the other hand, Loyola allowed Muslim people to build a big mosque inside the campus. What a surprise in the sight of God! Harvard University was originally founded as a Bible school. But at last year's graduation ceremony, they invited a Muslim leader and a Christian pastor and both prayed the opening prayer. What a surprise in the sight of God!


    UBF has been teaching the Bible to students so that they might accept the teachings of the Bible and live by them. But anti-Christians have attacked UBF unbearably for the last 19 years. Even though anti-Christians attacked UBF, UBF prayed for the present and future America to be blessed and to be a blessing to the people of the whole world.


    Once, a renowned journalist interviewed Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, asking him: "What would you do if you lived once more in this world?" Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham answered, "If I could live again, I would study the Bible quietly and teach the Bible person-to-person." We are doing what the famous evangelist is aspiring to do, even in his dreams. In this respect UBF is very prophetic and practical and doing what is indispensable for this generation, that is, one-to-one Bible study and discipleship training.


    Jesus rebuked His disciples that they were people of the unbelieving generation. But in truth, Jesus rebuked the people of that entire generation. Many problems crush the people of each generation. But unbelief is the most serious problem. Jesus is most sorry when a generation is unbelieving and perverse.  An unbelieving generation causes most people to be unbelieving. America seems to be prosperous outwardly. But Jesus is very sorry for America because she is so unbelieving.


    After lamenting for the unbelieving generation, Jesus rebuked the demon and he came out of the boy, and the boy was healed from that moment. Here we learn a great lesson. Many people think they will be free and happy if they abandon God. But it is not so. In man there is both flesh and spirit, or a soul. We must fill our physical body with many kinds of delicious foods to make it alive. Likewise, we must also fill our souls with the word of God. Otherwise, our souls are occupied by demons.


    There is a story of a young man who lived according to his sinful nature. Later he was possessed by 6,000 demons. A godless life seems to be free. But those who live godless lives are tormented by many demons, and they are extremely unhappy. It is because they are not themselves; they are the possession of demons.


    Third, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed (19-21).


    Those nine disciples who failed to heal the demon-possessed boy were greatly embarrassed by the Pharisees, before so many people. They made such excellent gestures to heal the boy. But they only became the objects of ridicule.  Then they came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive the demon out?" Jesus answered as follows. Look at verse 20. "He replied, ^because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth,

    if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"


    Here we learn that faith is everything. If we have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing is impossible. When our American forefathers had a little faith, "In God We Trust," they could establish this vast nation. The establishment of this country is greater than throwing a mountain into the sea. All of us agree unanimously that the establishment of our nation within such a short period of history is indeed great. America was established because of her people's faith. America was established because God blessed her people's faith, and blessed it more than enough.


    In Mark's Gospel, Mark wrote not only the word "faith," he also included the word "prayer." Mark 11:24 says, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Prayer is the same as faith. When we have faith in

    God, we can pray to God. When we have faith and pray, God will answer our prayer; anything can be done. We have a prayer topic: May God establish America as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. It seems to be too big a prayer topic for us. But it is too small compared with God's prayer topic for the whole world's salvation. Still our prayer topic may God establish America as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation ^seems to be too big for us. 


    Sometimes we feel very vague, and it seems impossible to be done. Of course, we cannot do it. But we can pray so that our prayers may be answered and God would do it for us. We are weak, but we are very confident that everything is possible because God promised that He will hear our prayers. Therefore, we must pray that we may have true faith in our hearts, faith as small as a mustard seed. Then God will pour His power into our hearts through His Holy Spirit. When we pray, we must believe that God will answer our prayer and "it will be ours." We should not make Jesus sorry like His nine disciples did. They did not have faith as small as a mustard seed. So they could not drive out the demon from the boy's soul.


    Fourth, Jesus' prediction of His death and resurrection (22-23).


    What the disciples didn't like was to hear from Jesus about His death and resurrection; they were most afraid of it. But Jesus again predicts His death and resurrection. Verses 22-23a say, "When they came together in Galilee, He said to them, ^The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him and on the third day He will be raised to life.'"


    What was the disciples' response? The disciples were filled with grief. Jesus' death and resurrection gives man final victory, unutterable happiness, remarkable joy, and the most undisturbed peace. But His disciples were filled with grief. Most people of the world are filled with grief because they do not accept Jesus' death and resurrection as a living hope and as man's final goal.


    We want to do something great, like those nine disciples who were at the foot of the mountain. But if we do something without faith and prayer, it is indeed in vain. Even if we do something, if we do it without faith it is like building a house on the sand. Therefore, we must ask God to give us faith as small as a mustard seed, and a clear prayer topic so that God can accept our faith and give us the power of mountain-moving faith and hear our prayer and change America as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. May God help us to overcome the unbelieving generation.









































    Faith is unquestionable Belief. A Belief in things which are not seen; but you know exist. JESUS asked them "How long must I bear you and be with you?" Referring to 'Them with little Faith'. He spoke again of His crucifixion as well and they may have understood then as they "Were exceedingly sorry." WE as Believers must Fast and Pray for HIS Perfect Will to be done. WE have to KNOW that HE IS The Truth. JESUS IS The Way. CHRIST IS The key for US to have Eternal life and share in HIS HOLY Glory! What a Blessing after we are born into sin and a sinful World that influences US; That after all this, HE still Loves US 'Unconditionally'.


    Are you praying Daily? Fasting can be cutting back on excessive eating habits some people develop. It helps keep your flesh (overabundance) from dictating what YOU should do rather than CHRIST HOLY SPIRIT. The Spirit contradicts the Flesh and visa-versa.


    By giving one's life over the Jesus completely, praying fervently for Him to strengthen our faith. As Jesus said, we must also pray and fast


    Jesus tell us that the mustard seed is very small but if you have faith as small as the mustard seed God will create wonders seeing your faith in him.


    Once we sow the seed it’s our responsibility to nurture and feed with proper fertilizers and water in form of words reading from bible and become mature in Christianity and increase our faith exponentially...


    By completely dedicating your life and soul to God.  The more you read and study, the larger person you become from the same small seed that we start from.


    To increase one's faith you must trust and obey God. You must study and read God's word and believe the written word and in Jesus


    If you have little bit of faith God will listen He will do all whatever you ask it will be succeed. Pray and do, God will give


    Repent, Pray and Read the Bible!!!

    By coming to know Jesus as the savior of our life and by constantly seeking his presence through scripture reading and meditation

    By trusting God's Word, believing, praying, fasting and leaving it to God. 

    We can increase our faith in the Lord by Magnifying Him in our life, and obeying His words and following it with belief. He should be the top priority in our life than other idols (money, family, etc...)

    By trusting in the Lord and believing in His Holy book which is the Bible

    First, by believing in Jesus, as our Lord and Savior. Then by continuing to renew our minds everyday by reading and studying the word of God and being obedient to that word. 


    The size of mustard is very small.  To have faith like a mustard seed is to say that no matter how small our faith is if we just trust and believe in God for everything we will received whatever we ask for.

    To increase one's faith is to trust and belief in Jesus. To learn and study God's word and be obedient to the word of God

    Through prayer, fasting, faith in Jesus, forgiveness, kindness and doing God's will, it will increase one's faith. 

    One can increase faith by leading a holy life, through prayers, reading Bible, fasting, and spiritual song. Also one should de-associate himself with earthly things.

    When Jesus was speaking about faith, He was teaching that faith the size of a small mustard seed will move a mountain. This is a parable. Likewise, if we are prayful, diligent, and read God's word, rest assured God will do what is best for us. In time it will become clear that having enormous faith in God was strong and large enough to move His Hand. Because of God's undying love, we live.

    We must give are whole existence over to the Lord in prayer and fasting. We must follow the path of Jesus and the words of truth. We must listen carefully to His words and obey them. For only this way we shall grow with the Spirit.

    By studying the words of God and putting all our trust in Jesus.

    Jesus stated very clearly that it’s only by prayer and fasting that we can get to increase faith in Him.

    By: Gregorio Magdaleno
    Category: The Healing of a Boy With a Demon
    Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
    In what way is Jesus still with us always? How can we be assured of Hi s presence?
    from the scripture,He assured us that He will be with us till the end of the ages.

    By: Chebet Daniel
    Category: The Great Commission
    Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
    Why was it evil for the scribes and Pharisees to ask a sign from Jesus?

    Matthew 12:38-45 


    The Sign of Jonah


    Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." 

    But He answered them, "An 
    evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, someone greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the south will rise up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, someone greater than Solomon is here. But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and doesn't find it. Then he says, 'I will return into my house from which I came out,' and when he has come back, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes, and takes with himself seven other spirits more evil than he is, and they enter in and dwell there. The last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Even so will it be also to this evil generation." 


    Why was it evil for the scribes and Pharisees to ask a sign from Jesus?


    In Matthew 12 the confrontation between the Jewish leaders and Jesus has come to a head with their accusing Jesus of doing His works by Satan’s power, and His warning them of the unpardonable sin. The point that Jesus was making was that the Kingdom of Heaven had come and that they were going to be excluded if they persisted in their rejection of Him. This warning troubled them, but they were still not convinced that He was the Messiah, far from it. So they demanded a sign from Him. And that is the occasion of this short section in which Jesus rebukes them for asking for a sign instead of believing, assesses their spiritual condition, and pronounces sentence on them.


    After our passage ends there is a very brief incident in which Jesus’ mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak to Him. Jesus used their visit to make a point about the change in the direction of His ministry. He said that “whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” He was not being cruel to His family; no doubt He then went out to see them. What He was saying was that since the nation was now rejecting Him, since His own people were rejecting Him, He was turning to those who would believe.


    The true “family” of Christ was not the unbelieving Israel, but the believers of all races. If the “physical seed of Israel” rejected Him, He would build a “spiritual seed of Israel.” And this is true of the Kingdom of God in general: People who are our relatives here may not be in the kingdom; and so, not our true and eternal brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus simply used the incident of the visit of His family to make this point.


    Then, beginning with Matthew 13, Jesus began to teach with parables, which are designed to hide things about the Kingdom from the ones who rejected and opposed Him, but to reveal things about the Kingdom to His disciples. So Matthew 12 marks a real turning point in the life of Christ, and therefore also in the message of the book: He came to His own, but His own received Him not; and so to as many as received Him He gave the authority to become the children of God. The family of God is made up of true believers, and not natural blood ties.

    Reading the Text

    38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”


    39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.


    43 “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house empty, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

    The Structure of the Text

    Once again the teaching of Jesus in the passage begins with an incident, here a demand from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for a miraculous sign (v. 38).


    The immediate answer of Jesus was that there would be no sign as they wished, because the request came from unbelieving hearts (v. 39). There would be a sign, though, the sign of Jonah, which would confirm that Christ was who He said He was. But that sign would only be recognized after they crucified the Christ (as we shall see below). Nevertheless, it would give them one last opportunity to believe.


    Then Jesus provides two warnings of unbelief based on history: the belief of the people of Nineveh and the belief of the Queen of Sheba. Here were Gentiles, not Jews, who believed the revelation from God, and therefore who would condemn these unbelievers. This means that their believing would show that unbelieving Israel should have believed, and could have believed, and so have no excuse. They had believed the word of Jonah, or the wisdom of Solomon; but now the Messiah was present and they should have believed.

    Then is added a rather mystical teaching of Jesus about the future hardening in unbelief of this wicked generation. To realize the power of Christ to cleanse the heart but still refuse to receive Him will lead to a much worse condition.


    So we have:

    The Request for the Sign (38)

    The Refusal of a Sign (39) with

    An Evaluation of the People (39)

    A Warning of Judgment for Unbelief 40-42)

    A Sentence of Greater Hardening if unbelief is persisted in (43-45).

    The passage then follows a chain reaction from the request for a sign; and even that request flows from the accusations made against Jesus in the preceding passages. This study will then focus on the nature of their request first, and then the rest of the study will be a study of the teaching of Jesus based on that issue. The study of the teaching by Jesus will require an understanding of why He called them an adulterous generation, then the two historical incidents to which He was referring and the spiritual lesson He was drawing from them, and finally the mystical illustration of the evil spirit that leaves a man and returns. Once again the context of the teachings will be a great help in understanding these things. This material must be related to what has happened earlier in the chapter.

    Observations on the Text

    There are several words and figurative expressions in the passage that require clarification: “sign,” “wicked and adulterous generation,” “three days and three nights” and the “evil spirits” and the “swept house.” These will be classified and explained as we study the text.


    There are two historical stories that have to be re-thought: Jonah and Sheba. People are familiar with those stories, but here we have to see exactly how Jesus was using them to make His point.


    The point of the passage focuses on unbelief and belief, unbelief by these Jews, and belief by those Gentiles. Jesus’ teaching then first declares that they are wicked, and then announces condemnation in the judgment in contrast to those who believe, and finally announces that they will be hardened in unbelief if they do not receive Him.


    The final illustration using one evil spirit and then seven evil spirits probably was intended to pick up the earlier motif of casting out demons. They had accused Him of doing it by the power of Satan. Jesus is saying that if He defeats Satan and they do not accept Him, then Satan’s power will have a greater hold on them in the future.


    The theology of the passage is the clear announcement of judgment on those who do not believe the word of the Lord and receive Jesus as their King. If we turn this around to state it positively, we would say that the passage is teaching the necessity of belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Those who do not believe will have no excuse, for people with far less information than they believed, and now a greater than Israel’s prophets and kings was present. The idea is not that one needs a lot of information in order to believe; rather, the response of faith to the amount of revelation given will determine acceptance with God. Without faith it is impossible to please God; and so when He sends His word, He expects people to trust Him.

    Analysis of the Text

    Now, if we work through the passage with this theology in mind we will see how the argument unfolds. One of our tasks in Bible Study is to uncover the unity in the passage, even if there are seemingly diverse sections. The parts all fit together in some way. Some passages are obvious units, no difficulty in seeing it; but some, like this one, have several different sections that do not at first glance seem to work together. That is why “context” is so important in Bible studies like this. With the basic theme in the chapter in mind (which we might re-state somewhat after working through the passage and seeing what exact emphases are present in the section) we can study section by section and see how the interpretation works out.

    There is a delicate balance in this, we work with an estimated idea of the overview (sometimes with the help of people who have studied it much) and this guides us, but we never let a pre-conceived idea force the interpretation where the words and text won’t go. But for the most part, in passages like this where we have a strange and mysterious story at the end, the flow of the passage will be most helpful. If someone studied only the last story illustration without fitting it into the context, there is no telling what interpretation might be given to it.


    I. Those who do not believe in Jesus call for a miraculous sign (38). The Pharisees and teachers basically demanded a sign from Jesus. What were they looking for in a sign, and why would Jesus not give them one? This calls for a word study on signs. A good word study book or full commentary on the text will help us to understand that they were looking for some amazing event or miracle that would convince them that He was Messiah. Of course, He had been doing miracles right and left, but they seemed to want some other big thing that would be irrefutable. But Jesus would not give one to them because they had already rejected Him out of unbelief.


    A sign in the Bible is some event or activity, supernatural or not, that would authenticate the person and claims of Jesus. A sign was usually a miracle with a clear meaning; it was a miracle designed to reveal something specific. However, in the Bible there are two ways that signs are used, to convince and to confirm. For example, when Moses was sent back to the Israelites to lead them out of bondage, he was given some signs to do, his staff turning to a snake, his hand turning leprous, and the water turning to blood. These were done in order to convince the people that they should believe Moses and follow him. But Moses was given another sign, when he and the people returned to Mount Sinai after the exodus they would worship at the mountain. That was a sign that would confirm that God had done it, but it was not a sign to convince them to go to the mountain to worship. Once they got there they would be assured that God had done just as He had promised.


    These Pharisees and teachers clearly wanted the former type, a sign to convince them to believe. But they were dishonest and Jesus saw right through them. They had just seen a spectacular sign, the casting out of the demon so that the man regained his abilities, and instead of believing they accused Him of doing it by Beelzebub. They were not interested in a sign, only in trying to discredit Jesus. If He could not do a sign for them, they could expose Him; if He did one, they could discredit Him. They were an evil lot. And to call Him “Teacher”! They despised Him and were determined not to listen to His teachings.


    Moreover, wanting a sign runs contrary to the nature of faith, that does not rely on a sign to convince people to believe. And if Jesus did a sign like that, it is unlikely that these people would have believed. They were merely challenging Jesus, and if He did a sign they would likely have rejected it. After all, they had frequently explained away some of the great miracles He had been performing.


    We should digress for a moment because there are places in the Bible where it seems appropriate to seek a sign from God. We have already seen how God gave Moses signs to do to authenticate His plan. The people needed to be sure that this man off the desert was truly sent by God. When they saw the sign, that was enough, they accepted him as their leader. It was not a question of coming to faith in God, but rather of testing the authenticity of a man who wanted to lead them out of bondage.


    Or, for another example, God through Isaiah told the king to ask a sign from the Lord, anything whatsoever (Isa. 7). The king refused, being a wicked unbeliever. So God gave a sign anyway: a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son known as Immanuel. The supernatural birth of Jesus would be a sign that the Davidic Covenant would still be fulfilled. The point in Isaiah 7:9 is that if Ahaz had believed, he would have been confirmed. So asking a sign in faith is different than challenging God to convince us to believe.


    Or, Gideon put out the fleece for a sign that God would go with him to battle. The text never condemns Gideon for this, because he was a devout believer, but more importantly, he had already decided to go, and what he wanted was a sign that God would be with him. So again faith was already operative.


    II. Jesus refuses to give His opponents a sign and instead warns them of judgment to come (39-45). The rest of the passage is Jesus’ response to the “request,” and so it naturally forms the second main outline point, the second half of the material. But the response can be subdivided into several points: a rejection of a sign now but a future sign to give them another opportunity to believe; a verdict on their wickedness and a warning of judgment, and a sentence on them for their unbelief.


    A. He rebukes the people for their unbelief (39, 40). In His response Jesus simply identified these folks as a wicked and adulterous generation. No sign would be given to them; at least not the kind they wanted, anyway.


    The next thing you will have to sort out why their request for a sign made them a wicked and adulterous generation. The word “generation” is often used in the Bible for any group of people who share beliefs and traits. So this group of opponents was “wicked” and “adulterous”; “wicked” speaks of their nature and dealings with other people, and “adulterous” speaks of their relationship with God.


    In looking into the biblical usage of this language you will eventually connect with the Book of Hosea. That book was written to a generation of Israelites in the 8th century B.C. who were unfaithful to God. That does not mean that they simply did not measure up to His standards; rather, it means that they deliberately chose to reject the Lord and go after other religious forms, usually false gods. Hosea described the covenant of the Lord in terms of a marriage; to break the covenant with God was to be unfaithful to the covenant, especially if they followed other gods instead of God. And so they were fornicators and adulterers according to Hosea (spiritually, although in Hosea’s day false worship did involve temple prostitution). The principle is that people who should be believers (they had the Scriptures, the temple, the priests, the prophets) and who rejected the prophets and the Messiah were unfaithful to God, as one would be unfaithful to a marriage. Jesus describes these people in the same terms that Hosea used because they refused to believe in Him and chose rather to follow their own religious ideas. By doing so they were proving to be unfaithful to God and His covenant program. They were spiritual adulterers.


    So His point is that a willful and rebellious people do not really believe, but they do demand a spectacular sign. They have made up their minds about Jesus, and it would take something really big to change their minds. In another place Jesus made it clear that such people who do not believe in God’s revelation would not believe even if one came back from the dead (Luke 16:31). Their refusal to believe made them an adulterous generation, like their ancestors who killed the prophets.

    But a sign would be given to them later, albeit a confirming sign. Jesus was telling them that they would have one more opportunity to be convinced, the sign of His resurrection would prove who He is and what His death was all about. They had rejected every other sign that Jesus had given them, so there was one more, but they would have to wait for it.


    This was the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so the Messiah would be in the grave three days and three nights before rising from the dead (Jonah was not dead, but was as good as dead if God had not intervened). This sign, the death and resurrection, would confirm that Jesus indeed is the Messiah, the Son of God. That is truly a miraculous sign. However, it would come later for these opponents of Jesus; for they were the ones who were plotting to kill Him. And they would succeed (they would think) in their opposition to Jesus by seeing Him crucified. Thus, the “sign” that they wanted would come from their own crime against Him. They would be guilty of His death. But it was an opportunity that would come later; they might then believe.


    Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 develops this dilemma they would face He declared that the evidence (tongues) was that God was at work in their midst in Christ and then in the Holy Spirit, just as the prophecy of Joel said. If that was the case, then they needed to turn to the Lord for salvation, as Joel said. However, Peter points out that they are in a dilemma because they just killed the Lord who could save them. That is why they all shouted, “What shall we do.” Of course the answer was repent. So the sign, the evidence, that these people wanted concerning Jesus would come with His resurrection, giving them far more to be guilty of than they now had.


    One additional explanation is important here. The expression “three days and three nights” is an idiom. Any part of a day and of a night was considered a day and a night. The same is true for reckoning years. For example, if a king came to the throne in the tenth month of the year and died in the sixth month of the next year, He would have reigned for two years. So with Jesus’ chronology, if He died on Friday and was laid in the tomb, that would be the first “day and a night”; His being in the tomb Saturday would count the second day and a night, and rising on Sunday would cover the third “day and a night.” It is idiomatic, and not intended to be calculated to the precision of 72 hours.


    B. Jesus announces the certainty of judgment on His opponents (41, 42). The mention of Jonah brings the story of Jonah to mind, and so Jesus makes a point of the heart of that account. If we are not familiar with the story of Jonah, we need to read it through; it is only 44 verses long. The people of Israel were both affluent and indifferent to the call of God on their lives to be a light to the nation. So God called the reluctant prophet to go and preach to the hated enemies of Israel, the Assyrians who lived in Nineveh (modern Iraq, so we can see the kind of tension Jonah had about this). But the point of the story is that those people repented at the preaching of Jonah, and God spared that generation the judgment.

    Jesus says that those people of Nineveh will “stand up” at the judgment and “condemn” these unbelievers.


    Well, it will be God who condemns unbelieving sinners, so what does this line mean? It seems that Jesus was making the point that here were people from other nations who had far less revelation than Jesus’ opponents, but they believed the word of the Lord. The fact that they will “rise up” (meaning stand, i.e., not fall, not be condemned) in the judgment will be evidence that people of Jesus’ day could have believed without all this convincing. In other words, their conversion will be a condemnation for unbelieving Israel. If they could believe, why could not the Jews?

