“Emmanuel’s Priorities, Part 3” – Matthew 18:10-14

February 7th, 2016

Matthew 18:10-14

“Emmanuel’s Priorities Pt 3”

Auxiliary Text: Ezekiel 34:1-16

Call to Worship from: Psalm 100


Service Orientation: Jesus wants no one to perish and for everyone to be saved.  Everyone.  We should have that same passion as Jesus has.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.— Luke 19:10


Background Information:

  • (v. 10) To “despise” is the opposite of the “welcome” in v. 5. It is the natural way of the world to “despise little ones,” in the sense of not taking them seriously or giving their interests priority.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 686)
  • (v. 10) The expression “little ones” here are disciples who have humbled themselves to be like powerless children (cf. 18:2-6), although there may be dual attention paid to literal children among the disciples. Since the disciples have humbled themselves not to be self-seeking and now display childlike humility of weakness, defenselessness, and vulnerability (cf. 18:1-4), they, and those who might take advantage of them, can be sure that the heavenly Father will watch out for their welfare through angels, who are in constant communication with him.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 615)
  • (v. 10) Angels are busy in this world. For example we all have attendant angels.  Peter did (Acts 12:7-10) and so did Paul (Acts 27:23).  Angels carried the soul of Lazarus to “Abraham’s bosom” when he died (Lk 16:22).  We learn from Rv 1:20 and from the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 that each local church has its angel.  The Holy Spirit tells us that the good angels are “ministering spirits” who serve the “heirs of salvation” (Heb 1:14).  The Apocalypse shows us angels actively engaged in the closing judgments.  The Lord’s birth was heralded by angels.  His temptation in the wilderness and His agony in the garden were both followed by a special ministry of angels to His needs (Mt 4:11; Lk 22:43).  Angels attended His resurrection.   (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 365-6)
  • (v. 11) “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” (NKJV) This verse is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts; therefore, it is not included in most modern versions. It may have been encouraged by the words of Luke 19:10, added by a later scribe to provide a better bridge between 18:10 and the parable in 18:12-14.  In Luke, these words describe Jesus’ acceptance of Zacchaeus, who had been lost, but was saved when Jesus found him.  Through faith, anyone who is lost can be forgiven and made new.  (Bruce B Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 357).
  • (v. 12) In either version of this parable, Matthew’s or Luke’s, I think it is safe to say that the lost sheep does not know it is lost. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 542)
  • (v. 12) The secure image of God’s people as his sheep is replete throughout the OT (e.g., Ps 23; Isa 53:6; Jer 13:17; Zech 10:3; 13:7), as is the distressful image of some who stray (e.g., Ps 119:176; Isa 53:6; Jer 23:1-4, 50:6; Ez 34:1-30). The metaphor naturally becomes associated with Jesus as he here seems to imply, as a central part of his mission both to Israel and to all of humanity (cf. Jn 10:7-18; 1 Pt 5:2-4; Rv 7:17).  Since shepherds often worked with one another as their sheep grazed the hillsides, to leave the ninety-nine is of no real concern, since other shepherds would keep an eye on them.  A hundred sheep is an average size for a flock, easily cared for by a shepherd.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 616-7)
  • The fact that at least some people in the audience were well acquainted with the idea of Jehovah being his people’s Shepherd (see especially Ps 23) must have driven the meaning home immediately. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 695-6)
  • In Luke the parable is addressed to Pharisaic critics and justifies Jesus’ outreach to the “lost” tax collectors and sinners who are outside the disciple group, whereas here Jesus is speaking to his own disciples and the emphasis is on disciples caring for one another so that none who are already “inside” will wander away. To oversimplify the difference, Luke’s parable is evangelistic, and Matthew’s pastoral.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 685)


The question to be answered is . . . Why is Jesus putting such an emphasis on how the disciples and all those who are part of His family love and honor one another?


Answer: Because Jesus knows the wonders of heaven and the horrors of hell.  He loves people so much that He wants to make sure that all is done to insure that no one is lost to hell and that all are safe and secure with Him in heaven.  As followers of Jesus we should have the same convictions.


The Word for the Day is . . . Honor


A great Jewish scholar has admitted that this is the one absolutely new thing which Jesus taught men about God–that God actually sought and searched for men.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible:  The Gospel of Luke, 210)


I-  Jesus wants us to honor one another above ourselves because He desires for everyone to be saved and not perish.  (Mt 18:10-11,14; see also: Isa 42:3; 61:1; Mt 12:20; Lk 4:18; 15:4, 6, 9, 24, 32;  19:10; Jn 3:16; 17:12; 18:8; Rom 12:10; 1 Cor 12:26; Jam 2:2-8; 1 Pt 2:17; 2 Pt 3:9;  1 Jn 2:15-16; 3:17-18)


