THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we looked at the transfiguration, Jesus casts out a demon His apostles could not, and we ended with Peter paying the temple tax by catching a fish with a coin in its mouth. In this lesson, we are going to look at what happens in Capernaum. These events are recorded in Matthew 18, Mark 9, and Luke 9. As I always do, I will do my best to give you a complete picture of the events by blending these accounts together.
As I put these accounts together, there will be parts that I have to guess at of when they were said, but there is no guessing that these things were said.
Mark 9:33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
Jesus and disciples are at Capernaum and they are in this house, which was probably Peter’s home. Regardless of whose home it was, Jesus wants to know what they had been disputing about on the road. I do not believe Jesus did not know what was going on, but as usual, He would ask them questions to bring out their thoughts so He could teach them.
There initial response was silence. We can only guess why they did not speak. Perhaps they were embarrassed about trying to figure out who among them would be the greatest in the kingdom. Who knows, maybe they were even talking about how Peter, James and John got to go off with Jesus by themselves a couple of times already.
One thing we should appreciate is the honesty of Scripture. If God’s Word was written by man, it certainly would not paint the apostles weakness over and over again. They were so carnally minded at times, but their attitudes are real because if we were in their place, we might just be wondering the same thing especially since they still thought the kingdom was going a be a physical one.
Jesus sits down, which was a customary position to be in when you wanted to teach someone, and that is exactly what Jesus is going to do. He calls His disciples to Him and tells them:
"If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."
This statement would have taken them by the surprise because here they are trying to figure out what great position of power they might have in the kingdom and Jesus is saying if you want to be first, which means to be in a position of preeminence, then you must be last and servant of all. This is completely the opposite of what one would usually think about being in a higher position within the kingdom, but Jesus is certainly a great example of this as He came to earth to serve and so should we.
At some point after the disciples were silent and either before or after what Jesus says here, Matthew’s account says:
Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
Personally, I can see this question being asked after Jesus told them they need to be last and servant of all. Luke’s account adds this:
Luke 9:47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him,
Jesus knew where these thoughts were coming from because He could read their thoughts. As Jesus taught them earlier:
Matthew 15:18 "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
So, Jesus is using this opportunity to teach His disciples about humility. He uses a young child to make His point. He calls this young child to Him and sets him beside Him in the midst of His apostles. Mark’s account adds the following:
Mark 9:36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them,
If this is Peter’s house, it is possible that this child may have been one of Peter’s children. Whomever the child belonged to, Jesus takes him into His arms, which means that He embraced him with a hug. I do not know if this child had been around Jesus before or not, but one thing we know is that young children do not take long to trust a stranger enough to hug them. I know that some young children are not like this, but many of them are. They simply have big hearts, and they trust in those who are bigger than them.
Now it is time for their lesson, but we are going to read Jesus’ teaching from Matthew’s account because it is more detailed:
Matthew 18:3 "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Many times the things that Jesus taught His disciples would sting. Imagine being one of the apostles who were being prideful and thinking about how powerful they might be, then Jesus basically tells them that if they continue on with that kind of thinking, they will not even be allowed into the kingdom much less have a position in the kingdom. The reason Jesus uses a young child to show this is because they are so humble and their thoughts are pure. They are quick to trust in those over them, and they are quick to forgive.
All people who have truly been converted to Christ had to humble themselves before God and realize that they are nothing without Him. You have to be willing to put your full trust in God to accept His saving grace. This is a process that is to continue on throughout our Christian lives. When we remain humble like a child, Jesus says, this will make you be the greatest in the kingdom.
Jesus is a great example of this as can be seen in:
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In order to be like Jesus and a young child, we cannot have a selfish bone in our bodies. All we have to do is look at Jesus’ example to motivate us to be humble like Him. Just as Jesus said, when you are humble you will be the greatest in the kingdom because this is what happened with Jesus.
Next, Jesus says:
Matthew 18:5 "Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
Jesus is not just talking about young children, I believe He is also metaphorically referring to Christians who have taken on this humble heart of a child because He refers to them as the ones who have believed in Him in the next verse. Jesus talks about how when someone receives a child or we could say a Christian in His name, it is the same as receiving Jesus. This same thought is given in Matthew 25 and should bring us great comfort as Christians to know that however people receive or treat us it is just like it is being done to Jesus.
