These LIttle Ones
For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11)
What does it mean to be lost?
How does being lost come to be?
What descriptions can be found in this context that give clues about this?
One sheep goes astray, is separated from the rest of the herd and the Shepherd. (v. 12)
Implied: Offending “one of these little ones” – better to drown with a rock around your neck. (v. 6)
Implied: Preferring to keep a hand or foot that causes offense resulting in being cast into the eternal fire. (v. 8)
Implied: Preferring to keep an eyeball that causes offense resulting in being cast into fiery hell. (v. 9)
Despising “one of these little ones”. (v. 10)
Implied: “One of these little ones” perishing because of an offense. (v. 14)
A brother (part of the herd of the shepherd) sins and disconnects from the rest of the group. (v. 15)
This brother has likely been offended and is resistant to returning or reconciling with you. (v. 15)
This brother refuses to listen and reenter the covenant when two or three others come with you. (v. 16)
This brother refuses to listen the the entire group and return into covenant with them. (v. 17)
But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' (Matthew 18:16 NIV)
histemi - abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set (up), stanch, stand
Themes emerging from this chapter
Who is greatest.
One of these little ones.
Saved and lost.
To be saved is synonymous with being humble, avoiding and resolving offenses, being child-like, and being in covenant bonds with those following the Shepherd.
To be lost is to not be child-like, not willing to be humble, to offend and take offense refusing to resolve them and to be separated from the covenant bonds of those who are being saved like a Gentile and the tax collector.
What are characteristics unique to Gentiles and tax-collectors that might give clues to important things in this passage?
Gentiles are not in covenant bonds with God and His chosen people.
Tax-collectors are always focusing on removing value from people around them. Tax-collectors were the ultimate offenders to a Jew.
The Jews were offended by Gentiles but they were incensed and furious about tax-collectors.
Tax-collectors who were also Jews were the most hated of all people and who could produce the most intense offenses.
Truly 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. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth (15) about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (10) For where two or three have gathered together (16) in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:18-20)
This is all covenant language. And in the context of this chapter it starts to become clear that
offenses are the viruses that break down the bonds of covenant relationship
with each other and with God.
Jesus is describing in this chapter the sickness of offenses and the prescription that must be followed to remedy this deadly dis-ease.
Offenses are not just uncomfortable problems to be addressed when we feel like it;
offenses are deadly attitudes that will destroy the bonds that make us community if allowed to remain.
The Kingdom of Heaven as a Covenant
Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. (Matthew 18:23 WEB)
King – Sovereign, the foundation of power.
Wanted – desired
Take or reconcile – to make up together
Accounts – logos, the same word used by John to describe Jesus, the Word who came to be with us.
Servant – bond-servant, one who is supposed to be bonded to a master.
The Example of Jesus.
This binding is directly correlated with being in covenant relationship. All of the previous issues are tied into this concept of being in covenant relationship, seeking to restore and preserve this relationship at enormous personal cost if necessary.
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. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. 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? (Matthew 18:10-12)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)
Jesus' focus is to practice what this chapter describes, to inconvenience Himself, to leave the glories of heaven and the adoration of all the angels to go out looking for the little ones who have been separated from the covenant bonds they were designed to live in and thrive under.
Jesus left the presence of His Father where He could always clearly see His face with the exalted angels to become a bond-servant, one of us, Immanuel so that He might entice us back into unity with God. We are the little ones who have become offended by caricatures of God through the deceptions and lies about Him foisted on us by Satan.
Jesus comes down to our level, humbles Himself so as to identify with our condition,
seeking to give Him more credibility with us.
He becomes one of the little ones Himself
so that we can begin to trust Him and respond to His overtures to us
to return into the covenant trust relationship we were designed to enjoy originally.
Jesus, the logos, the Word, the expression of God, humbled Himself to
become a bond-servant like us to show us how to live in covenant relationship with the Father in a positive, life-receiving way.
Jesus demonstrated how we can live free of selfishness so as to be free of sin and its deadly effects in our lives.
Jesus showed us what it looks like to give covenant relationships highest priority
which is what His kingdom is all about.
He comes alone at first, privately into the secret places in our soul individually
so as not to overwhelm or frighten or intimidate us,
seeking to inspire and restore friendship, trust and confidence in our hearts.
We are the ones who have sinned;
it is we who have incurred all the offenses that potentially stand between us and God.
Yet Jesus, the offended party, leaves heaven to come to us
seeking reconciliation and restoration of His covenant relationship with us.
Jesus comes to expose that the supposed offenses we feel against God
are rooted in completely false assumptions about Him,
based on false premises, lies circulated by His enemy
that are designed to keep us afraid of Him and separated from the blessings of a covenant relationship.
We have been led to believe that it has been God who is holding onto the offenses
who needs to be appeased.
Yet when the truth comes into the light we discover that
it is we who have been cherishing the feelings of offense based on inaccurate beliefs about Him.
When we refuse to listen to His coming to us privately, alone in our hearts,
He will seek out other individuals to come with Him to visit us,
to demonstrate and validate that His intentions and motives are only good.
He wants the witnesses to also see and confirm how He relates to us
so that they can testify to the truth about how He really feels about us and treats us.
Witnesses are key for a covenant.
They are there to learn about and protect the terms of a covenant.
It is the job of witnesses to guard conditions of the covenant from being violated by either party.
They are never to to take sides with one person or the other but are loyal to the covenant itself.
But in this case the witnesses are also privy to the covenant relationship themselves.
Not only do they come along to strengthen and seek to restore a broken covenant relationship,
they have vested interests in doing so, for the covenant is the life-receiving relationship with God
that they also share in along with all the others who participate in this covenant.
If we resist being restored into covenant relationship from the appeals of even this small group
He will eventually seek to resolve the offenses we cherish against Him in public
where all will see the contrast between His humble attitude and our resistance to His love.
His sole purpose is only to reestablish the covenant relationship of trust and love,
never to exploit, force, shame or intimidate us.
He seeks all of this in order to save us from being lost, being out of covenant,
not saved from the supposed anger of His Father.
All of heaven is seeking for reconciliation with us along with the Father.
When we accept this, He commits to us this message of reconciliation to take to others.
We become the witnesses He wants to bring along with Him
to observe first-hand what His attitudes and motives and disposition is toward those who have sinned. And He instructs us to follow the exact same procedures
to get the best results as we relate with those who cherish offenses against us.
Truly 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. 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. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:18-20)
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
So the LORD said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. (Genesis 4:15)
Lamech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold." (Genesis 4:23-24)
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)