    The second story is the visit of the Queen of the South (Sheba) who came to challenge Solomon’s wisdom. Of course, he made a believer out of her by answering all her questions. Here was a queen from another land, not an Israelite, who had very little information other than that the wisdom of God was in this king, and she came, she heard, and she was convinced. Her presence in the kingdom will also condemn Israel, for if she could believe what she heard about God’s wisdom in Solomon after a brief visit, if she could believe with what she had, they should have believed with all that they had. For Christ is far greater than Solomon.


    So Jesus made this striking point that the stakes are now much higher. Pagans believed in the Lord at the preaching of Jonah, but Jesus is much greater than Jonah. He preached far more profound things, and did amazing miracles to authenticate His words. They should have believed. And a pagan queen believed because she heard wise sayings from the king of Israel, but Jesus is far greater than Solomon. His wisdom and His knowledge surpass them all. They should have believed.


    And so in the judgment they will be condemned for their unbelief very convincingly because people like this with little or no information believed, whereas they with the presence of the Lord in their very midst refused to believe.


    C. The Lord pronounces a sentence on those who refuse to accept Him (43-45). The last point of Jesus’ reply is an illustration taken from an individual experience in the matter of demon possession. The point of the story cannot be missed: “even so shall it be to this evil generation.”


    The illustration begins at the point of dispossession. The unclean spirit was cast out, but that spirit needed some place through which it can act, and so it was restless until it could find some place it sought. That in itself is a remarkable revelation, showing us that these spirits must have some material body as a medium. But in Jesus’ story the spirit returns to the man and finds the place “empty, swept, and put in order.” The key word is “empty” or “unoccupied.” The man was improved in some ways, swept and put in order. But he was not possessed, he was empty. So the result was that the improvement was of no avail. Seeing that there was no in-dweller possessing and holding the man in the right way, the unclean spirit re-entered and took other spirits in with him. So all the improvement was lost, and the man was far worse in the end than he had been in the beginning. The point of the story is this: to cast out the unclean spirit is of no lasting value unless there follows a new possession by the clean Spirit.


    Now how does this story fit the passage? Recall that the chapter had earlier focused on a case of casting out an unclean spirit and the wicked accusation that Jesus was doing this by the power of Satan. But in that section Jesus made it clear that He was casting out Satan. The point Jesus was making here and elsewhere is that His presence and mission had broken the power of evil, and His casting out demons was evidence that He was sweeping the house and putting it in order so Satan could not break in (the house is the implied metaphor for the soul).


    While Jesus was present, the whole underworld of evil spirits was under His power and He was able to drive it out and control it so that He could offer to people much better things. But once Jesus had driven the evil powers away, it was up to the people to respond to Him and His power. He had cast out the evil spirits, swept the house and put it in order, meaning, their lives and their world. Now the King, Jesus the Messiah, was able to possess the swept and ordered houses so that they should no longer be empty, but possessed by goodness and purity. If they received Christ into their lives, they would be protected from evil by one who was far greater than Satan or his forces.


    But since they had refused to believe in Jesus and did not receive Him or allow Him to control their lives, they would soon see that the house that was swept clean would be inhabited again by more evil forces, and they would sink to a far lower level of life. They would be hardened in unbelief, comfortable with corruption and vice, and living in a world controlled by wickedness and violence.


    This is a solemn sentence, but it is true nonetheless. People may try to clean up their lives or reform in some way. But unless they are possessed and controlled by the Holy Spirit as they turn their lives over to the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be worse off than before because they will only be available for greater attacks from Satan’s devices. The Bible warns people to seek the Lord while He may be found, and not to refuse the convicting work of the Spirit. Resisting brings a hardening, thanks to the strengthening of the influence that evil spiritual forces have on people without Christ.


    The Gospel message is not simply that Jesus Christ has the power to defeat Satan and cast out unclean spirits, but that He does this in order that He might take possession of peoples’ lives and defeat opposing forces through them. But without Christ within, there can be no victory. This is why it is dangerous for people to be nominal but unbelieving “Christians,” present in Christian events but not in Christ by faith. Christ’s presence always loosens the bonds of evil, whether people confess it or not, or whether they are even conscious of it. People will “feel better” for being in church and may even clean up some things in their lives. But we must be aware that “swept and orderly ‘houses’” are attractive to unclean spirits, who are ready to take possession if the Holy Spirit has not. Unless people are possessed and controlled by Christ, the last state of such church-goers (or “moral” non church-goers) may be worse than before, as they find themselves hardened in self-righteousness and unbelief. It happened with those in Jesus’ day who liked to hear Jesus talk, but rejected Him as Savior and Lord.

    Conclusions and Applications

    It has been said enough about the thrust of the passage and its theological ideas, and we have not to go over it again here. And the theme of judgment is so common in the Bible that it is not necessary at this point to list dozens of passages. It will be helpful to reiterate at this point something that the Bible teaches, namely, that judgment will be according to opportunity. People who have received a good amount of light, or knowledge, about Christ Jesus will be held more accountable than those who had little to go on. Jesus has already said this in Matthew 11. Here He praises those non-Israelites who believed with so little information. Genuine faith will believe the word of God, no matter how much or how little of it is given to them.


    The primary application would be to unbelievers who know a good deal about Christianity, perhaps even tithing members of a church. They should be warned that morality and goodness without a commitment to Christ in regeneration will leave emptiness in the soul for evil spiritual forces to occupy. And evil spirits do not always cause people to do evil things; they often get people to “have the form of godliness without the power.” Being good, cleaning up the act, and making new resolutions, all of it is dangerous unless Christ is dwelling enthroned within.


    There is perhaps a secondary application to be made, a warning here for Christians as well, not a warning that they might be condemned in the judgment, for if they have received Christ they will not be so judged. But it is a warning not to act like unbelievers, refusing to follow Christ faithfully unless He shows a sign. There is a growing desire in Christianity today for miraculous signs, which if kept in the proper place in the faith can be useful to be sure. But if people have a hard time believing (that is, following ad serving Christ wholeheartedly) without them, then something is wrong in their spiritual growth.


    God may do miraculous signs, and when He does it should fill us with praise and thanksgiving. But our faith, saving faith, is based in the Word of God that is what the apostles say redeems us. And that Word reveals to us the person and work of Jesus the Messiah. People who have come to faith in Christ through the Scriptures should set about to grow spiritually and to serve faithfully. The miraculous “signs” they should see would be answers to prayer and people coming to faith or lives being changed through their witness. These will be confirming signs, authenticating signs, but not signs to compel them to believe in Christ. It is a fine distinction; but God expects us to walk by faith whether the signs are present or not. This topic should lead any study group into a healthy and useful discussion, and so we can leave it here for them to pursue.


    What Sign Are You Looking For? Matthew 12:38-45


    How much needs to be given to bring satisfaction? How much does it take to prove a point? How much does Jesus have to do to satisfy His critics and prove He is who He claims, the long awaited Messiah?


    The Scribes and Pharisees were continuing to want more before they could be satisfied, or so that is what they said, but in Jesus' answer to them we will see that the truth is that they would not be satisfied by anything that Jesus did. Nothing could be done that would bring them to believe in Him.


    This passage brings to a conclusion the disputation Jesus was having with the Scribes and Pharisees on this particular day. There had been tension rising between Jesus and these false Jewish religious leaders for some time, but it has now come to a climax. Recall from our study as we began Matthew 12, that the Pharisees were incensed that Jesus would not follow their traditions. When Jesus broke their man-made commandment not to heal on the Sabbath by restoring the withered hand of the man who had come into the Synagogue, the Pharisees were so enraged that they began to plot with their rivals, the Herodians, to murder Jesus (Matthew 12:14 - See: The Lord of the Sabbath). We might think that would be as far down as they could go, plotting the murder of Jesus. But only a short time later they plunged to a depth of sin from which there could be no recovery.


    Our study today occurs upon the occasion in which these self-righteous men committed the one sin that could not be forgiven, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The situation began in Matthew 12:22 when a man who was blind and dumb due to a demon was brought to Jesus. Jesus cast out the demon and thus healed the man. The people began to openly wonder if Jesus was the Son of David, the promised Messiah. The Scribes and Pharisees started to speak against Jesus telling the people that Jesus "cast out demons by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons" (Matthew 12:24).


    Jesus, knowing their thoughts and comments, called them into account and showed that their accusation was illogical, inconsistent with their own practice, insurrectionary against God, and inane. It was a stupid thing to say. In addition, Jesus bluntly told them that though every other sin could be forgiven them regardless of how vile and the length of time in debauchery, that this sin which they had just committed could not be forgiven. They had sealed their own doom.  (See: The Unforgivable Sin)


    The Holy Spirit is sent to work on the hearts of people, but there comes a time when He will cease that work, and without Him there is no hope for redemption. A person who continues to grieve the Spirit will resist the Spirit, and as that continues he will quench the Spirit and develop a seared conscience. It is at that point the person is in danger of being left alone by God, confirmed in their hardness of heart. These particular Scribes and Pharisees had reached that point.


    They claimed that Jesus was evil, from Satan, yet the fruit of Jesus' life only demonstrated that He was indeed from God just as He said. They claimed for themselves that they were good, but the fruit of their lives proved just the opposite. In verses 36 and 37 Jesus warned them sternly that they would give an account to God for everything they did and their own words would testify against them that their hearts were evil.  (See: Exposing The Heart). In this morning's passage, we see these men who have just been so sternly rebuked by Jesus trying to save face in front of the people.


    The Demand


    Look at verse 38, "Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."


    Have you ever seen a debate in which the person whose arguments have just been thoroughly demolished tries to rescue himself by taking on an air of superiority, ignores what has just been said, and requests more proof of what has just been proven? That is what happens here. The scribes and Pharisees held the position in that society that they were the experts in the Mosaic Law. They use that position to regain a sense of superiority and put themselves in a position in which they try to judge Jesus.


    By their position they could insinuate that the Law taught something just by what they said and did, regardless of whether it was actually in the Scriptures or not. Their request to Jesus to show them some sort of sign suggested to the crowd that 1) The Messiah would provide such a sign, and 2) The Scribes and Pharisees were to be the ones that would declare that sign to be valid or invalid.


    It is all a bluff in trying to regain the respect of the crowds. They did come to Jesus with politeness, even calling Him "Teacher," and asking Him to provide some sort of sign. The request may have been made politely, but it was in effect a demand. In most situations we would commend someone for remaining calm in a debate, but in this case their calmness only shows the strength of their pride, not the strength of their position. When you are rebuked by God you should be emotionally and mentally devastated and seek His mercy - not demand more from Him.


    They wanted a sign, an "attesting miracle," from Jesus. Immediately you think, what other miracle could they possibly want? Jesus has healed every manner of disease and sickness, sometimes with only a word and not even seeing the person. Jesus has demonstrated power over nature, stilling the wind and waves with a simple command. Jesus has shown His authority over the supernatural by casting out demons, which is what He did that started this current debate. And Jesus has even raised the dead. What more could they possibly want?


    We get an idea of that in Matthew 16:1 where a group of Pharisees and Sadducees come and try to make the same demand on Jesus, although they are not as polite in that passage. The text there is more detailed and reveals that they wanted "Him to show them a sign from heaven." We are not told exactly what they wanted in this current passage, but it was to be something big and spectacular, something on a cosmic level scale, and something without precedent.


    In verse 39 we get Jesus' answer to their request. "But He, answering, said to them, A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and a sign shall not be given to it save the sign of Jonah the prophet."


    The Sign of Jonah


    Again Jesus rebukes them. They were a wicked and adulterous people for seeking such a sign and they would not get the sign they were seeking. God does not perform miracles for the pleasure of those who are wicked of heart. These men had already demonstrated by their blindness to what Jesus had already done that regardless of what He would do, it would not satisfy them. What could Jesus do, write His name across the sky in gold letters? Move the constellations around? Have the angels descend in visible array declaring His holy name? Even if Jesus would have done those things, they would soon be asking for more, just as the crowds did after He fed them miraculously and just as they were doing then after already seeing Jesus do so many different miracles.


    Jesus has expanded His condemnation from just the Scribes and Pharisees to the whole generation of Jewish people that were following them in their wickedness. Their evil nature was seen in what they did and said which was more reflective of Satan than of God. They were considered adulterous because they were supposed to be in a covenant relationship with God and they had turned their back on Him to pursue their own system of religion. Earlier generations of the children of Israel had been declared adulterous because of their worship of the false gods of Baal, Molech, and Asherah. This generation had abandoned the Canaanite gods but instead of following God, they placed their hope and trust in the idol of man-made religious tradition.


    They would not get the sign they were seeking, but they would get a sign they were not seeking. The sign of Jonah the prophet. Jonah was a prophet of Israel who was appointed by God to go to Nineveh, the capital of Israel's enemies, the Assyrians, and warn them of God's coming judgment if they did not repent. Jonah did not want to go. The Assyrians were a wicked and violent nation and nothing would have pleased Jonah more than to have God destroy them. So, Jonah, instead of going to Nineveh, goes the opposite direction and gets on a ship heading for Tarshish (Spain). God causes a severe storm to arise, eventually Jonah is tossed overboard, and he is swallowed by great fish prepared by God for the occasion. After three days and nights in the belly of this sea monster it spits him out on land. Jonah then goes to Nineveh and completes what God told him to do in the first place.


    The sign of Jonah is what is called a "typical" prophecy. The experience that Jonah went through is a "type" of what Jesus would go through. As Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and nights and then was spit out, so the Son of Man, Jesus the Messiah, would be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights and then rise again. This was a prediction of Jesus' coming death, burial, and resurrection. That would be the sign Jesus would give. Would they look for it and heed it? No. Jesus said in His story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:31 that if they would not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they would not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.


    There are two other things about what Jesus says here about the sign of Jonah. First, Jesus affirms the veracity of the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish (neither the Hebrew or Greek words indicate whale, but some sort of "great fish" or "sea monster" prepared by God for the occasion - Jonah 1:17). Second, some people use this passage to claim that Jesus could not have been crucified on Friday afternoon and raised on Sunday morning. That would not be 72 hours, but only two nights, one day and parts of two other days. How is this conflict worked out? Some say by moving Jesus' death back to Thursday, however, all the texts point out that His death occurred on Friday and the resurrection took place on Sunday. The answer comes in understanding the Jewish idiom of day and night. First, in the same manner in which they would use "heaven and earth" to mean the same as we mean by "universe," they would use "day and night" in the same manner as we use "day" to speak of one diurnal time unit. The nights would always be numbered with the days. Second, any part of a day would be considered as the whole. So any part of the day would be counted as a whole day. Third, the Jewish day began with nightfall. Thus, the three days and nights are: Crucified on Friday, part of the day counted as a whole beginning at previous nightfall (our Thursday night is counted) = day 1 and night 1. Saturday in the grave, day 2 and night 2. Sunday morning rise from dead = day 3 and night 3.


    Jesus' own resurrection from the dead would be the sign given to them, but they would reject that too and it would be part of the judgment against them. Jesus now explains how certain their judgment would be because of their hardness of heart to see and respond to what has already been given to them.


    The Judgment from Nineveh


    Verse 41, "The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here." The nation of Nineveh will judge that generation of Jews because they repented at what little God gave them in comparison to the great amount God gave them, and they remained hardened toward God.


    Consider the differences. Nineveh received its message from God from Jonah, a minor prophet who was a sinful, rebellious, and foolish person. That generation received its message from God from Jesus Christ who is God in Human flesh and without sin. The message to Nineveh was one of doom. All Jonah said to them was, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4). Jesus presented a message of grace, mercy, and full salvation. Jonah did no miracles or other authenticating signs. Jesus came doing many miracles and authenticating signs. Jonah was speaking to a people completely unfamiliar with the Scriptures already provided by God for mankind. Jesus was speaking to a people well versed in the Scriptures and having a godly heritage. Yet Nineveh repented and turned to God seeking His mercy. That generation rejected God, His message, and His son. Hendriksen put it this way, "Less enlightened people obeyed less enlightened preaching, but more enlightened people refuse[d] to obey the Light of the world."


    But the Ninevites would not be the only ones that would condemn that generation of Jews. The Queen of the South would too.


    The Judgment from the Queen of the South

    Verse 42, "The Queen of the South shall rise up with this generation at the judgment and shall condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here."


    The Queen of the South is the Queen of Sheba mentioned in 1 Kings 10:1-13 and 2 Chronicles 9:1-9. She was from the country of the Sabeans located in lower Arabia some 1,200 miles southeast of Israel. At that time considered the "ends of the earth." She, like the Ninevites, responded to what little she heard. She was very wealthy because her country was on the Mediterranean to India trade route. And because she was on that trade route, she had heard reports of the fame of King Solomon concerning the name of the Lord (1 Kings 10:1). She had no invitation, but she wanted to hear His wisdom so she made a long journey carrying gold, jewels, and spices as gifts for Solomon.


    What a contrast she is to the Israelites of that generation who did not have to make a long and difficult travel to hear the wisdom of God for Jesus, the very wisdom of God, was in their midst. She had only heard reports about Solomon, while they had seen and heard Jesus themselves. She came bearing gifts for Solomon, but they gave nothing to Jesus and plotted to take away His life. There is no report that she had an invitation to come, but she came and rejoiced in Solomon's wisdom and praised the Lord on his behalf. They had been invited and urged to come to Jesus and follow His wisdom, but they refused and blasphemed the Holy Spirit. The Queen of the South will stand in judgment upon them because she did all that to hear Solomon while they refused Jesus who was greater in every respect.


    What a tragedy they were. Verses 43-45 describe the judgment that would come upon them because of their neglect to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.


    The Judgment from Neglect


    "Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."


    Now people often get lost in the passage because they try to develop their doctrine of demonology from it and neglect the passage's purpose. Jesus is not giving any teaching about demons here other than that they can inhabit a man, go out of the man, and then return later with more demons. There is nothing in the text that says why the demon left; nothing explains what the "waterless places" are or why the demon is wandering around in them. We can discern that it is not the kind of place the demon wants to be, which is why the demon wants to go back to the man he had inhabited before. Don't get lost in trying to figure out the demon, keep to the context, and determine why Jesus told this story. Notice again that last sentence, "That is the way it will also be with this evil generation." That points us back to verse 39. Jesus' purpose in telling this illustration is to point out the judgment that would come upon that generation. They would end up in a worse condition than what they had started out in.


    Jesus compares that generation with a demonized man who had been freed from the demon. While the demon was gone the man got his life into order, "swept, and put in order". There had been outward reformation, some bad habits put aside, and some good ones started. But the reformation was only outward because as the text says, when the demon returns the man was still "unoccupied." The Holy Spirit was not there so the demon was free to occupy the man again, and the demon does so, only the condition is worse this time because that demon goes and gets seven more demons more wickedly than itself with the result that the man is now inhabited by eight demons. His last condition is worse than when he started.


    Israel as a nation had gone into the worship of the Canaanite idols resulting eventually in the captivity, Israel taken away by Assyria and Judah taken away by Babylon. While in captivity they get their lives back in order. The demon of idol worship is taken away, but over time, since the nation as a whole did not turn wholeheartedly to the true worship of the Lord God, a religious system was developed that proved worse than the pagan worship. It was that religious system, as most clearly seen in the Scribes and Pharisees that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ.


    This particular generation also had such a reformation in part. At the preaching of John the Baptist and the early ministry of Jesus many of the nations, even some of the religious leaders, turned from some of their sinful ways and cleaned up their act. However, there was no change of heart, and because of that they were going to end up in a worse state than when they started. Why? Because they were so embedded in their self-righteous religious traditions that they were calling the work of the Holy Spirit being done in and through Jesus Christ the work of Satan. Their earlier moral reformation was nice, but because there was a neglect of a spiritual reformation there was not a lasting transformation, the result being a severe judgment upon them. This same generation eventually saw the destruction of the nation and of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and what remnant was left was scattered throughout the world.


    The Warning to Us


    Now we say, "So what does that have to do with me? That was that generation. This is a different generation." That is true, but there is still a very strong warning to us in the text because of the two principles it presents to us. First, God gives revelation of Himself to man, to some much, to others little, but we had better not neglect to make the most of whatever He gives us, and whatever He gives us is adequate for us.


    Some of us not yet confessed our sin before God asking Him to extend His mercy and grace to us in forgiving us for those sins based on life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are still trying to live by our own power, using our own means and methods, and have yet to yield our life to the Holy Spirit's control. We refuse to obey the commands of the Scriptures. We need to seriously consider why we have not done so.


    What is blocking us from putting our faith and trust in Jesus and giving our life to Him? Is it confusion, something we do not understand? If so, then seek for help, set up an appointment and clear up the confusion. We're risking our eternal destiny in putting it off.


    Is it pride, a refusal to see our sinfulness and need for Christ? A belief that we can be good enough on our own, we can make it through life on our own? Then we had better get some humility fast because Scripture tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). We are destined for eternal hell if we remain proud.


    Or are we stumbling over the point of today's sermon? Are we still looking for Jesus to do some sign before we will believe? What does He have to do? Write His name in the sky? Have an angel visit you? Maybe you have some personal thing you want Him to fix so that you will know He is real? Jesus does not have to do anything else to prove Himself to you or anyone else. Nineveh repented at the hopeless preaching of Jonah. The Queen of the South sought out Solomon based on second-hand stories. You have been given the Bible, God's written word, to read for yourself. Creation itself declares His existence and power, you have access to solid Bible teaching both here and other places, and you are surrounded by people that can personally testify to what He had done in their lives. If you continue to neglect what has been given to you, then you will be just like the Scribes and Pharisees. You will stand condemned.


    And those of us who are Christians, how many of us are still seeking some sort of sign from Christ before we will obey Him the way we know we should? What sort of thing are we demanding He do in our life before we will quit playing games and get down to the business of being conformed into His image and live a holy life? Does He have to heal us physically or emotionally? Does He have to fix the mess we have made for ourselves, or that someone else has made for us? Does He have to make us wealthy and remove all the struggles of life we are in? Jesus does not have to do anything else to prove Himself or His love to you - He has done all that He needs to do - He died in your place. In His wonderful grace He continues to do things for us beyond all measure, but when we demand something from Him before we will obey Him, we are in the same boat as the Scribes and Pharisees. We were saved to serve God. Let's get past this foolish mindset that always wants something from God before we will believe Him and then act like we are doing God a favor when we obey Him.


