Sermon title:TRUST, LIKE CHILDREN, IN GODíS LOVING CARE   Matthew 18:1-14††††

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††††††††††† ††††Immanuel Baptist Church Ė Sunday, September 16, 2018

 

 

 

In our Responsive Reading,

our Lord Jesus tells us,

unless you change

and become like little children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

And it concludes with Jesus telling us

that our heavenly Father is like a man

who leaves his flock of 99 sheep

to go search for one lost sheep

and rejoices when he finds the lost one.

 

Those points are both part of one message:

that we need to trust in God love,

the same way little children

trust that their parents love them.

 

We need to be like that.

 

But, at this point in his ministry,

Jesus was dealing with a lot of people who were not like that.

 

Take his brothers, for example.

 

We read about them in John Chapter 7, Verse 1.

 

Mary was still virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.

 

But, after that, she remained married to Joseph,

and they had a number of children.

 

Jesusí younger brothers James and Jude

eventually became strong Christians,

and they even wrote the books of the Bible

that bear their names.

 

But, at this point, John 7:1 and the verses that follow

show that they did not yet believe in Jesus.

We read that

. . . Jesus went around in Galilee,

purposely staying away from Judea

because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.

 

2 But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near,

3 Jesus' brothers said to him,

"You ought to leave here and go to Judea,

so that your disciples may see the miracles you do.

4 No one who wants to become a public figure

acts in secret.

Since you are doing these things,

show yourself to the world."

 

5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

 

6 Therefore Jesus told them,

 

"The right time for me has not yet come;

for you any time is right.

7 The world cannot hate you,

but it hates me because I testify

that what it does is evil.

 

8 You go to the Feast.

I am not yet going up to this Feast,

because for me the right time has not yet come."

 

9 Having said this, he stayed in Galilee.

 

So, Jesusí ďown brothers did not believe in himĒ

at this point.

 

But, Jesus was patient with them.

 

He was also patient with his disciples.

 

His disciples did believe in him, of course,

but they had a long way to go

when it came to trusting God

and developing Christian personalities.

 

Our Responsive Reading began, saying,

 

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus

and asked,

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

 

Markís Gospel gives more detail

about how they came to ask that question.

 

So, Iíd like to look at the parallel passage

in Mark Chapter 9.

 

In Mark 9:33, Jesus and his disciples are

passing through Galilee,

apparently right after

the encounter between Jesus and his unbelieving brothers

which likely happened at their home town,

Nazareth.

 

Jesus and the disciples have now reached

the town of Capernaum,

on the shore of the Sea of Galileeó

the town where Jesus had his home at this time.

 

So, we read,

 

33 They came to Capernaum.

 

When he was in the house,

he asked them,

"What were you arguing about on the road?"

 

34 But they kept quiet

because on the way they had argued

about who was the greatest.

 

So, the disciples were arguing among themselves,

about which of them was the greatest.

 

Thatís why Matthew told us, they asked Jesus,

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

 

This showed a bad attitude on their partó

an attitude of self-importance,

and a desire to elevate themselves

and a desire be viewed as superior to other people.

 

The disciples still had a lot to learn.

So, Jesus went on to teach them.

 

Verse 35,

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said,

"If anyone wants to be first,

he must be the very last,

and the servant of all."

 

Thatís the opposite

of the way this world views things, isnít it?

 

The bigshots of this world

get to be first in line,

and they get to be waited on hand and foot

by people of lower rank than themselves.

 

But Jesus told them it must be the opposite

among his followers:

Whoever wants to be first

must take the last place,

and must be a servant to the others,

waiting on their needs,

instead of them waiting on his needs.

 

Now, if we go back to our Responsive Reading

in Matthew Chapter 18,

weíll see how Jesus gave the disciples a visual lesson

to impress on them

this need for humility

instead of self-importance.

Our Reading began at Matthew 18:1,

and it said,

 

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus

and asked,

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

 

2 He called a little child

and had him stand among them.

 

3 And he said:

"I tell you the truth,

unless you change and become like little children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

Never mind being the greatest in the kingdom!

If you donít adopt a humble attitude,

you wonít even enter the kingdom.

 

"I tell you the truth,

unless you change and become like little children,

you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child

is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 

5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this

in my name welcomes me.

 

Jesus made it pretty clear, didnít he?

 

I mean, you couldnít miss the point of his lesson.

 

But, Mark Chapter 10 shows us

that the disciples still didnít get it.

 

Mark 10 tells us about another event,

much later in Jesusí ministry,

that shows the disciples still wanted to be bigshots.

 

They still hadnít learned to be humble servants.

 

Beginning at Mark 10:35,

 

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee,

came to him. "Teacher," they said,

"we want you to do for us whatever we ask."

 

36 "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.

 

37 They replied,

"Let one of us sit at your right

and the other at your left in your glory."

 

38 "You don't know what you are asking,"

Jesus said.

"Can you drink the cup I drink

or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?"

 

39 "We can," they answered.

 

Jesus said to them,

"You will drink the cup I drink

and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,

40 but to sit at my right or left

is not for me to grant.

These places belong to those

for whom they have been prepared."

 

41 When the ten heard about this,

they became indignant with James and John.

 

So, they were arguing again

about who was the greatest among them.

 

James and John wanted for themselves

the most prominent positionsó

sitting right next to Jesus on his throne in heaven.

 

They wanted the top positions for themselves.

 

And the other 10 disciples

were furious with them.

 

Evidently, they didnít want James & John to have the top spots,

because they wanted the top spots for themselves.

 

So, Jesus had to teach them the same lesson,

all over again.

42 Jesus called them together and said,

 

"You know that those

who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles

lord it over them,

and their high officials exercise authority over them.

 

43 Not so with you.

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you

must be your servant,

44 and whoever wants to be first

must be slave of all.

