Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Twenty-one: Being Child-like and Forgiveness   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
Story

Chapter Twenty-one:

Being Child-like and Forgiveness


JESUS FORETELLS HIS DEATH A SECOND TIME

     Once more Jesus and His disciples are back in the Galilee
area. For a little while He did not want anyone to know they were
there, for He had some important private teachings to do. For the
second time He instructed His disciples concerning His death,
saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands
of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after
three days He will rise again."
     For the second time the disciples were perplexed and did not
understand what He was saying, although He said it to them in
pretty plain words. They just could not imagine that such a thing
could happen to such a mighty miracle working man as Jesus. They
also did not understand all the Old Testament writings of the
Messiah and His first coming to earth, and what the prophets of
old had been inspired to write about what would happen to Him.
     And, like before, although they were puzzled by His words,
they were afraid to ask Him about them, to inquire any further
(Mark 9: 30-32).

THE TEMPLE TAX AND THE FISH

     When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the
half-shekel Temple tax (a tax imposed on the Jewish people for
the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was not a part of the
laws of the Old Testament, yet not wrong either, certain physical
things of God like the then Temple, did need physical maintenance
at times, and God did not issue laws for everything that needed
to be taken care of. Some things were left to the leaders of the
people to figure out how best to keep things in good repair and
order), came up to Peter and inquired of him, saying, "Does your
teacher pay the tax?"  "Well....yes, of course He does," replied
Peter, with a little hesitation in his voice. Peter really was
not sure, as it had never come up before and had never been
talked about with Jesus.
     Jesus later that day said to Peter, "What do you think,
Simon? From who do the kings of the earth take taxes? From their
sons or from others?"  "O, it is from others Master," replied
Peter. "Then the sons are free, yes, indeed that is so." Jesus
said, and continued with, "However, not to give offense to them,
I want you to go to the sea and cast a fishing line and hook.
Take the first fish that bits, and when you open its mouth you
will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for
yourself."

     The Temple in Jerusalem belonged to God, and all the
services done there, all that the Levites and priests performed
there as under the laws of the Old Testament, were from God and
towards God in worship. He owned it all. Jesus as the Son of God,
had part ownership in the Temple and all things performed there.
He really did not have to pay taxes on what belonged to Him.
Kings of the earth collected taxes from others, not from their
own children. God as King of the earth and hence the Temple in
Jerusalem, did not have to collect a tax from His own Son.
     But, Jesus did not want to offend them, the tax collectors,
or those who were keepers of the Temple. They did not understand
who He was, did not believe who He was. Their minds were still in
blindness to a large extent, hence Jesus would not offend
them. He worked a miracle and told Peter to pay the Temple tax.
     Sometimes in life there are many situations where we may be
free to do or not do something that's within the righteousness of
God, and sometimes in order to not offend people, we should do
it, if not doing it would offend them.  You may be able to think
of such circumstances and if reading this Bible Story with more
persons than yourself, you might like to discuss such situations.
     This is a life example that Jesus gives us to not offend
people if it is within your power to not offend them.

WHOSE THE GREATEST AND CHILDLIKENESS

     They had been out in the town of Capernaum and were now on
the way to the house they always stayed in when in that town
(some have speculated that it was a house Jesus had built earlier
in His life as it is always designated as "the house"), and
arriving Jesus asked them, "What were you discussing on the way
here?" They were silent for a while, for on the way they had been
discussing who was the greatest among them (apart from Jesus of
course). "Well, Master," they began in their reply, "we were
wondering who was the greatest among us. And so Lord, who is it,
who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?"
     It was now Jesus' turn to be silent for a while. He sat
down, and called the twelve over to Him, and said, "If any one
would be first, he must put himself last of all and put himself
servant of all." Then calling for a child to come over to Him, He
put the child in the midst of the disciples, and put His arms
around him, and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and
become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in
the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in my
name receives me, and receiving me actually is receiving not me
so much as receiving the One who sent me, my Father. But whoever
causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and
sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone
fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the
sea."
     
     Entering the Kingdom of God, being a part of it now in this
life time, to Jesus was not about trying to be the greatest among
other believers, trying to "out do" in speech, works, power, or
whatever else humans think about in putting themselves greater
than others. To Jesus, the greatest ones were those who were
humble like a child and who served others, who did not even think
of themselves as anything great. Then if some, as they do, think
that riding rough-shod over others is being powerfully great, and
would cause little ones in Christ to stumble and sin, so they
gave up on salvation and remaining faithful to the end, then it
would have been better for that person who so causes such to
stumble, if they had been drowned in the sea, or we may say
today, "never been born." Being great for the Kingdom of God is
nothing like what the world thinks about "being great" is.
Greatness to God is being humble minded and serving others and
making sure little ones in Christ grow and stay faithful to the
end.

