The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? - Matthew 18:1-4

Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Matthew 18:1-20

<< Previous Note(s)Matthew Main PageNext Note(s) >>

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? - Matthew 18:1-4

The disciples' question to Jesus about who is the greatest in the kingdom is a natural human question, but it also reveals the disciples' limited understanding (little faith). The same question will come up again in 20:20-28, and this provides a kind of literary frame to chapters 18–20. These chapters together give various instructions about the life together of the people of God in the kingdom. The answer Jesus gave to the question of who is greatest was similar both times — it is the humble and the servants who enter the kingdom and who are its true leaders.

Stumbling blocks – Matthew 18:8-9

If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off ... Jesus' strong words were not meant to encourage self-harm but to shock his hearers into realizing how important it is to pay attention to things that can cause someone to not enter into eternal life. There are "stumbling blocks" that can make a person fall and not stay on the "narrow path that leads to life" (Matt. 7:13-14). In other places in Matthew Jesus described some of these stumbling blocks — love of money (Matt. 6:19-24; 19:23-24), love of the praise of others (Matt. 6:1-21), or causing other people to sin (Matt. 18:6-7).

Little ones - Matthew 18:10

Their angels always look on the face of my Fatherwho is in heaven. The overall point is that God cares about the humble, the weak, and those in need, described metaphorically as "children" and "little ones" (Matt. 18:1-13) and thus Jesus' disciples must value and care for these people as well. See WLC 192.

Practical Steps for Personal Reconciliation - Matthew 18:15-20

Loving relationships between Christians are essential to the life and health of the church. In this teaching block Jesus gave instructions on how to handle the common problem of Christians having disagreements. Jesus gave incremental steps that should be followed that move from personal conversation to include more members of the church, all with the goal of reconciliation, not punishment or separation. See WCF 23.3, 30.2, 30.4, 31.4; WLC 45, 151; BC 32; HC 85.

Gentiles and tax collectors – Matthew 18:17

Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Gentiles and tax collectors were very negative categories of people for the Jews. Yet it is precisely these kinds of people whom Jesus welcomed when they expressed faith and trust in him (Matt. 8:5-13; 11:19; 21:31-32), including Matthew himself Matt. (9:9-13). Thus, Jesus' words here were deeply ironic. Jesus was turning the tables on the Jewish leadership by saying that those who are not part of his disciples, whether they are ethnically Jews or Gentiles, are the outsiders.

Whatever you bind on earth – Matthew 18:18

whatever you bind on earth ... This language refers to decisions made about who is in and out of the faithful group of disciples. Jesus was claiming to have authority to determine who the people of God are based on whether they follow his instructions. See also 16:19.

If two agree – Matthew 18:19

If two of you agree. This is not a universal statement about the power of two people agreeing with each other, but in context Jesus was talking about the authority of his disciples as the gathered people of God.

Related Resources

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

<< Previous Note(s)Matthew Main PageNext Note(s) >>