Matthew
1-5 Become Like a Child 6-9 Causes of Stumbling 10-14 Parable of the Lost Sheep 15-20 Church Discipline 21-22 Question About Forgiveness 23-35 Parable About Forgiveness
Become Like a Child

1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

The Lord speaks in this chapter about two topics that we also find in Matthew 16: the kingdom and the church. This chapter is therefore in line with Matthew 16. Here we learn the practical meaning of the kingdom and of the church.

The Lord has just declared that His disciples are sons of the kingdom (Mt 17:26-2726When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt.27However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”). Apparently that is still keeping their minds busy, because they ask him a question about it. While they are concerned about who is the greatest, the Lord makes it clear that in the kingdom only the small count.

The first characteristic that fits the kingdom is that of a child. Children are weak and incapable of upholding their rights in the face of a world that overlooks them, for whom they do not count. In children we see the spirit of dependence and humility. The Lord calls a child to Himself. The child comes to Him without any fear, and to the men who are with Him. He sees only the Lord. He places the child in the middle of the men. He wants them all to see this child well.

When the child stands there in their midst and they look at him, they hear the voice of their Master Who says they must change and become like the children. If they do not change and become like the children, it is certain that they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. In the absence of their rejected Lord, the spirit that characterizes children is the spirit that fits His followers.

Becoming like a child has, according to the Lord’s judgment, consequences for the position in the kingdom. The great example of humiliation is He Himself. We read from Him that He humbled Himself (Phil. 2:8). He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. With the child’s example in mind, He tells His disciples that they must all do their best to be the greatest. There can only be one who is the greatest.

It’s like what Paul says about winning a prize in a competition. The prize can only be received by one participant in the competition: the winner. But what Paul is trying to do when using that comparison, we hear in his exhortation. He says that everyone must walk in such a way that he obtains the prize (1Cor 9:2424Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but [only] one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.).

There is more to becoming a child than just a position in the kingdom. The Lord says that whoever receives such a child in His Name receives Him. This means that He identifies Himself with followers who reveal the mind of a child, for that is His mind. He does not stand up for His rights and is not in count. He is dependent and humble.


Causes of Stumbling

6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7“Woe to the world because of [its] stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! 8“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

The Lord gives a serious warning to those who shake the faith that “these little ones” have in Him and in God. By “these little ones” we do not mean the children, but the followers of Him with the characteristics of children. “A cause to stumble” is anything that can shake their confidence. The seriousness of the punishment makes it clear how close to the hearts of the little ones the Lord Jesus is and how far removed those who cause such little ones to stumble are from His heart. Such a terrible person is accompanied by a terrible punishment which, as a side effect, makes it impossible for him to commit such a terrible act again.

Then the Lord will pronounce the “woe” to the world in which there will be many stumbling blocks. These stumbling blocks are necessary because they make it clear what there is in the world. The world is here the summary of the evil aimed at causing the little ones to stumble. The man through whom the stumbling block comes is the antichrist, the man of sin. In him the sin of the world is as it were concentrated and his only goal is to take man away from God. This ‘woe’ is pronounced over the world and over that person. They will not escape their righteous judgment.

The sharp warning with a view to the stumbling blocks is also important for the disciple. He will come into contact with it. He may just be tempted to do something, “your hand”, or go somewhere, “your foot”, because the seducer presents something beautiful to him. A sinful act or a sinful way must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, the disciple must cut off his hand or foot without pardon, that is to say, say a radical ‘no’ to the stumbling block, ‘no’ to the temptation to commit a sinful act or to walk a sinful path, whatever the cost. Saying ‘yes’ will cost infinitely more.

The same goes for the eye. It is vital to keep the eye in check and not to give it the opportunity to look at something that would lead to sin. In Eve’s case, the eye was the stumbling block. The devil pointed out to her the tree from which God had forbidden man to eat. The devil managed to get Eve to look at the tree in his way and to arouse her desire to eat it. She did not pluck out her eye, but took and ate, with all the terrible consequences of it (Gen 3:1-71Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”2The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;3but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”4The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!5For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”6When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make [one] wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.7Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.). Therefore, we must remember that the loss of what is most precious to the disciple in this life is nothing compared to the horrors of eternal fire in the other world.


