Instruction on Humility, Toleration and Responsibility (Matthew 18:1-14; Mark 9:33-50; Luke
9:46-50). The disciples were plagued with the problems of jealousy, pride, exclusive cliques,
stumblingblock attitudes and actions, neglect of the harvest field, criticizing others, and an unforgiving
spirit. In the next series of discourses to His disciples, Jesus addresses the believer’s relationship to
The question of the kingdom was uppermost in the minds of the Twelve. Because of their jealousy a
disagreement arose among them as to which one of them should have the preeminent position in the
kingdom that they expected Christ to establish. 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.” Positions in the kingdom will
be determined by the degree of submission to Christ and the service of the disciple for Him. He used a
child to teach them that the one who receives the child actually receives the father. The one who receives
one who belongs to Christ and thus is a child of the kingdom is actually receiving Him as well. This is
the way to greatness.
The Twelve were the only ones commissioned by Jesus, but they discovered a man who was casting out
demons and they tried to hinder him. Jesus said, “Do not stop him. No one who does a miracle in my
name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”
Undoubtedly, pride gripped them. They had not been able to cast out demon in the boy and now an
outsider was successful. This incident revealed the Twelve’s narrow exclusivism. But Jesus called for
toleration. There are only two sides. There is no neutrality! Either we are for Christ or we are against
Him. The followers of Christ are not a little clique off in a corner. The kingdom of God has the
dimensions of God Himself. Do not look for labels; look for actions, attitudes, spirit.
Jesus returns full circle to His teaching of the child. “Little ones who believe in Me” refers not to
children as such but to followers of Jesus, such as the outsider they hindered. There is catastrophic
danger in enticing or provoking a disciple to turn away from Jesus. There is danger of perishing if the
Twelve persist in their selfish preoccupation with greatness and privilege rather than servanthood in
Jesus’ name! To destroy a childlike believer spiritually incurs the greatest wrath of God.
This prompts the Lord to give His longest and most awesome warning about future punishment. His
point is that we must deal drastically with sin in our lives; both for our sake and the sake of others, for the
fires of hell are real and everlasting.
Jesus compares Hell to a furnace and an unquenchable fire. The image here is of the garbage dump in the
Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:10; Isaiah 66:24), where the waste was burned by fire
and eaten by worms. The Greek word (geenna gehenna) for “Hell” comes from the Hebrew word “ge
Hinnom”—the valley of Hinnom. Hell is a real place, and the lost souls will suffer there forever.
Jesus tells the Parable of the Lost Sheep to illustrate how precious one of these little ones in the sight of
our Father in heaven. He is not willing that any of His children should perish.
Instruction on Discipline and Forgiveness (Matthew 18:15-35). Jesus establishes the steps for church
discipline, laying down six steps if a brother sins against you: (1) place; (2) purpose; (3) person; (4)
provocation; (5) process; and (6) power. Discipline moves from private one on one, to the pressure of
two or three witnesses, to the public assembly of the church, to excommunication of the brother if there is
This promoted Peter to ask, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?
Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Peter
thought he was “extra spiritual” for offering to forgive seven times, because the Jewish rabbis said that
three times was enough. Jesus put no limit on forgiveness, for true forgiveness comes from a heart of
love, and love keeps no records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).
The lesson of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant is obvious. If the king could forgive the servant’s
debt of $12,000,000 U.S. dollars, certainly the servant could forgive his friend’s debt of about $15.00!
We forgive because Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).
Ridicule by the Lord’s Brothers (John 7:2-10). The unbelief that characterized Nazareth where Jesus
grew up had permeated His home. The time for the Feast of Tabernacles had arrived and it was expected
that He would go there in conformity with the Law. Jesus knew full well the plot of the Jews to put Him
to death. His unbelieving brothers seem to have supported the plot, for they attempted to get Him to go to
Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, He would come under the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin. Christ rejected their
counsel, saying, “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right.” However, after his
brothers had left for the Feast, He went also, not publicly, but in secret.