Bible Study, February 8, 2009
Starting Point: Matthew 17:24
Vs 24 – “The two-drachma tax” was a yearly tax equivalent to about two day’s wages. Every Jewish male over 20 years of age was required to contribute this money once a year for the upkeep of the Temple sanctuary or local synagogue. (This was not a Roman tax, though after the destruction of the Temple the Romans continued to exact it from the Jews to help pay for pagan temples.)
– Exodus 30: 11-16.
– Back in Peter’s hometown, the tax collectors approach when Jesus isn’t around, hoping to find reason to accuse Him from the standpoint of the Mosaic Law.
Vs 25, 26 – Jesus points out that royalty does not tax royalty. (In Roman times, some exemplary or high-born citizens were exempt from taxation.)
– John 1:3. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
– Colossians 1:16. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him.
– The King of Kings and Lord of All owes nothing to anyone, but everyone owes everything to Him.
– “…the sons are exempt.” Jesus is a Son. Peter and the disciples are sons. Jesus uses this moment to remind Peter of their relationship to the Lord; they are sons, they are not required to pay this tax, they are free.
– Q: Based on this text, does a Christian have to pay taxes?
A: This is a different situation than the one described in Matthew 22, when the Pharisees asked Jesus whether paying taxes to Caesar was lawful. (Q: Why’d they ask that question? What were the implications?) In that instance, Jesus said plainly, “Give Caesar what is his.” (Sorry, Kent and Jo Hovind.)
Vs 27 – “But…” That is, nevertheless, even though we don’t have to pay this tax, we’re going to for their sake.
– “…lest we cause them to stumble…” Jesus didn’t stand up for His rights. He was not argumentative or pugnacious: His concern was for the lost sheep. The King came as a servant, and He didn’t want to do anything that would prevent people from hearing His call.
– 1 Corinthians 8 is about trying to avoid offending a weaker brother with your liberty in Christ. “The sons are exempt, but…”
– 1 Corinthians 8:9. But take care lest this liberty (right) of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.
– Sometimes God uses ordinary means to provide what we need, and sometimes miraculous. For Peter it was a mixture of both. If our life in this world demands certain things, as sons in Him we can look to Him to provide whatever is necessary, because we are related to Him. “…for you and Me.”
Vs 1 – Luke mentions that there was repeated strife and debate among the disciples about this issue: this wasn’t a one-time question. The idea of “greatness” in terms of rank or status means a lot in the kingdoms of this world.
– When they say the “kingdom of heaven,” they mean an earthly kingdom of Israel, blessed by God, which they expect the Messiah to establish very soon.
Vs 2, 3 – “Unless you strepho…” (twist, reverse, turn yourself back); the Greek word denotes something we choose to do, not something that is done for us.
– “…and become like children…” Q: What does it mean to be like a child? A: simplicity, humility, dependence, without prejudice or regard for adult “distinctions,” without assumption, in need (of direction, discipline, etc.)
– Q: The disciples are making a big assumption that Jesus points out. What is it?
A: That they’ll be in the kingdom at all. Jesus redirects their question from “who’s the greatest?” to “will I even enter?”
Vs 4 – Whoever turns from pride to humility is the greatest.
– Jesus spoke of greatness in the kingdom before… Matthew 11:11. Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
– In verses 3-4 Jesus talks about an inward choice that we must make, and then He moves to the outward works.
Vs 5-6 – Before Jesus sent the disciples out in twos, He said this (Mt. 10:40-42): “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little [humble] ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
– It is not enough to we have devotion to God while ignoring the “little ones,” the ones in need, who need help and support. Jesus said to Peter, “If you love Me, feed My little lambs, feed My sheep.”
– “…in My name…” That is, as an ambassador, a representative of the name of Jesus Christ.
– Mark 10:42-45.
– When we reject others, we reject the Lord. In the same way, when others reject us, they reject God.
– Jesus evokes a picture of extreme punishment for sin (the millstone) to demonstrate just how awful it is to be a stumbling-block to the “little ones” or be the cause for their turning back from faith in Him.
– Q: Who are the “little ones?” A: Every believer. Everyone in this room is called to be a meek and humble disciple.
– Q: How can we cause a “little one” to stumble? A: To not care about them, to reject them, to fall away from the faith ourselves, to say one thing and do another, not making time to help them, to be defensive about our own sin and shortcomings, to try and force our will upon them, etc.