It would be strange indeed that a mortal man should despise, or treat as of no account, those whom God holds in such high esteem.  He proves this love from the fact, that angels, who are ministers of their salvation, enjoy intimately the presence of God.  Yet I do not think that he intended merely to show what honor God confers on them by appointing angels to be their guardians, but likewise to threaten those who despise them; as if he had said, that it is no light matter to despise those who have angels for their companions and friends, to take vengeance in their behalf.  We ought therefore to beware of despising their salvation, which even angels have been commissioned to advance.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 338-9)


It is in the highest degree unreasonable that we should disdainfully reject those whom the Son of God has so highly esteemed.  And even if the weak labor under imperfections which may expose them to contempt, our pride is not on that account to be excused; for we ought to esteem them not for the value of their virtues, but for the sake of Christ; and he who will not conform himself to Christ’s example is too saucy and proud.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 340)


The point is, if these beings (“angels”) who serve these “little ones” (they are “their angels”) are “in heaven” (that’s an important place to be) and they there are directly looking upon God (these must be angels of “the very highest order”), how much more valuable are “the little ones” they serve and protect?  Does that make sense?  If your body guards are Moses and Elijah, you must be fairly important.  And if your angel stands perpetually before the face of God, your stock has substantially gone up.  God values these little ones.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 505)


The strayed sheep then is the backsliding Christian, or more specifically the Christian who is so proud he doesn’t think he needs the shepherd or the other sheep to guard him and so foolish or sinful that he thinks he can wander off into various sins without any real danger.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 506)


In Matthew, in the immediate context, the Lord was talking about the loss of a child who has been seduced from the protection of the fold by unscrupulous and wicked people.  If not sought and found, the child will become hardened by sin and will perish.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 367)


The church has a responsibility to seek those who are lost in trespasses and sins; it also has a responsibility to seek out and restore those who are lost to its fellowship.  There should be as much rejoicing in the local church over the restoration of a backslider as there is over the reception of a new believer.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 367)


If there be joy in heaven for the finding of one of these little ones, there is wrath in heaven for the offending of them.  Note, God is graciously concerned, not only for his flock in general, but for every lamb, or sheep, that belongs to it.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 257)


Sheep are proverbially foolish creatures.  The Sheep had no one but itself to blame for the danger it had got itself into.  We are apt to have so little patience with foolish people.  When they get into trouble, we are apt to say:  ‘It’s their own fault; they brought it on themselves; don’t waste any sympathy on fools.’  God is not like that.  The sheep might be foolish, but the shepherd would still risk his life to save it.  People may be fools, but God loves even foolish men and women who have no one to blame but themselves for their sins and their sorrow.

The Jews would gladly agree that if the sinner came crawling wretchedly home, God would forgive.  But we know that God is far more wonderful than that, for in Jesus Christ he came to seek for those who wander away.  God is not content to wait until we come home; he goes out in search of us no matter what it costs him.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 216)


The thrust of the second half of the verse is apparently to state, as in v. 14, that every “little one” matters to God.  Those who might easily be despised on earth are represented in heaven by angels who are important enough to have privileged access to God.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 686)


In Mt 18:10 the Lord clearly indicated that little children have guardian angels.  Woe betide those who get the young hooked on drugs or ruin their impressionable minds with Satanic philosophies.  Their angels make personal reports to God the Father in Heaven about all such crimes against His throne.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 366)


The point is that the angels have access to the presence of the Father at all times on behalf of “these little ones.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 385)


Notice the word “one” (eight times) and “ones” (three times) and the emphasis on the individual in this otherwise very communal passage.  Our passage begins with Jesus calling “a child” to himself, and it ends with Jesus saying that it is God’s will that not “one of these little ones should perish” (v. 14).  Again, coming out of verses 5-9 (which speak so much of life together/church community/the necessity of many to make it) I find it refreshing and uplifting and encouraging that God cares for each individual Christian equally.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 506)


The mention of the “little ones” again indicates disciples who have stumbled off the path of discipleship because of mistreatment and temptations to sin that came through other people, including professing, but false, disciples (cf. 18:6-7), or else their stumbling into sin came through their own passions (18:8-9).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 617)


The words “do not despise” pointed directly at the pious religious leaders who showed nothing but contempt for those below them on the “spiritual ladder” (see, for example, Lk 18:9-14 about the Pharisee and the tax collector).  (Bruce B Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 356)


II-  Jesus wants us to be like the Good Shepherd Who is willing to go to any length so none of His “little ones” are lost.  (Mt 18:12-14; see also: Ps 23:1-6; 95:7; 100:3; Isa 40:11; 53:6; Jer 23:1-4; 50:6; Ez 34:1-30; Zech 13:7; Mt 2:6; Lk 15; Jn 10:1-18, 24-30; Heb 13:20) 