    The first principle is that God has already given each of us all the revelation of Himself that He needs to for us to seek Him out and serve Him. He will give us more understanding of Himself as we do seek Him.


    The second principle is that outward reformation is not enough. Cleaning up the outside accomplishes nothing if the inside is also not cleaned up. We cannot reform ourselves in any manner that will make us acceptable to God. Change must come through the regeneration that comes through the Holy Spirit who changes our heart to desire holiness for God's glory, not our own. If we are trying to change our own life in order to please other people or under the mistaken notion that it will make us acceptable to God, then understand that we are wasting your time. True change only comes by the prompting of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and sets our hearts toward pleasing God for His sake, not our own.


    Again we have examined a passage which has strong words, but necessary words, necessary for those who heard it then and for us that we might be careful of how we are living our lives. Are you seeking signs from Christ? Or are you seeking Jesus Himself? Don't leave today, whether believer or non-believer, until you can leave knowing that your life is right with God.


    Matthew 12:38-45 Condemnation of the Enemies of the Kingdom:  The Sign of Jonah  

    Matthew chapter 11 in each of the events that it records gives us a picture of the majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Matthew chapter 12 gives us a contrast between the character of Christ and His opponents.  And each of the passages that are recorded in that great chapter, we see a juxtaposition, a contrast, a differentiation between Jesus and those who were the accepted respected spiritual and moral leaders of the day, the Pharisees.   

    For instance in Matthew chapter 1, verses 1-15, the Pharisees and Jesus engage in a controversy over the Lord's day.  The Pharisees set themselves up as the great lovers of God and the great lovers of His law, but in that passage it's very clear that the one who has true compassion, the one who loves God, the one who is most concerned about God's law is the Lord Jesus, not the Pharisees.

    Then, if we follow down and look for instance in verses 15-21, we'll see the Lord Jesus' character again contrasted with the Pharisees.  This time a passage is quoted from Isaiah which predicts the character of the servant of the Lord, and the Lord Jesus again is seen to be the divine Messiah, the one with the true heart for God by that quotation from Scripture in that passage.  

    Then in verses 22-33 of this passage again Jesus in His healing of the demon-possessed man is set in stark contrast with the Pharisees.  All the Pharisees want to do is tear Jesus down.  He's going about preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing the sick, binding up the broken hearted, and sparing the demon possessed from the powers of evil, and all the Pharisees want to do is tear Him down.

    And in that context, the Lord Jesus says His fateful words about the unpardonable sin in response to the attitude of the Pharisees there.  But again you see a clear contrast between the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus.

    And then in verses 33-37 of Matthew chapter 12, the Lord Jesus issues a very stinging rebuke to the Pharisees, and He basically says this: ‘Look, I can tell what your hearts are like by your words and by your actions.’  In that passage Jesus tells us that our words, the things that come out of our mouths and our actions tell us what's inside us.  They betray either a heart that is for God or a heart that doesn't know God.  And the Lord Jesus in that passage again is in stark contrast to the Pharisees.  Out of the Lord Jesus' mouth, words of grace.  Out of the Pharisees mouth, word of destruction and slander and blasphemy.  

    And so in each of these incidents we see the character of Jesus compared, displayed, contrasted with that of the Pharisees. And we come to Matthew 12:38-45 and the sign of Jonah, in God's good providence.  Let's look then at that passage in God's holy word.  

    Matthew 12:38-45 


    Father, this is Your word, and we ask on this glorious day, Your day, to write Your truth upon our hearts.  We pray Heavenly Father that in the midst of the great activity and even the joy and gladness of this day that we would not miss the greatest joy that is in store for us nor would we miss the solemn warning of this passage.  Speak to us we pray.  Apply this word to us by Your Spirit.  Change us from the inside out.  We ask it in Jesus' name, amen. 


    Some people work very hard to convince them that God is not there.  Some people want a definite proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the divine Messiah, the Son of God.  Some people only know a little bit about Christ, and yet they love Him a great deal, while others know a lot about Christ and they don't really love Him at all, and some people's lives are filled with business, even religious business, and yet at the same time are totally empty, devoid of living, saving fellowship with God.  Jesus speaks about all those kinds of people in this passage before us today.  Let’s pay attention to His important words.


    I. Unbelief manifests itself by refusing to accept the proof at hand.


    There are four parts to this passage: First, verse 38.  Jesus has already issued a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees.  Though they were respected as the most moral and most godly religious leaders of the day, yet the Lord Jesus tells them that their words and their actions betray a heart that is not at peace with God, and is not in fellowship with God.


    Most certainly, the Pharisees didn't like that.  He'd been saying hard things about them, truthful things, but hard things about them from the beginning of the chapter.  And they weren't in a very good mood.  So they went and they got the scribes and they came back and they tried again. And we are told what they tried in verse 38.  They came to Him and said, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 


    This was a polite but disrespectful response to what Jesus has said to them. They politely address Jesus as teacher.  That was the appropriate way to speak to a rabbi in their day.  But the question they ask is disrespectful, because the Lord Jesus had already shown miraculous signs in their presence and in the presence of the generation, in the presence of all those who were around.  And they are in effect coming to the Lord Jesus and they are saying we want another sign; we want a more spectacular sign.  “We want a sign from heaven.”


    Mark tells us in his version of this passage, “We want a sign from heaven that tells us that you are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In this passage, in verse 38 we learn that unbelief manifests itself by refusing to accept the proof at hand.  There were many convincing proofs of who Jesus was, of His claims, but these Pharisees and scribes show their unbelief by rejecting those signs and asking for another.


    They ask their question in a very polite way, but the content of what they were saying was the height of disrespect.  It was in effect saying, ‘Lord Jesus, Your signs so far have not been convincing to us.  Your healing of those who were sick, Your curing of the demon possessed man, Your binding up of the broken heart, all these things, this is not adequate.  This doesn't convince us.  You need to give us a sign from heaven, something that will really convince us. 


    Their skepticism was not because of the insufficiency of the evidence.  It was not because Jesus hasn't given enough evidence of who He is.  It is a perfectly reasonable request to ask for a sign, and the Lord Jesus was claiming to be bringing something as momentous a the giving of a law to Israel, and when prophets came to bring messages to Israel, God usually confirmed them in one of two ways.  Either, He would give them a prophecy that would be fulfilled in their lifetime so that the people of God would know that they were prophets from Him and therefore could trust the things that they were going to say about the future, or He would give them the power to do miracles.  Elijah and Elisha did great miracles.  So there's nothing unreasonable about desiring a sign from Jesus.


    But the Pharisees were rejecting the signs that Jesus had already given.  They were in effect saying, “Those don't count.  That evidence isn't enough.  We want something more sensational, something more spectacular.  Maybe have God speak from heaven and acknowledge You as the divine Messiah.”


    Their problem is not, however, that Jesus had not supplied them with enough evidence, or even with enough spectacular evidence.  Their problem was in their heart.  They did not want to believe and so no amount of proof could convince them.  Have you ever seen the sad picture of a mother outside a courtroom when a son has been clearly and evidently convicted of a crime?  And you've seen that mother crying in disbelief, “No, no, no, it's not true, it's not true.”  And you've seen the evidence, and the jury has seen the evidence, and the judge has seen the evidence, and it's true.  But she doesn't want to believe it.  The Lord Jesus is saying the hearts of the Pharisees don't want to believe My claim.  It's not that the evidence is not there.  It's not that the truth is not clear.  It's not that there's insufficient proof.  It's that they do not want to believe.  The problem is with their hearts.  Their hearts are opposed to God.  That is the root of their problem.  The evidence is enough to convince them, but they have no wish to be convinced. 


    Note that the Lord God does not call on us to believe in opposition to the truth.  He doesn't call on us to believe in belief.  He doesn't call on us to have faith in faith.  He doesn't call on us to take a leap in the dark, to take a leap in faith.  The Lord God always calls on us to believe the truth.  It is so important for us to remember that that is the character of true Christian belief.  There are a lot of people today who characterize Christian belief as ‘believing even though there is absolutely no reason to believe that.  You just need to believe.’  That is not the kind of belief that the Lord calls for, however.  The difference between Jesus' disciples and the Pharisees is not that the evidence is ambiguous, but the disciples choose to believe and the Pharisees choose not to believe.  The evidence is crystal clear.  It is that the disciples, by the Spirit's regeneration, have trusted in God and that the Pharisees' hearts are hardened and they will not accept the truth. 

    The Lord Jesus has given evidence.  He has set forth the truth.  He has proved Himself.  It's that these men don't want to believe what is shown to be clearly the truth.  God has made Himself known to us.  He's manifested Himself in creation, and He has revealed Himself in our hearts.  And yet there are some people who work very, very hard to deny Him

    This unbelief in God has terrible consequences.  A man from another nation wrote a century ago, about unbelief and its consequences on leaders:  “The true explanation of a hundred strange things that startle us in the conduct of leading men in the churches and in the government is downright lack of faith.  Men who do not believe all that God says in the Bible must necessarily take a vacillating and undecided line on moral and religious questions.” 

    It's frightening, isn't it?  But it's true.  When you deny transcended truth, it has disastrous effects in the life of individuals, families, churches, and nations.  We who live in a time where we need a sound trumpet need to hear moral decisions based on transcended truth.  The Lord Jesus in this passage shows that the Pharisees problem is not that they haven't had enough evidence of the truth.  It's that they don't want to believe the truth even though it is as plain as the nose on their face.

    II. The divine proof that Jesus is the divine Messiah is the resurrection.  

    The second passages are verses 39 and 40.  In response to what the Pharisees have said, Jesus gives us the great sign of the Messiah in verses 39 and 40.  He answered them and said, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.” In this passage we see that the divine proof that Jesus is the divine Messiah is the resurrection.  The resurrection is the great testimony that Jesus is who He claims to be. 

    Note again that Jesus responds to these people by characterizing their generation as evil and adulterous.  He couldn't have picked two things that would have been more offensive to say to the Pharisees.  They were considered to be moral, upstanding, the religious leaders of their people.  And yet He calls them evil, that is, morally corrupt, and He calls them adulterous, that is, unfaithful to God.  Though they thought of themselves as good, and though they thought of themselves as faithful to God, He says, ‘No, you're the exact opposite.  You're religious, but you don't love God.  You go through the motions outwardly, but you don't love God inside.’ 

    And this would have been highly offensive to them because they thought of themselves as moral and spiritual.  And again, He's not rebuking them in verses 39 and 40 because they asked for a sign.  He is rebuking their stubborn, hardened unbelief.  They don't accept the things that He's already done.  They want to see more.  But again, the problem is not with the sign.  The problem is with their heart.  The Lord Jesus knows that no matter how spectacular the sign, their hearts will not believe it.

    In Luke, chapter 16, in that famous story of the rich man and Lazarus, in verse 30 the rich man calls from hell and asks father Abraham to send someone back from the dead to convince his relatives to believe so they don't end up in hell, too.  And here's what Jesus has Abraham say in that passage in verse 31: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”  

    The Lord Jesus was under no delusion that a spectacular miracle would convince the Pharisees, because they weren't interested in being convinced.  The proof of this is in the gospel of Matthew.  In Matthew 28:11.  We read the response of the chief priests, the scribes, and the Pharisees to Jesus' resurrection:  “Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.   And when they had assembled with the elders and council together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘You are to say His disciples came by night and stole Him while we were asleep.’”  It's kind of amazing that they would be able to testify what happened while they were asleep, isn't it.   “And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.  And they took money and did as they had been   instructed and this story was widely spread among the Jews as it is to this day.  The Lord Jesus knew that it didn't matter if He came back from the dead.  These men were not going to believe.  You see, the basic problem that we have is not a lack of evidence.  It's a stubborn heart.

    Many of us have had to read Bertrand Russell, the famous skeptical philosopher from earlier in this century.  Russell was once asked in an interview, he was the man who wrote the essay, Why I am not a Christian, and he argued against the existence of God and other things in that essay.  He was once asked if, on the other side of life, on the other side of death, if you did happen to run into a divine being and that divine being were to question you and ask you why didn't you believe in Me, what would you say?  And Russell impudently responded, “Not enough evidence.” 

    The Lord God will beg to differ.  God has written the evidence of Himself into the entirety of the created order.  And in Romans chapter 1 it we read correctly, He has placed it in every heart.  In fact, there is really no such thing as an atheist.  There are a lot of people who work very hard to convince themselves that they are atheists, but the apostle Paul says that every man and woman ever born has the knowledge of God written on their hearts.  They know that there is a God, and they know that they ought to worship Him, but they work very hard not to.  Why?  Because they don't want to worship God.  They want to worship themselves.  The Lord Jesus makes it clear that the problem is not with the proof or with the evidence.  It's with the heart.

    Then He responds by saying that the only sign that will be given to this generation is the sign of Jonah.  That's a curious thing to say.  He takes you right back to the Old Testament prophet Jonah. Chapter 1 verses 17 through chapter 2 verse 1 of that book.  It's the passage in which Jonah was on a ship that he shouldn't have been on.  God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach.  Jonah wanted his own people, the people of Israel, to repent and believe.  And here was God sending him off to preach to Gentiles, and he resented that.  And so he got on a ship and he decided to go somewhere else.  And on the way that ship ran into a terrible storm.  And the sailors were trying to sacrifice to their gods and figure out what was going wrong and Jonah came up from the ship and he stood on the deck and he said, ‘I’m afraid I’m the problem here.  My God is angry with me because I have disobeyed Him, and I think what you're going to need to do is throw me overboard.  And those Gentile sailors, they didn't have a split second delay.  Immediately they tossed him overboard.  And immediately everything was alright for them.  But not for Jonah, because he was swallowed by a very large fish.  And a few days later he was expelled onto the shore.  And he made his way obediently, this time, to Nineveh. 

    Jesus goes back to that account and He says, ‘It will be the sign of Jonah that will be given to this generation as proof that I am who I am.’   I want you to note that Jesus clearly accepts that account, that record of Jonah as history.  He does not see it as a myth.  He does not see it as a parable or a play.  He does not see it as a saga.  He sees it as an historical occurrence.  If you cannot accept Jonah in the belly of a fish for three days, how in the world can you believe that Jesus Christ was raised again from the dead? This is more impassable for a natural, rational man.  The Lord Jesus, in fact, says that His resurrection is a greater miracle than the sign of Jonah.  He points us to that occurrence, and He says, “That is a foreshadowing of My resurrection.” 

    He uses a curious phrase, three days and three nights.  Why do people get hung up on that?  First of all, they get hung up because Jesus wasn't in the tomb for three full days. Secondly, they get hung up because He wasn't in the tomb but for two nights.  Three days, two nights. What do you mean, three days and three nights?  Jesus said it Himself.  Had He forgotten something? Is He contradicting Himself?  No.  Three days and three nights is a Hebrew idiom.  It refers to three days either in whole or in part.

    At any rate, Jesus says that this sign is a foreshadowing of My resurrection and that His resurrection is God's vindication of His claim. Why does He call the sign the sign of Jonah?  Well, because Christ was in the grave as Jonah was in the belly of the fish.  Because Christ was in the ground for three natural days, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three natural days in part thereof.  Because Jonah was expelled from that fish to preach repentance to Nineveh, so also Jesus Christ was raised from the dead to confirm the gospel and to preach that truth to the nations. 

    The resurrection is the great truth that Jesus is the Messiah.  The great proof of His divine Son ship is in the resurrection.  That's why Paul can say in Romans chapter 1, verse 4, Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.  And the resurrection is not an incidental Christian doctrine.  It is central.  The Apostle Paul says in first Corinthians 15, “That if Christ is not raised from the dead, our faith is in vain.”   Don't believe people who tell you that the resurrection teaching isn't central to Christianity.  The apostle Paul says, ‘I want you to understand, in no uncertain terms, that if I didn't believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, I would not be a Christian. I would eat and drink for tomorrow I die, and that's it.’  The resurrection is central to Christianity.

    III. Our judgment will be according to the measure of our light. 

    And so the Lord goes on in verses 41 and 42, and He speaks to them some very strong words.  In fact, the Lord Jesus makes some astounding claims.  In those verses we see that our judgment is going to be according to the measure of the light we have.  Jesus says absolutely stunning things to the Pharisees here.  He says, ‘I want you to know that someone greater than Jonah is here.’  He has just told them the story of Jonah, the great prophet, used of God in the Old Testament, and He stands before them and He says, ‘I want you to know there is someone greater than Jonah here.’  And then He tells them a story again, of the Queen of the South coming to hear the wisdom of Solomon and He says, “And I want you to know there is someone greater than Solomon here.” 

    You see what the Lord is setting them up for.  The Lord Jesus knows that they are not going to accept even the sign of His resurrection.  He knows that they are going to reject Him even after He is raised from the dead.  And so He is building a case against them.  He is saying to them, ‘Look, these people of old believed in God with far less light than you have had and you are going to reject God even though you see the resurrection with your own eyes.’  But imagine how astounding what He said would have been to them. And here is the Lord Jesus Christ saying, “There is someone greater here than Jonah.  Your great prophet Jonah.”   And there was.  And He was standing there saying there is someone here who is wiser than Solomon. 

    He is pronouncing judgments, against the scribes and Pharisees and the unbelieving Jews of His generation.  He's saying, “Look, if even the pagans of Nineveh will repent when a minor prophet, Jonah, goes to preach the gospel to, and you'll reject the very Son of God who has come with power and grace.  Why, I tell you those pagans will stand up at the last day and they will condemn you.  And if this foreign woman from Africa can make her way to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and you won't even respond to My gracious invitation, why, she'll stand up at the last day and she'll condemn you.”  

    Do not miss Jesus' important claims here.  His claim to be greater than Jonah and to be greater than Solomon is a clear claim of deity.  C.S. Lewis says, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things that Jesus said here wouldn't be a great moral teacher.  He'd either be a lunatic on the level of a man who says he's a poached egg or else he'd be the devil in hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was and is the Son of God or else He was a mad man or something worse.  But don't come up with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher.  He hasn't left that option open to you.  He didn't intend to.” The Lord Jesus will be worshiped as Lord of all or not at all.  Now that's before us today.  Will we join ourselves with the evil generation who has rejected the Lord of glory and crucified Him, or will we embrace Him by faith and find that the Lord of all is for us and will carry us all the way to glory? These men, He said, would be judged by their rejection, because though they had much greater light than the sons of Nineveh or the Queen of the South, yet they have rejected the truth.

    IV. A Spiritual void is the most dangerous thing possible for a human being.

    There's one last thing.  In verses 43-45 Jesus utters a curious story.  If we're reading along in this passage, we may actually wonder, “Jesus, are we running off on a rabbit trail?  Have we changed the subject and I just missed something here?  Why are we suddenly talking about demons and people who are being possessed not by one but by eight demons?  What's the connection here?” 

    Jesus is not giving here a discourse on demonology.  He's explaining something to us that has happened to the people of His generation who heard John the Baptist.  He's telling us here, in verses 43-45, about the peril of spiritual emptiness because there is nothing more dangerous than a spiritual void.  A spiritual void is the most dangerous thing possible for a human being.  In this passage He says this: “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from whence I came,’ and when it comes it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.  Then it goes in and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself and they go in and live there and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.”  And here's the key phrase.  Look at the last sentence.  That is the way it will also be with this generation.

    Jesus is warning about the dangerous spiritual consequences of the partial awakening that had occurred in the lives of some of these very people to whom He was speaking under the preaching of John the Baptist.  Many of these people had gone out in the wilderness to hear John the Baptist.  They had gone out and had been baptized with the baptism of repentance by John the Baptist.  They had publicly repented.  They were attempting to put their spiritual lives in order.  They were attempting to do business with God.  But Jesus says it was only superficial.  There was a superficial turning.  They seemed to repent, but it obviously didn't change their lives.  God wasn't living in their hearts.  They were outwardly moral.  They were outwardly changed, but inwardly they were still empty.  And so He tells the story about the demon.  The demon leaves during their time of spiritual renewal.  He decides it isn't so good in the desert.  He comes back and, lo and behold, everything is in order in their house.  They look good.  There's been some moral reform.  There's been some external behavior change.  But the heart is empty.  In fact the room is swept and the demon says, ‘This is great, I’ll bring back seven of my friends.’ 

    What's the Lord Jesus saying?  He's saying it would have been better for them never to have made any external profession of faith that was false than for them to be deceived that they were truly in fellowship with God and yet be dead in formalism.  Listen to what J.C. Ryle says: “There are men who seem at one time of their lives to be under the influence of strong religious feelings. They reform their ways.  They lay aside many things that were bad.  They take up many things that are good.  But they stop there.  They go no further.  And by and by they give up religion all together.  None proved so hopelessly wicked as those who after experiencing strong religious convictions have gone back again to sin in the world.”  They appeared to be changed but they are empty. 

    Jesus' warning is a warning to us as a nation and to a church not to play games.  Our hearts will either be filled with the fellowship with God which is only through faith in Christ or they will be desperately empty and the haunt of demons.  That is the only option.  To believe in the resurrected Lord and to find in Him resurrection life for our lives or to be bereft in Him. Christ's call to you today is to trust in Him.  The truth is clear.  The proof is plain.  It's indisputable. Trust in Him. 

    Let us pray.

    Our Lord and our God, how solemn and how joyful these words are.  How solemn are these truths if we reject them.  How joyful it is to know that by grace through faith we reign with the Resurrected One forever.  Help us to believe that and to live that.  For His sake and ours, Amen.   

    Draw near to God and He will draw near to you

    Jesus used words in a way that both revealed and concealed His meaning. When asked for a sign, He referred to Himself in the third person as “the Son of Man.” He did not say He would be crucified and laid in a tomb, but that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Nor did He mention His resurrection even though it is implied in the short span of time that He would be under ground.

    Jesus’ words were more poetic than precise. He sometimes left people with more questions than answers. There are at least two reasons why He taught this way and one of them was to make people struggle with what He said until they discovered His meaning for themselves. We tend to own what we learn on our own.

    We might notice how verses 38-45 set Jesus’ short speech apart from the rest of the chapter by beginning and ending with the term “evil generation” (vv. 39 & 45).  Think of that term like book ends that create an envelope around this passage and reveal what is in the center of it.

