Jesus Values | Matthew 17:24-18:14
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 17:24–18:14
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series has been titled the Revelation of the King as the section we will be looking at (chapters 14-20). Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus performs miracles, but above all Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people; he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. Jesus then gives specific assurance and clarity about His mission and what is to come by showing a few of his disciples a clear vision and preview of His glory on top of a mountain. Jesus then comes down off the mountain to engage with people who feel far from God. The valley is where Jesus has called those who follow him to labor, serve, preach, love, all while pointing people back to the mountain top of God’s glory. Jesus has revealed and displayed his identity as King, he has continued on his mission of establishing his kingdom, and now he is declaring the values of his kingdom. Kingdoms are defined by their king, and kings determine what their kingdoms will value. Jesus is constantly teaching his followers what it means to be in his kingdom. He is a good and effective teacher who teaches in many ways. Today we’ll see him teach his values to His disciples by example, but object lessons, and by explicit verbal preaching/teaching, and look at how they contrast with what we value.
Verse 17:24-27 | Selflessness
Matthew 17:24-27 24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free 27 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
Matthew, the former tax collector (for Rome) is the only one to record this exchange. This in not talking about, nor should it be applied to, civic taxes. This is requirement of all Jewish men made back in Exodus 30:13 for the upkeep of the temple and solidarity and support of the temple. It was a known obligation for most but there were some exempt classes including the poor. How Jesus responds teaches us much.
We value entitlement. We want the most benefits in our lives with the least amount of work or sacrifice. We want individual and corporate accomplishments without fully investing in either. We like shortcuts, we all think we’re special or that certain rules or ways of being should not apply to us. We know our wants, our preferences, and concerns intimately. We hold tightly to them and champion them. We pay little attention to how what we do (or don’t do), what we say affects others. In our heart we are self-focused.
Jesus values selflessness. There is a low level temple tax collector coming to ask Peter about if Jesus “the teacher” is going to submit to paying the temple tax. Peter says, “yes” and comes to Jesus who invites Peter to think about the situation and learn about Jesus’ values from it. “Peter do kings of this world ask their sons to pay taxes? Of course not!” If there was someone who could call back to the tax collector “Hey I am the Son of God. You know that temple you want taxes paid to? Its for worshiping me. In fact in a few days I am going to render it completely meaningless and in a few decades the Romans are going to come in and destroy it.” Jesus is the royal Son of God. Kings would clearly tax their subjects and have every right to judiciously. But they wouldn’t tax their own children or the royal family. Logically there is no obligation Jesus has to pay this. Why would Jesus submit to this seemingly meaningless tax that he was completely entitled to avoid? Jesus is willingly sets aside reverence and favor he is entitled to for others for a purpose, “Not to give offense to them” Jesus was rarely shy about giving offense. He is bold, he speaks clear truth, especially to those in worldly power and authority. But in this case Jesus would rather preform a miracle by having a coin be found in the mouth of a fish, that provides for him AND Peter, then offend or make life difficult for a low level tax collector. This guy is just carrying mail for the temple authorities, if he came back and said Jesus didn’t pay it would cause him a big headache. Jesus can value selflessness and still be glorious. Look at the amazing way he pays the tax. The cross also both selfless in its sacrifice and glorious in what it accomplishes. 1 Cor 9:12 Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Jesus is our example, if he can act selflessly and even act submissively to something clearly beneath him, how much more can or should we? There is a problem. We think we are greater than we are.
Verse 18:1-4 | Conversion
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
We value promotion and status. We know from other accounts Jesus disciples, still miss understanding the nature of the kingdom, have been jockeying and arguing for position/authority with one another. They think things are about to shift with Jesus leading and they all want to know what their roll is, specifically in relation to each other. They all come to Jesus not seeking to submit, but hoping he will put others in their place, and by extension validate their own perceptions of themselves. We love greater, we love what’s next, we love more, particularly when we’re the ones benefitting. We want to be raised up. Our desire for promotion and status is one born from wanting to be of value and be significant. We think wrongly these come from us becoming greater based independently on our own merit, so we seek honor.
Jesus values conversion and humility. Jesus says we need to fundamentally change who we are and how we see ourselves. We have to turn, “repent” of our sin of believing our value comes from ourselves. Without repentance, without conversion, being born again, we will not enter the kingdom of God. We preached through Ephesians 1-2 last fall and saw that Jesus mission was ultimately one of adopting estranged sinners in to the family of the King. We place our value, not in what we are or have done, but in who Jesus is and what He has done we become children of the king. “Little ones” from here on out is referring specifically to the called, saved, adopted people of God. Now children mature, but in their heart they have constant dependence on God, fully accepting and submitting to someone greater than them. Children are loved, cared for, trained, encouraged, but they have no power, status or authority beyond their identification with their parents. God’s kingdom is great we are called to be humble.
Verse 18:5-6 | Community
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
We value having no accountability. We don’t exist in independent spheres but sometimes we act like we do. We take care of ourselves and are not as focused on how what we do impacts other people. When we’re called on by others our pride wells up and we can be too quick to dismiss. “That’s not my fault on how they reacted.” I am not my brother’s keeper, if they sinned because of what I did that’s on them.