Parable of the Lost Sheep

10“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11<For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.> 12“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14So it is not [the] will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

The Lord means here by “these little ones” His disciples and not little children. In verse 66but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. and verse 1010“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. he did not speak of children, but of ‘little ones’. ‘Little’ in this context is not about age or height, but has the meaning of ‘small’ or ‘humble’ and refers to ‘thinking little of oneself’. The angels here are the heavenly beings who permanently represent these little ones before the Father, or bring their existence to the Father’s attention.

What the Lord says here has given rise to the thought that every child has a ‘guardian angel’. It is certainly true that children have the special attention of the Father. It can even be deduced from Matthew 2 that the Lord Himself, as a child, enjoyed the protection of an angel (Mt 2:13,1913Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said,). But enjoying special care does not mean that every child or person has a special angel with them to protect them.

If there is any talk of protection in this part, it is the protection of the Father and not of the angels. The little ones may be despised on earth, but heavenly representatives of these little ones are permanently in the immediate presence of God the Father. From this angels derive the authority of their service. Their service is for the little ones (Heb 1:1414Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?).

The Lord compares the Father’s care for the little ones with the shepherd’s care for a sheep that has strayed from the flock. With this picture He wants to make clear that in the kingdom there should also be care for each other. Is our concern for those who go astray? Are we looking for them? The shepherd follows the sheep until he has found it. If he has found it, it gives him great joy. He has made effort for this sheep. The other sheep did not need this care.

The Lord concludes His teaching to His disciples about the kingdom and children with the conclusion that their Father Who is in the heavens does not want that any of the little ones, the small, those who do not count, to be lost. In that will, disciples must learn to share and commit themselves to bring back those gone astray.


Church Discipline

15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16But if he does not listen [to you], take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

This section of verses 1-141At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”2And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,3and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.4Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.5And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.7“Woe to the world because of [its] stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!8“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.9If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.10“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.11<For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.>12“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?13If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.14So it is not [the] will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. deals with a little one and the kingdom. This section of verses 15-2015“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.16But if he does not listen [to you], take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.18Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.20For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” is about a brother and the church. Just like a little one can go astray, a brother can also go astray. Just as a stray little one must be brought back to the herd, a stray brother must be won.

If a brother goes astray by sinning against another brother, the brother against whom he has sinned must reveal the same spirit of gentleness as the Lord supposes in the case of a little one. He should not sit down and wait for the other person to confess his sin. He must go there himself and convince the brother of the wrong he has done and thus win him. He has to go alone. Nobody should know about it. If the brother listens and confesses his sin, the brother is won. Nobody knows about it and never needs to know because it is confessed and therefore gone.

However, it may happen that the brother does not listen. Then he has to take one or two brothers with him and look for the other. For example, there are two or three witnesses to the conversation that then takes place. The intention is that the brother, in the presence of one or two witnesses, will still be convinced of the sin he has committed. If he is convinced and confesses, the brother is also won.

However, if he does not listen, a report must be made to the assembly. However, it is necessary that the report is made by two or three witnesses, because only then is the report acceptable to the assembly. According to the report, the brother is visited for the third time, this time by a delegation of the assembly. If he does not listen to the assembly either, the case is settled for him against whom sin is committed. For him the brother is no longer a brother, but he is like the heathen and the tax collector with whom he cannot associate.

It is clear that the assembly cannot let the matter run its course. Maybe some more attempts can be made to bring the wandering brother to repentance. If he persists in his sin despite all the loving efforts to win him, the church has the responsibility and the authority to bind sin to such a person. He must then be regarded as an evil one and disposed of out of the middle of the assembly (1Cor 5:1313But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.). This very last act of the assembly seals the fact that any attempt to win the stray brother has failed.

By binding sin to the person, the person is surrendered to the Lord with the prayer that He will yet repent. The Lord Jesus also points this out when He then says that the assembly can also loose, that is, loosening sin from the person. This happens when the person confesses his sin and the assembly pronounces forgiveness over it and accepts him again in its midst. These acts of discipline by the assembly of binding and loosing are recognized by heaven. The congregation must therefore know well that what it does in this respect must have the consent of heaven. She can only convince herself of this if she acts according to the Word.