    The small elite group that stood before Jesus, asking for a sign, represented a “generation.” In scripture, a generation does not necessarily refer to an age group or people living in a particular time, but rather a group that can be identified by certain characteristics. These particular folks were “evil,” because they resisted the good that Jesus did for others and accused Him of being in league with “the ruler of demons” (v. 24). They were “adulterous,” because they refused to accept what God had handed to them and “craved’ something else; namely, a miraculous proof.

    They were in a precarious state, for the spirit driven out of them had gone away to recruit seven more spirits to re-enter them, making their last state worse than the first (vv. 43-45). They needed someone to descend into the depths of the earth for them, to face evil on its own turf, and destroy it. Jesus would be the One to descend into death and hell to break their power and so bring the dead to life.

    The scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign, but what they wanted was a spectacle. A spectacle does not require a response; it certainly does not call for repentance. Jesus was the sign, the miracle. He was right in front of them in all of His life-giving glory, and they were asking for something else.

    O Jesus, our Savior, enter and illuminates the tomb of our heart and the death that lies in its depths. You are our miracle, our hope, our life. We thank You for not turning Your back on the corruption hidden within us. Instead, You fearlessly go into it to free us from its grasp and raise us up to life in God. We praise and thank You, now and forever.

    The Sign of Jonah - Matthew 12:38-45

    If Charles Dickens were a late first-century Jewish theologian, he would undoubtedly write: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

    In spiritual terms, this was the case in Jerusalem. With the arrival of Jesus, the best of times had come. The Messiah had arrived and brought justice with Him. Jesus had come and had given her people the opportunity to find freedom from the greatest oppressors of all: sin, hell and death. But though the Light came, the darkness rose up to meet Him. Unbelief that manifested itself in every kind of evil was exposed and fought back. Jerusalem appeared to at first open her arms to Messiah and then just as quickly killed Him in the most painful and humiliating way.

    And here on the eve of Christ’s greatest work, the religious elites were asking Him to give them a sign of authenticity. Though He had just rebuked them for their extreme unbelief that had touched the fires of hell, they were now back at it again, demonstrating through their demands that they did not believe Him.  For what they wanted was a show.  They wanted Jesus to show them a greater miracle than the ones they’d already seen Him perform. They wanted a sign of His power. They wanted what Moses had on Sinai or what Isaiah had experienced in the throne room of God.  They wanted a sign to feed their pride and lay claim to Moses’ credentials.

    Jesus refused to oblige them. But He refused the Pharisee’s demands in such a way that we again see His greatness. Jesus answered that no sign would be given to their evil generation but the sign of Jonah. The greatest sign that could ever be conceived, the God man self-rising from the dead, would be given to them. You can just imagine just how confused the Pharisees were when they heard Jesus say that like Jonah He would spend three days in the heart of the earth, not realizing this would be representative of His death and a grave.

    More likely, the Pharisees grew incensed when Jesus informed them that the once depraved souls of Nineveh and a Gentile Queen would condemn them one day.  They also probably became enraged when Jesus predicted that their generation would become seven times worse than it was presently, indicating that their perfect rejection of Him and final state of their spiritual condition was far worse for rejecting His coming. The Pharisees unbelief blinded their hearts and mind from seeing the Sign of Jonah that revealed that Jesus was the Messiah and their eventual rejection of this sign left them with nothing to hope for.  For the Messiah came and they killed Him.  The Great Promise had been offered and passed them by when they rejected Him.

    But not all Jews would suffer as the Pharisees.  Some would find eternal life in Jesus and some would taste the joys of heaven. Though many found their religious identity shattered with the coming of Roman General Titus nearly 40 years after they killed Jesus, God did not forsake His people forever.

    Here Jesus predicted that the entire Jewish system would end. The temple would soon be gone.  The sacrifices would cease. The peace would be broken and the Jewish authorities who enjoyed power and prestige among their people would either find chains or the grave on account of their unbridled ambitions.


















    they were blasphemous generation, people who never believed Jesus; they were seeking a way to nail him with his words so they asked so many intriguing questions.



    If you are a true believer, you will not need any sign, your faith in God and knowing you have lived by His Commandments is the only sign you need.  If you think you do need a sign, you have must doubts that you have lived up to His Commandments


    For the Pharisees and the scribes did not believe Jesus was Christ and wanted to see a sign from Him.


    I believe it has a little to do with each of the following points: 1) their faith was so week they needed to see for themselves that miracles could be performed in order to believe in JESUS. You recall even when he was affixed to the cross they said, "If you are indeed the messiah, remove yourself from the cross so we may believe". And 2) they wanted to use whatever signs JESUS performed as a way to condemn him.


    They did not believe in Jesus and that He is the Son of God. They only ask so that they can criticize and find fault with it. 


    Because Jesus had already performed many miracles and they kept asking for another miracle, they wanted to find a reason to condemn him.


    It was evil for the scribes and Pharisees to ask for a sign from Jesus because despite all the miracles He had performed, the Pharisees still did not believe and had no faith and wanted yet another "sign".


    It was indeed evil for the scribes and the Pharisees to ask a sign from Jesus in spite of seeing so many miracles done by Jesus. They had no faith and trust in Jesus and were jealous of him and were trying very hard to test him.  The scribes and the Pharisees never succeeded in their dirty works.  Jesus always conquered and will always conquer and guide and protect us. Thank you Jesus.


    It was evil for the scribes and the Pharisees to ask a sign from Jesus because in spite of all the miracles they saw Jesus performed, they were blind spiritually and didn’t believe in Him. To reject Jesus and yet ask for a sign is an act to blaspheme God. The word, 'adulterous', means unfaithful to God. To do anything that leads to unfaithfulness to God is evil.


    The Scribes and Pharisees worship God with the mouth but not with the hearts, they asked for a sign because they did not believe Jesus could do what He said. The Pharisees were always looking for ways in which they could condemn Jesus.

    For example, Jesus healed on the Sabbath and they say He broke the law, they condemn the disciples for eating without washing they hands and Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth that harm you but what comes out that defiles you.

    It was evil to ask for a sign because Jesus was going about doing miracles of healing and saving those souls that were lost so it showed that they had no faith in Him or themselves.


    They wanted to test Jesus. But a true Christian believes in God' authority without questioning it. Only the unbeliever has to question all that is Holy.


    Because the Pharisees were looking for miracles for them to believe in God of which our God asks us to believe first and see miracles, they were tempting Him as the devil did to Jesus in the wilderness.


    It was evil for the scribes and Pharisees to ask a sign from Jesus because they had seen with their own eyes what Jesus had done.  Yet they had no faith in him that they were asking for signs.  They were trying to test Jesus who had sacrificed his life to save us. I trust in you and thank you for everything...




    They never believed that Jesus was true son of GOD, maybe they thought that GOD will send son directly from heaven but not to be born by anyone in the earth.


    I think that it was evil because they were not asking because they wanted to believe, but rather that they were trying once again to trap him.  Also as others have pointed out (Matthew 4:7”Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test") Unfortunately in my life I have put God to the test so many times, when all I had to was to open my eyes and see the wonderful gifts that he had already given me that I forsake and ignored them. Forgive me Lord... 


    The prophets wrote in the Old Testament of the coming Messiah. The scribes and Pharisees demanded a sign from Him. They were an evil and adulterous generation. They wished to divorce their wives to commit adultery with other women. This is why Jesus also called them hypocrites. Their laws were traditional ones. Praying in public, oppressing the poor, and mainly not believing that Jesus was the Son of God. So they demand a sign from Jesus. Call it tempting the Lord, which is forbidden in Scripture. They were a perverse and faithless generation who only worried about their own financial and religious power. The scribes and Pharisees went so far as to say Jesus casts out demons by the power of Beelzebub, thereby blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Yet a sign was what they wanted. Just as the blind can't see, spiritually blind people cannot see. Jesus knew their hearts. It is evil to ask the Lord for a sign showing He is the Christ.


    I've heard that it is best to let scripture interpret itself...

    No one was able to recognize Jesus as the Christ unless the Father allowed it. John 6:37 - All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.   John 6:40: Have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is the will of God that none should perish. (1Tim 2:4.)  Luke 11:10, 11, 13:  For every one that asks receives; and He that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.  If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? God is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Heb 11:6) So my thoughts are that if the Father did not give them the revelation of Jesus, they must not have sought Him or asked Him for the answer.


    They were challenging the authority of God.


    It showed unbelief, they wanted physical and Earthly proof, because their hardened hearts, and "wise" minds couldn't accept that Jesus was and is the Messiah.


    It was evil for the scribes and Pharisees to ask a sign from Jesus because they knew what the prophets had taught about Jesus' coming and they knew about Jonah being in the belly of the whale  3 days after he refused to go to Nineveh when God told him to. The scribes and Pharisees were showing lack of faith and trust in God when they asked for a sign from Jesus to prove who He is.


    They were not asking a sign so that they may believe, it was a way of mocking jesus, they were the teachers of law yet they did not follow what they taught.


    Because it is not good to test the Lord our God. If we believe, believed with faith.


    By: Gregorio Magdaleno
    Category: The Sign of Jonah
    Comment Helpful? Favorite Violation
    What did the Pharisees say against the Holy Spirit and why was it such a serious offense?

    Matthew 12:22-37 


    Jesus and Beelzebub


    Then one possessed by a demon, blind and mute, was brought to Him and He healed Him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. All the multitudes were amazed, and said, "Can this be the son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebul, the prince of the demons." 

    Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then he will plunder his house. 
    "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who doesn't gather with Me, scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.  "Either makes the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit. You offspring of vipers, how can you, being 
    evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings out good things, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings out evil things. I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." 


    What did the Pharisees say against the Holy Spirit and why was it such a serious offense?


    In this section of Matthew we see the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day intensify to the point of their complete rejection of Him, and His warning to them of what that would mean. In many ways this portion of Matthew provides the turning point for the emphasis of the book. It is one thing to oppose Jesus’ apparent violations of the current rules made by religious leaders, but to say that He is empowered by Satan is another matter altogether.


    This section begins with a miracle by Jesus and the blasphemous accusation by the Pharisees. There follows a lengthy response by Jesus about the source of power in His miracles, and the accountability for words that reveal what is in the heart.


    In the next section the leaders will demand a sign from Jesus, but He responds with a different kind of sign than they had sought, as well as a stinging rebuke of their wicked unbelief. So this study 17 and the next one, 18, provide the major material for the rejection of Jesus, and turning in the book of His ministry.

    The Setting and the Structure of the Passage

    The passage just before this event is a lengthy citation from the prophet Isaiah declaring that Jesus is the prophesied Servant who would come to heal and to restore. That passage also contrasts the peacefulness and tranquility of Jesus the suffering servant with the malicious hatred of the Pharisees in this passage, preparing the way for the material to follow.


    Our passage is essentially some teaching of Jesus based on an incident, although that is the immediate cause, the tension toward the teaching has been building for some time. But in the analysis of the structure we have the event (v. 22) and the twofold response of amazement (23) and blasphemy (24). Then the rest of the section is Jesus’ response to the blasphemy of the Pharisees. That teaching first analyzes their response from the perspective of simple logic, the divided kingdom (25-28), then the analysis of the strong man’s house (29), then the warning of blasphemy against the Spirit (30-32), and finally the principle of nature and fruit (33-37).


    This lengthy discussion is paralleled in Luke, but in several places (6:43-45; 11:17-23; and 12:10), prompting a number of scholars to assume that Matthew has taken several separate teachings and put them together here to address the issue of the blasphemous charge. While that is possible, it is also possible that Luke broke up the discourse and used part of it for a topical purpose (6:43-45), had another part simply in a parallel event (12:10), and the retains a part (11:17-23) as his summary of this discourse at this time. Whatever is the explanation of the synoptic connections, the discourse in Matthew makes a unified and coherent argument.


    So the study of this passage will primarily deal with the points of argument that Jesus made in response to the accusation. There are no difficult words to deal with apart from identifying Beelzebub in passing, or defining “blasphemy.” A brief explanation is given, but these can be studied in any theological dictionary or word book.


    There is rhetorical and figurative language in the passage, as in all of Jesus’ teachings. Since these things are so bound up with the teachings they are best discussed in the analyses of the verses in context. There are no Old Testament quotations in this section either, and so that part of the study does not apply. But the reader should become familiar with the lengthy quotation from Isaiah just before this event, for that is the foundation Matthew uses to report this event and teaching. But for the study we are really left with the analysis of Jesus’ teachings.

    The Analysis of the Passage

    1. The Healing and the Accusation (12:22-24). This section of the passage is pretty straightforward and will require less attention than what follows. But it must be understood, nonetheless.


    The Healing: A man who was demon possessed was brought to Jesus; the effect of the demon possession was that he was blind and mute. In our study of Matthew we have had sufficient time to learn a little about demon possession. Most of Christianity would affirm that true believers cannot be demon-possessed, because they have the Holy Spirit indwelling. But they can be attacked and afflicted by forces in this world, for the spiritual war is against such powers, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians.


    Jesus healed him, so that he could see and talk once again. That is it, a brief report. This shows that the real point of interest is in the teaching to follow.


    And the people who saw this were amazed; wondering if this could be the “Son of David.” The way the Greek text words the question indicates that the people were not sure of the answer: “This couldn’t be the Son of David, could it?” Messiah was expected to perform miracles (see v. 38), and so the exorcism was an indication that Jesus might be the Messiah. But the people could not yet see past the situation (as we can with the full revelation), and Jesus did not look the part of the Messiah, even though He was doing these things. Matthew’s readers, however, would read the passage from Isaiah just quoted, and look at the whole ministry of Jesus and understand it better.


    The Accusation: The Pharisees, however, said that He cast out demons by Beelzebub (we perhaps want to look this up in a good Bible Dictionary and see the full discussion). This Beelzebub is identified here as the prince of demons, or Satan. The name appears to come from the Old Testament world, from either ba’alzebub, “lord of the flies,” or from a take-off on ba’al zebul, “prince Baal.” The Greek text has it Beelzeboul, suggesting perhaps “lord of dung,” or “lord of heights” however the people referred to Satan in those days. One plausible suggestion by MacLaurin is that it meant “lord of the house,” meaning the head of the house of demons. This would explain why Jesus presents Himself here as the head of a house, the household of God that cannot be divided. At any rate, the leaders were therefore trying to turn the people against Jesus by claiming His miracles were diabolic, empowered by Satan.


    2. The Reply of Jesus (12:25-37). The rest of the passage records Jesus’ response to this ridiculous charge.


    The Logic of the Undivided Kingdom (25-28). Jesus’ argument here is very clear: Any kingdom, city, or house (Matthew does not mention the house, but see Mark 3:20, 23) that is divided against itself will fall. This would be true of Satan’s kingdom: for the prince of demons to be casting out his demons would be folly because they were there doing his work. So, if Jesus is casting out demons, He cannot be working for Satan.


    Jesus turns the argument back on them. If this work is empowered by Satan, then Satan must also be empowering their own disciples (their “sons”) who do the same kind of ministry on occasion. On the contrary, if Jesus is doing these miracles by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom is coming to them. The miracle had to be by Satan or by the Spirit of God, and it is illogical to think it would be by Satan. And Jesus knows full well that He has done these things by the Spirit of God, and if the Spirit of God is at work, then the Kingdom of God has dawned on them, the King is present.


    Luke 11:20 has “the finger of God” instead of the “Spirit of God.” The allusion is clearly to Exodus 8:19, the miracle that Moses performed that the magicians could not do, proving it was of God. It is hard to know which was the phrase Jesus used, and which evangelist substituted a parallel phrase. The “Spirit of God” may be the original expression in this event, since it forms such a contrast with the prince of demons idea. But the meaning is the same in either case, God alone was at work here, and the evidence that it was God is indisputable.


    The House of the Strong Man (12:29). Now Jesus offers another argument, as if to say, “Look at it another way” (= “or”). The point now is that if Jesus’ casting out demons cannot be explained by the power of Satan, then it all reflects an authority that is greater than Satan’s. By this point, then, the analogy can be understood. Jesus is the One binding the strong man, Satan, and plundering his house. The little image provides an implied comparison. The people were expecting the Messiah to come and bind Satan in the Messianic Age; and so here Jesus shows He has the power and the authority to do just that. Jesus came with the authority of heaven to defeat and destroy the works of Satan, and to rescue valuable things, people, from his house.


    Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (30-32). Jesus next announces a very basic principle: in our relationship to Jesus there is no neutrality (30). Jesus has made such clear claims and demands that it is impossible to be neutral or indifferent. His claim to be Messiah draws on the Messianic imagery of the harvest: the Messiah will at the end of the age gather in the harvest, so to speak, a work that is attributed to God in the Old Testament. The language of the harvest is figurative, then, an implied comparison. The statement would serve as a warning to the crowd not to treat Jesus with indifference, and a rebuke to the Pharisees not to accuse Him of Satanic powers, because He is the judge of the world. Gathering in the harvest is the work of the kingdom; scattering and driving people away from the kingdom is the work of Satan. To be indifferent or apathetic is to be opposed to Christ, because it is not doing the work of the kingdom.


    After making this announcement, Jesus turns to the question of forgiveness (31). Every sin can be forgiven, even blasphemy against the Son of Man. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Critical to this passage, then, is the meaning of “blasphemy.” The word refers to speaking wickedly or slanderously against God or His nature. It is not a minor offense, but a major one. Sometimes people use “blaspheme” to refer to people using the holy name in anger. That is an application of the idea; but it is not what is intended here. In this passage, consciously arguing that the miracles of Jesus were done by the power of Satan is the primary meaning of blasphemy.


    To blaspheme the Son of Man would be to speak evil of Him, to discredit Him and His message in some way. Within the context of the argument at this point, this would refer to the rejection of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus. But if someone considered it further and repented, that one could be forgiven.


    But the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be the rejection of the same truth in the full awareness that that is what is happening, it is the thoughtful, willful rejection of the work of the Spirit of God even though there can be no other explanation of the healings of Jesus. Blasphemy against the Son and against the Spirit then means the complete and willful rejection of Jesus as the Messiah and the crediting of His works to Satan. Thus, this is not a sin that a true believer can commit, for the true believer has already accepted Jesus as the Messiah.


    In Jewish law there must be two witnesses to establish any point. Here Jesus is showing that there are two witnesses to His being Messiah, His words and His works. If a person rejects His words, there is another witness that will authenticate His person, His works. But if someone rejects that too, completely, by blaspheming, then there is no other witness


    Or to put it the other way around, there are two witnesses that will condemn a person: the rejection of the truth of the Gospel of Christ, and the attributing of His miracles to Satan. This adds up to complete and conscious rejection of Jesus. For those who maintain that opposition to Christ throughout their lives and never recant and turn, there is no forgiveness.


    That Jesus is dealing in first century Jewish thought is evident from the fact that He clarifies there is no forgiveness in this world or the world to come. Jewish leaders were often great literalists. If the text of Scripture said something like “there is no forgiveness,” only saying it once, they would conclude that meant in this life, but not the life to come. If a passage said “there is no mercy, there is no forgiveness”, parallel or double expressions, then that meant in this life and in the life to come. Jesus clarifies what He meant so they would not play such games with the words.


    Nature and Its Fruit (33-37). The point that Jesus now makes is that conduct, especially speech, reveals character. The section is similar to 7:16-19, but there the point was to test character by conduct, a little different.


    Jesus tells His hearers to make the tree good or bad, knowing then that its fruit will be good or bad. The metaphor is rather easy to understand. The tree is the character or the heart, so if you want to produce good things (fruit), you have to have a radical change of heart.


    He then calls His enemies a “brood of vipers.” This is an implied comparison, probably addressed to the Pharisees, of whom in John 8 He said were of their father the devil, i.e., the seed of the Serpent in Genesis 3. The point of the comparison is that they are evil and dangerous at heart, but sly and deceptive at first sight. They have an evil heart, and so cannot bring forth good things out of their mouths. The mouth simply utters what “overflows” from the heart.


    And so in verses 36 and 37 Jesus warns them that they will have to give an account of themselves on judgment day. These lines may be a proverb, or a popular saying of Jesus, or of Jesus’ day, for the language shifts to the second person. A person will be held accountable for every “careless” word, words that might seem to be insignificant, but are not. In this context the point is clear, if you recall the beginning of this passage: what one says about Jesus and His miracles reveals what is in one’s heart. Some said, “Could this be the Son of David?” They are on their way to the kingdom; other said, “he blasphemes”--they are not even near the kingdom.

    Conclusion and Application:

    Jesus then took the response of the Pharisees to His miracle as the occasion to teach about belief and unbelief expressed by the words that people say, especially what they say about the person and works of Jesus. The passage affirms again that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who can do the miracles and help the poor and the needy. But the passage goes beyond this to warn those who oppose and reject Jesus that they will not be forgiven but will be condemned for their words, which reflect an evil heart.


    The theological application for such folks is to have a radical change of heart, to receive a new heart, we would say, and find forgiveness. The way to do that is to believe in Christ as the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior of the world. This will mean a change from blaspheming the Lord and the Spirit, to expressing faith and adoration.


    The message is primarily addressed to folks who oppose Christ and blaspheme the Spirit concerning His miracles, in other words, unbelievers. To make an application to believers, we would have to formulate secondary applications, applications derived from the implications here. We could say things like:


    1. Believers should be encouraged in their faith by passages like this because Jesus demonstrates again that He truly is the divine Son of God.


    2. Believers can take comfort in the grace of God that Christ has been judged for them, in their place. They may have to give an account of their works at the Bema Seat of Christ, but not at the last judgment where there will be condemnation for unbelief and unrighteousness, and where there will be no forgiveness. Believers have been forgiven, and so there is no condemnation for them.


    3. But believers should also guard their words, because what they say reflects who they are, and those words should reflect a heart of faith and a life of righteousness.


    4. And, believers should do what Matthew is doing here, and proclaim who Christ is to people and tell them that in Christ there is forgiveness of sin, but there is no neutrality--only by being in Christ can people “gather” with Christ.


    As mentioned above, Jesus in several places in the Gospels spoke of evil being in the heart, or that what proceeds from the heart is evil. So we can correlate those passages in His teachings to show the importance of being born again, or repenting, or coming to faith in Jesus.