     As Jesus was speaking about all this, John broke in and
said, "Master, teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your
name, and we told him to stop doing such things because he did
not belong to our company of disciples."

     Why did John bring this up at this particular time? Maybe it
was because John thought this man was trying to be great by doing
such works. Greater than they were, as we saw earlier that the
disciples could not cast out the demon from the child that the
father brought to them to have his son healed. Maybe seeing this
man casting out demons in Jesus' name caused them to start
thinking about who was the greatest among them, for surely they
were greater than this man, they probably thought, as he did not
even belong to their group of disciples that Jesus had personally
chosen Himself.

     Jesus replied to John and all present, "Do not forbid him;
for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon
after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for
us. For truly I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to
drink because you bear my name, will not loose his reward."

     Jesus was showing them that God works in many ways. He is
not bound by a certain "club" or "church group." He was showing
them that those who work for Him in a certain time and way, are
not necessarily "the only ones" on the circuit of His work. And
others could be doing huge things in His name or even very small
simple things for Him and for others who believe in Him. Even
those doing small things like giving a cup of water in His name
to others who also believe in His name, will not be forgotten by
God. The man the disciples had seen casting out demons was
believing in Jesus, doing it in His name, and those coming to him
were also believing in Jesus, not the man doing the work, but
believing in the power that was in the name of Jesus. God will
remember those who have the simple attitude of wanting to serve
others through Him, they will have their reward.
     The disciples by their action and words of telling the man
to "stop" because he was not part of "the gang that walked around
with Jesus," could have offended him where he would have given up
his personal conviction of Jesus, been as we say, "turned right
off" and Jesus wanted to make sure His disciples knew the
seriousness of offending people, so He went on to expound with
words very similar to what He had said to them in a previous
teaching. He also did not want them to offend each other by
trying to figure out who was the greatest among themselves.

     "Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs
be that offenses come; but woe to the person by whom the offense
comes! Therefore if your hand or your foot cause you to offend,
cut them off, and cast them from you, for it is better for you to
enter into life with one hand or one foot than to have two hands
or two feet to be cast into the fire that shall destroy forever.
The same goes for your eyes, if one should cause you to offend,
better cast it off and enter into life with one eye, rather than
having two eyes to be cast into the fire of Gehenna.
     Take heed, pay close attention, that you despise not one of
these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their
angels do always behold the face of my Father who is there in
heaven.
     The Son of man has come to save the lost, that is His main
aim, not to destroy but to save."

     Jesus was making it as clear and as plain as possible, that
He and those who follow Him, are to put away anything in their
lives, that would cause people to be offended and to be lost. He
was in the business of SAVING not destroying lives. As we saw
before when Jesus uttered similar words, of cutting off a hand or
foot or plucking out an eye, He was not talking of doing this
literally to your body, for it is really the mind that offends,
the hand or foot or eye follows what the mind tells it. Jesus is
using an analogy again, whatever is precious and close to you, if
it is wrong and leads to you offending people, better own up to
it and get rid of it.
     And we notice in passing that it would seem that believers
at least have what some have called "guardian angels" over them.
Jesus here refers to them as "their angels in heaven."

     To show the disciples still further that He was in the work
force that was busy searching and seeking for the lost, to save
them, He went on to say:

      "Think about this. If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of
them gets lost, does he not leave the ninety and nine and does he
not go out into the mountains or wherever, to seek for the one
that has got lost? And if he manages to find it, does he not
rejoice more over that sheep, than over the ninety and nine which
did not go astray or wander off and get lost? Even so it is not
the will of your Father in heaven, that ONE of these little ones
should perish. 
     Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how
will you give its saltness back? Have salt in yourselves, and be
at peace with one another" (Mat.18: 1-14; Mark 9: 33-50).

     We are to be the "salt of the earth" as Jesus once told His
followers. We are to be salt not poison to people. We are to be
humble like a child who knows he/she is not self-sufficient. We
are to not think about being great in the eyes of other human
beings, but think about how we can serve mankind. And we are to
do all we can not to offend others, so they and us can be saved
and not lost.

FORGIVENESS - A KEY TO SALVATION

     This was a good time for Jesus to speak about the very
important subject of "forgiveness" and He did:

     "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his
fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have
gained your brother. but if he does not listen, take one or two
others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the
evidence of two or three witnesses. If he still refuses to
listen, even to those who have come with you, then tell it to the
church; and if he refuses to even listen to the church, let him
be to you as a Gentile and tax collector."

