The Greatest in the Kingdom.
SUMMARY.--Who Shall Be Greatest?
Becoming As Little Children.
Causing the Little Ones to Stumble.
Despising the Little Ones.
How to Deal with an Offending Brother.
Forgiving Those Who Injure Us.
Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
1. At the same came the disciples unto Jesus. Compare
Mark 9:33-50; Luke 9:46-50,
says the conversation occurred at Capernaum.
At that time. As Peter returned from paying the tribute money.
Who is the greatest in the kingdom? The disciples had disputed
in the way
as to which of them should be chief ministers in the earthly kingdom
that they still supposed Christ would establish.
also says that before calling the child, Jesus said: "He that would be
greatest among you, let him become the servant of all," the rule of
2. And Jesus called a little child unto him. In order to enforce
the words that
uses a striking object lesson. This method was a prominent feature of
Oriental teaching. Thus it was that Christ washed the disciples' feet
and Agabus bound his hands and feet with Paul's girdle
3. Except ye be converted. The Revision translates, "Except ye
turn," which is correct. The Greek word
translated in the Common Version "be converted," is found in the New
Testament in the active voice in every instance but one, and means
to turn. It means something that the subject is to
do, not something that is to be done for him.
Become as little children. Humble, teachable and free from
selfish ambition, like little children.
Shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Instead of
discussing who should be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, they had
better inquire whether they were going to get in at all.
4. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little
child. This explains the great feature in which they must become as
the child. Greatness in the kingdom is not secured by seeking to be
greatest. There is a lesson here for Christians, and especially
preachers who are ambitious of distinction.
5. Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name.
Receiving in my name is serving with Christian love, and as
belonging to Christ.
Receiveth me. Observe that the true way to receive Christ is to
receive into our heart, for Christ's sake, those who need our
6. Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in
me. The Revision makes this plainer by rendering it "cause to
stumble," or to go astray. The term "little ones" not only embraces
children who have learned to believe in Christ, but all lowly and
Better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck.
Better that a man should lose his life in so terrible a way than to
destroy the souls of others.
Drowned in the depth of the sea. Which was within sight. This
method of capital punishment was practiced by the Egyptians, Greeks,
and Romans, and possibly occasionally by the Jews. It is still
practiced by the Turks.
7. Woe unto the world because of offences! There will continue
to be temptations and causes of stumbling in the world which will lead
thousands astray and cause much sorrow.
8, 9. If thy hand or thy foot offend thee. Cause you to sin or
stumble; ensnare you into evil. The meaning is, if an object dear as
the right eye, and useful as the right hand, lead you into sin, that
object however dear, you are to part with. See
Into life halt or maimed. The meaning is, not that a man hath no
better way to avoid sin and hell, but if he had no better, he should
Into hell fire. "Into the Gehenna of fire." This phrase, in
is synonymous with "everlasting fire," in
See note on
10. Despise not one of these little ones. Not merely one of the
children, but those saints whom the world regards as insignificant and
unimportant. "To despise" is, literally, "to look down upon," and
hence, to neglect. This forbids all caste in the church.
In heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father.
The doctrine of guardian angels is emphatically taught in the
2 Kings 19:31;
Ps. 91:11; Heb. 1:13; Acts 27:23.
Who can afford to despise the children who have representatives right
at the throne of God?
11. This verse does not occur in the Revision, and is not found
in the most reliable Greek manuscripts, such as the Siniatic and
12, 13. How think ye? This illustration of the anxiety of the
shepherd for a lost sheep is used to show the deep interest that God
feels in any one of the straying "little ones."
If a man have an hundred sheep. The man having a hundred sheep
is plainly the Son of God--the Good Shepherd.
14. Even so it is not the will of your Father, etc. As the
shepherd feels a deep and anxious interest in the straying sheep, and
seeks to hunt and to save it, so the Father above seeks the salvation
of all the humble ones in his kingdom.
15. If thy brother. Compare
Mark 9:38, and Luke 9:49.
Brother in the church.
Sin against thee. Personally. Injure you or do you wrong.
Shew him his fault. Go to him privately and have a kind, brotherly
talk over the matter, and try to show him his fault.
Gained thy brother. For thyself, by restoring good feeling; for
God, by leading him to a sense of sin and repentance.
16. Take with thee one or two more. If the private interview is
of no avail, take other brethren as witnesses and intercessors. These
witnesses, hearing the matter talked over, can report the facts.
17. Tell it to the church. If neither effort is of avail, then
report it to the church for action. This is the second instance in the
New Testament of the use of the word "church." The first is in
If he refuse to hear the church. The admonition and entreaty of
the church through its elders.
The church has power to admonish and to exclude.
Let him be to thee as a heathen man and a publican. Have no
religious fellowship with him, more than you would have with a heathen,
or a publican. The publicans were usually apostate Jews. The orthodox
Jews had no social intercourse with heathen or publicans.