Vs 7 – “Woe to the cosmos…” That is, not merely the physical elements of the world, but the system of the world, corrupted and void because of sin.
– 1 John 2:15. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
– James 1:27. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
– James 4:4. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
– Galatians 6:14. But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
– “It is inevitable…” The world is so thoroughly at odds with the Lord as Creator, and so depraved and malevolent, that it is absolutely certain that offenses and temptations and opposition will come.
– “…but woe to that man…” This refers to Satan, who is in the full-time business of lying, deceiving, stealing, killing, and trying to destroy the plan of God in the earth; (“The god of this world” as he is called in 2 Cor. 4:4). But it is also a warning for us, that we not partner or be complicit in his works of darkness. (Like Judas Iscariot. Like Peter when he opposed Jesus’ message of suffering. Like Demas when he “loved this present world” and forsook Paul…2 Tim. 4:10). Don’t be the guy who causes others to sin and go astray.
Vs 8,9 – Okay, so the offenses will come. Now how do you respond to them? If your response is to be enticed by those stumbling blocks and temptations, Jesus says an “over-the-top” way that you must deal seriously and definitively with those issues. The consequences of sin are just this awful.
– Hebrews 12:1. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
– We have other (better) ways of dealing with compromise and flirtation with the world, but if we didn’t, this is how extreme we should be.
– Q: What do you think this might look like in practice? A: Forsaking old, comfortable ways; cutting off certain activities; severance of old sinful relationships; etc.
Vs 10 – “despise” Gr. kataphroneo: to think against, disesteem, look down upon, consider unworthy or useless. There aren’t supposed to be any caste-systems or cliques within the Body of Christ.
– “their angels in heaven…” God has given angelic aid and witness to those who love Him. If God has considered the little ones to be that important, who are we to disregard them or think them unworthy?
Vs 11-14 – Sheep represent a picture of mankind. Sheep have no natural defenses, and they aren’t too intelligent. Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
– Psalm 95:7. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
– Isaiah 53:6. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way.
– The idea here is that Jesus wants to lift the disciples’ thinking and energies from worries over personal gain and prestige to a shepherd’s heart; to identity with His purpose for coming into the world.
– Jesus isn’t inferring that the 99 left behind will be neglected. If a shepherd’s sheep went astray, he would leave a son or a hired man in charge to care for the others until his return. All the sheep are to be cared for.
– Jesus’ point is that the Lord’s heart is anxious when one of His own goes astray.
– “…he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine who did not go astray…” The elder brother was angry when the Prodigal Son came back to where he belonged. We must ask the Lord to give us His heart for the lost or straying ones, and not allow a sulking or pouty attitude to creep into our spirits.
– Luke 15:10. “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
– “…it is not the will of your Father…” A lost sheep is subject to many dangers. It is isolated, at risk of injuring itself, and an easy target for predators.
Vs 15-17 – Jesus has been talking with them about dealing with sin in their own lives. Now He speaks to stumbling blocks and offenses in the family of God. In effect He says, “Now, boys, you’ve been bickering over who’s the greatest and I’ve discipled you, I’ve corrected you and shown you God’s heart. Now I want you to understand how to do that with each other.”
– “If your brother sins…” Avoid him? Give him a suspicious glare on Sunday morning? Drop subtle hints that you don’t like him? Love him from a good, safe distance? No. Jesus advocates a strong, direct (but still gentle and graceful) approach to offenses and trespasses between believers.
– Luke 17:3. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
– Ephesians 4:15. Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.
– Ezekiel 33:7-9. Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.
– Acts 20:26, 27. Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.
– Jesus gives a three-step process, which is progressive. One on one, three-or-four on one, ekklesia on one.
– Q: What is its purpose? A: Repentance, restoration, and relationship. Not to prove I’m right.
– Q: Do you think this happens much in the church today? What barriers exist that oppose this level of relationship?
– Q: Why do you think Jesus says we shouldn’t have fellowship with an unrepentant brother? A: Because he does not want help, and because his pride, arrogance and disobedience affect the entire community. (My personal sin and disobedience affect the Body of Christ; we are members one of another.) An unrepentant soul is a danger to himself and everyone else.
– James 5:16. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
– Ephesians 4:25. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.