Stir it up! – PDF
Key Texts: Deut. 30:6; II Thess. 3:5; Matt. 18:21-35; Lk. 17:1-10
This week as we journeyed through Jesus’ instructions on how to deal with an offending brother we did a side by side comparison of Matt. 18 & Luke 17. This comparison offered us a much broader lense through which to see this teaching as it really took place. Though Matthew naturally has more of the original discourse, Luke’s information gathered from the apostles is from a Greek perspective and so capitalizes on different aspects of the event. For example Matthew being Jewish, spends much time on removing offenses and the “process” of handling them because this all expounded on known passages from Deuteronomy, while in Luke it is never mentioned. Also, Matthew hones in on the example Jesus gave to illustrate His teaching which was focused on the “kingdom of God”. Luke on the other had being Greek, drew from another illustration Jesus used that day of a servant and their master. He focused more on the fact that forgiveness was a “duty” which MUST be performed, while Matthew saw it as an obligation. Both are true of course and illustrate the teaching more completely when viewed side by side.
Though it is impossible to be absolutely certain as to the precise chronological order in which sequence of events took place it had to occur something like the following:
- Matt. 18:1-5
- Matt. 18:6-7 / Luke 17:1-2
- Matt. 18:8-15 / Luke 17:3
- Matt. 18:16-20
- Matt. 18:21-22/Luke 17:4
- Luke 17:5-10/Matt. 18:23-35
Following our review we began with Luke 17:4,
“and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” ~ Luke 17:4
Peter clearly wondering if seven was the “cap” asked the following question,
“Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven.” ~ Matt. 18:21-22
Everyone seemed to be tracking with Jesus up until now, but after this they all exclaimed, “Increase our faith.” ~ Luke 17:5
Though faith was indeed needed to fulfill the commission of God in righteousness, Jesus explained that an INCREASE in faith was not!
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” the Lord said, “you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” ~ Luke 17:6
What is this about? One minute we are talking about forgiving a brother and the next thing you know Jesus is talking about mustard seeds and mulberry trees. It is clear that Jesus was mentioning these things by way of illustration.
The mustard seed as most people now know is a very tiny seed! The clear picture is that it doesn’t require much trust in God to forgive much.
The next illustration was a Mulberry tree (which was likely a Sycamore) and in Jesus day this tree had a reputation of possession a very strong root system and that they could live up to 600+ years. Being used in this metaphor as representing the “offense” it illustrates a “soul wound” of longevity and depth. An offense which has real and undeniable history and which is so deeply intrenched in the “heart soil” that it would seemingly take many “big yellow machines” working many days to get it out!
So the point was that even if the offense you sustained from you brother has been in your heart a long time and has developed a sizable root system, it requires but just a modicum of genuine reliance upon your Father’s sovereign work in your heart (Phil. 2:13) to empower you to command the offense into the sea of forgetfulness. Notice that it is not the Father’s voice which commanded the offense to leave the heart, but yours…“…it should obey YOU!”
Then Jesus tells His disciples by way of an illustration that if forgiving your brother (even an offense as large as a Mulberry tree) then you should consider yourself an unprofitable servant – because all you did was accomplish the “base line” for obedience. Praise from God is reserved for those who serve Him from the heart- not from a legalistic approach to obedience that stays as close to the line without crossing it as it can. Jesus most likely brought up this parable for Peter’s sake who wanted to be certain if forgiving seven times was all that was required. Jesus’ response to Peter was not only the 70×7, but also the two parables that followed. This first parable tells Peter that if all you do is forgive 490 times, then you are being legalistic with God’s word and commands. Anyone hardened enough to keep count up to 490 times needs more forgiveness than the one who created the 490 offenses!
Then Jesus gave the Kingdom principle which was His custom. Though referring to the law as the foundation for this truth, (as did Paul in all his letters) Jesus was NOT teaching the letter of the law – He was teaching and preaching the Kingdom of God!
“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” ~ Matt. 18:23
Those who disagree with this passage as pertaining to Christians do so on the basis of the idea that we are free from the standards of righteousness described in the law. This is simply false! The primary misunderstanding here is that all of Jesus’ teachings were about the letter of the Law which is not true. Jesus laid this foundational truth as a settled doctrine of the Kingdom – not of the letter of the law! Another objection is the fact that the king in this illustration is clearly referring to the Father as Jesus connects this dot for us in verse 35. This king refers to the one who owes Him as a servant. Many Christians take exception with this on the basis of another teaching of Jesus in John 15 where Jesus told His disciples .
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his Master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” ~ John 15:14-17
The obvious inconsistency is that these same people who see this passage as describing them also believe that all that Jesus taught was the letter of the law – which is why the did not believe that Matthew 18:23 applied to them, but now somehow the teachings of Jesus while under the law somehow magically it does apply to them! (Makes ya say, hum?)
To overcome this little obstacle lets just go to the final revelation Jesus gave His church though John in about 95-96 AD (nearly 60+ years into the new covenant)…
“And the angel said to me (John), “Write this: … Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” ~ Rev. 19:9-10
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” ~ Rev. 22:8-9
So yes we are His servants and yes we are also His sons!
So moving on with our overview…
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” ~Matt. 18:23-35
The servant in this illustration in today’s terms owed His master anywhere from 12 million to 1 billion dollars.
The debt owed to the servant was about 100 days wages.
This offers a very compelling argument about the REAL weight of personal offenses versus any the offense all humanity has against God. This was not JUST to compare the initial debt the servant owned the King, but it also could illustrate the difference between being offended at sin committed towards us from a brother and the weight of the same sin against God. The impact of a sin have horizontal implications – “no one sins unto himself“, but those implications which are vertical are FAR more weighty and profound!
Bitterness is a cancer which will consume the heart! Hebrews offers a very strong warning concerning roots of bitterness which echoes Jesus’ words in Matt. 18:35.
“15-17 Be eagerly seeking after peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord, exercising oversight lest anyone be falling away from the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up be troubling you, and through this the many be defiled, lest there be a fornicator, or an irreligious person such as Esau, who in exchange for one bit of food gave up his birthright. For you know that also after that, when desiring to inherit the blessing, he was disqualified, for he did not find a place of repentance, even though he sought it with tears.
18-21 For you have not come to the mountain which might be touched, and that has been set on fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and to a sound of a trumpet, and to a sound of uttered words, concerning which sound those who heard made supplication that there should not be spoken an additional word to them, for they could not bear that which was commanded. And if a wild beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned. And so terrible was its appearance that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.
22-24 But you have come to Mount Sion, even to the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable multitude of angels, to a festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men who have been brought to completeness, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new testament, and to blood of sprinkling which speaks better things than the blood of Abel.
25-29 Constantly be seeing to it that you do not disavow Him who is speaking. For if, as is the case, those did not escape who disavowed Him that warned upon earth, much rather shall not we escape who are turning away from the One who is speaking from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth. But now He has promised, this promise being on record, saying, Yet once I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven. And this word, Yet once more, makes evident the transferring to a new basis the things that are shaken as of things made, in order that the things that are not shaken might remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let Us be having grace, by means of which we might be serving God, well pleasing to Him, doing this with pious care and fear, for our God is a consuming fire.” ~ Heb. 12:15-29