Jesus values reception and responsibility. When you enter into the kingdom as an adopted son or daughter you’re coming in as an individual but you’re becoming part of a kingdom community. Disciples in the kingdom are to receive other disciples. That means you might end up enduring with challenges, areas of brokenness, insufficiency, or even sin in others. We are called to do so graciously meaning, we are quick to receive others rather than quick to rejecting them. This means also building them up, encouraging one another, lovingly admonishing one another through difficulties and lead them away from, or out of sin. We actually take, or bear some responsibility for the spiritual condition of others, especially when our acts may cause others to sin. Jesus takes sin seriously, if the kingdom is going to be good he has to.
Verse 18:7-9 | Sanctification
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
We value compromise and complacency. We don’t take sin seriously enough. We forget Jesus took sin seriously enough that he died for it so we wouldn’t have to. We forget while made in the image and likeness of God, because of sin we are not fully who God created us to be and the world is not “good”. “It’s just the way things are. This is just who I am, I am learning to be more happy with myself.” There is systemic and corporate sin and brokenness in our culture and society. This is what Jesus means when he says the “world”. He’s comparing it to the good and perfect Kingdom of God. But systems and groups are still comprised of people, meaning while there can and is corporate responsibility, that doesn’t take away individual responsibility. We like individual freedom, but we don’t like individual responsibility, especially when it means there are real serious eternal consequences for our sin. We value the lie from the enemy that “surely you will not die” when it comes to our sin so we comprise and try to play with our sin. We are complacent with our sin, forgetting unchecked it will spread. Jesus values are different.
Jesus values radical sin amputation and elimination. There are strong words here. Woe is a comprehensive term of both judgment and sadness. Jesus has a clear, firm disposition towards sin. Jesus is holy and completely sinless. God has to be just to be good, He doesn’t compromise with sin, or complacently allow a little. There is no room in His kingdom for a little bit of sin any more than there is room for a little bit of cancer in our bodies. There are parts of ourselves that have been stained and twisted by sin. They need to be removed. There are aspects of our lives, including our actions and attitudes, that lead us to sin and Jesus calls us to remove them. Nothing is so much a part of you/your identity that if it is leading you to sin could and should not be removed. That’s legalistic! No. Jesus values life and knows there are things capable of destroying us. Jesus is clear, it’s better to have your sin removed then for all of you to suffer in wrath and Judgment. Jesus doesn’t want to offend unnecessarily, but Jesus is also crystal clear when completely necessary. A call to fight sin is not a call to self-mutilation, discouragement, or despair. At its heart it is a call to life! Not a lesser life, where we mourn what is removed, but a greater life with God.
Verse 18:10-13 | Shepherding
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see 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 has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
We value easy community. We like community and relationships that are easy.“ I just click with that person.” “I always feel better or affirmed when I’m with these people.” This is great, this is easy!” We seek and search for community that fits our preferences and comfort rather than seeking the community God has called us to. It’s easy to all have brownies together, bring someone a meal, or celebrate a victory together. But participating in a Gospel Community isn’t always easy and often involves difficult situations, awkward conversations, and getting involved in the mess of other people. We’re all sheep, then even when everything is going pretty well we can still be naturally hard to like or love. If we are not careful we can easily despise others who are distant or difficult, and focus on the easy and close.
Jesus values the difficult and the distant. While it’s easy for me to see pastoral applications to this text about leadership having hearts of good shepherds, it would be just as easy for those not leading to dismiss the lessons as not applicable. There is only one good shepherd. Jesus is the good shepherd who doesn’t despise the difficult or distant. He purse sheep, engages sheep, and returns sheep bringing restoration to His flock. We know Jesus loves the difficult and distant because we all are, and Jesus pursues us. Jesus loves his whole flock and he knows when one member of the flock is lost there is something missing and incomplete with the whole flock, so he has a special joy for sheep returned and wholeness of the flock restored. All of us as part of a Gospel Community need to have hearts for each other when there is difficulty, distance, or even sin. James 5:19-20 19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. As disciples reconciled and restored by Jesus, we are all called to follow Jesus example and be active agents and ministers of reconciliation and restoration wherever and with whoever we are called to. Because of the gospel we don’t lose heart when the pursuit seems fruitless knowing there is no such thing as a hopeless person.
Verse 18:14 | Assurance
14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
We value keeping our options open. Jesus values assurance. He knows there are going to be continual points of struggle where we will fail, fall, or flee. We see Jesus example and on most days we say “I can’t do that” or on a good day we actually consciously say/act like we want to live out His values. “But I am entitled, I am proud, I do cause others to sin, I fail fight sin, and I despise the difficult, I am the distant.” When God has made you one of his little children he is not waiting for you to fail, he is not rooting for you to fail, but he has made provision for your failure and mine. It’s Jesus.
Philippians 2:5-8 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Trust Jesus.