In order to know for sure whether an act of binding or loosing in heaven will be manifested, any act of discipline must be the result of unanimous prayer to the Lord. The whole congregation must ask the Lord for His will. The Father will make His will known through His Word. Therefore, a church must be able to base a disciplinary action on God’s Word.

It is a disciplinary act of the assembly and not one of some random believers. All believers belong together. However, it is not just about belonging to each other, but really being together. The power of prayer and the action of the church do not depend on the number, but on His Name, that is the Name of the Lord Jesus.

It is important to read the Lord’s words about His presence in the middle of the two or three in the context in which they stand. From verse 1515“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. it is about sin in the church and how to deal with it. After the various steps, sin must be revealed to the assembly.

The church here cannot be the entire church on earth. It must be the local church. For example, the Bible speaks of “the church of God which is at Corinth” (1Cor 1:22To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their [Lord] and ours:). That is, the believers are the assembly of God there. They also come together as an assembly (1Cor 11:18,2018For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.20Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper,) to celebrate the Lord’s supper and to encourage and build each other up in the faith (1Cor 14:23,2623Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?26What is [the outcome] then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.).

There are many privileges attached to the meeting of the assembly. How important and blessed it is to come together as believers with Christ in the midst, we see with the Lord Himself. After His resurrection from the dead, His first thought, spoken with reverence, is to be with His assembled disciples (Psa 22:22-2322I will tell of Your name to my brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.
23You who fear the LORD, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.
; Jn 20:19-2019So when it was evening on that day, the first [day] of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace [be] with you.”20And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.; Heb 2:11-1211For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one [Father]; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,12saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.”).

As said, there are also responsibilities connected to it. One of them we find in this section is the exercise of discipline. The context shows that it is about the church and it is in connection with it that the Lord Jesus speaks about being gathered in His Name. We can conclude from this that the Lord Jesus connects His presence to the church in a special way when she comes together.

Certainly He is always with each of His own. According to His promise He will be that “always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:2020teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”). Here, however, it says that He is in the middle of the two or three that have met in His Name. That’s something else than His nearness that every believer may experience anytime and anywhere – and what a tremendous encouragement that is!

Before the Lord says “I am there in their midst”, He first speaks of being gathered in His Name. He attaches His personal presence to the condition of being gathered in His Name. He talks about the smallest possible number – “two or three” – to be able to meet as believers.

He says more. It is not just a meeting of two or three believers. Believers can gather anywhere and for many purposes, but that does not mean that wherever believers meet, this is a gathering that the Lord says they are ‘gathered together in My name.’ What does it mean to be gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus? It means that those who have come together have all come because they know that this gathering is only about the Lord Jesus. His Name is the center.

To come together in His Name means to give Him full authority in the gathering. He exercises that authority through His Word and through His Spirit. All those who are together there want to acknowledge that. No one who would like to be with the Lord Jesus may be refused. All those who belong to the church and are pure in doctrine and life and reject any connection with evil have access to it. This does not mean that everyone who says he is a believer should be received. In this section we see exactly how there should be care in the case that sin becomes public in the assembly. Then it is clear that from an unknown person who comes, it must be determined that he is not connected with sins.

An important aspect here is that no one may enter into the Lord’s rights and set their own conditions for those who come. And someone who comes may not demand to be received on the basis of his own conditions. It is both contrary to the spirit of grace and the sense of forgiveness that characterize this whole chapter.

It is also important for the congregation that this congregation is not governed by its own rules. Everything is in the hands of the Lord and the Word is the unchanging touchstone. When believers come together in this way, aware of their weakness in the practice of coming together, the Lord says that He is in the midst.


Question About Forgiveness

21Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

After the Lord has spoken of one who has sinned against another (verse 1515“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.), the next section is about the one who has been sinned against, how his attitude and mind should be. The occasion for this teaching is a question from Peter. The Lord’s answer to that question makes it clear that the spirit of forgiveness must characterize us.

