1. At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

The disciples want to know which of them will be greatest in heaven’s Kingdom. It is interesting that, with all the wonderful teaching regarding the Kingdom which they were no doubt being given that God has not seen fit to give to us, that they would focus on which of them would receive the most personal glory from it! Yet how like many of us this is. All too often our only interest in the things of God is what we ourselves can get out of them. Yet Christ will use this opportunity to teach them a greater truth.

2. And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,
3. and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Lord uses this opportunity to teach them more about the Kingdom. He shows them that, to enter the Kingdom, one must accept the Kingdom and all God’s decrees concerning it just as completely and unquestioningly as a little child accepts anything adults tell him. If they would not do this, but would seek great glory for themselves and power to do their own thing, then they would never be able to enter that Kingdom!

4. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Humbling yourself and placing your life totally into the hands of God is the only sure way to become great in His Kingdom.

5. “And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

To receive someone in the name of another can mean two things. It can mean to receive someone because of someone else, such as if I received you because I knew your parents. Or it could mean receiving someone in the place of someone else, like I might receive someone into my house in place of my neighbors because I knew they were out of the house and would not be returning for some time. Christ could be referring to either idea here. Yet from the next verse it seems to be implied that the child being received is one who believes in Christ.

6. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

The “millstone” here is in Greek an “ass-millstone,” because it is so big that it would take an ass rather than just a man to turn it. One who would deliberately lead a believing child to sin would be better off being cast into the sea with such a stone around his neck than to face the wrath of God!

7. “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!

Causing a child who believes in Christ to sin is a serious offense in God’s sight! This should be something which causes serious consideration to all those of us who teach children about the Word of God. Nevertheless we know that offenses are inevitable in our day. This does not mean that woe is not upon the one through whom they come, however! As for woe upon this world, we know that it is doomed, for soon God will put an end to this world and create His Own world…the Kingdom of God.

8. “And if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.
9. “And if your eye causes you to sin, 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 hell fire.

“Life” here means much more than just being alive. We might say that it is LIFE, greater than any life even the most privileged of men is living today. Life in this case is synonymous with residence in the Kingdom of God, and is another name for it. The term “Kingdom of God” emphasizes the government of that time, while the term “life” emphasizes the truth of resurrection life and life without dying which is such a characteristic of that time. Surely it is far better for us to go through this life maimed and enter into that time in such a state than to be whole in this life and, when that time comes, be found unworthy of it and be cast into the Gehenna of fire! Yet the Lord does not literally mean that people should cut off their arms, legs, or eyes if they are causing them to sin. Rather, He is speaking of the necessity of removing from your life things that influence you to sin. How much better off we would be if all such things could be removed from our surroundings!

10. “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father Who is in heaven.

There was a popular belief at that time that everyone has his own angel who looks exactly like him. Today there is the popular superstition of “guardian angels.” Personally, Christ is all the guardian I need or want. The implication seems to be that the Father has readily available messengers to come and serve them if He so desires. It is He who looks out for children, and the angels do nothing but his bidding if they are sent to offer them protection or other service.

11. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Notice that the Son of Man saves what is lost, not angels, as those who believe in guardian angels would have us to think!

12. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?

This parable should not be confused with that of Luke 15:4-7. There, the shepherd foolishly leaves his ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness just to search for one lost sheep! Then when he finds the sheep, he throws a great party, not seeming to realize that he has left the ninety-nine behind to fend for themselves. The parable in Luke is a rebuke of the greedy Pharisees and scribes for their love of possessions and their lack of care for the needy in Israel. Yet this parable was told for a different reason. This shepherd acts wisely, and out of genuine care and concern for the sheep. We must not mix up the two parables, for they are two very different stories told to teach two very different lessons. To treat them as if they were the same would be to wrongly divide the Word of truth!

13. “And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

But notice that he does not throw a party, nor did he leave the other sheep stranded in the wilderness, but rather safe at home. This shepherd is a “good shepherd” indeed, and an illustration of the care of the Father for every one of His wayward sheep.

14. “Even so it is not the will of your Father Who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

When God looks at children He does not wish that even one of them will lose his chance for eternal life. Sadly, though, many still reject His Word. But there is no picture of an “angry God” here.