     None Israelites (Gentiles) and tax collectors back then were
viewed as outsiders and not associated with on any social
activities, they were the black sheep of the family so to speak.
Here Jesus gives the basic formula for righting wrongs that
people do to each other within the family and church of God. It
is really pretty clear and straightforward enough, yet few
observe it as Jesus instructed. 
     You first must go to the person who has wronged and in the
right manner "have it out with them" - or "clear the air between
the two of you." In most cases most problems can be solved
between the two parties involved. If not, then you are to take
along two or three others as witnesses, maybe even as
intercessors, as third party mediators. Once more at this level
the problem can usually be rectified. But in a few cases it may
not be solved at this second level of "problem confrontation" and
it will need have to go to the "church." 
     The important thing here is that it is the "church" that has
the final say. And the "church" is not the minister or board of
deacons, it is the "church" - the whole body of Christ for that
locality. They then must hear the problem and rule as to the
right and wrong of the matter, and who is right and who is wrong
and the means to correct the situation, with repentance and
whatever else is needed to correct the matter. If that person
will not here the "church" then the church is to put them out of
their fellowship. It is then the rule and principle of what Paul
and the church at Corinth was into as we read 1 Corinthians
chapter 5. 
     We need in all of this last ditch circumstance to also
remember Galatians 6: 1-3 and 2 Thessalonians 3: 14,15.
     The "church" must make a ruling and a decision on matters
that cannot be solved with the first two approaches, and as a
collective decision by the members in whom is the Holy Spirit,
God will back that decision of who is right and who is wrong and
what should be done.
     Jesus showed this by going on to say, "It is truth that I
say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I
say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,
it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two ot
three are gathered in my name there I am in the middle of them."

     The context here about binding and loosing even with a small
number agreeing together, is the context of "church problems" and
the third part of trying to solve them having to be applied.  Far
too many have taken these words out of context and tried to apply
them to far too many things, including setting rules and
regulations that are directly at odds and against the unmoveable
laws and commandments of God (Psalm 111: 7, 8).
     It is also true that the Greek tense here is as we saw
ealier, and can be (and is so in some translations) rendered as
"whatever you bind on earth must be what is already bound in
heaven, and whatever you loose on earth must be what is already
loosed in heaven." Hence Jesus may have been telling "the church"
large or small to be very circumspect in what things it gave
rules on as coming from God or the word of God.

     As Jesus was talking about problems and sins that brother
has with brother, Peter naturally had a question come to his mind
and he wanted Jesus to answer it, "Lord, how often shall I
forgive my brother if he sins against me? As many as seven
forgivenesses?"
     Peter thought there must be after all a limit to forgiving
your brother. Probably all the other disciples thought so also,
but to the surprise of everyone Jesus replied, "I do not say to
seven times, but you must forgive to seventy times seven."
     They all knew that by Jesus using the phrase "seventy times
seven" He was meaning you must be willing to forgive to never
ending, there was no limit to forgiveness.
     And to illustrate the importance of forgiveness that knows
no end, Jesus gave them this parable or story illustration:

     "The Kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who decided
to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed
money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in
who owed him millions of dollars. He could not pay, so the king
ordered that he and his wife, and his children, and all that he
had should be sold to pay back the debt. On hearing this the man
fell down before the kind and begged him,'Oh, king, please be
patient with me, and I will pay it all back.' The king was filled
with pity and compassion for him, and he released him and forgave
him of the huge debt he owed. But, when the man left the king, he
immediately went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand
dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant
re-payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged
for a little more time, 'Be patient please, and I will pay back
what I owe you,' he pleaded. But his creditor would have none
of it, would have no mercy or patience at all. He had the man
arrested and jailed until the debt could be paid back in full.
     When some of the other servants saw this, they were very
angry and upset. They went to the king and told him what had
happened. The king called in the man he had forgiven and said,
'You unthankful and evil servant! I forgave you the huge debt you
owed me because you pleaded with me for patience and mercy.
Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I
had mercy on you?' Then the outraged and indignant king sent the
man to prison until he had paid every penny he owed him.
     That's what my Father in heaven will do to you if you refuse
to forgive your brothers and sisters the sins and trespasses they
commit against you" (Mat.18: 15-35).

     Jesus made it quite a simple matter, if you want God to
forgive you your sins and mistakes that really amount to a great
number in a life time, then you had better be forgiving towards
other fellow human beings, of the relatively less in number, sins
and trespasses they might commit against you in a life time.
     Forgiveness - having it towards others is a vital key to
obtain salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of our Father
who is in heaven.

               ...............................

Written October 2002
 

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