At the same time, it should really make us think about how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ because, however we choose to treat them, we need to realize if just as if we are treating Jesus the same way. I think if we would keep that thought in our heads, we would certainly treat each other with more patience and kindness. Jesus takes it a step further in Mark’s account and says:
Mark 9:37 "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me."
This shows the humble nature of Jesus. Though He is our Savior and He died for us, He always points everything back to the Father, but the only way we have access to the Father is through Jesus.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John also said:
2 John 1:9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
This is what being humble will get us as we put our trust in God and humbly submit to what His Word teaches us to do, which includes how we receive and treat our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
If we go with the order that Mark gives us, John chimes in at this time during the middle of what Jesus is saying as we read in:
Mark 9:38 Now John answered Him, saying, "Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us." 39 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 "For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
I can only speculate here and say that perhaps after John heard Jesus talking about how we are to treat other disciples of Christ that it caused him to want to know if what they had said to this unnamed man was the right thing to do.
Many in the denominational world love to use this section of Scripture to try and justify denominations, but this is not what this text is about. Besides, there were no denominations in the first century and when some started trying to create divisions in the church later on by calling themselves after other men, Paul rebuked them for in 1 Cor. 1:10ff. Jesus preached and prayed that His followers would be in unity.
John is no way is saying that this unnamed man was not a disciple of Jesus, his complaint was that he was not following us. In other words, he was not an apostle, and he was not one many disciples that followed along with them. However, we know that Jesus gave at least 70 others the ability to cast out demons in (Luke 10:1-17). It is certainly possible that Jesus gave others this ability that is not recorded for us.
One thing is certain, this unnamed man could not have been casting out demons unless He had been given the authority to do so from Jesus. No one could just go around claiming to be of Christ or using His name to cast out demons and the 7 sons of Sceva found out in Acts 19:14ff.
They thought they could use the name of Jesus to cast out a demon. Instead, this is what happens:
Acts 19:15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" 16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Let’s look at Jesus’ response again:
39 But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 "For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
Jesus is basically telling John and the rest of the apostles that just because someone is not following us around does not mean they should be forbidden to carry out the work of the Lord. This particular unnamed disciple could still do great works and teach people even though he is working in different area. This man was not against them, he was for them. The idea here is that others can do great works by the authority of Christ without having to be right there with their group.
That would be like me trying to tell a Christian from another congregation that he or she cannot bring food to one of our sick members because he or she are not members at our congregation. However, there is no justification for denominations in our text.
Jesus continues His lesson in:
Mark 9:42 " But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.
Jesus is talking about our influence. If we choose to lead Christians astray and it causes them to sin, we are going to face a punishment worse than having a millstone tied to or neck and being cast into the sea to drown. People are afraid of death as it is, but death by drowning ranks high on the list or ways that people do not want to die. As bad at this death might seem, it does not compare to the eternal punishment we will face if we are the ones that have led other Christians astray.
If that does not get your attention about the importance of your influence, then I do not know what will. Think about all those false teachers out there who have deceived people. No wonder James said:
James 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
Next, Jesus paints a vivid picture of how important it is that we keep sin out of our lives.
Mark 9:43 "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched -- 44 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' 45 "And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched -- 46 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.' 47 "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire -- 48 "where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'
We have seen Jesus use similar language in the Sermon on the Mount. Hands, feet, and eyes are important body parts. When Jesus is saying these things, He is saying that there is nothing worth spending eternity in hell over. However, He is not literally telling us to cut body parts off, but as I mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount some people have taken this literally and have cut off body parts.
You also notice that it talks about how hell has a fire that is never quenched and where the worm never dies. In other words, eternity in hell will never end. John describes it this way:
Revelation 14:10 He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
This is the same fate the devil will suffer as can be seen in:
Revelation 20:10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Next, Jesus says:
49 " For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.