 

45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,

and to give his life as a ransom for many."

 

So, Jesus often taught the same lessons in his sermonsó

the same lessons, over and over againó

because the disciples just didnít get it.

 

And thatís good news for us,

because we donít get it the first time around, either.

 

But we donít need to fear

that God is going to give up on us.

 

Look how patient Jesus was with the disciples!

 

Our heavenly Father is just the same with us,

patiently teaching us as his beloved children.

 

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Now, if we turn back to Mark Chapter 9,

thereís another event at this point in Jesusí ministry

where he teaches a couple of important lessons.

 

Some Christian groups

tend to be very exclusivist in their attitude.

 

They may look down on believers who go to a different church

or who belong to a different denomination.

 

But here at Mark 9:38,

Jesus helps us have a better attitude.

 

38 "Teacher," said John,

"we saw a man driving out demons in your name

and we told him to stop,

because he was not one of us."

 

39 "Do not stop him," Jesus said.

"No one who does a miracle in my name

can in the next moment say anything bad about me,

40 for whoever is not against us is for us.

 

Notice!óthe disciples werenít open

to someone apart from their group

doing good deeds in Jesusí name,

--but Jesus was open to that.

 

And now, the next thing Jesus said,

gives us a glimpse of Godís mercyó

that his mercy may extend beyond

the rules that some churches set for salvation.

 

He said,

41 I tell you the truth,

anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name

because you belong to Christ

will certainly not lose his reward.

 

He doesnít elaborate on that.

 

But heís obviously talking about someone

who isnít a Christian yet,

but who is favorable toward Christians.

And he says,

anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name

because you belong to Christ

will certainly not lose his reward.

 

So, we have an extra glimpse of Godís mercy.

 

Weíll have to leave that to our Lord

to explain to us when we get to heaven

just how that worked in practice.

 

===========================

 

But it certainly didnít mean

that Jesus has gone soft on sin.

 

The very next words out of Jesusí mouth are,

 

42 "And if anyone causes one of these little ones

who believe in me to sin,

it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea

with a large millstone tied around his neck.

 

Yes, sin has dreadful consequences.

 

Can you imagine yourself being thrown into the sea

with a large millstone tied around your neck?

 

The consequences are worse than that

for anyone who entices one of Jesusí children to sin.

 

And now, Jesus goes on

to repeat a lesson he taught earlier in his ministry

in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

We talked about it back when

we were discussing the 5th Chapter of Matthew.

 

And now Jesus makes the same point again here,

perhaps a year later.

 

And his point is that we MUST give up

the things that interfere with

our relationship with him.

 

Here he tells us we need to give up

even something as hard to give up

as our hand or our foot or our eye.

He says in Verse 43,

 

43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.

It is better for you to enter life maimed

than with two hands to go into hell,

where the fire never goes out.

 

45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.

It is better for you to enter life crippled

than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.

 

47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.

It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God

with one eye

than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,

48 where "'their worm does not die,

and the fire is not quenched.'

 

Now, heís not talking about literally gouging out an eye,

but rather giving up something

thatís very hard to give up.

 

If weíre addicted to pornography,

and we gouge out our right eye,

our addiction will bring us back to the pornography

and weíll just keep lusting after it

with our left eye.

The thing we need to give up

is the sinful practice itself.

 

Our Lord preached that urgent message

in his Sermon on the Mount

and he preaches it again here, a year or so later.

 

He repeats it, because we donít get it.

 

And he repeats it, because it is so important.

 

Jesus says that we MUST give up sin,

even if it is very difficult for us.

 

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Jesusí next words have puzzled Bible commentators for centuries.

 

49 Everyone will be salted with fire.

50 "Salt is good,

but if it loses its saltiness,

how can you make it salty again?

Have salt in yourselves,

and be at peace with each other."

 

There are many different opinions

on what Jesus meant by this.

 

Salt makes our food tasty,

but back in the First Century, before the days of refrigeration,

salt was primarily a preservative.

 

So, Jesus seems to be speaking here

about preserving the peace among believers.

 

The disciples had just tried to shut down

someone else who was doing good deeds in Jesusí name.

 

And they had just been arguing among themselves

as to who was the greatest among them.

 

If they would treat each other better

they would help preserve each otherís faith.

 

And if they would treat each other better,

they would preserve the peace

among believers.

 

They needed to attach more value to each other

and to other people.

 

They needed to stop looking down on each other,

and to stop looking down on people

who werenít part of their group.

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Going back to our Responsive Reading,

at Matthew 18:10,

Jesus is still talking about the little child

he had set in their midst

as an example of humble faith and trust.

He says,

 

10 "See that you do not look down on

one of these little ones.

For I tell you that their angels in heaven

always see the face of my Father in heaven.

 

And then he gives an illustration

to show how much God cares about

each one of usó

even when we have gone astray.

 

12 "What do you think?

If a man owns a hundred sheep,

and one of them wanders away,

will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills

and go to look for the one that wandered off?

 

13 And if he finds it,

I tell you the truth,

he is happier about that one sheep

than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.

14 In the same way your Father in heaven

is not willing that any of these little ones

should be lost.

 

That explains why our Lord Jesus

patiently worked with his disciples,

to help them give up the attitudes of this world,

so they would be fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

And he works with us in the same way.

 

Self-importance, †††sin, †††disregard for others,

looking down on so-called Ďunimportantí peopleó

these are all worldly traits

that we need to leave behind when we follow Jesus.

 

It brings our heavenly Father great joy

when a Ďlost sheepí returns to the fold.

 

And it brings him joy

when we learn the lessons

he teaches us through his Son.

 

And so, the Scriptures present to us

these same lessons over and over again,

so that like Jesusí early disciples,

we will finally get it.