    The passage naturally correlates to Gospel teachings throughout the Scripture. There is salvation and forgiveness only in the Lord God, and by His claims and by His mighty works, Jesus reveals that He is this Lord God. And so, passages that center on faith in Jesus Christ as the guarantee of salvation and deliverance from the judgment would be useful. And Paul reminds us in Romans that we are to confess the Lord Jesus with our mouth.


    Likewise James focuses on speech, showing that good things should come from a good heart. Our difficulty is that we do not always show by thoughts, words, or deeds, that our hearts have been cleansed and created anew. We who know that Jesus is the Messiah, who know that He did His works by the power of the Spirit, who know that He is coming to judge the world, ought to make sure that our words and works harmonize with that faith



    Study Notes: Matthew 12:22-37

    Review: As Jesus has been healing people, He has also been going head to head with the Pharisees’ rejecting Him.


    12:22 Blind And Mute From Demon Possession


    When demons possess people, they manifest all sorts of troubling behavior (Luke 6:18) in the human body. The Scriptures show us that demons make people mute (Matt. 9:32), deaf (Mark 9:25), or blind (Matt. 12:22). We also see that demons can make some people lunatics (Matt. 17:5) who scream constantly (Mark 5:5), cutting themselves (Mark 5:5) and tearing off their clothes (Mark 5:15). Sometimes the demons attack the bodies they are in, seizing them (Luke 8:29) with convulsions (Mark 1:26), slamming their bodies down onto the ground (Luke 9:42), or sometimes into painful or dangerous places like fire and water (Matt. 17:15). Other times, the demon-possessed turn on other people, becoming violent (Matt. 8:28) and attacking someone else (Acts 19:16).


    This is exceptionally dangerous, since the demons are able to give them superhuman strength to do things like break chains (Mark 5:4). And if all this isn’t bad enough, some people have multiple demons living inside of them (Matt. 12:45, Luke 8:30).
    But we are not to be frightened, for Jesus has power over the demons. The blind and mute man who was brought to Him was healed instantly, being able to speak and see again.

    12:23-24 The Son Of David Or Beelzebul?


    As a result of this deliverance, the crowds began to wonder if Jesus might be the Messiah. But when the Pharisees heard people saying this, they said that it wasn’t because He was the Messiah, it was because He was empowered by Beh-el-zeb-OOL, the devil.
    This name for the devil has a long history. The highest god among the Canaanites’ false religion was BAH-al, a name that means, “Lord.” They called sometimes him BAH-al Zeb-OOL, meaning “Lord of the House.” But the Hebrews knew that the false gods were Satan and his demons, so they insultingly called him “BAH-al Zeb-OOB,” which changes “house” to “flies,” making him not “Lord of the House,” but, “Lord of the Dung Hill.”
    The Pharisees are accusing Jesus of casting out demons by Satan, the ruler of the demons.

    12:25-29 A House Divided


    Jesus points out to them that Satan cannot cast out Satan, because if he was working against himself, his kingdom would fall apart. The only way to rob the house of the “Lord of the House” Beh-el-zeb-OOL was to bind him up. The devil certainly isn’t going to be working with anyone to cast out his own guys!


    12:30 With Me Or Against Me


    The devil will not be with Jesus in this work, the devil is against Jesus. And anyone who does not side with Jesus is siding with the devil. If you are not with Jesus, you are against Him by default. Some people defend their position by saying, “Well, I haven’t made up my mind yet whether or not to be with Jesus.” But in deciding to wait, you have made your decision. By delaying, you are siding against Jesus.


    12:31-32 Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit


    The “therefore” tells us that Jesus is tying in the Pharisees’ claim that He is healing by the power of the devil and their rejection of Him with the one unforgivable sin. That one unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Remember that Jesus said of the Spirit,

    John 15:26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me”


    John 16:13-14 ...”when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”


    It is the Holy Spirit Who draws us into the knowledge of Jesus and faith in Jesus. It is of Whom Jesus said, 


    John 16:8-9 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me”


    The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin, and shows us that Jesus is our only source of forgiveness. Many people may blaspheme Jesus Christ throughout their life, even as I did. But they can be forgiven for that, even as I was. The Holy Spirit keeps working on them, drawing them into faith in Christ. But if you continually reject the Spirit’s pull, and ultimately blaspheme His work of drawing you to faith, you cannot be forgiven. That is why rejecting the gospel is so dangerous. Each time, you get closer and closer to permanently hardening your heart against the Spirit, and someday you will commit the one unforgivable sin and you will never be saved.


    12:33-37 Justified Or Condemned By Your Words


    There is a day of judgment in which each of us will stand before God and give an account. The words that we have spoken in this life will be brought forth, and we will have to answer for them. That is why Paul the apostle said, Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 


    On the day of judgment, our words saying, “Jesus is Lord” will justify us before God, and we will enter into His kingdom. Or, if we have never confessed Jesus as the Lord of our lives, then we will be condemned, and be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity.


    Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 12


    In this chapter, we have, I. Christ's clearing of the law of the fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath-day, and vindicating it from some superstitious notions advanced by the Jewish teachers showing that works of necessity and mercy are to be done on that day, Matthew 12:1-13. II. The prudence, humility, and self-denial of our Lord Jesus in working His miracles, Matthew 12:14-21. III. Christ's answer to the blasphemous cavils and calumnies of the scribes and Pharisees, who imputed His casting out devils to a compact with the devil, Matthew 12:22-37. IV. Christ's reply to a tempting demand of the scribes and Pharisees, challenging Him to show them a sign from heaven, Matthew 12:38-45. V. Christ's judgment about His kindred and relations, Matthew 12:46-50.

    Verses 1-13

    Christ Vindicates His Disciples.


    The Jewish teachers had corrupted many of the commandments, by interpreting them more loosely than they were intended a mistake which Christ discovered and rectified (Matthew 5:1-48) in His Sermon on the Mount: but concerning the fourth commandment, they had erred in the other extreme, and interpreted it too strictly. Note, it is common for men of corrupt minds, by their zeal in rituals, and the external services of religion, to think to atone for the looseness of their morals. But they are cursed who add to, as well as they who take from, the words of this book, Revelation 22:16, 19Proverbs 30:6.


    Now that which our Lord Jesus here lays down is, that the works of necessity and mercy are lawful on the Sabbath day, which the Jews in many instances were taught to make a scruple of. Christ's industrious explanation of the fourth commandment, intimates its perpetual obligation to the religious observation of one day in seven, as a holy Sabbath. He would not expound a law that was immediately to expire, but doubtless intended hereby to settle a point which would be of use to His church in all ages and so it is to teach us, that our Christian Sabbath, though under the direction of the fourth commandment, is not under the injunctions of the Jewish elders.


    It is usual to settle the meaning of a law by judgments given upon cases that happen in fact, and in like manner is the meaning of this law settled. Here are two passages of story put together for this purpose, happening at some distance of time from each other, and of a different nature, but both answering this intention.


    I. Christ, by justifying His disciples in plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath-day, shows that works of necessity are lawful on that day. Now here observe,


    1. What it was that the disciples did. They were following their Master one Sabbath day through a corn-field it is likely they were going to the synagogue (Matthew 12:9), for it becomes not Christ's disciples to take idle walks on that day, and they were hungry let it be no disparagement to our Master's house-keeping. But we will suppose they were so intent upon the Sabbath work, that they forgot to eat bread had spent so much time in their morning worship, that they had no time for their morning meal, but came out fasting, because they would not come late to the synagogue. Providence ordered it that they went through the corn, and there they were supplied.


    Note, God has many ways of bringing suitable provision to His people when they need it, and will take particular care of them when they are going to the synagogue, as of old for them that went up to Jerusalem to worship (Psalm 84:6, 7), for whose use the rain filled the pools: while we are in the way of duty, Jehovah-jireh, let God alone to provide for us. Being in the corn-fields, they began to pluck the ears of corn the law of God allowed this (Deuteronomy 23:25), to teach people to be neighborly, and not to insist upon property in a small matter, whereby another may be benefited. This was but slender provision for Christ and His disciples, but it was the best they had, and they were content with it.


    2. What was the offence that the Pharisees took at this? It was but a dry breakfast, yet the Pharisees would not let them eat that in quietness. They did not quarrel with them for taking another man's corn (they were no great zealots for justice), but for doing it on the Sabbath day for plucking and rubbing the ears of corn of that day was expressly forbidden by the tradition of the elders, for this reason, because it was a kind of reaping.


    Note, It is no new thing for the most harmless and innocent actions of Christ's disciples to be evil spoken of, and reflected upon as unlawful, especially by those who are zealous for their own inventions and impositions. The Pharisees complained of them to their Master for doing that which it was not lawful to do. Note, Those are no friends to Christ and His disciples, who make that to be unlawful which God has not made to be so.


    3. What was Christ's answer to this cavil of the Pharisees? The disciples could say little for themselves, especially because those who quarreled with them seemed to have the strictness of the Sabbath sanctification on their side and it is safest to err on that hand: but Christ came to free His followers, not only from the corruptions of the Pharisees, but from their unscriptural impositions, and therefore has something to say for them, and justifies what they did, though it was a transgression of the canon.


    (1.) He justifies them by precedents, which were allowed to be good by the Pharisees themselves.

    [1.] He urges an ancient instance of David, who in a case of necessity did that which otherwise he ought not to have done (Matthew 12:3, 4) "Have ye not read the story (1 Samuel 21:6) of David's eating the show-bread, which by the law was appropriated to the priest?" (Leviticus 24:5-9). It is most holy to Aaron and his sons and (Exodus 29:33) a stranger shall not eat of it yet the priest gave it to David and his men for though the exception of a case of necessity was not expressed, yet it was implied in that and all other ritual institutions. That which bore out David in eating the show-bread was not his dignity (Uzziah, that invaded the priest's office in the pride of his heart, though a king, was struck with a leprosy for it,2 Chronicles 26:16, &c.), but his hunger.


    The greatest shall not have their lusts indulged, but the meanest shall have their wants considered. Hunger is a natural desire which cannot be mortified, but must be gratified, and cannot be put off with anything but meat therefore we say, It will break through stone walls. Now the Lord is for the body, and allowed His own appointment to be dispensed with in a case of distress much more might the tradition of the elders be dispensed with.


    Note, That may be done in a case of necessity which may not be done at another time there are laws which necessity has not, but it is a law to itself. Men do not despise, but pity, a thief that steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry, Proverbs 6:30.


    [2.] He urges a daily instance of the priests, which they likewise read in the law, and according to which was the constant usage, Matthew 12:5. The priests in the temple did a great deal of servile work on the Sabbath day killing, flaying, burning the sacrificed beasts, which in a common case would have been profaning the Sabbath and yet it was never reckoned any transgression of the fourth commandment, because the temple-service required and justified it. This intimates, that those labors are lawful on the Sabbath day which are necessary, not only to the support of life, but to the service of the day as tolling a bell to call the congregation together, travelling to church, and the like. Sabbath rest is to promote, not to hinder, Sabbath worship.


    (2.) He justifies them by arguments, three cogent ones.


    [1.] In this place is one greater than the temple, Matthew 12:6. If the temple-service would justify what the priests did in their ministration, the service of Christ would much more justify the disciples in what they did in their attendance upon Him. The Jews had an extreme veneration for the temple: it sanctified the gold Stephen was accused for blaspheming that holy place (Acts 6:13) but Christ, in a corn-field, was greater than the temple, for in Him dwelt not the presence of God symbolically, but all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Note, If whatever we do, we do it in the name of Christ, and as unto Him, it shall be graciously accepted of God. However it may be censured and caviled at by men.


    [2.] God will have mercy and not sacrifice, Matthew 12:7. Ceremonial duties must give way to moral, and the natural, royal law of love and self-preservation must take place of ritual observances. This is quoted from Hosea 6:6. It was used before, Matthew 9:13, in vindication of mercy to the souls of men here, of mercy to their bodies. The rest of the Sabbath was ordained for man's good, in favor of the body, Deuteronomy. Now no law must be construed so as to contradict its own end. If you had known what this means, had known what it is to be of a merciful disposition, you would have been sorry that they were forced to do this to satisfy their hunger, and would not have condemned the guiltless. 


    Note, First, Ignorance is the cause of our rash and uncharitable censures of our brethren. Secondly, It is not enough for us to know the scriptures, but we must labor to know the meaning of them. Let him that readeth understand. Thirdly, Ignorance of the meaning of the scripture is especially shameful in those who take upon them to teach others.

    [3.] The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day, Matthew 12:8. That law, as all the rest, is put into the hand of Christ, to be altered, enforced, or dispensed with, as He sees good. It was by the Son that God made the world, and by Him He instituted the Sabbath in innocence by Him He gave the ten commandments at mount Sinai, and as Mediator He is entrusted with the institution of ordinances, and to make what changes He thought fit and particularly, as being Lord of the Sabbath, He was authorized to make such an alteration of that day, as that it should become the Lord's day, the Lord Christ's day. And if Christ be the Lord of the Sabbath, it is fit the day and all the work of it should be dedicated to Him.


    By virtue of this power Christ here enacts, that works of necessity, if they be really such, and not a pretended and self-created necessity, are lawful on the Sabbath day and this explication of the law plainly shows that it was to be perpetual. Exceptio firmat regulam--The exception confirms the rule.


    Christ having thus silenced the Pharisees, and got clear of them (Matthew 12:9), departed, and went into their synagogue, the synagogue of these Pharisees, in which they presided, and toward which He was going, when they picked this quarrel with Him. Note, First, We must take heed lest anything that occurs in our way to holy ordinances unfit us for, or divert us from, our due attendance on them. Let us proceed in the way of our duty, notwithstanding the artifices of Satan, who endeavors, by the perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds, and many other ways, to ruffle and discompose us. Secondly, We must not, for the sake of private feuds and personal piques, draw back from public worship. Though the Pharisees had thus maliciously caviled at Christ, yet He went into their synagogue. Satan attempts to gain points, by sowing discord among brethren, if he prevail to drive them or any of them from the synagogue, and the communion of the faithful.


    II. Christ, by healing the man that had the withered hand on the Sabbath day, shows that works of mercy are lawful and proper to be done on that day. The work of necessity was done by the disciples, and justified by Him the work of mercy was done by Himself the works of mercy were His works of necessity it was His meat and drink to do good. I must preach, says He, Luke 4:43. This cure is recorded for the sake of the time when it was wrought, on the Sabbath.


    Here is,


    1. The affliction that this poor man was in his hand was withered so that he was utterly disabled to get his living by working with his hands. St. Jerome says, that the gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, used by the Nazarenes and Ebionites, adds this circumstance to this story of the man with the withered hand, that he was Cæ mentarius, a bricklayer, and applied himself to Christ thus "Lord, I am a bricklayer, and have got my living by my labor (manibus victum quæ ritans) I beseech thee, O Jesus, restore me the use of my hand, that I may not be obliged to beg my bread" (ne turpiter mendicem cibos). Hieron. In loc. This poor man was in the synagogue.


    Note, Those who can do but little, or have but little to do for the world, must do so much the more for their souls as the rich, the aged, and the infirm.


    2. A spiteful question which the Pharisees put to Christ upon the sight of this man. They asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal? We read not here of any address this poor man made to Christ for a cure, but they observed Christ began to take notice of him, and knew it was usual for Him to be found of those that sought Him not, and therefore with their badness they anticipated His goodness, and started this case as a stumbling-block in the way of doing good Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day? Whether it was lawful for physicians to heal on that day or not, which was the thing disputed in their books, one would think it past dispute, that it is lawful for prophets to heal, for him to heal who discovered a divine power and goodness in all He did of this kind, and manifested Himself to be sent of God. Did ever any ask, whether it is lawful for God to heal, to send His word and heal? It is true, Christ was now made under the law, by a voluntary submission to it, but He was never made under the precepts of the elders. Is it lawful to heal? 


    To enquire into the lawfulness and unlawfulness of these actions is good, and we cannot apply ourselves to any of such enquiries more fitly than to Christ but they asked here, not that they might be instructed by Him, but that they might accuse Him. If He should say that it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath day, they would accuse Him of a contradiction to the fourth commandment to so great a degree of superstition had the Pharisees brought the Sabbath rest, that, unless in peril of life, they allowed not any medicinal operations on the Sabbath day. If He should say that it was not lawful, they would accuse Him of partiality, having lately justified His disciples in plucking the ears of corn on that day.


    3. Christ's answer to this question, by way of appeal to themselves, and their own opinion and practice, Matthew 12:11, 12. In case a sheep (though but one, of which the loss would not be very great) should fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, would they not lift it out? No doubt they might do it, the fourth commandment allows it they must do it, for a merciful man regardeth the life of his beast, and for their parts they would do it, rather than lose a sheep does Christ take care for sheep? Yes, He does He preserves and provides for both man and beast.


    But here He says it for our sakes (1 Corinthians 9:9, 10), and hence argues, How much then is a man better than a sheep? Sheep are not only harmless but useful creatures, and are prized and tended accordingly yet a man is here preferred far before them. Note, Man, in respect of his being, is a great deal better, and more valuable, than the best of the brute creatures: man is a reasonable creature, capable of knowing, loving, and glorifying God, and therefore is better than a sheep. The sacrifice of a sheep could therefore not atone for the sin of a soul. They do not consider this, which is more solicitous for the education, preservation, and supply of their horses and dogs than of God's poor, or perhaps their own household.


    Hence Christ infers a truth, which, even at first sight, appears very reasonable and good-natured that it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath days they had asked, Is it lawful to hear? Christ proves it is lawful to do well, and let any one judge whether healing, as Christ healed, was not doing well. 


    Note, There are more ways of doing well upon Sabbath days, than by the duties of God's immediate worship attending the sick, relieving the poor, helping those who are fallen into sudden distress, and call for speedy relief this is doing good: and this must be done from a principle of love and charity, with humility and self-denial, and a heavenly frame of spirit, and this is doing well, and it shall be accepted, Genesis 4:7.


    4. Christ's curing of the man, notwithstanding the offence which He foresaw the Pharisees would take at it, Matthew 12:13. Though they could not answer Christ's arguments, they were resolved to persist in their prejudice and enmity but Christ went on with His work notwithstanding.


    Note, Duty is not to be left undone, nor opportunities of doing good neglected, for fear of giving offence. Now the manner of the cure is observable He said to the man, "Stretch forth thy hand, exert thyself as well as thou canst” and he did so, and it was restored whole. This, as other cures Christ wrought, had a spiritual significance. (1.) By nature our hands are withered, we are utterly unable of ourselves to doing anything that is good. (2.) It is Christ only, by the power of His grace, that cures us He heals the withered hand by putting life into the dead soul, works in us both to will and to do. (3.) In order to our cure, He commands us to stretch forth our hands, to improve our natural powers, and do as well as we can to stretch them out in prayer to God, to stretch them out to lay hold on Christ by faith, to stretch them out in holy endeavors.


    Now this man could not stretch forth his withered hand of himself, any more than the impotent man could arise and carry his bed, or Lazarus come forth out of his grave yet Christ bid him do it. God's commands to us to do the duty which of ourselves we are not able to do are no more absurd or unjust, than this command to the man with the withered hand, to stretch it forth for with the command, there is a promise of grace which is given by the word. Turn ye at my reproof, and I will pour out my Spirit, Proverbs 1:23. Those who perish are as inexcusable as this man would have been, if he had not attempted to stretch forth his hand, and so had not been healed. But those who are saved have no more to boast of than this man had of contributing to his own cure, by stretching forth his hand, but are as much indebted to the power and grace of Christ as he was.


    Verses 14-21 The Malice of the Pharisees Christ Withdraws Himself.


    14 Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. 15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence: and great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all 16 And charged them that they should not make Him known: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 18 Behold My servant, whom I have chosen My beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased: I will put My spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.


    As in the midst of Christ's greatest humiliations, there were proofs of His dignity, so in the midst of His greatest honors, He gave proofs of His humility and when the mighty works He did gave Him an opportunity of making a figure, yet He made it appear that He emptied Himself, and made Himself of no reputation. Here we have,


    I. The cursed malice of the Pharisees against Christ (Matthew 12:14) being enraged at the convincing evidence of His miracles, they went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him. 


    That which vexed them was, not only that by His miracles His honor eclipsed theirs, but that the doctrine He preached was directly opposite to their pride, and hypocrisy, and worldly interest but they pretended to be displeased at His breaking the Sabbath day, which was by the law a capital crime, Exodus 35:2.


    Note, it is no new thing to see the vilest practices cloaked with the most specious pretences. Observe their policy they took counsel about it, considered with themselves which way to do it effectually they took counsel together in a close cabal about it, that they might both animate and assist one another. Observe their cruelty they took counsel, not to imprison or banish Him, but to destroy Him, to be the death of Him who came that we might have life. What an indignity was hereby put upon our Lord Jesus, to run Him down as an outlaw (qui caput gerit lupinum--carries a wolf's head), and the plague of His country, who was the greatest blessing of it, the Glory of His people Israel!


    II. Christ's absconding upon this occasion, and the privacy He chose, to decline, not His work, but His danger because His hour was not yet come (Matthew 12:15), He withdrew Himself from thence. He could have secured Himself by miracle, but chose to do it in the ordinary way of flight and retirement because in this, as in other things, He would submit to the sinless infirmities of our nature. Herein He humbled Himself, that He was driven to the common shift of those who are most helpless thus also He would give an example to His own rule, When they persecute you in one city, flee to another. Christ had said and done enough to convince those Pharisees, if reason or miracles would have done it but instead of yielding to the conviction, they were hardened and enraged, and therefore He left them as incurable, Jeremiah 51:9.


    Christ did not retire for His own ease, nor seek an excuse to leave off His work no, His retirements were filled up with business, and He was even then doing good, when He was forced to flee for the same. Thus He gave an example to His ministers, to do what they can, when they cannot do what they would, and to continue teaching, even when they are removed into corners. When the Pharisees, the great dons and doctors of the nation, drove Christ from then, and forced Him to withdraw Himself, yet the common people crowded after Him great multitudes followed Him and found Him out.