The Pharisees and scribes considered the uneducated and lower classes to be morally and religiously inferior and worth little, if any, of their attention.  Jesus, on the other hand, would not break off a battered reed or put out a smoldering wick (Mt 12:20; cf. Isa 42:3), both of those figures being pictures of treatment given to afflicted and helpless humanity.  He would not further break someone who was already broken and suffering, nor would He further quench someone whose remaining life and hope were already about to be extinguished.  Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus demonstrated just the opposite concern as He fed the hungry, healed the sick, encouraged the hopeless, and offered forgiveness to sinners.  He did “not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Lk 9:56).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 119)


For one believer to wound another is to attack the will of God and set himself up as God’s antagonist.  The Lord seeks the spiritual well-being of all His children, and we had better not do less.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 122)


Just as our Lord Jesus Christ sought those astray from the fold, whether they were lost sinners or wayward saints, so should we.  Seeking lost sheep is one of the functions of the local church.  It is not accidental that in the NT those who would be leaders of God’s people are called shepherds or pastors.  Those who would lead God’s people must have a shepherd heart for the flock.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 367-8)


If Christ came into the world to save souls, and his heart is so much upon that work, he will reckon severely with those that obstruct and hinder it, by obstructing the progress of those that are setting their faces heavenward, and so thwart his great design.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 256-7)


The joy of finding the lost sheep does not mean that it has more value than the others, rather, the shepherd’s joy demonstrates the depth of his concern, care, and love for all his sheep.  The depth of that love is often only experienced when faced with the possibility of loss.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 617)


The shepherd in the story is apparently the owner of the flock, not a hired helper–Jn 10:11-15 draws out the importance of the distinction.  So each sheep is important to him, not as a matter of sentimentality but as a financial asset, and to lose one would be serious.  One that has wandered off becomes an easy prey to wolves or thieves, and so he takes action to recover it before it is too late.  We are not told how he secures the rest of the flock “on the hills” while he goes off:  perhaps by leaving them with a colleague or by enclosing them in a sheepfold?  The greater joy over the one recovered sheep than over the ninety-nine “good” sheep emphasizes God’s pastoral care:  it is caused by the recovery, rather than by any inherent superiority in the sheep itself.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 687-8)


III-  Our failure to be like the Good Shepherd is an indication that we fail to love God, have faith in God, see each and every human as created in God’s likeness, and/or we fail to understand the consequences of being lost and the benefits of being found.  (Mt 18:1-14; see also: Lk 7:30-50; Phil 2:1-11)



When it is a question of a sinner He does not merely stand still, open his arms and say, “Come hither”; no, He stands there and waits, as the father of the lost son waited, rather He does not stand and wait, He goes forth to seek, as the shepherd sought the lost sheep, as the woman sought the lost coin.  He goes—yet no, He has gone, but infinitely farther than any shepherd or any woman, He went the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man, and that way He went in search of sinners.  (Soren Kierkegaard as quoted by Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 55)


The thought is that since God is constantly informed by angelic beings of the welfare of his flock (both dia pantos, always, and blepousi, “continually see,” emphasize constant awareness), for leaders in the local congregation to view those committed to their charge as unworthy of care would be to violate the divine intention.

The point of the parable is that God the Father does not want any of the childlike members of the congregation to wander from the truth and be lost.  It is crucially important for leadership to recognize how important the “little ones” are to God.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew,175)


Here, there is nothing but joy.  There are no recriminations:  there is no receiving back with a grudge and a sense of superior contempt; it is all joy.  We often accept those who are penitent with a moral lecture and a clear indication that they must regard themselves as contemptible, and the practical statement that we have no further use for them and do not propose to trust them ever again.  It is human never to forget the past and always to hold people’s sins against them.  God puts our sins behind his back; and when we return to him, it is all joy.

There can be a love which ruins; there can be a love which softens; but the love of God is a protecting love which saves people for the service of others, a love which makes the wanderer wise, the weak strong, the sinner pure, the captives of sin the free men and women of holiness, and those vanquished by temptation its conquerors.(William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 217)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who loves you so much that He not only sacrificed and paid a horrible price to love you but encourages everyone to do the same.


Gospel Application:  Jesus demonstrated what a Great and Good Shepherd He is (Ps 23:1-6; 95:7; 100:3; Isa 40:11; Jer 23:1-4; Ez 34:1-30; Lk 15; Jn 10:1-18, 24-30; Heb 13:20) by His willingness to live the life we were supposed to live and die the death we deserved to die . . . for us (Jn 10; Rom 5:8-10; 2 Cor 5:21).  We will begin to love and honor others as we begin to comprehend Jesus’ great love for us. (Jn 3:16; ;1 John 3:1-5:3)


I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.  (Henri J. M. Nouwen; The Return of the Prodigal Son: a Story of Homecoming, 43)


Spiritual Challenge:  Love like Jesus.  But, please realize that all Christians are nothing more than Jesus want-to-bes.   All of us fall far short of loving and honoring others the way we were created and designed.  So don’t look to others for the perfect love you need but look to Jesus.  (Phil 2:1-11; Heb 12:2)




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