- Sermon Notes
Culture of the Kingdom
Illus. How is it going to work?
Culture: The quality in a person of society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, or pursuits. To be cultured, is to be enlightened, or refined. …And in Matthew 18, Jesus centers His focus on the way in which His disciples would walk. To ensure that they were not simply conditioned for the culture of the world in which they lived. But that they would know how to live with the culture of the kingdom…
They had many of their own thoughts, hopes, and expectations; but Jesus would continue to redirect them back to the culture in His kingdom as opposed to what was considered great in the culture of their day, or people’s general opinion.
Read: Matthew 18:1-14
The question that sets off this section, centers on the question, who is the greatest? In their day, much like ours, greatness was based upon measures and metrics that go against the grain of kingdom culture. Jesus had said in Matthew 5:3, that it was the “poor in spirit” those who would lose their life for His sake, that would obtain the kingdom, yet the disciples are continually and consistently concentrating on who among them was the greatest.
In your life and mine, the same applies. Greatness is defined by who is at the top, who has the most, those with the most likes to their every post. We use the abbreviation “MVP” for the most valuable player, or “VIP” the very important people we see, but despite it all, there remains a people that the Lord desires us to be. Following the whims and ways of our current culture will leave us cultured for the wrong kingdom, and here, Jesus gives not just His opinion, but the realities for those living within His dominion as we make our highest desire to live life according to the ways of His kingdom…
I. Begin Asking the Right Questions
Matthew 18:1, At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
- Leading up to this question, Jesus had just given His second, “Passion prediction.” It was His telling of what was to come, of His death, burial and resurrection. What we know is that the disciples weren’t understanding what He was saying nor did they want to ask about it.
- Where their thoughts went exactly we did not know, but as we look here, it is clear that the disciples were thinking that the kingdom He came to establish, would be established politically.
- They seem to believe, as most would have in that day, that once the Messiah comes, He would set up His kingdom immediately.
- This is why as Jesus is talking about His death, they didn’t understand. They are ready for Him to set up His kingdom as they expected the Messiah to do.
- Since their thoughts were set on the wrong expectations, they were asking the wrong question, “who is the greatest.”
- Not only were they asking the wrong question,they were arguing about it (Luke 9:46).
- It seems the disciples began comparing notes as to who was doing what. Peter, James, and John were just taken up to a high mountain, saw Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in glory.
Matthew 20:26-28, Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Luke 22:24-26, The greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
John 21:21-22, What about him? Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
- Who is the greatest? They would ask, and clearly their questions regarding who was the greatest, were the wrong questions.
- It speaks to their priorities, the focus of their lives, but Jesus was pointing them toward a greater prize…the pursuit of His true kingdom.
Matthew 18:2-4, He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
- In response to their request of revelation on who is the greatest, Jesus calls a child to Himself.
- The word used for child here is the Greek word “paidion,” which depicts a very small child, like a toddler.
- The motives of the disciples were set on status, and Jesus redirects them to the humility of a child.
- Children in that day, were regarded more as property than as individuals. They were valued primarily for the benefit they brought to a family by enhancing the workforce, and the future of the family.
- Children, however, had no rights or significance apart from their future value and were powerless in society. The humility of a child consists of the inability to advance his or her own cause apart from the help and resources of a parent.
- Yet here, Jesus says the humility of a child, in their weakness, defenselessness, and vulnerability, dependency, and preference to others is celebrated in His kingdom.
- Jesus is not saying to be childish (arguing over petty things), but childlike, with humble and sincere hearts.
- Children were considered the least and were not worried about status, Jesus is saying, become like a child.
Romans 12:10, Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Philippians 2:3, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.
Illus. What will he do?
- The disciples were asking questions centered on what their society and culture valued most: rank, position, the pecking order. But in the culture of the kingdom, that is out of order.
- And often the questions our world asks center on the same. Where am I at in importance, how do I stay up socially, am I the greatest? Jesus calls us to something different.
- Respond Radically
- Verse 5 refers not only to children, but those who have humbled themselves in the manner Jesus had described, those who are living their lives as Jesus’ followers, or, “children of God.”
- Whoever receives one such child, receives me.
- But, whoever offends, offends me also.
- In fact, it would be better for that person if they had a millstone hung around their neck and was drown in the depth of the sea.
- Jesus is showing the love and protection of the father, towards His children.
Illus. I get it.
- We understand that reality as parents, and it is important to know that when it comes to His children, so does Jesus.
- The word “stumble” is one we looked at last week, it is the Greek word “skandalizo.” It means to scandalize, to cause to fall, to be offended, to entrap, to entice, or influence to sin.
- Jesus is saying, if you are person who would do this to one of my children, you actually cause them to be shaken, or lose faith; it would be better if you were drowned with a millstone around your neck.
- The Lord has something to say about those who are causing His children to stumble.
Zechariah 2:8, Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.
Acts 9:4-5, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” and He said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
- It is important to note that Jesus isn’t teaching self-mutilation.
- By saying get rid of your eye or your hand, He was speaking figuratively.
- Jesus is speaking figuratively of those things physically, or otherwise that cause us to stumble.
- “If something is causing you to stumble, don’t manage it, don’t look at it, cut it out of your life…don’t go there!”
Illus. A new diet.
- The picture of stumbling is of a bait stick that springs the trap when an animal touches it.
- Anything that causes us to stumble, to go astray, should be eliminated.
2 Corinthians 10:5, …and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (ESV)
- Once we allow Jesus to draw the line we must remain convinced that the temptations beyond that line are better off “dead to us.”
- This is part of taking every thought captive. Understanding that there are seeds, habits, hang ups and if they aren’t taken captive and surrendered to Christ they will take us farther than we ever wanted to go.
- Rejoice in Returning
- Jesus here is the shepherd, and one sheep leaves in pursuit of their own path, but the shepherd is aware.
- What I want you to catch is that the shepherd went out to search for that one that was straying.
- And upon finding the sheep that had gone astray, the shepherd rejoiced over the one which was lost.
- If you have veered off course, He has great concern regarding the place you have turned and is searching for you…And He is ready to rejoice at your return.
2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Psalm 50:15, Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you.
- If you are a long way off from the path you once walked, you need to know that Jesus searches for you as you are straying…
Lamentations 3:22-23, The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.