    This some would turn to His reproach, and call Him the ring-leader of the mob but it was really His honor, that all who were unbiased and unprejudiced, and not blinded by the pomp of the world, were so hearty, so zealous for Him, that they would follow Him whithersoever He went, and whatever hazards they ran with Him as it was also the honor of His grace, that the poor were evangelized that when they received Him, He received them and healed them all. Christ came into the world to be a Physician-general, as the sun to the lower world, with healing under His wings. Though the Pharisees persecuted Christ for doing good, yet He went on in it, and did not let the people fare the worse for the wickedness of their rulers.


    Note, Though some are unkind to us, we must not on that account be unkind to others.


    Christ studied to reconcile usefulness and privacy He healed them all, and yet (Matthew 12:16), charged them that they should not make Him known which may be looked upon,


    1. As an act of prudence it was not so much the miracles themselves, as the public discourse concerning them, that enraged the Pharisees (Matthew 12:23,24) therefore Christ, though He would not omit doing good, yet would do it with as little noise as possible, to avoid offence to them and peril to Himself.


    Note, Wise and good men, though they covet to do good, yet are far from coveting to have it talked of when it is done because it is God's acceptance, not men's applause, that they aim at. And in suffering times, though we must boldly go on in the way of duty, yet we must contrive the circumstances of it so as not to exasperate, more than is necessary, those who seek occasion against us Be ye wise as serpents, Matthew 10:16.


    2. It may be looked upon as an act of righteous judgment upon the Pharisees, who were unworthy to hear of any more of His miracles, having made so light of those they had seen. By shutting their eyes against the light, they had forfeited the benefit of it.


    3. As an act of humility and self-denial. Though Christ's intention in His miracles was to prove Himself the Messiah, and so to bring men to believe on Him, in order to which it was requisite that they should be known, yet sometimes He charged the people to conceal them, to set us an example of humility, and to teach us not to proclaim our own goodness or usefulness, or to desire to have it proclaimed. Christ would have His disciples to be the reverse of those who did all their works to be seen of men.


    III. The fulfilling of the scriptures in all this, Matthew 12:17. Christ retired into privacy and obscurity, that though He was eclipsed, the word of God might be fulfilled, and so illustrated and glorified, which was the thing His heart was upon. The scripture here said to be fulfilled is Isaiah 42:1-4, which is quoted at large, Matthew 12:18-21. The scope of it is to show how mild and quiet, and yet how successful, our Lord Jesus should be in His undertaking instances of both which we have in the foregoing passages. Observe here,


    1. The pleasure of the Father in Christ (Matthew 12:18) Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased. 


    Hence we may learn,


    (1.) That our Saviour was God's Servant in the great work of our redemption. He therein submitted Himself to the Father's will (Hebrews 10:7), and set Himself to serve the design of His grace and the interests of His glory, in repairing the breaches that had been made by man's apostasy. As a Servant, He had a great work appointed Him, and a great trust reposed in Him. This was a part of His humiliation, that though He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet that in the work of our salvation He took upon Him the form of a servant, received a law, and came into bonds. Though He were a son, yet learned He this obedience, Hebrews 5:8. The motto of this Prince is, Ich dien--I serve.


    (2.) That Jesus Christ was chosen of God, as the only fit and proper person for the management of the great work of our redemption. He is my Servant whom I have chosen, as par negotio--equal to the undertaking. None but He was able to do the Redeemer's work, or fit to wear the Redeemer's crown. He was one chosen out of the people (Psalm 89:19), chosen by Infinite Wisdom to that post of service and honor, for which neither man nor angel was qualified none but Christ, that He might in all things have the pre-eminence. Christ did not thrust Himself upon this work, but was duly chosen into it Christ was so God's Chosen as to be the head of election, and of all other the Elect, for we are chosen in Him, Ephesians 1:4.


    (3.) That Jesus Christ is God's Beloved, His beloved Son as God, He lay from eternity in His bosom (John 1:18) He was daily His delight, (Proverbs 8:30). Between the Father and the Son there was before all time an eternal and inconceivable intercourse and interchanging of love, and thus the Lord possessed Him in the beginning of His way, Proverbs 8:22. As Mediator, the Father loved Him then when it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, and He submitted to it, therefore did the Father love Him, John 10:17.


    (4.) That Jesus Christ is one in whom the Father is well pleased, in whom His soul is pleased which denotes the highest complacency imaginable. God declared, by a voice from heaven, that He was His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased well pleased in Him, because He was the ready and cheerful Undertaker of that work of wonder which God's heart was so much upon, and He is well pleased with us in Him for He had made us accepted in the Beloved, Ephesians 1:6. All the interest which fallen man has or can have in God is grounded upon and owing to God's well-pleasedness in Jesus Christ for there is no coming to the Father but by Him, John 14:6.


    2. The promise of the Father to him in two things. (1.) That he should be every way well qualified for his undertaking I will put my Spirit upon him, as a Spirit of wisdom and counsel, Isaiah 11:2, 3. Those whom God calls to any service, he will be sure to fit and qualify for it and by that it will appear that he called them to it, as Moses, Exodus 4:12. Christ, as God, was equal in power and glory with the Father as Mediator, He received from the Father power and glory, and received that He might give: and all that the Father gave Him, to qualify Him for His undertaking, was summed up in this, He put His Spirit upon Him: this was that oil of gladness with which He was anointed above His fellows, Hebrews 1:9. He received the Spirit, not by measure, but without measure, John 3:34.


    Note, Whoever they be that God has chosen, and in whim He is well pleased, He will be sure to put His Spirit upon them. Wherever He confers His love, He confers somewhat of His likeness.


    (2.) That he should be abundantly successful in his understanding. Those whom God sends He will certainly own. It was long; since secured by promise to our Lord Jesus that the good pleasure of the Lord should prosper in His hand, Isaiah 53:10. And here we have an account of that prospering good pleasure.


    [1.] He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. Christ in His own person preached to those who bordered upon the heathen nations (see Mark 3:6-8), and by His apostle showed His gospel, called here His judgment, to the Gentile world. The way and method of salvation, the judgment which is committed to the Son, is not only wrought out by Him as our great High Priest, but showed and published by Him as our great Prophet. The gospel, as it is a rule of practice and conversation, which has a direct tendency to the reforming and bettering of men's hearts and lives, shall be showed to the Gentiles. God's judgments had been the Jews' peculiar (Psalm 147:19), but it was often foretold, by the Old-Testament prophets, that they should be showed to the Gentiles, which therefore ought not to have been such a surprise as it was to the unbelieving Jews, much less a vexation.


    [2.] In His name shall the Gentiles trust, Matthew 12:21. He shall so show judgment to them, that they shall heed and observe what He shows them, and be influenced by it to depend upon Him, to devote themselves to Him, and conform to that judgment.


    Note, The great design of the gospel, is to bring people to trust in the name of Jesus Christ His name Jesus, a Saviour, that precious name whereby He is called, and which is as ointment poured forth The Lord our Righteousness. The evangelist here follows the Septuagint (or perhaps the latter editions of the Septuagint follow the evangelist) the Hebrew (Isaiah 42:4) is, The isles shall wait for His law. The isles of the Gentiles are spoken of (Genesis 10:5), as peopled by the sons of Japheth, of whom it was said (Genesis 9:27), God shall persuade Japheth to dwell in the tents of Shem which was now to be fulfilled, when the isles (says the prophet), the Gentiles (says the evangelist),shall wait for His law, and trust in His name: compare these together, and observe, that they, and they only, can with confidence trust in Christ's name, that wait for His law with a resolution to be ruled by it. Observe also, that the law we wait for is the law of faith, the law of trusting in His name. This is now His great commandment, that we believe in Christ, 1 John 3:23.


    3. The prediction concerning Him, and His mild and quiet management of His undertaking, Matthew 12:19, 20. It is chiefly for the sake of this that it is here quoted, upon occasion of Christ's affected privacy and concealment.


    (1.) That He should carry on His undertaking without noise or ostentation. He shall not strive, or make an outcry. Christ and His kingdom come not with observation, Luke 17:20, 21. When the First-begotten was brought into the world, it was not with state and ceremony He made no public entry, had no harbingers to proclaim Him King. He was in the world and the world knew Him not. Those were mistaken who fed themselves with hopes of a pompous Saviour. His voice was not heard in the streets "Lo, here is Christ " or, "Lo, He is there:" He spake in a still small voice, which was alluring to all, but terrifying to none He did not affect to make a noise, but came down silently like the dew. What He spake and did was with the greatest possible humility and self-denial. His kingdom was spiritual, and therefore not to be advanced by force or violence, or by high pretensions. No, the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.


    (2.) That He should carry on His undertaking without severity and rigour (Matthew 12:20). A bruised reed shall He not break. Some understand this of His patience in bearing with the wicked He could as easily have broken these Pharisees as a bruised reed, and have quenched them as soon as smoking flax but He will not do it till the judgment-day, when all His enemies shall be made His footstool. Others rather understand it of His power and grace in bearing up the weak. In general, the design of His gospel is to establish such a method of salvation as encourages sincerity, though there be much infirmity it does not insist upon a sinless obedience, but accepts an upright, willing mind.


    As to particular persons, those follows Christ in meekness, and in fear, and in much trembling, observe,


    [1.] How their case is here described--they are like a bruised reed, and smoking flax. Young beginners in religion are weak as a bruised reed, and their weakness offensive like smoking flax some little life they have, but it is like that of a bruised reed some little heat, but like that of smoking flax. Christ's disciples were as yet but weak and many are so that have a place in His family. The grace and goodness in them are as a bruised reed, the corruption and badness in them are as smoking flax, as the wick of a candle when it is put out and is yet smoking.


    [2.] What is the compassion of our Lord Jesus toward them? He will not discourage them, much less reject them or cast them off the reed that is bruised shall not be broken and trodden down, but shall be supported, and made as strong as a cedar or flourishing palm-tree. The candle newly lighted, though it only smokes and does not flame, shall not be blown out, but blown up. The day of small things is the day of precious things, and therefore He will not despise it, but make it the day of great things, Zechariah 4:10.


    Note, Our Lord Jesus deals very tenderly with those who have true grace, though they be weak in it, Isaiah 40:11Hebrews 5:2. He remembers not only that we are dust, but that we are flesh.


    [3.] The good issue and success of this, intimated in that, till He sends forth judgment unto victory. That judgment which He showed to the Gentiles shall be victorious, He will go on conquering and to conquer, Revelation 6:2. Both the preaching of the gospel in the world, and the power of the gospel in the heart, shall prevail. Grace shall get the upper hand of corruption, and shall at length be perfected in glory. Christ's judgment will be brought forth to victory, for when He judges He will overcome. He shall bring forth judgment unto truth so it is, Isaiah 42:3. Truth and victory are much the same, for great is the truth, and will prevail.


    Verses 22-37 The Sin against the Holy Ghost.


    22 Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed Him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: 26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself how shall then his kingdom stand? 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. 30 He that is not with Me is against Me and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad. 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. 33 Either makes the tree good, and his fruit good or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. 34 O generations of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.


    In these verses we have,


    I. Christ's glorious conquest of Satan, in the gracious cure of one who, by the divine permission, was under his power, and in his possession, Matthew 12:22.


    Here observe,


    1. The man's case was very sad he was possessed with a devil. More cases of this kind occurred in Christ's time than usual, that Christ's power might be the more magnified, and His purpose the more manifested, in opposing and dispossessing Satan and that it might the more evidently appear, that He came to destroy the works of the devil. This poor man that was possessed was blind and dumb a miserable case! he could neither see to help himself, nor speak to others to help him. A soul under Satan's power, and led captive by him, is blind in the things of God, and dumb at the throne of grace sees nothing, and says nothing to the purpose. Satan blinds the eye of faith and seals up the lips of prayer.


    2. His cure was very strange, and the more so, because sudden He healed him. 


    Note, The conquering and dispossessing of Satan is the healing of souls. And the cause being removed, immediately the effect ceased the blind and dumb both spake and saw. 


    Note, Christ's mercy is directly opposite to Satan's malice his favours, to the devil's mischiefs. When Satan's power is broken in the soul, the eyes are opened to see God's glory, and the lips opened to speak His praise.


    II. The conviction which this gave to the people to all the people: they were amazed. Christ had wrought divers miracles of this kind before but His works are not the less wonderful, nor the less to be wondered at, for their being often repeated. They inferred from it, "Is not this the Son of David? The Messiah promised, that was to spring from the loins of David? Is not this He that should come?" We may take this, 1. As an enquiring question they asked, Is not this the Son of David? But they did not stay for an answer: the impressions were cogent, but they were transient. It was a good question that they started but, it should seem, it was soon lost, and was not prosecuted. Such convictions as these should be brought to a head, and then they are likely to be brought to the heart. Or, 2. as an affirming question Is not this the Son of David? "Yes, certainly it is, it can be no other such miracles as these plainly evince that the Kingdom of the Messiah is now setting up." And they were the people, the vulgar sort of the spectators that drew this inference from Christ's miracles.


    Atheists will say, "That was because they were less prying than the Pharisees” no, the matter of fact was obvious, and required not much search: but it was because they were less prejudiced and biased by worldly interest. So plain and easy was the way made to this great truth of Christ being the Messiah and Savior of the world, that the common people could not miss it the wayfaring men, though fools, could not err therein. See Isaiah 35:8. It was found of them that sought it. It is an instance of the condescension of divine grace, that the things that were hid from the wise and prudent were revealed unto babes. The world by wisdom knew not God, and by the foolish things the wise were confounded.


    III. The blasphemous cavil of the Pharisees, Matthew 12:24. The Pharisees were a sort of men that pretended to more knowledge in, and zeal for, the divine law, than other people yet they were the most inveterate enemies to Christ and His doctrine. They were proud of the reputation they had among the people that fed their pride, supported their power, and filled their purses and when they heard the people say, Is not this the Son of David? they were extremely irritated, more at that than at the miracle itself this made them jealous of our Lord Jesus, and apprehensive, that as His interest in the people's esteem increased, theirs must of course be eclipsed and diminished therefore they envied Him, as Saul did his father David, because of what the women sang of him, 1 Samuel 18:7,8.


    Note, Those who bind up their happiness in the praise and applause of men; expose themselves to a perpetual uneasiness upon every favorable word, that they hear said of any other. The shadow of honor followed Christ, who fled from it, and fled from the Pharisees, who were eager in the pursuit of it. They said, "This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils, and therefore is not the Son of David."




    1. How scornfully they speak of Christ, this fellow as if that precious name of His, which is as ointment poured forth, were not worthy to be taken into their lips. It is an instance of their pride and superciliousness, and their diabolical envy, that the more people magnified Christ, the more industrious they were to vilify Him. It is a bad thing to speak of good men with disdain because they are poor.


    2. How blasphemously they speak of His miracles they could not deny the matter of fact it was as plain as the sun, that devils were cast out by the word of Christ nor could they deny that it was an extraordinary thing, and supernatural. Being thus forced to grant the premises, they had no other way to avoid the conclusion, that this is the Son of David, than by suggesting that Christ cast out devils by Beelzebub that there was a compact between Christ and the devil pursuant to that, the devil was not cast out, but did voluntarily retire, and give back by consent and with design: or as if, by an agreement with the ruling devil, he had power to cast out the inferior devils. No surmise could be more palpably false and vile than this that he, who is Truth itself, should be in combination with the father of lies, to cheat the world. This was the last refuge, or subterfuge rather, or an obstinate infidelity, that was resolved to stand it out against the clearest conviction. Observe, Among the devils there is a prince, the ringleader of the apostasy from God and rebellion against Him but this prince is Beelzebub--the god of a fly, or a dunghill god. How art thou fallen, O Lucifer! from an anger of light, to be a lord of flies! Yet this is the prince of the devils too, the chief of the gang of infernal spirits.


    IV. Christ's reply to this base insinuation, Matthew 12:25-30. Jesus knew their thoughts. Note, Jesus Christ knows what we are thinking at any time, knows what is in man He understands our thoughts afar off. It should seem that the Pharisees could not for shame speak it out, but kept it in their minds they could not expect to satisfy the people with it they therefore reserved it for the silencing of the convictions of their own consciences.


    Note, Many are kept off from their duty by that which they are ashamed to own, but which they cannot hide from Jesus Christ: yet it is probable that the Pharisees had whispered what they thought among themselves, to help to harden one another but Christ's reply is said to be to their thoughts, because He knew with what mind, and from what principle, they said it that they did not say it in their haste, but that it was the product of a rooted malignity.


    Christ's reply to this imputation is copious and cogent, that every mouth may be stopped with sense and reason, before it be stopped with fire and brimstone. Here are three arguments by which He demonstrates the unreasonableness of this suggestion.


    Now we are reading a passage that is one of the most interesting, and at the same time one of the most chilling in all of the Bible, and it is the passage that has to do with the unpardonable sin in Matthew chapter 12 verses 22 through verse 37. 


    Beginning with the 22nd verse, following the incidents which occurred on the Sabbath day we read a very important text, and we could devote a lengthy amount of time to the exposition of it.


    Notice there is an orthodoxy concerning the person of Jesus Christ.  And if we do not really have that orthodox thinking with reference to the person of Christ, then we are in opposition to Him.  There is no neutrality with reference to Jesus Christ, is the point:  He that is not with Me is against Me.


    Now we come to verse 31 and 32, the important verses: We have the Lord’s evaluation of human nature, there. May God’s blessing rest upon this reading of His inspired word. We come to one of the most astonishing texts in the Bible.  No evangelist is without a sermon on it.  And the reason for its popularity is clear.  All sins may be forgiven except one.  It is called sin against the Holy Spirit.  Even sin against the Son of Man may be forgiven, but not that against the Holy Spirit.


    What is this sin?  Why is it unforgivable?  How does this affect the doctrine of the Trinity by which we are taught that the Son and the Spirit are equal in the possession of the fullness of deity, equal in the possession of power, wisdom, knowledge, holiness?  These are puzzling questions. It is important to remember as we look at this question of the unpardonable sin that the sin is referred to in only two of the books of the New Testament, definitely.  And at one particular point in our Lord’s life, Matthew chapter 12 and Mark chapter 3, and that the remainder of the New Testament is absolutely silent with respect to the unpardonable sin. 


    So, we should gain a little perspective from that and realize the fact that this incident is recorded only in this one place, and no reference is made thereafter to the unpardonable sin, that we should not make more of it than the Scriptures themselves make over it.  And we should not treat it immediately as something that is very common in the Christian life.  The chances are, from that reference in the Bible, that it is not a very common thing.


    We want to look at it and see if we can understand what is meant when the Lord Jesus says, “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven them.  And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him.  But whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, not in this age nor in the age that follows.


    To understand a passage from the word of God, it is of the greatest importance that we look again at the context.  And since we have been studying Matthew, it will not be necessary to do that in great detail.  The final, climactic sign is performed by the Messiah when He heals the dumb demoniac.  And it is recorded in verse 22.


    They brought to the Lord Jesus a man possessed with a demon.  He was both blind and dumb.  The text does not describe any of the manner by which the Lord healed him.  It simply says that He healed him so much so that the blind man saw and the dumb man (the same) began to speak.  Now this was a final, climactic Messianic sign because, in the next chapter the Lord begins to speak of Israel’s blindness and of the necessity of judgment upon them. So it would seem, then, that this is the final test posed the nation concerning their response to the Messiah.  He says in the 28th verse, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come unto you.  This is the final proof that the Lord Jesus is the Messiah, and the Kingdom has come with the King.


    The people respond to the miracle and say, “Is not this the Son of David,” according to the Authorized Version text, but in the Greek text it’s not so definite.  That, actually, is what they should have said.  They should have said, is not this the Son of David, shall we not bow down before Him and worship Him and receive the Kingdom that He offers?  But what they really say is, this man cannot be the Son of David, can He?  The authority of the witness was so strong that they sensed there was some connection with the Messianic king, but they were not yet ready to yield themselves to the clear light of the miracles that the Lord Jesus had performed.


    And so, He is accused again by the officials.  Mark tells us that the scribes, too, were involved in this accusation.  The scribes and the Pharisees, when they had heard what He had done, they said, “This fellow does not cast out the demons by anyone but Beelzebub, the prince of the demons.”  In other words, His authority is satanically originated. Mark tells us they were hardened.  Their hearts were become hardened to the ministry of the Lord Jesus, and in effect, what they say to Him is, You are performing the tricks of a magician.  Black magic is the source of the authority of the Lord Jesus.


    You can see immediately that the text has a great deal of application to the duly accredited teachers of the people of God.  It was the scribes and Pharisees who made this accusation, and the scribes and Pharisees were those who corresponded to the ministers of the word of God in this present age.  Men who have spiritual gifts of evangelism, of pastor-teacher, of teacher; in other words, men who teach us the word of God are these men who are here making the accusation of black magic in the case of the Lord Jesus.  So, first of all, those who heed the word of warning in this passage are those who pose as our theologians and teachers. In other words, the text has application to any of us who have spiritual gifts of utterance.  It is a very serious thing to open the Scriptures and read the Scriptures and listen to their testimony concerning the plan and purpose of God, and then not to yield allegiance to God in Christ.  That’s why James says, “Be not many of ye teachers, for you shall receive the greater condemnation.”  So, this text has a great deal of personal application.  It has application to those of us who have these gifts.


    The Lord Jesus answers this and answers it in His own unique and typical way.  He handles the text of Scripture, and He handles the argumentation of the situation to demonstrate in such a way that they are no match for the Lord Jesus.  He knew their thoughts.  And so He speaks in short, picturesque, elusive maxims that state the general principle that Satan does not cast out Satan, does he?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, it cannot stand.  “Dog does not eat dog, does he?” we might say.


    And the common sense of it, as well as the Scripturality of it was enough to make a very convincing argument.  Really, what is shown by the miracle is His point.  What is shown by the miracle is that He has mastery of the demonic world.  And if, in the demonic world there were such a thing as Satan fighting against Satan, it would be impossible for him to carry out His purposes.  And so even if he had such power, he would never give it to an individual that he might against Satan’s own authority and kingdom.


    Now, in the course of the answer that He gives, there is an interesting point, that has application for us today.  He states in the 27th verse, “And if I, by Beelzebub, cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out?”  It’s evident from this that the Lord Jesus regarded it as a happening in Israel that claims were being made to perform miracles by others.  Notice He says, “By whom do your sons cast them out?”  So, the Pharisees, evidently, were linked with people who claim to be performing mighty miracles.