Verse 49 is one of those verses that has many opinions on what is talking about. Several of the sources I looked did not even attempt to explain verse 49. I will admit that it is somewhat obscure. One of the problems with this verse is that it says everyone will be seasoned with fire. From this some have concluded that we all will taste fire of hell before we go to heaven, which I know is not true based on the Scriptures. Others think that Mark has changed the topic now and is talking about how Christians must suffer through the trials of this life before entering into heaven. While I like this explanation better than the first explanation to me there is a better answer.
The word FOR in verse 49 comes from a litter Greek word called GAR. When you find this word used, it means that words that follow explain more about what was just said. In other words, we cannot be changing topics.
When our texts says that everyone will be seasoned with fire, the word everyone is not talking about every person in the world, but that everyone who does not take care of their sin problem will be seasoned with fire. This word season means to salt, and we know all that salt is a preserver. So, keeping things in context, Jesus is re-emphasizing what He just said. The person who spends eternity in hell will never die because he or she will remain preserved in hell for eternity.
Our next verse is easy to understand.
50 "Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another."
Jesus taught this before in the Sermon on the Mount. The idea is to make sure that you keep the salt in your life fresh because if you do not, it loses its flavor. This goes right back to the thought of influence and remaining pure by keeping sin out of our lives because if we are full of sin, we will lose our influence on others and we certainly will not be at peace with one another.
Matthew’s account continues on:
Matthew 18:10 " Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
Once again, Jesus is emphasizing for us not to look down on these little ones, which again would include Christians with this humble heart of a child because their angels always see the face of God in heaven. As we consider the context, it seems to me that the focus is on the Christians who have sinned because of being misled by others. The point is that we should not look down on these little ones who have been deceived and sinned because God cares for them and so do these angels. Jesus came to this earth for people like these little ones who get mislead and sin so that they can be forgiven of their sins. We should treat all our fallen brothers and sister in Christ as precious souls that need to be redeemed once again.
Verse 10 is an interesting verse that some say teaches that every Christian has a guardian angel. Others teach that every time a new child is born that an angel is assigned to them, but there simply is not enough evidence to prove this.
It is true that angels are said to minister to the saved (Heb. 1:14), and one of their roles is guarding and protecting (Ps. 34:7; 91:11-12). The people who were praying for Peter made a statement that implies they thought that Peter had an angel (Acts 12:14-15). Some early Christian writers thought we had one guardian angel and one demon assigned to us.
Muslims believe that we have two angels assigned to us – one to write down the good and one to write down the bad. Even if we are assigned an angel by God, they can only guard and protect us through God’s providence. We do know they are interested in us, and they minister to us, but little is revealed in Scripture about what they specifically do.
As Moses wrote:
Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
We just have to accept that there are some details we just do not know, but if it was important for us to know, God’s Word would have revealed it, but the point is not to look down on the little ones.
Keeping with the theme that Matthew is referring to these little ones who have sinned, Jesus speaks the following parable.
Matthew 18:12 "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? 13 "And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. 14 "Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
This same parable is found in Luke 15. He gets their attention by asking them what they think about the parable He is about teach. As usual, Jesus used common things they could relate to. Based on what I have read in various books, 100 sheep was considered just the right size for one sheep herder. These sheep had a close relationship with their herder. He knew each sheep by name, and they trusted in him. It was his job to protect them and care for them.
So, if one sheep went missing, he would do his best to try and find it. When he found it, he would not scold it, no he would rejoice that he found it alive and it would make Him happier than the 99 that did not go astray.
The same is true when it comes to Christians. God is our shepherd, and He loves us and knows us all by name. If one of us decides to go astray by living in sin, God does not abandon us and say, “Oh, well, you made your choice” No, His desire is that we are found and that we are willing to turn back to Him by turning away from our sin. As Luke’s account says, when this happens, all the host of heaven rejoices. This shows us how important every child of God is to Him. He is so patient with us, and He wants us have this same love and patience with these little ones who go astray. He wants us to seek them out and encourage them to return back to God.
We will see this theme continue about how we are to treat others, how we are to help them with their sins, and how we are to be forgiving people, but we will have to save this for the next lesson. I hope you have learned from this lesson the importance of being humble and how we should be careful with our influence and how we treat others.