CHAPTER XXVII

CLOSING SCENES OF THE GALILEAN MINISTRY

ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
(Matthew 17:22-18:35)


22 Now while they were gathering themselves together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, but on the third day He will be raised up. And they became greatly sorrowful.

24 As they were entering Capernaum, those collecting the temple tax came to Peter and said, Does not your Teacher pay the half-shekel? 25 He said, Yes. And when they had entered into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect custom or taxes? From their own sons or from aliens? 26 And when he said, From aliens, Jesus said to him, Therefore the sons are exempt. 27 But in order that we may not cause them to stumble, go to the sea, throw your hook in, and take the first fish coming up; and, when you have opened his mouth, you will find a shekel;¹ take this and give it for me and for you.

¹ Greek,
stater.

18 In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who, therefore, is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 Having called a little child, He stood him in the midst of them 3 and said, In solemn truth I am telling you that, if you do not turn and become as little children, you will under no condition enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever, therefore, will humble himself as this little child, this one is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me. 6 Whoever causes one of these least ones who believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a millstone be tied around his neck, and he be cast into the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling, for it is necessary that occasions of stumbling come; nevertheless, woe to the man through whom the occasion comes.

8 And if your hand or your foot cause you to stumble, cut it off, and cast it away from you; it is good for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye cause you to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from you; it is good for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than, having two eyes, to be cast into the Gehenna of fire. 10 See that you not look down with scorn on one of these little ones, for I am telling you that their angels in heaven continually look upon the face of My Father, who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wander away, will he not leave the ninety-nine upon the mountains and go and seek the one straying away? 13 And, if so be that he finds it, solemnly I am telling you that he rejoices more over this one than over the ninety-nine that did not wander away. 14 In like manner it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

15 And if your brother sin, go and show him his fault between you and him alone; and, if he listen to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But, if he will not listen, take with you yet one or two, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 But if he will not listen to them, tell it to the church; and, if he will not listen to the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a taxcollector.

18 In solemn truth I am telling you that whatever you bind upon earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose upon earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 Again in solemn truth I am telling you that, if two of you agree upon earth concerning any matter for which they will ask, it shall be done for them by my Father, who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? 22 Jesus said to him, I say not to you until seven, but until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to make a settlement with his servants. 24 When he began to make
this settlement, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.² 25 Since he was not able to make payment, his master ordered that he be sold, his wife, his children, and whatever he had, and that payment should be made. 26 The servant, therefore, falling down, prostrated himself at his feet and said, Be patient with me, and I will pay you all. 27 And the lord of that servant, being moved with pity, released him and canceled the debt. 28 As that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred shillings;³ and, having seized him, he choked him, saying, Pay what you owe. 29 So his fellow servant knelt down and kept beseeching him, saying, Be patient with me, and I will pay you. 30 And he was unwilling, but went away and threw him into prison until he should pay that which was owed. 31 Seeing what had taken place, his fellow servants, therefore, were greatly saddened and went and fully reported to their master all things that had taken place. 32 Then his master called him to him and said, Wicked servant, all that debt I forgave you, since you implored me. 33 Did it not behoove you also to show mercy toward your fellow servant as I had mercy upon you? 34 And his master became enraged and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was owed to him. 35 In like manner also My heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.

² Ten million dollars.
³ A shilling—in American money about seventeen cents.



I. JESUS PAYING TEMPLE TAX
(Matthew 17:24-27)

In Matthew 17:24-27 is the account of Christ's paying the Temple tax, which was required by the law of Moses (see Exodus 30:13 ff., II Chronicles 24:6, Nehemiah 10:32, II Kings 12:4). Christ laid emphasis upon and practiced strict obedience to the law. The Temple tax was levied in order to provide funds to help carry on its services. There were other offerings and gifts required of the people of Israel to carry on the services of God.

Frequently, however, the people ceased to pay their tithes and to make their offerings. As a result, the work of God was hindered. Such a situation arose in the days of Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. This messenger of God reproved the people for their failure and threw out a challenge to them that, if they would be faithful and true in bringing their tithes and offerings, God would bless them abundantly.