    Now that’s a very interesting thing, because it illustrates just exactly what we have today in Christendom.  For, we have whole groups of people today who claim to be working mighty miracles.  So, we can learn from this that there are claims for the miraculous that are not necessarily genuine claims.


    Later, the enemies of the Lord Jesus said that He learned His tricks from an Egyptian juggler.  You will find this in the early traditions after the apostolic age.  One of the early heretics by the name of Celsus adopted this criticism against the Lord Jesus, and he pictured, in one of his writings, an Orthodox Jew confronting Jesus of Nazareth and addressing Him scornfully with these words, “You cured diseases, you restored dead bodies to life, you fed multitudes with a few loaves, these are the common tricks of Egyptian wizards which you may see performed every day in our markets for a few half-pence.”  So we find reflected here the fact that beside the Lord Jesus’ true miracles, there were miracles that were supposed to be done under the power of God which probably were the tricks of the wizards.


    Now, we do not feel a great deal of friendliness for those who claim miracles today.  We do believe God heals. We do believe that it is possible to go to God in the Scriptural way, and if it is His will He has the power to heal, and He will heal. The thing we do not think is Scriptural is the claim that there are today healers who heal, and that the healings that are said to be healings are genuine healings.  That is, by them.  There may be, even, one of them in which God does perform a sovereign work of healing in the midst of a lot that is nonsense.  But what it appears it is a lot of claim of healing, which is not really biblical healing.


    The important thing has to do with the unpardonable sin.  You’ll notice our Lord’s argumentation winds up on the note, “He that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad.”  There is orthodoxy of the person of Jesus Christ, and if the person is not orthodox in his understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ, he is not orthodox.  It is not possible for a man to say, “I am a Christian, but I do not believe that the Lord Jesus is the second person of a Trinity.  I am an orthodox Christian, and I do believe that I am Christian, but I do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly very God of very God.  If we are not with Him, we are against Him.  There is no neutrality concerning the person of Jesus Christ.


    The reason is that the Lord Jesus claimed equality with God, and we cannot affirm any submission to Him and at the same time reject His teaching concerning Himself.  But that leads into the unpardonable sin, and now we face this terrifying text in which we are told that all manner of sin and blasphemy may be forgiven but one sin, sin against the Holy Spirit.


    First of all, what is the unpardonable sin?  What is this stern verse that chills the soul speaking about?  Well, first of all, we need to clear away a little bit of the misunderstanding.  Most people who do not study the word very carefully – and there are lots of professing Christians like that – generally feel that the unpardonable sin must be some unusual moral debauchery.  Some excess of adultery or uncleanness or lasciviousness or fleshly sin.


    Now, it is plain from this context that that is not what is meant.  The men to whom He was speaking, and of whom He is speaking – the scribes and the Pharisees and the leaders of the Jewish nation – were not men like that.  They were men who were characterized by an outward holiness, by a great deal of religion.  They were the religious leaders of the day.  They were the men that we would have regarded as very upright men, so far as the fleshly side of sin is concerned.  Oh true, there were other things of which they were guilty.  They were hypocritical, they were envious.  They had all of the sins of the mind that the Scriptures speak about, and which, in a sense, are far more important than those other sins.  But nevertheless, so far as moral debauchery is concerned, in a fleshly way, they were not guilty of that.


    And furthermore, the terms of our Lord’s words are not general.  They were very specific.  He speaks of the unpardonable sin; not of an unpardonable sin but the unpardonable sin.


    To explain what He means in the text positively, He says, first of all, it is the sin of blasphemy.  He calls it blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in verse 31.  What is blasphemy?  Blasphemy is slander.  To blaspheme God is to slander God, to affirm of Him things that are not true.  For example, if we were to say God is not wholly holy, we would be blaspheming God.  We would be slandering him.  If we were to speak of Him in a way in which we denied His attributes, we would be slandering Him.  It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that is one thing that is said.


    And the second thing is that it is sin against the Holy Spirit, specifically.  Not sin against the Son of Man.  Not sin against the Father, specifically; but sin against the Holy Spirit.  It’s blasphemy and it’s against the Holy Spirit.


    Now specifically, in the light of the context, it is the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the King and His kingdom.  In the 28th verse we read, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God is come upon you.”  It is evident that the reason the Holy Spirit performed these miracles through the Lord Jesus was to give the unshakeable testimony to the kingship, the Messianic kingship of the Lord Jesus. And that is evident by the words He speaks in verse 29, “Or else, how shall one enter into the strongman’s house and spoil his goods except he first bind the strongman.”  He is testifying to the fact that He is able to enter into the house of Satan and spoil his goods, and only the Messianic king can do that.


    In conclusion, then, it is the sin of blasphemy.  It is sin against the Holy Spirit, and it is specifically his testimony to the king.  And we may sum it by saying that it is the sin of refusing the Kingdom and the King, brought about through the clear testimony of the Spirit in the miracles performed through the Lord Jesus.


    Likewise: To the presentation of the credentials of the King, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Israel the nation is saying, “These are not the credentials; they are the credentials of hell.”  And in that they slander the Holy Spirit.  In that, they refuse the testimony to the kingdom and the king.


    There is a text in the Old Testament which is very much of an admonition and warning that speaks of the same thing we have here.  Isaiah says, “Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light and light darkness; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  What they’re doing is they have finally come to the place where in the light of the plain testimony of God through the supernatural miracles of the Spirit, they reject them, not only reject them, but say that they really come from Satan and not from God.


    The second question we might think is unnecessary to ask.  Why is the sin unpardonable?  Perhaps two questions might help us if we can answer them. Why the greater guilt of sin against the Holy Spirit?  Why is it the greater guilt to sin against the Holy Spirit than it is against the Son of Man? The solution cannot lie in the greater dignity of the Holy Spirit, because we are taught in the word of God that the dignity of the Son of God is the same as the dignity of the Spirit.  Now, He does say the Son of Man, and that should give us a clue, because He is speaking about the Lord Jesus in His incarnation.


    Since there is no distinction in the dignity of the first person and the second person and the third person of the Trinity, the distinction must lie in the incarnation of the second person.  In other words, the distinction must rest in the kenosis, in the self-emptying, which the Lord Jesus underwent when He became a man, when He did what someone has called, “surrender the insignia of His majesty.”


    What did our Lord do when He became a man?  Well, He veiled His dignity for a time.  He had the dignity of the eternal Son of God.  He veiled that.  Paul says in Philippians chapter 2 that “He emptied Himself and took upon the form of a servant and came in fashion as a man.”  And being found in fashion as a man, in the likeness of men, He humbled Himself.  And He says in another place that He came in the likeness of flesh of sin.  If you had looked at the Lord Jesus, and had just looked upon His countenance, you might have been amazed at what you saw.  But so far as His bodily form was concerned, there was not the element of the glory of the second person of the Trinity about Him.  He appeared as other men appear.


    So He did veil His dignity for a time.  Therefore, sin against Him then, while it was blame able, was pardonable.  This healing, however, that the Holy Spirit performed when a man who is a demoniac and sightless and dumb, when the power of God is manifested in such a way before the multitudes of people that suddenly this man at the Lord Jesus Christ’s healing begins to speak and see again, that is an obvious manifestation of the power of God that anyone could see with their physical sight.  So it was a clear manifestation of the salutary power of the Holy Spirit.  So to reject the Holy Spirit is to reject manifest revelation, manifest supernatural activity on the part of God.


    One of the French commentators, a Roman Catholic, incidentally, LeGrange has written concerning this, “That it is excusable to a point to fail to recognize the dignity of one who hides himself under the humble appearance of a man, but not disparage works manifestly salutary, which revealed the action of the divine Spirit.” 


    There is a distinction for a time between the Son of Man and the Holy Spirit so far as the possibility of confusion is concerned, and it’s in that that we find this distinction between the unforgivable character of sin against the Spirit and the forgivable nature of sin against the Son of Man.  So, why is greater guilt of sin against the Holy Spirit?  Because it was a manifest declaration, clearly observable by all who could see of the power of God, whereas our Lord was here in the hidden-ness of His incarnation.


    Then, what constitutes its irremissibility?  Why is it unpardonable?  In what does that consist?  Why this sin precludes pardon because it precludes repentance.  It is the deliberate, final, refusal of light that reveals a hardened heart and a fixed attitude.  The text here supports, with full authority the fact that what we find here was not the only time this was done.  Mark tells us twice that they were saying, He has an unclean spirit.  That was going on all the time.


    What we have here in this climactic miracle is this final evidence of opposition after a lengthy period of rejection by Him, so that what we’re seeing is the operation of a fixed attitude of rejection of the testimony of God through Christ, and so that we have finally reached a kind of climax, and this sin precludes forgiveness because it precludes repentance.  That is, these individuals, by rejecting the truth of the word of God for so lengthy a period of time have now become the recipient of the hardening ministry of the Holy Spirit.


    For it is a principle of the word of God that if we do not respond to the word of God, then hardening takes place.  That’s why it’s more difficult for an elderly man to come to faith in Christ than for a child, at least that’s the experience that we have.  In the final analysis, it is only the Holy Spirit who brings men to Christ, but experience shows that when hearts are tender, there would seem to be greater response to the ministry of the word. This is supported by the argument of the book to this point.  Israel has been rejecting the Lord and that is a climactic rejection. 


    In the next chapter, the Lord Jesus begins to speak in parables.  And in chapter 13 and verse 10, the disciples come to Him and say, “Why are you speaking unto them in parables, now?”  He had not spoken to them in parables before this.  He answered and said unto them, “Because it is given unto you to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to them it is not given.”


    Verse 12, For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, ‘By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.’  For this people's heart is become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed…”


    Notice the progression. “…lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”


    That is our Lord’s pronouncement upon the generation of His day, and is pronounced right after the reference to the unpardonable sin.


    So it seems plain, then, that the unpardonable character of this sin rests in the fact that the repentance required for the forgiveness of sins is something impossible to men who have passed a point beyond which retributive judgment begins to work.  We do not know that time.  No one knows that time; that’s why we preach the gospel to every creature as long as there is breath.  But it is necessary to remember that there is such as thing as divine, retributive judgment.  Paul speaks of it as God “giving them over,” three times in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.


    It is then a serious thing to hear the word of God.  It is a very serious thing to sit Sunday after Sunday under the ministry of the word of God and not respond to it.  It’s a very serious thing to sit there, because we expose ourselves to the possibility, if we do not respond, to divine, retributive judgment.


    Jay Sidwell Baxter has been a well-regarded Bible teacher for many years.  A British, he has been in the United States for many years now. In one of his books, he comments upon this, and he says, “Men can allow and foster in themselves a process of hard refusal toward God which eventually becomes their master and destroys the possibility of repentance.  Men cannot repent merely at will.” And what he means by that is that there are forces by which we have no control if we continually reject.


    Then he told a very interesting story, a true story of a man, a friend of his who had a friend to whom he was ministering.  He was a dying man.  And when he was on his death bed, he was writing and struggling, and fighting the air in a piteously futile effort to fight death off.  He was in stark terror at the thought of leaving this life and passing into the life beyond the grave. Eventually, Mr. Baxter’s friend said, he died demented.  But both before and after his brain gave way, he would periodically groan out at wail in loud tones, “I said I would repent before I died, but it won’t come!  It won’t come!  I can’t repent.”  There is such an experience.  There is such a thing.  And Esau is a beautiful illustration of it.  It’s possible to be subject to retributive judgment.


    When is this sin committed?  Well, we can say this at least.  There is only one time in which sin against the Son of Man is blame able and forgivable, while sin against the Holy Spirit is blame able and unforgiveable.  There is only one time when that situation exists.  Now that the Son of Man is glorified and at the right hand of the Father, sin against the Son is sin against the Spirit.


    So it’s evident that the historical situation which called forth the comment from our Lord, the unpardonable sin can only exist while our Lord is here in our incarnate flesh when He looked as other men looked.  So it can only be committed when the King is personally present, the unpardonable sin.  That is, the specific historical sin to which He refers here.  And this is confirmed by the fact that it is only referred to this one time by our Lord, and never referred to elsewhere by the apostles.  It was a particular situation that had its particular interpretation with reference to that particular time.


    The remainder of this section focuses on the real source of the Pharisees’ conduct, and He just illustrates the fact that the fruit of a tree is determined by the tree itself.  Conduct is determined by one’s character, and character is determined by the operation of the Holy Spirit, ultimately.  The Lord Jesus is the only one who can make the tree good, He implies.


    To conclude:  What is, then, the unpardonable sin?  The unpardonable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit’s supernatural work of performing miracles prevalent in the days of the supernatural miracles.  It may be committed by hardened, impenitent men.


    But having said that, there are two other things ought to be said.  In the first place, there is an unpardonable sin today.  It is not the unpardonable sin to which our Lord refers, but it is the unpardonable sin of rejecting Jesus Christ.  In John chapter 3 and verse 18, the Lord Jesus in the continuation of the passage in which He has had His interview with Nicodemus says, “He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed already in the name of the only begotten Son of God, so that personal faith in Jesus Christ, if it does not come, sin is unpardonable.


    There is such a thing as the unpardonable sin, historically, and there is such a thing as an unpardonable sin throughout this present age.  And it is possible for us to commit unpardonable sin in that sense.  And furthermore, it is possible for there to exist a prolonged rebellion that leads to retributive judgment and hardness of heart.  That is still possible today.  That is what is referred to in Hebrews chapter 6, when we read that it is impossible to bring certain people to repentance, who have had great privilege but have turned away from them.  They apostatized from the apperceptive sense of truth that they possessed, and there is no hope.


    In the Old Testament, we read that God sent the prophets to Israel, and they ministered to them and ministered to them, but they rejected them and rejected them, and then we read “till there was no healing.”  Retributive judgment must set in.


    There is a beautiful illustration of the word of God in this principle, and it is the story of Herod.  Let’s remind of its high points. Herod was the Tetrarch of Galilee.  He feared John the Baptist when he heard of John’s ministry, and in fact, knew that he was a righteous and holy man.  And when he heard him, the Scripture said he was “much perplexed but he heard him gladly.”  He listened with a great deal of interest to John the Baptist as he proclaimed the message of the coming of the King.


    But then later on, when John said a word against his seduction of Herodias, his brother’s wife, Herod became very angry and Herodias even angrier.  And as a result, Herod shut John up in prison.  And finally when he was in prison, at that famous little party that they had, when Herodias’ daughter danced before him, he said, “Up to the half of my kingdom I’ll give you.” She hastily beat a retreat to her mother and asked what she wanted.  She said, “I’d like to have the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”  And Herod was very much upset over it, but nevertheless had him beheaded in prison, put his head on a platter, brought his head out and gave it to Herodias.


    Later on, as the days of our Lord draw to a close, there is a rather amazing statement made in the Gospel of Luke. Some Pharisees came to Him and said, “Get out of the country, and get away from here, for Herod would feign kill thee.”  So Herod has in his mind murder of the Lord Jesus.  Later on in that same gospel, finally Herod comes face to face with the Lord Jesus and the text says, “When Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad, for he was a long time desirous to see him, for he had heard concerning him and he had hoped to see some miracle done by him.  And he questioned Him many words.”  What an opportunity for the Lord.


    What a great opportunity, naturally speaking.  He has now the Tetrarch of Galilee, why not pour out the message?  Take out the Four Spiritual Laws, give them to him, and if Herod could be converted, what might be done for the whole of the kingdom?  And then those terrible words, which Luke gives are, “He answered him nothing.”  Not a word for Herod.  Why?  Because Herod’s heart was the heart of an impenitent man.


    Back in the 7th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew He had said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before swine lest they trample them under feet and turn again and lacerate you.”  Our Lord Jesus would not cast His pearls before swine.


    Herod was that.  There is such a thing as a man reaching the place where there is no hope.  We don’t know when it is, and so we constantly preach the word of God.


    Aaron Burr was one of the most brilliant men ever produced in the United States.  He was a brilliant student at Princeton University, and for over a hundred years the academic record that Aaron Burr had was the record in that great institution.  Many years later there was a young man by the name of Bill Rush.  He was in the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship. And the talk among the evangelicals and among their friends was that finally, someone on the campus of Princeton has a chance to beat the academic record of Aaron Burr.  This was back in about 1955 or ‘56.  Mr. Burr had died around 1840.  So he was a brilliant man whose record was unusual.


    When he was on the campus of Princeton, a revival broke out, and he was deeply convicted of sin.  His roommate was a Christian, and his roommate urged him to accept Christ.  He went to one of his professors, and one of his professors gave him a Bible and he said to him, “Aaron, take this to your room and settle the matter on your knees.” Instead of doing that, he tried to shake off the power of the Holy Spirit in testimony to Christ.  And finally, in desperation, as he said later, he cried out, “O God, let me alone, and I’ll let you alone.”  He said as soon as he said that, all conviction of sin left him.


    Many years later, he met a friend whom he admired very much and his friend said, “Dr. Burr, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine.”  He said any friend of yours I’d like to meet, too.  He said, “I’d like for you to meet Jesus Christ.”  And when he said that, the cold sweat, perspiration, we say, the cold perspiration popped out on his forehead, and he told how at the age of 19 he said his prayer in which he addressed to God, God, let me alone and I’ll let you alone.  And then he said to his friend, “From that day to this, I’ve never had one desire to become a Christian.”  It is possible for me to receive testimony, to reject testimony.  They reject it over and over and over again until there comes a time when only judgment can come.


    What should we do with our fears that we have committed such sin?  Bishop Rile once said, “There is such a thing as sin that is never forgiven, but those who are most troubled about it are the most unlikely to have never committed it.” 


    If there’s any question about it, it can be settled immediately by turning in the heart to God and believing on our Lord Jesus Christ.  If you have never turned to Him, it’s a serious thing to hear the ministry of the word of God, and to hear that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has offered a sacrifice that is acceptable to God for sinners, and has given a universal gospel appeal, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  It’s a serious thing to hear that Sunday after Sunday and never respond to it.


    May God the Holy Spirit bring the conviction that results in conversion. 


    We thank Thee, Lord, for the exhortations and admonitions of Holy Scripture.  O God, deliver us from the kinds of sins that keep us from Christ.  And if Father, there should be one person here who has never responded, give neither rest nor peace until they rest in Christ.


    And for the believers, O God, deliver us from the hearing of the word of God and unresponsiveness to it.  Work mightily in our hearts to glorify the Son of God, and cleanse us and renew our inner man. Now may grace, mercy and peace go with as we part. For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.


    Matthew 12:1-13

    The one great subject which stands out prominently in this passage of Scripture is the Sabbath Day. It is a subject on which strange opinions prevailed among the Jews in our Lord's time. The Pharisees had added to the teaching of Scripture about it, and overlaid the true character of the day with the traditions of men. It is a subject on which diverse opinions have often been held in the Churches of Christ, and wide differences exist among men at the present time. Let us see what we may learn about it from our Lord's teaching in these verses.

    Let us, in the first place, settle it in our minds as an established principle, that our Lord Jesus Christ does not do away with the observance of a weekly Sabbath day. He neither does so here, nor elsewhere in the four Gospels. We often find His opinion expressed about the Jewish errors on the subject of the Sabbath. But we do not find a word to teach us that His disciples were not to keep a Sabbath at all.

    It is of much importance to observe this. The mistakes that have arisen from a superficial consideration of our Lord's sayings on the Sabbath question are neither few nor small. Thousands have rushed to the hasty conclusion, that Christians have nothing to do with the fourth commandment, and that it is no more binding on us than the Mosaic law about sacrifices. There is nothing in the New Testament to justify any such conclusion.

    The plain truth is that our Lord did not abolish the law of the weekly Sabbath. He only freed it from incorrect interpretations, and purified it from man-made additions. He did not tear out of the Decalogue the fourth commandment. He only stripped off the miserable traditions with which the Pharisees had incrusted the day, and by which they had made it, not a blessing, but a burden. He left the fourth commandment where He found it, a part of the eternal law of God, of which no jot or tittles were ever to pass away. May we never forget this!

    Let us, in the second place, settle it in our minds, that our Lord Jesus Christ allows all works of real necessity and mercy to be done on the Sabbath day. This is a principle which is abundantly established in the passage of Scripture we are now considering. We find our Lord justifying His disciples for plucking the ears of corn on a Sabbath. It was an act permitted in Scripture. (Deut. 23:25.) They "were hungry," and in need of food. Therefore they were not to blame. We find Him maintaining the lawfulness of healing a sick man on the Sabbath day. The man was suffering from disease and pain. In such a case it was no breach of God's commandment to afford relief. We ought never to rest from doing good.

    The arguments, by which our Lord supports the lawfulness of any work of necessity and mercy on the Sabbath, are striking and unanswerable. He reminds the Pharisees, who charged Him and His disciples with breaking the law, how David and his men, for lack of other food, had eaten the holy show-bread out of the tabernacle. He reminds them how the priests in the temple are obliged to do work on the Sabbath, by slaying animals and offering sacrifices. He reminds them how even a sheep would be helped out of a pit on the Sabbath, rather than allowed to suffer and die, by any one of them. Above all, He lays down the great principle that no ordinance of God is to be pressed so far as to make us neglect the plain duties of charity. "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." The first table of the law is not to be so interpreted as to make us break the second. The fourth commandment is not to be so explained, as to make us unkind and unmerciful to our neighbor. There is deep wisdom in all this. We are reminded of the saying, "Never a man spoke like this man."


    In leaving the subject, let us beware that we are never tempted to take low views of the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath. Let us take care that we do not make our gracious Lord's teaching an excuse for Sabbath profanation. Let us not abuse the liberty which He has so clearly marked out for us, and pretend that we do things on the Sabbath from "necessity and mercy," which in reality we do for our own selfish gratification.


    There is great reason for warning people on this point. The mistakes of the Pharisee about the Sabbath were in one direction. The mistakes of the Christian are in another. The Pharisee pretended to add to the holiness of the day. The Christian is too often disposed to take away from that holiness, and to keep the day in an idle, profane, irreverent manner. May we all watch our own conduct on this subject. Saving Christianity is closely bound up with Sabbath observance. May we never forget that our great aim should be to "keep the Sabbath holy." Works of necessity may be done. "It is lawful to do well," and show mercy. But to give the Sabbath to idleness, pleasure-seeking, or the world, is utterly unlawful. It is contrary to the example of Christ, and a sin against a plain commandment of God.


