Again Jesus tries to show the contrast between a legalist approach and the loving grace of God. It’s this grace that allows the impossible to happen as lowly sinners are enabled to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Read: Matthew 19:13-26
Why is Jesus so keen to let the children to come to him? (Remember 18:1-4)
How do we see the young man have a similar wrong understanding to the disciples (v.16-22)?
The young man had a high opinion of himself because he felt he kept God’s laws. When Jesus called on him to make an extreme sacrifice he went away sad. What do you think you would find it most difficult to give up for the Kingdom?
Why do you think it is so difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom?
How does v.26 make you feel about sacrifices you might need to make?
Pray: Praise God that though it is impossible for us to enter the kingdom of heaven by being “good” that God has made it possible in Christ. Pray that we would continue to be people who live by his grace and not our own “goodness” or possessions. Pray that God would highlight areas in our lives that we are relying on more than him.
19:3 is the beginning of a new section in Matthew where Jesus shows up the formal religion that the Pharisees and others have created. They have created a religion that is about rules, that is heartless and Godless. It only points the finger at people, having nothing to do with God’s true, loving and gracious word. The Pharisees want to trick Jesus into making light of the law (v.3) but instead Jesus shows them instead what they’ve got wrong.
Read: Matthew 19:3-12
How does Jesus answer the Pharisees’ question?
The culture around us would say something quite different to Jesus and that might make this a personally sensitive issue. But how much are we listening to culture over Jesus on this issue?
What reasons does Jesus give for people remaining single (v.11-12)?
(For Eunuch we can read single given the end of v.12)
Jesus’ teaching on marriage, divorce and singleness is difficult. What does Jesus say is crucial to being able accept it?
In what particular areas do you need to ask God for help to accept Jesus’ teaching here?
Pray: That we would listen to Jesus’ words and that he would give us grace to accept them. Pray that Christ’s Spirit in us would give us the strength to leave our struggles and pains about marriage, divorce and singleness with our Father.
Paul shows in his life what drives his willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others rather than holding onto his rights. We will see that it is his future hope/reward that drives such sacrifice.
Read: 1 Corinthians 9:1-27
What does Paul have a right towards?
What about you, what are some of your rights as a Christian? What are you free to do?
Why does Paul not use this right? (there is a corporate side to it and personal side to it)
How does the fact that there is a prize ahead of us change the way we ought to live now?
What sort of things could you stop doing or start doing in order to get alongside others such that you might tell them about Christ and that they might be saved for eternity?
Pray: That we would have our hearts set on that future prize/hope/reward. Pray that we would then have a willingness to give up anything or start doing anything in order to win some.
The sin of our brothers and sisters in Christ is to be confronted so that they listen and return to the Lord (18:15-20). But Jesus wants the disciples and us to know that if the sin is against them this is not a moment for personal retaliation. Jesus calls on the disciples to be mindful of what they have received from the Father when they are called on for forgiveness.
Read: Matthew 18:21-19:2
Peter clearly thinks there is a limit that can be applied to forgiveness. How does Jesus show that Peter’s forgiveness has to be unlimited?
What aren’t we understanding about ourselves and God when we fail to forgive?
What does Jesus say we risk by not forgiving?
Are there any Christians at church or beyond who you need to forgive? Think carefully and pray about what might be holding you back
Pray: Give great thanks for the mercy we have been shown by the Father in Christ and pray that we might remember that each day. Pray that the knowledge of that mercy would overflow into forgiveness for others. Pray that God would help us to be honest with ourselves about grudges we are holding and bitterness we are harbouring – ask for his help to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Jesus has been talking about the extreme way God will pursue his children to keep them from perishing. In 18:15-20 he shows the disciples what it looks like for them to apply the Father’s priorities to call brothers and sisters in Christ to repentance.
Read: Matthew 18:15-20
How does Jesus show the importance of speaking to a brother or sister who has sinned? (NB. The context here seems to be of repeated and on-going visible sin)
What is the purpose in speaking to them?
How do you feel about speaking to people about ongoing sin? What makes us nervous?
How does Jesus show the big picture implications of this kind of concern for fellow Christians (v.18-20)?
What kind of attitudes should underlie concern for other Christians in their sin?
Pray: That we might have a proper (but not judgemental) concern for each other’s eternal standing. Pray that we would desire each other to listen to the word and repent of on-going sin. Pray that we would have boldness and grace in the way we speak to each other, having Father-like compassion for other Christians.
Jesus continues to urge the disciples to be like little children who welcome little children (those who are great in the Kingdom). In Matthew 18 he shows them the importance of that through the compassion and priority of the Father’s actions.
Read: Matthew 18:10-14
How does the Father show his compassion for “these little ones”?
What underlies his concern for them?
How then are the disciples to respond to children of God?
Think for a minute – are there children of God that you look down and despise? What is wrong in our thinking when we do that?
What would it look like for us to be like our Father in our compassion for fellow children of God?
Pray: Thank God that he loves and cares for his “little ones”. Repent of when we have despised other “little ones” in the kingdom and pray for help to have the Father’s loving concern for them.
We are now entering back into Jesus’ classroom, having seen him in action we are now more directly taught by him to be like him. In particular the question is what does it mean to be great? We have seen that Jesus the greatest (Son of God) is also the least (suffering and dying servant).
Read: Matthew 18:1-9
“Unless you become like a little child you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” What does it mean to be a child? (v.4)
How willing are you to be a lowly nobody? Where do you think you are most tempted to rest on your own achievements?
What are the implications of not welcoming others who have become like children (5-7)?
How extreme is the action that needs to be taken to avoid stumbling (8-9)?
How willing are you to take extreme action to ensure you and the church remain child-like nobodies?
Pray: For forgiveness for the ways that we haven’t been like little children and for when we have failed to welcome others in that way. Pray that we would not only be prepared to welcome “somebodies” but also “nobodies” (little children) and pray that Jesus would help us to strip away our “achievements” that we might become and remain like little children.