Setting

The disciples had learned of Jesus’ final mission to suffer and die in Jerusalem. But they could not fully comprehend its purpose and significance. The disciples still had a false expectation of what the kingdom of God would be, and wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom. In this lesson, the Lord gave His fourth major discourse in response to the disciples’ two questions. Jesus’ extensive teachings aimed to correct the disciples’ misconceptions and tell them the importance of love and unity among His followers.

Key Verse

(18:4)

Did You Know...?

  1. Millstone (18:6): Lit. “a millstone of a donkey,” i.e., a millstone turned by a donkey—far larger and heavier than the small millstones (24:41) used by women each morning in their homes. [ref]
  2. Seven times (18:21): …the traditional Rabbinic teaching was that an offended person needed to forgive a brother only three times. [ref]
  3. 10,000 talents (18:24): This probably equaled several million dollars, for a talent was probably a measure of gold, between 58 and 80 pounds. [ref] About 60 million denarii; one denarius was an average day’s wage. Therefore this was a debt impossible to repay. [ref]

Outline

  • Being Like and Caring for the Little Ones
  • Becoming as Little Children
  • Not Offending the Little Ones
  • Not Despising the Little Ones
  • A Brother Who Has Sinned
  • Forgiving Our Brothers

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Take note of how the word “little” sheds light on the meaning of “great.” Go through the passage and list the things that make a person “great” in the kingdom of heaven.

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    Humility (4); Love for those who seem insignificant (5,6,10); Restoring those who sin (15); Forgiveness toward the offender (22,35). Taken as a whole, the Lord’s discourse removes all notions of greatness in the worldly sense. Being great in God’s kingdom requires humbling ourselves and denying any sense of pride over others (20:26, 27).

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  • 2.

    Which verses show that God is concerned about the well-being of one of the little ones?

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    5, 6, 10-14.

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  • 3.

    Why is it that our attitude towards the little ones have direct bearing on our attitude toward God?

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    The little ones in this passage refer to our brothers in Christ. We receive them, care for them, respect them, and forgive them for the sake of Christ because they are also members of Christ’ body (5) and are cared for by the heavenly Father (10,14). When we show our love and concern to them, we do so directly on Christ (25:40).

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Segment Analysis

  • 18:1-14

    1.

    What was the disciples’ mentality for asking about who is the greatest, and why is this mentality wrong?

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    They were comparing among themselves and wanted to be the greatest of all Jesus’ followers. They wanted to have power and be served like the rulers of the world (cf Mk 9:33, 34; Mt 20:25-28). But such earthly desire has no place in God’s kingdom, whose citizens serve one another rather than rule over others.

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  • 2.

    What is it about little children that we should learn from?

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    Their humility (4), simplicity (11:25), and innocence (1Cor 14:20).

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  • 3.

    What is the quality that underlies both being like a little child (3) and receiving a little child (5)?

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    Humility. Just as it takes humility to become like little children and acknowledge our inadequacies, it also takes humble self-denial to receive someone who seems insignificant.

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  • 4a.

    Why is it such a serious offense to cause someone to sin?

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    When we cause a brother to stumble, we are doing the very thing that God is not pleased with (14) and we sin against Christ (1Cor 8:11, 12). See also General Analysis, Question 3.

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  • 4b.

    Why is it that “offenses must come”? If so, why should the one who offends still be condemned?

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    Such offenses must come because the world is evil and is under the control of the evil one (“world” refers also to its evil desires; see 1Jn 2:15- 17, 5:19). But it is a person’s choice that makes him a stumbling block and instrument of evil. So he would be responsible for the offense.

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  • 4c.

    Think of some things that could cause a little one to sin.

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  • 18:1-14

    5.

    How should we apply the teaching in 8 and 9?

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    Since the sin of causing someone to stumble is so serious that it is punishable by everlasting fire, we must do everything it takes to avoid being a stumbling block. If we know that we have certain desires or weaknesses in us that would lead us to sin, we must deny ourselves of such desires and eradicate them, even if doing so causes much pain.

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  • 6a.

    Who are the “little ones” in 11-14?

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    Our brothers who have strayed and become lost spiritually.

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  • 6b.

    What can we learn about God from this passage?

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    He takes care of the weak and does not give up. He cherishes every soul and would do everything to restore it from perishing. He rejoices when a lost one returns to Him.

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  • 18:15-20

    7.

    Relate this paragraph to 11-14.

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    Since our heavenly Father cherishes every soul, we should also do the same and do our best to restore the brother who has sinned.

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  • 8a.

    List the steps we should take for the brother who has sinned.

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    Verses 15-17.

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  • 8b.

    What is the spirit behind these instructions?

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    Restoring our brother with gentleness, patience, and love (cf. Gal 6:1; Jas 5:19, 20).

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  • 18:15-20

    9.

    Shouldn’t we simply forgive those who have sinned? Why bring witnesses against them or even tell it to the church?

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    From the context, we understand the word “you” as in “sins against you” to refer to the collective body of believers. Some manuscripts reads “if your brother sins, go…” So this paragraph does not speak of personal offense, but the offense that sin brings to the community of believers.

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  • 10.

    What do 18-20 teach us about: a. Our responsibility towards brothers who sin; b. The authority of the church:

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    a. Our responsibility towards brothers who sin:
    We should point out their fault, not to disgrace them or set ourselves above them, but to restore them with love. We resort to exclusion only if all other means fail.

    b. The authority of the church:
    The church has the authority to forgive as well as retain sins. Here the Lord Jesus acknowledges the decisions of the church (19). See also Lesson 24, Question 10.

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  • 11.

    What is the meaning of gathering “in My name”?

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    The gathering of people who call on the Lord and acknowledge His authority—namely, the believers of Christ (cf. Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13; 1Cor 1:2).

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  • 18:21-35

    12.

    Record the teachings or personal lessons you can gather from this paragraph.

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  • 13.

    Explain forgiving “up to seventy times seven.”

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    We should always forgive, and not even keep count of how many times we have done so.

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  • 14a.

    Why couldn’t the wicked servant forgive his fellow servant?

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    He was too focused on his own petty loss and had forgotten the great mercy he had received. His attitude goes to show that he did not truly appreciate his master’s forgiveness.

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  • 14b.

    What enables us to forgive, even when we have been seriously wronged or deeply hurt?

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    We need to forgive unconditionally because our Father has forgiven us unconditionally and our forgiveness can never be compared to the forgiveness we have received. If we think about how much we have been indebted to God and how merciful He has been to us, we will no longer dwell on our brother’s offenses. We also need to remember that Christ also loved him and laid down His life for him. Then out of our love for the Lord, we will forgive our brother for the sake of Christ (cf. 5; Col 3:12-14).

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  • 18:21-35

    15a.

    Read verse 35 and think about the seriousness of this teaching. Why does God take it so personally if we don’t forgive others?

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    Failure to forgive is a mockery on God’s forgiveness. Not having compassion on our brothers, whom God loves, means not loving God.

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  • 15b.

    Why isn’t it enough to forgive by not retaliating? Why must forgiveness be done from the heart?

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    What God looks for is a heart of compassion (33). Without a heart of forgiveness, we would still harbor hatred, which easily turns into bitter words and actions (cf. 12:34,35). Only if we forgive from the heart can we truly forgive. Such forgiveness is a sign of humility, which marks the citizens of God’s kingdom.

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