    Matthew 12:14-21


    But the Pharisees went out, and conspired against Him, how they might destroy Him. Jesus, perceiving that, withdrew from there. Great multitudes followed Him; and He healed them all, and charged those who they should not make Him known: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, "Behold, My servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom My soul is well pleased: I will put My Spirit on Him. He will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not strive, nor shout; neither will anyone hear His voice in the streets. He won't break a bruised reed. He won't quench smoking flax, until He leads justice to victory. In His name, the nations will hope."


    The first thing which demands our notice in this passage is the desperate wickedness of the human heart, which it exemplifies. Silenced and defeated by our Lord's arguments, the Pharisees plunged deeper and deeper into sin. They "went out, and conspired against Him, how they might destroy Him."


    What evil had our Lord done, that He should be so treated? None, at all! No charge could be brought against His life; He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His days were spent in doing good. No charge could be brought against His teaching, He had proved it to be agreeable to Scripture and reason, and no reply had been made to His proofs. But it mattered little how perfectly He lived or taught. He was hated.


    This is human nature appearing in its true colors. The unconverted heart hates God, and will show its hatred whenever it dares, and has a favorable opportunity. It will persecute God's witnesses. It will dislike all who have anything of God's mind, and are renewed after His image. Why were so many of the prophets killed? Why were the names of the apostles cast out as evil by the Jews? Why were the early martyrs slain? Why were John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, and Ridley, and Latimer burned at the stake? Not for any sins that they had sinned, not for any wickedness they had committed. They all suffered because they were godly men. And human nature, unconverted, hates godly men, because it hates God.


    It must never surprise true Christians if they meet with the same treatment that the Lord Jesus met with. "Don't be surprised, My brothers, if the world hates you." (1 John 3:13.) It is not the utmost consistency, or the closest walk with God, that will exempt them from the enmity of the natural man. They need not torture their consciences by fancying that if they were only more faultless and consistent, everybody would surely love them. It is all a mistake. They should remember, that there was never but one perfect man on earth, and that He was not loved, but hated. It is not the infirmities of a believer that the world dislikes, but his goodness. It is not the remains of the old nature that call forth the world's enmity, but the exhibition of the new. Let us remember these things, and be patient. The world hated Christ, and the world will hate Christians.


    The second thing which demands our notice in this passage is the encouraging description of our Lord Jesus Christ's character, which Matthew draws from the prophet Isaiah. "He won't break a bruised reed; he won't quench a smoking flax."


    What shall we understand by the bruised reed, and smoking flax? The language of the prophet no doubt is figurative. What is it that these two expressions mean? The simplest explanation seems to be, that the Holy Spirit is here describing believers whose grace is at present weak, whose repentance is feeble, and whose faith is small. Towards such people the Lord Jesus Christ will be very tender and compassionate. Weak as the broken reed is, it shall not be broken. Small as the spark of fire may be within the smoking flax, it shall not be quenched. It is a standing truth in the kingdom of grace, that weak grace, weak faith, and weak repentance, are all precious in our Lord's sight. Mighty as He is, "He doesn't despise anyone." (Job 36:5.)


    The doctrine here laid down is full of comfort and consolation. There are thousands in every church of Christ to whom it ought to speak peace and hope. There are some in every congregation that hear the Gospel, who are ready to despair of their own salvation, because their strength seems so small. They are full of fears and despondency, because their knowledge, and faith, and hope, and love, appear so dwarfish and diminutive. Let us drink comfort out of this text. Let us know that weak faith gives a man as real and true a saving interest in Christ as strong faith, though it may not give him the same joy. There is life in an infant as truly as in a grown up man. There is fire in a spark as truly as in a burning flame. The least degree of grace is an everlasting possession. It comes down from heaven. It is precious in our Lord's eyes. It shall never be overthrown.


    Does Satan make light of the beginnings of repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ? No! indeed! he does not. He has great wrath, because he sees his time is short.


    Do the angels of God think lightly of the first signs of penitence and feeling after God in Christ? No indeed! "There is joy" among them, when they behold the sight. Does the Lord Jesus regard no faith and repentance with interest, unless they are strong and mighty? No! indeed! As soon as that bruised reed, Saul of Tarsus, begins to cry to Him, He sends Ananias to him, saying, "Behold, he is praying." (Acts 9:11.) We err greatly if we do not encourage the very first movements of a soul towards Christ. Let the ignorant world scoff and mock, if it will. We may be sure that "bruised reeds" and "smoking flax" are very precious in our Lord's eyes.


    May we all lay these things to heart, and use them in time of needs both for ourselves and others. It should be a standing maxim in our religion, that a spark is better than utter darkness and little faith better than no faith at all. "Who despises the day of small things?" (Zechar. 4:10.) It is not despised by Christ. It ought not to be despised by Christians.


    Matthew 12:22-37


    Then one possessed by a demon, blind and mute, was brought to Him and He healed Him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. All the multitudes were amazed, and said, "Can this be the son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "This man does not cast out demons, except by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons."


    Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter into the house of the strong man, and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then he will plunder his house.


    "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who doesn't gather with Me, scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is to come.


    "Either makes the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit. You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings out good things, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings out evil things. I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."


    This passage of Scripture contains "things hard to be understood." The sin against the Holy Spirit in particular has never been fully explained by the most learned divines. It is not difficult to show from Scripture what the sin is not. It is difficult to show clearly what it is. We must not be surprised. The Bible would not be the book of God, if it had not deep places here and there, which man has no line to fathom. Let us rather thank God that there are lessons of wisdom to be gathered, even out of these verses, which the unlearned may easily understand.


    Let us gather from them, in the first place, that there is nothing too blasphemous for hardened and prejudiced men to say against Christ. Our Lord casts out a devil; and at once the Pharisees declare that He does it "by the prince of the devils."


    This was an absurd charge. Our Lord shows that it was unreasonable to suppose that the devil would help to pull down his own kingdom, and "Satan cast out Satan." But there is nothing too absurd and unreasonable for men to say, when they are thoroughly set against Christ. The Pharisees are not the only people who have lost sight of logic, good sense, and temper, when they have attacked the Gospel of Christ.

    Strange as this charge may sound, it is one that has often been made against the servants of God. Their enemies have been obliged to confess that they are doing a work, and producing a good effect on the world. The results of Christian labor stare them in the face. They cannot deny them. What then shall they say? They say the very thing that the Pharisees said of our Lord, "It is the devil." The early heretics used language of this kind about Athanasius. The Roman Catholics spread reports of this sort about Martin Luther. Such things will be said as long as the world stands.


    We must never be surprised to hear of dreadful charges being made against the best of men, without cause. "If they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" It is an old device. When the Christian's arguments cannot be answered, and the Christian's works cannot be denied, the last resource of the wicked is to try to blacken the Christian's character. If this be our lot, let us bear it patiently. Having Christ and a good conscience, we may be content. False charges will not keep us out of heaven. Our character will be cleared at the last day.


    In the second place, let us gather out of these verses the impossibility of neutrality in religion. "He who is not with Christ is against Him, and he who doesn't gather with Him, scatters."


    There are many people in every age of the Church, who need to have this lesson pressed upon them. They endeavor to steer a middle course in religion. They are not as bad as many sinners, but still they are not saints. They feel the truth of Christ's Gospel, when it is brought before them, but are afraid to confess what they feel. Because they have these feelings, they flatter themselves they are not as bad as others. And yet they shrink from the standard of faith and practice which the Lord Jesus sets up. They are not boldly on Christ's side, and yet they are not openly against Him. Our Lord warns all such that they are in a dangerous position. There are only two parties in religious matters. There are only two camps. There are only two sides. Are we with Christ, and working in His cause? If not, we are against Him. Are we doing good in the world? If not, we are doing harm.


    The principle here laid down is one which it concerns us all to remember. Let us settle it in our minds, that we shall never have peace, and do good to others, unless we are thorough-going and decided in our Christianity. The way of Gamaliel and Erasmus never yet brought happiness and usefulness to any one, and never will.


    In the third place, let us gather from these verses the exceeding sinfulness of sins against knowledge. This is a practical conclusion which appears to flow naturally from our Lord's words about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Difficult as these words undoubtedly are, they seem fairly to prove that there are degrees in sin. Offences arising from ignorance of the true mission of the Son of Man will not be punished as heavily as offences committed against the noontide light of the dispensation of the Holy Spirit.


    The brighter the light, the greater the guilt of him who rejects it. The clearer a man's knowledge of the nature of the Gospel, the greater his sin, if he willfully refuses to repent and believe. The doctrine here taught is one that does not stand alone in Scripture. Paul says to the Hebrews, "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance." "If we sin willfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment." (Heb. 6:4-7, and 10:26, 27.) It is a doctrine of which we find mournful proofs in every quarter. The unconverted children of godly parents, the unconverted servants of godly families, and the unconverted members of evangelical congregations are the hardest people on earth to impress. They seem past feeling. The same fire which melts the wax hardens the clay.


    It is a doctrine, moreover, which receives dreadful confirmation from the histories of some of those whose last ends were eminently hopeless. Pharaoh, and Saul, and Ahab, and Judas Iscariot, and Julian, and Francis Spira, are fearful illustrations of our Lord's meaning. In each of these cases there was a combination of clear knowledge and deliberate rejection of Christ. In each there was light in the head, but hatred of truth in the heart. And the end of each seems to have been blackness of darkness forever.


    May God give us a will to use our knowledge, whether it be little or great! May we beware of neglecting our opportunities, and leaving our privileges unimproved! Have we light? Then let us live fully up to our light. Do we know the truth? Then let us walk in the truth. This is the best safeguard against the unpardonable sin.


    In the last place, let us gather from these verses the immense importance of carefulness about our daily words. Our Lord tells us, that "every idle word that men speak, they will give account of in the day of judgment." And He adds, "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."


    There are few of our Lord's sayings which are so heart-searching as this. There is nothing, perhaps, to which most men pay less attention than their words. They go through their daily work, speaking and talking without thought or reflection, and seem to imagine that if they do what is right, it matters but little what they say.


    But is it so? Are our words so utterly trifling and unimportant? We dare not say so, with such a passage of Scripture as this before our eyes. Our words are the evidence of the state of our hearts, as surely as the taste of the water is an evidence of the state of the spring. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." The lips only utter what the mind conceives. Our words will form one subject of inquiry at the Day of Judgment. We shall have to give account of our sayings, as well as our doings. Truly these are very solemn considerations. If there were no other text in the Bible, this passage ought to convince us, that we are all "guilty before God," and need a righteousness better than our own, even the righteousness of Christ. (Phil. 3:9.)


    Let us be humble as we read this passage, in the recollection of time past. How many idle, foolish, vain, light, frivolous, sinful, and unprofitable things we have all said! How many words we have used, which, like thistle-down, have flown far and wide, and sown mischief in the hearts of others that will never die! How often when we have met our friends, "our conversation," to use an old saint's expression, "has only made work for repentance." There is deep truth in the remark of Burkitt, "A profane scoff or atheistically jest may stick in the minds of those that hear it, after the tongue that spoke it is dead. A word spoken is physically transient, but morally permanent." "Death and life," says Solomon, "are in the power of the tongue." (Prov. 18:21.)


    Let us be watchful as we read this passage about words, when we look forward to our days yet to come. Let us resolve, by God's grace, to be more careful over our tongues, and more particular about our use of them. Let us pray daily that our "speech may be always with grace." (Coloss. 4:6.) Let us say every morning with holy David, "I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not in my tongue." Let us cry with him to the Strong for strength, and say, "Set a watch over my mouth, and keep the door of my lips." Well indeed might James say, "If any man offends not in word, the same is a perfect man." (Psalm. 39:1, 141:3; James 3:2.)


    Matthew 12:38-50


    Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."


    But He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold someone greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the south will rise up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, someone greater than Solomon is here. But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and doesn't find it. Then he says, 'I will return into my house, from which I came out,' and when he has come back, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes, and takes with himself seven other spirits more evil than he is, and they enter in and dwell there. The last state of that man becomes worse than the first. Even so will it be also to this evil generation."


    While he was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, seeking to speak to Him. One said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers stand outside, seeking to speak to You."


    But He answered him who spoke to Him, "Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?" He stretched out His hand towards His disciples, and said, "Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother."


    The beginning of this passage is one of those places which strikingly illustrate the truth of Old Testament History. Our Lord speaks of the queen of the South, as a real, true person, who had lived and died. He refers to the story of Jonah, and his miraculous preservation in the whale's belly, as undeniable matters of fact. Let us remember this, if we hear men professing to believe the writers of the New Testament, and yet sneering at the things recorded in the Old Testament, as if they were fables. Such men forget, that in so doing they pour contempt upon Christ Himself. The authority of the Old and New Testament stands or falls together. The same Spirit inspired men to write of Solomon and Jonah, who inspired the Evangelists to write of Christ. These are not unimportant points in this day. Let them be well fixed in our minds.


    The first practical lesson which demands our attention in these verses is the amazing power of unbelief. Mark how the Scribes and Pharisees call upon our Lord to show them more miracles. "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." They pretended that they only needed more evidence, in order to be convinced, and become disciples. They shut their eyes to the many wonderful works which Jesus had already done. It was not enough for those who He had healed the sick, and cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, and cast out devils. They were not yet persuaded. They yet demanded more proof. They would not see what our Lord plainly pointed at in His reply, that they had no real will to believe. There was evidence enough to convince them, but they had no wish to be convinced.


    There are many in the Church of Christ, who are exactly in the state of these Scribes and Pharisees. They flatter themselves that they only require a little more proof to become decided Christians. They fancy that if their reason and intellect could only be met with some additional arguments, they would at once give up all for Christ's sake, take up the cross, and follow Him. But in the mean time, they wait. Alas! For their blindness. They will not see that there is abundance of evidence on every side of them. The truth is that they do not want to be convinced.


    May we all be on our guard against the spirit of unbelief! It is a growing evil in these latter days. Lack of simple, childlike faith is an increasing feature of the times, in every rank of society. The true explanation of a hundred strange things that startle us in the conduct of leading men in churches and states is downright lack of faith. Men who do not believe all that God says in the Bible, must necessarily take a vacillating and undecided line on moral and religious questions. "If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established." (Isaiah 7:9.)


    The second practical lesson which meets us in these verses is the immense danger of a partial and imperfect religious reformation. Mark what a dreadful picture our Lord draws of the man to whom the unclean spirit returns, after having once left him. How fearful those words are, "I will return into my house from which I came out!" How vivid that description, "he finds it empty, swept, and put in order!" How tremendous the conclusion, "Then he goes, and takes with himself seven other spirits more evil than he is, and they enter in and dwell there. The last state of that man becomes worse than the first!" It is a picture most painfully full of meaning. Let us scan it closely, and learn wisdom.


    It is certain that we have in this picture the history of the Jewish church and nation, at the time of our Lord's coming. Called as they were at first out of Egypt to be God's peculiar people, they never seem to have wholly lost the tendency to worship idols. Redeemed as they afterwards were from the captivity of Babylon, they never seem to have rendered to God a due return for His goodness. Aroused as they had been by John the Baptist's preaching, their repentance appears to have been only skin-deep. At the time when our Lord spoke, they had become, as a nation, harder and more perverse than ever. The grossness of idol-worship had given place to the deadness of mere formality. Seven other spirits worse than the first, had taken possession of them. Their last state was rapidly becoming worse than the first. Yet forty years, and their iniquity came to the full. They madly plunged into a war with Rome. Judea became a very Babel of confusion. Jerusalem was taken. The temple was destroyed. The Jews were scattered over the face of the earth.


    Again, it is highly probable that we have in this picture the history of the whole body of Christian churches. Delivered as they were from heathen darkness by the preaching of the Gospel, they have never really lived up to their light. Revived, as many of them were at the time of the Protestant Reformation, none of them have made a right use of their privileges, or ''gone on to perfection." They have all more or less stopped short and settled on their lees. They have all been too ready to be satisfied with mere external amendments. And now there are painful symptoms in many quarters that the evil spirit has returned to his house, and is preparing an outbreak of infidelity, and false doctrine, such as the churches have never yet seen. Between unbelief in some quarters, and formal superstition in others, everything seems ripe for some fearful manifestation of Antichrist. It may well be feared that the last state of the professing Christian churches will prove worse than the first.


    Saddest and worst of all, we have in this picture the history of many an individual's soul. There are men who seemed at one time of their lives to be under the influence of strong religious feelings. They reformed their ways. They laid aside many things that are bad. They took up many things that are good. But they stopped there, and went no further, and by and bye gave up religion altogether. The evil spirit returned to their hearts, and found them empty, swept, and garnished. They are now worse than they ever were before. Their consciences seem seared. Their sense of religious things appears entirely destroyed. They are like men given over to a reprobate mind. One would say it was "impossible to renew them to repentance." None prove so hopelessly wicked as those who, after experiencing strong religious convictions, have gone back again to sin and the world.


    If we love life, let us pray that these lessons may be deeply impressed on our minds. Let us never be content with a partial reformation of life, without thorough conversion to God, and mortification of the whole body of sin. It is a good thing to strive to cast sin out of our hearts. But let us take care that we also receive the grace of God in its place. Let us make sure that we not only get rid of the old tenant, the devil, but have also got dwelling in us the Holy Spirit.


    The last practical lesson which meets us in these verses is the tender affection with which the Lord Jesus regards His true disciples. Mark how He speaks of everyone who does the will of His Father in heaven. He says, "He is my brother, and sister, and mother." What gracious words these are! Who can conceive the depth of our dear Lord's love towards His relations according to the flesh? It was a pure, unselfish love. It must have been a mighty love, a love that passes man's understanding. Yet here we see that all His believing people are counted as His family. He loves them, feels for them, cares for them, as members of His family, bone of His bone, and flesh of His flesh.


    There is a solemn warning here to all who mock and persecute true Christians on account of their religion. They consider not what they are doing. They are persecuting the near relations of the King of kings. They will find at the last day that they have mocked those whom the Judge of all regards as "His brother, and sister, and mother."


    There is rich encouragement here for all believers. They are far more precious in their Lord's eyes than they are in their own. Their faith may be feeble, their repentance weak, their strength small. They may be poor and needy in this world. But there is a glorious "whoever" in the last verse of this chapter which ought to cheer them. "Whoever" believes is a near relation of Christ. The elder Brother will provide for him in time and eternity, and never let him be cast away. There is not one "little sister" in the family of the redeemed, whom Jesus does not remember. (Cant. 8:8.) Joseph provided richly for all his relations and Jesus will provide for His.


    The Servant of God. 12:15-21.

     I. Jesus' example.

    "Aware of this [the plot of v. 14], Jesus withdrew from that place" (v. 15a). In

    Doing so, He exemplifies the kind of action He has urged upon His followers (10:23)

    - flight to prevent the end of the mission (it is not yet time for Jesus' death) and

    also to extend the mission (note the full ministry described in v. 15b).

     II. Jesus' identity.

    The quotation of Isa 42:1-4 (1) carries forward and amplifies the description of Jesus found already in 3:17; (2) underscores the point made in 8:17 (where Matthew quotes from Isa 53, another of the Servant songs), namely that the healing of physical infirmities is integral to the Servant's saving work; (3) explains the warning of 12:16 (that the people "not tell who He was") as Jesus' effort to discourage false notions of Messiah ship (cf. comments on 8:4); and (4) points positively to Jesus' concept of true Messiah ship (see the next point).

    III. Jesus' victory.

    This passage amplifies the profound principle repeatedly enunciated already in Mt, that Messiah's lowly servant hood (v. 18a) accounts for His power and His authority (v. 18cd); and that His gentleness (vv. 19-20b) is the path to His triumph (v. 20c). Moreover (to enlarge on the point made under I.), Jesus' very flight from the Jews provides the impetus for Gentile evangelism (vv. 18d, 21).

    This encourages persecuted disciples (then and now): God uses that very experience as the occasion for unleashing saving power (cf. 2 Cor 12:9-10). "A persecuted ministry...results in conversion of Gentiles" (Gundry, 230). Messiah and His followers shall be both victor and victim in all their wars, and shall make their triumph in defeat (D. L. Sayers, The Man Born to be King).2

    Jesus and Beelzeboul. 12:22-37.

     I. Preparation. 12:22-24.

    A. Jesus' Healing.

    The victim is "blind and mute," a dual affliction ascribed to demon-possession (v. 22). Matthew has already demonstrated Jesus' power to heal all three aspects of the afflictions (chs. 8-9). The healing is complete, "so that he could both talk and see" (v. 22b).

    B. The Crowd's Astonishment.

    While "the Jews did not expect the Davidic Messiah to perform healings or exorcisms" (Gundry, 231), Messiah was expected to do miracles (11:2; 12:38; cf. Jn 10:41). The crowd's rather doubtful question ("This one is not,...is He?"), prepares for v. 24.

    C. The Pharisees' Charge.

    Their words in v. 24 are a response to the crowd, words designed to dispel whatever glimmers of faith in Jesus might have been reflected in the crowds' question. They accuse Jesus of driving out demons "by Beelzeboul, the prince of demons" (NIV mg.).

    Of the several variant spellings, Beelzeboul is chosen because of (1) its attestation (cf. GNT in loc.), and (2) its meaning (a Hebrew wordplay on baal, "master, lord," and zebul, "house" = "lord of the dwelling, master of the house"; cf. Jesus' figure in 12:29, including the noun oikia, and the juxtaposing of beelzeboul and its Greek equivalent, oikodespotss, in Mt 10:25). When we view the Pharisees' charge in light of v. 14, and this in turn in light of the controversy of vv. 1-14, we conclude that the charge stems from the Pharisees' notion that Jesus has come to destroy the sacred Law.

    II. Jesus' discourse. 12:25-37.

    A. Refuting the Accusation. 12:25-29.

     1. The character of Satan, vv. 25-26. While division of the sort described in the proverbial saying of v. 25 can and does occur (with the predictable results), so cunning and powerful a king as Satan would not let that happen. He is an3 absolute dictator whose underlings work in concert to achieve his own appointed ends.

     2. Exorcisms among the Jews, v. 27. Jews other than Jesus are engaged - and successfully so - in the practice of exorcising demons. At this stage Jesus is forcing the Pharisees to admit (if only tacitly) that men can exorcise demons through an exercise of divine power. In this statement Jesus cleverly exposes the Pharisees' underlying objection (f