15. “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
16. “But if he will not hear you, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’
17. ‘And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Many have failed to notice that these words were spoken to the disciples, not the multitude. In their enthusiasm to heed Christ’s words, they seek to apply this principle to themselves and use it in their churches. I suppose that the first two principles would be good for anyone to follow today. When someone does us wrong, the best thing for us to do would be to go to that person and talk with him about it. All too many people just go to others and gossip and complain about what was done rather than actually facing the person who wronged them. Then, if the person would not hear, I suppose taking others with you as witnesses would be a good idea to try to shame the person into admitting what he had done and making restitution. Yet our ability to follow these words ends there. Many do not seem to think so, believing that they could then take this person “to the church.” Yet what “church” would you take him to? What if this brother does not attend the same church as you do? Which church will you take him to, yours or his? And how will your “church” be able to make any sort of binding decision on the matter? Do we really believe that our churches have such power in our day? And if they do, then which churches do? Any church that claims to be Christian? Any church that is of a certain denomination? Any church that believes certain basic doctrines? Such ideas carry with them extreme difficulties.

The fact is that we do not have anything like the “ekklesia” mentioned here. The “ekklesia” Christ referred to were the representatives of God. They would have the authority to decide all disputes. No such “ekklesia” exists on earth today. The authority our religious organizations have comes from men, not from God. This was a command the disciples were to follow in a time when God had an authoritative ekklesia set up on earth. No such organization of God exists at this time, and so these words cannot be followed.

18. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
19. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.
20. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

It amazes me how men constantly apply these words to themselves. There are three pronouns used in this passage, “you,” “they,” and “them.” If we look at the antecedent to these words, we will discover that they were spoken to his disciples (verse 1), and are meant only for them. The disciples are the “you” being spoken to here. There is no one on earth today who can bind a thing on earth and it is bound in heaven. There is no group of men on earth who, when collecting even two or three together, can determine anything they wish. These instructions were for His disciples and them only. We can only become hopelessly confused if we try to apply these three verses to ourselves today.

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

This is a somewhat well-known passage on forgiveness. Peter no doubt thought he was being generous to suggest that he would forgive his brother seven times. The Lord’s answer, however, was meant to show Peter that there should be no limit to his forgiveness, for no one would count up to four hundred and ninety wrongs! The Lord wanted Peter to always be willing to forgive. This is a good lesson for us today, yet how difficult this is to do!

23. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

Notice that this parable is a likeness of the kingdom of heaven. It is not a likeness of anything else, including the “church” or the way of salvation. Moreover, this king does not necessarily represent God Himself, as many would make it out to be. This is a parable about the kingdom, not about God.

24. “And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

I have heard it said that a talent was about a year’s wages for the common worker of the day. If we take a year’s wages in our day as being about $30,000, then this man owed the staggering sum of $300,000,000 (three hundred million dollars!)

25. “But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.

Of course the servant was not able to even come close to paying this staggering sum! Thus the master prepares to sell him and his family and possessions so that he can at least get back some of what was owed to him. This was a common way to handle bad debts in that day.

26. “The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’

Of course, the servant was totally unable to pay such a staggering debt. His plea is therefore totally ridiculous.

27. “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

The master too realized that his servant could never make good his promise, but he was moved by his plea and outright forgave him what he owed.

28. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

A denarii is said to be about a day’s wages, so, assuming a 300 day work year and the average yearly wage mentioned above, this would be about $10,000 (ten thousand dollars.) A large sum, but certainly not one that could not, given time, be paid.

29. “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’

Notice that this is the same plea the first servant made to his master. In this case, however, the promise is much more reasonable, as this servant could very well raise the funds to pay back this debt.

30. “And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.

The servant refuses to hear the plea of his fellow servant, and instead has him thrown into debtor’s prison.

31. “So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.

The other servants feel sorry for this poor, imprisoned servant, and so bring this event to their master’s attention.

32. “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33. “’Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’

The master is rightfully angry at his servant. He had given him a precedent of forgiveness, and yet this servant had utterly failed to follow it. Thus Christ gets to the point of the parable, and makes a logical argument that all of us should take to heart. Since God has forgiven us a debt we could never repay, should we not also be willing to forgive our brothers and sisters, whose debts are so much smaller?

34. “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

This is the second occurrence of the family of words rendered “torture,” “torment,” etc. in the Greek Scripture. Here we have it rendered “torturers.” Does this really seem to fit the circumstances? I would question the accuracy of this translation in this and all other passages where this family of words occurs. In this case, this word, which only occurs here, should be translated “jailors” rather than “torturers.”

35. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

This is the point of Christ’s parable to the disciples. They are to forgive others as the Father has forgiven them, or they too will not be forgiven. This is not truth for today. The truth concerning forgiveness in our day is that we are to forgive others because God has already forgiven us. (Ephesians 4:32) This rule that Christ gives here will be one that will be in effect in the future Kingdom of God.