Peter makes a proposal himself, which he undoubtedly thinks goes far. Will he forgive his brother up to seven times? The Lord answers that this is totally inadequate. By speaking of “seventy times seven”, He emphasizes that there is no end to forgiveness when it is asked for. Forgiveness should always be in the heart of the Christian (Eph 4:3232Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.).


Parable About Forgiveness

23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he had begun to settle [them], one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25But since he did not have [the means] to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26So the slave fell [to the ground] and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and [began] to choke [him], saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29So his fellow slave fell [to the ground] and [began] to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

The Lord illustrates with a parable which attitude and mind should characterize the subjects in the kingdom for the sake of forgiveness. He presents the situation that a king is settling his accounts with his slaves. A slave is brought to the king who owes him the enormous sum of ten thousand talents. If we convert this into the euro, we will arrive at a figure of 3 billion euros.

The calculation is as follows. A denarius at that time was the wages of a day laborer (Mt 20:22When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.). On 1 January 2008, the gross minimum daily wage for a person aged 23 or over was €61.62, which is slightly more than €50.00 net. For the sake of convenience, let’s assume €50.00. A talent is six thousand denarii, which is equivalent to €300,000.00. The slave owed his lord ten thousand talents. That is the equivalent of €3,000,000,000,000.00 or 3 billion euro.

The man can’t afford this. He cannot even make a deposit because he has nothing. In order to still be able to collect some of the debt, his lord orders him to sell himself with his wife and children and all that he still has in his possession.

When the slave hears that, he throws himself in front of his lord and begs him to be patient with him until he has paid everything. This statement alone proves that the man has no idea how big his debt is and how impossible it is to pay it. If he had indeed wanted to pay his debt, he would have to work 164,383.56 years (€3,000,000,000.00*365 days*€50.00) day in, day out, without a rest day and without being able to spend one cent for what he himself would need.

Although the Lord of the slave recognizes his slave’s bluff and knows that his slave will never be able to pay him, he relieves him of all that debt. He does so out of his compassion for the hopeless situation of his slave.

It is extraordinarily sobering to see in the next scene how the slave, who has been remitted of an enormous debt, is acting toward a fellow slave who owes him the relatively small sum of a hundred denarii, that is €5,000.00. The mercilessness drips off. It is as if he immediately went looking for that fellow slave who is still a little in debt to him, because he “found” him. The grace shown to him has no effect on him. Instead of telling his fellow slave in the utmost gratitude what has happened, what burden has been taken away from him, he grabs his fellow slave by the throat and demands payment of the debt.

His fellow slave does the same as he did to his lord. The fellow slave falls down and begs him for patience until he would have paid. But this slave does not have that patience, for he has not been impressed by the way in which his lord has acted toward him and by what he himself has been forgiven. It is not about him forgetting it, but it has done absolutely nothing to him. He is not disturbed by it. This is the greatest ingratitude imaginable. Such ingratitude shows the hardness of heart.

When his fellow slaves see this, they are saddened. They do not understand how this is possible. Instead of taking the law into their own hands, the fellow slaves do the only right thing. They go to explain to their Lord everything that has happened. We should do the same when we notice that there is no sense of mercy in action. Then we can do nothing better than tell our Lord, with sadness in our hearts because of the hardness of a fellow slave.

When the lord hears about it, he allows his slave be called to him. It is his slave and he can do with this slave what he sees fit. He calls him “wicked slave”. That is what the man made of it himself by his actions. The lord recalled that he had remitted him all that debt because the slave had begged his lord. His lord also tells him that the grace shown to him should have determined his attitude toward his fellow slave.

This is important to us. We have been given great mercy by God Who has forgiven us our sins. We had a debt to God that we were unable to pay. Now that God has forgiven us this guilt, He expects us to show the same mercy to our brothers and sisters.

Such an attitude of ingratitude towards his lord, resulting in no mercy towards his fellow slave, causes anger in the lord of that slave. He hands over his slave to the torturers until he would have paid his debt, as he had said. That means eternal torture, for he will never be able to pay that debt.

The Lord Jesus attaches to the parable the serious lesson that we must forgive our brother wholeheartedly, otherwise our part will be the same as that of the evil slave.


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