18. What things soever ye shall bind. What was said to Peter
is addressed to all the apostles. It is spoken to all a second time
All had the keys as well as Peter. The apostles were, under the
direction of the Holy Spirit, to establish the rules of the church
discipline, as well as to announce the conditions of salvation by the
gospel. These rules and conditions, found in Acts and the Epistles,
bind and loose men. As they were to speak and write as moved by the
Holy Spirit, what they announced would be ratified in heaven.
19, 20. If two of you shall agree. Two shall constitute a
Christian fellowship. The united prayers of this fellowship for any
legitimate object shall be heard. The assurance of this is found in the
fact that Christ will be present wherever two or three are gathered in
his name. Their united prayers will ascend, made mighty by the
intercession of the Son of God. By his presence it becomes his
In my name. As followers of Christ.
21. Then came Peter to him. The Lord had just spoken of the duty
of seeking reconciliation with those who trespassed against us
and there seems to have been some doubt in the mind of Peter how far
this principle should be carried.
Till seven times? It is stated that the Jewish Rabbins held that
forgiveness must be extended to one who confessed his fault, but this
was limited to three repetitions of the offence. Peter had an idea that
the Savior's rule would insist on still greater forbearance.
22. Until seventy times seven. That is, there should be no limit
at which it shall be refused if it is asked in the spirit of sincere
penitence. By reference to
one can see the condition of forgiveness. It is that the offender
professes repentance. We are to forgive men their trespasses on
the same condition that God forgives us ours, and he does not forgive
the impenitent. Our mercy must be just as unlimited as that of God.
23. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened. The Lord next
enforces the great doctrine of forgiveness to our fellow-man in a
To a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
The king is the Lord, the servants those who profess to serve him as
King; the kingdom is his church on earth, but reaching beyond the
24. One was brought unto him. Observe that he had to be
brought. A defaulter does not
willingly come to settle his accounts, any more than a sinner would
seek the bar of judgment.
Which owed him ten thousand talents. An immense sum. The talent
was a weight, not a coin, and its value would depend on the purity of
the precious metal used in the coinage. If the Greek silver talent is
meant, the ten thousand talents would amout to about $7,500,000. What
is meant is that the sum was beyond human ability to pay.
25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay. He had used his king's
money and was not able to settle his accounts. He represents the
sinner, who has no way to settle the debt of his sins. See
His lord commanded him to be sold. An absolute king is
represented, who could do according to his will with his servants. It
was common, even until modern times, for persons to be sold for debt.
In many nations the wife and children were involved in the hapless fate
of the debtor.
26. Fell down, and worshipped him. In Oriental countries, almost
all who approach monarchs prostrate themselves and offer homage. This
is especially true of those who urge a petition. See
Have patience, . . . I will pay thee all. This promise was one
that could not possibly be fulfilled, though the servant might think it
27. The lord . . . forgave him the debt. He is represented as so
moved by compassion that he did far more than was asked and forgave the
28. But the same servant went out. His own exhibition of
brutality was immediately after the great mercy he had received. What
follows shows that he had only been frightened, not converted.
An hundred pence. The denarius, or penny, was a silver coin
equal to from sixteen to eighteen cents. The whole debt would therefore
be from sixteen to eighteen dollars. Its smallness compared with his
debt to his lord is intended to show that our neighbors' sins against
us are insignificant when contrasted with ours towards God. We need
such boundless mercy that we ought to be prepared to give mercy freely.
Took him by the throat. The great defaulter, who had been
treated with such mercy, had no mercy.
29. Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. It will be
noticed that this unfortunate debtor makes exactly the same appeal as
his exacting creditor had made to his lord.
30. And he would not. He would not even grant delay, whereas he
had been forgiven.
Cast him into prison. To cast into prison for debt was once the
custom in all countries.
31. His fellow-servants . . . were very sorry. Unmerciful
treatment of the unfortunate is always wont to excite compassion. The
servants were not only sorry for their wretched comrade, but they
carried the case to their lord. It is always proper to carry the wrongs
of fellow-beings which we cannot redress to our Heavenly Father.
32, 33. O thou wicked servant. The sin of which the servant was
guilty and charged is not that needing mercy he refused to show
it, but that having received mercy he remained unmerciful
34. His lord . . . delivered him to the tormenters. This
language is to be interpreted by customs that still prevail in the
East, where torture is still used to compel debtors to confess where
they have hidden treasures that they are suspected of having concealed.
In both Greece and Rome torture was used on prisoners to compel
confession, and until within a century or two it was still employed in
Great Britain and Europe.
Till he should pay all. As, however, he never could pay, he was
condemned to perpetual imprisonment.
35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, etc.
Observe Christ says, "My heavenly Father," not your. God will
not be their heavenly Father unless they emulate his spirit of mercy,
and are as ready to forgive others their trespasses as he is to forgive
their own. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
"As ye mete to others it shall be measured to you."
"Forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass
"Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
If we are hard and unforgiving to our fellow-men, we can never expect
our heavenly Father to overlook our own sins. It is a vital doctrine
that we, by our own mind towards others, determine what shall be the
mind of God towards us.