Learning from Matthew 18-21
18:1-14 - From Jesus’ reply to the question: ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ (1), we learn much about the valued place children are to have among us. Our attitude to children is to be marked by humility, respect, responsibility and - above all - love. (a) humility: We teach the children. We can learn from them (2-4). (b) respect: Physically, we may look down on them. Spiritually, we must ‘not look down’ on them (10). They are to be highly valued. (c) responsibility: What kind of influence do we have on the children? - This is a question of the greatest importance (6). (d) love: Our ‘Father in heaven’ loves the children (14). The kind of welcome we give to children shows the kind of welcome we give to ‘Jesus’ who ‘loves the little children’ (5). May God help us not to fail the rising generation.
18:15-19:2 - Discipline and forgiveness are not opposites. They belong together. Discipline is to be part of our caring. If it is not carried out in a caring way, it is not the discipline of the Lord. It is the expression of human arrogance. Where there is a genuine desire to honour God and do His will, we have more than some human beings imposing their own will upon others. We have God at work, purifying His Church. The link between discipline (15-17) and forgiveness (21-35) is prayer (18-20). Without prayer, we will never achieve a true balance between discipline and forgiveness. We must avoid a harsh legalism which knows nothing of God’s love. We dare not soft-pedal the moral demands of discipleship. God is holy. God is love. We need both holiness and love - for the sake of the ‘large crowds’ who need the Saviour (2).
19:3-30 - Even though ‘large crowds followed Him’, still ‘the Pharisees’ opposed Jesus (2-3). Jesus’ teaching regarding marriage has perfect balance. Marriage is God’s purpose for ‘male and female’ (4-5). ‘Others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven’ (12). There is no compulsion in these matters. Each one must seek God’s will. Celibacy should not be viewed with suspicion. This way can also be chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. It must not be suggested that celibacy is the only truly ‘spiritual’ way. Jesus calls for humility (14,30). What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him. ‘Eternal life’ (16) begins when, conscious of our sin - ‘Who then can be saved?’ (25) - we look to Christ alone for salvation.
20:1-28 - The workers served for different lengths of time (1-7). They received equal payment (8-16). This is a parable of grace. Some have served the Lord a long time. Some have served Him a short time. The length of time is not the most important thing. More important is this: each one of us has been saved by grace. We owe it all to the Lord, the Giver of salvation. In verses 17-19, Jesus speaks of His death and resurrection. These are the great events upon which our salvation rests (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). If we are to follow Christ, we must walk the way of the Cross (22). He suffered for us. We must be ready to suffer for Him. His glory did not come without suffering. Our glory will not come without suffering. Do not seek ‘greatness’. Go the way of the Cross (26-28).
20:29-21:17 - Four times, Jesus is called ‘the Son of David’ (30-31, 9,15). Christ is greater than David. He is David’s ‘Lord’ (22:41-46). Christ is not only ‘the Son of David’. He is also the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). We rejoice with the Psalms of David. We rejoice even more in the Gospel of Christ. Our response to Christ is to be marked by discipleship, depth and devotion. Discipleship - The blind men ‘received their sight and followed Him’ (34). They did not receive their sight and then forget about Him. Grace is to be followed by gratitude. Those who have received grace are to give themselves to the Lord in gratitude. Depth - The crowds were enthusiastic (8-9) but superficial (27:20-23). Pray for depth, a true and lasting response to Christ. Devotion - Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (15).
21:18-46 - Jesus entered the city (10). He entered the temple (12). He went ‘back to the city’ (18). He entered the temple (23). Here, we have the pattern for Christian living - in the place of worship, out into the world, back to the place of worship... Worship, witness, worship... The two go hand in hand throughout the Christian life. We will encounter unbelief - even in the place of worship (23). God’s servants - the prophets - were rejected (35-36). God’s Son - Jesus - was rejected (37-39). We live in a situation where the threat of judgment is very real (19). Nevertheless, there is hope. Christ is ‘the Church’s one Foundation’ (Church Hymnary, 420). Through Him, we will bear fruit which will bring glory to God (42-43). We have been slow to believe, but God is ‘swift to bless’. No more ‘I will not’ - let there be repentance, entering God’s Kingdom and doing His will (29- 31).