7 From the days of your fathers ye have turned aside from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith Jehovah of hosts. But ye say, Wherein shall we return? 8 Will a man rob God? yet ye rob me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with the curse; for ye rob me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough
to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast its fruit before the time in the field, saith Jehovah of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you happy; for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith Jehovah of hosts (Mal. 3:7-12).

II. STUMBLING BLOCKS
(Matthew 18:1-14)

In Matthew 18:1-14 appears the record of a dispute among the disciples as to which one of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Such ambitions are always disastrous to spiritual life and growth. In order to teach the truth on this point, Jesus had a little child brought into the midst of the group. Then He declared that, except a person become as a little child, he can not enter into the kingdom of heaven. He also warned against putting stumbling blocks in the way of little children or of those who in their attitude become like little children.

III. SHEOL, OR HADES

Moses and the prophets constantly spoke of Sheol. An examination of this Old Testament word reveals that it was the name given to the place of departed spirits. From Adam to the Messiah, the spirits of both the saved and the unsaved went to Sheol. From the Resurrection of Christ, the spirits of the saved have been going immediately into heaven, but the spirits of the lost still continue to go to Sheol. When the brothers of Joseph showed his coat, sprinkled with blood, to Jacob their father, he exclaimed, "For I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning" (Gen. 37:35). From the context of this passage, it is clear that Jacob thought that Joseph had been devoured by a wild beast, that the spirit of Joseph had descended to Sheol, and that he himself would go there and be with his son. A vivid picture of Sheol is found in Psalm 49:14:

    They are appointed as a flock for Sheol;
    Death shall be their shepherd:
    And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning;
    And their beauty shall be for Sheol to consume,
    That there be no habitation for it.

    In this passage the inspired writer sees the spirits of the unsaved, worldly people descending to Sheol, death being their shepherd; but it was revealed to him that, though he himself would die and descend to Sheol, God would deliver him from that realm eventually:

      But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol;
      For he will receive me. [Selah] (Ps. 49:15)

    In the New Testament the name for Sheol, the spirit world, is Hades. In Luke 16:19-31 is a vivid picture of it as it existed from Adam to the Messiah. According to this Scripture, there were two compartments separated by a vast impassable gulf. To one of these the lost went; to the other, the saved. As will be shown, all were conscious and aware of their condition. The lost were being punished, whereas the saved were at rest and in comfort.

    When the Messiah was put to death in the flesh, He went in the spirit to Sheol (I Pet. 3:18-22), seized the keys of death and Hades (Rev. 1:18), and led all the spirits of the saved forth from this place of confinement. When He ascended on high, He took them to glory (Ps. 68:18).

    Another term in the New Testament for the place where the unsaved go and remain throughout all eternity is
    Gehenna, which is translated in some versions "the Gehenna of fire." Note its usage in the text above, Matthew 18:1-9. It is a serious matter to cause little children, or those who become childlike before God, to stumble. Terrible will be the fate of those thus acting. The Gehenna of fire is called "the eternal fire."¹ It is a fearful thing to be lost—to be banished from the presence of God forever and ever.

    IV. FORGIVING OTHERS
    (Matthew 18:15-20)

    Inevitably, misunderstandings and differences arise even among the very best of people. In such a case those involved should seek immediately to adjust the differences and to be reconciled. One who wishes to do the will of God will follow the instructions given by Jesus (Matt. 18:15-20).

    Peter, in his impulsiveness, wanted to know how often one should forgive his brother, "until seven times?" Jesus reply was, "Until seventy times seven." These instructions are followed by the forceful parable which shows that everyone must forgive from the depths of his heart the other who has sinned against him—provided he repents.

    17 And he said unto his disciples, It is Impossible but that occasions of stumbling should come; but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were well for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him (Luke 17:1-4).

    If one who has been forgiven his sins by the Lord does not forgive his brother (fellow believer) his trespasses, the Lord will have to punish him in this life commensurately with the offense (Matt. 18:15-35).


    Footnote:

    ¹ 38 John said unto him, Teacher, we saw one casting out demons in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followed not us. 39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is for us. 41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink, because ye are Christ's, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. 42 And whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it were better for him if a great millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. 45 And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell. 47 And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell; 48 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 49 For every one shall be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another (Mark 9:38-50).