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Journey Through Matthew: The Greatest of All Time!

Journey Through Matthew   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Our world has us precoditioned to believe that "greatness" equals wealth, power, and "importance" in human eyes and human terms. True Greatness is found in our humility and obedience to God.

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Introduction

Good evening and welcome back!
Tonight if you would start turning in your Bibles to .
We are going to pick up with our Journey Through Matthew, looking tonight at “The Greatest of All Time” and some humbling instruction that Jesus gave his disciples.
And if you are keeping up you will notice that last week we looked at , and the apparent lack of real and truth faith on the part of the disciples.
However, there is a little bit of Scripture between where we left off last week and where we will be picking up tonight.
The first thing was verses 22-23 that tell us . . .
Matthew 17:22–23 NIV - Anglicised
22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
So, again Jesus is reiterating the point to them that he is nearing the end of his ministry, not because he is retiring but because he is going to be killed.
And naturally the disciples were filled with grief concerning this news, but they completely miss the point that Jesus says that on the third day he will be raised to life.
That just completely goes over their head.
Which to be honest, we do the same thing when we hear bad and good news mixed in together.
We hear the bad news loud and clear, but the good news sort of skips right over us.
So, that is the first bit of news, which sort of drives the focus of the conversation that takes place in our passage for tonight.
The second has to do with taxes.
Starting in verse 24, Matthew writes . . .
Matthew 17:24–27 NIV - Anglicised
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Matthew 17:24-
Now, this wasn’t the tax to the Roman government, but what was known as a “Temple Tax” that every Jew age 20 and over was required to pay for the support of the temple.
It was a half a sheckel or two-dracma as the Scripture points out and was supposed to be paid every year that was equal to about two days wages.
We would equate it with a mandatory donation or tithe.
And apparently Peter and Jesus had not paid their tax for the year and the leaders were there waiting on them asking for it.
Now, we know the miracle in it was that Jesus sent Peter fishing to get the needed money to pay the tax, not from selling fish, but just to get the coins out of a fish’s mouth.
The point though that Jesus is making in his discussion though with Peter is that just like earthy kings and their children are exempt from paying taxes to the kingdom, He as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is also technically exempt from paying taxes to the temple (his Father’s House), and all of his children are as well.
However, as a matter of not offending the Jews, he would pay the tax and so should they.
In the end it is just money and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
Which is the second thing that prompts the conversation in our text.
Jesus is talking to his disciples about being royalty and heirs to thrones, and it gets their attention and gets them thinking about some things.
Which brings us to our Scripture for tonight.
So, if you have found in your Bibles, I’d invite you to stand if you are able.
Matthew writes this . . .

Scripture Focus

Matthew 18:1–9 NIV - Anglicised
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 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 maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Greatness in God’s Kingdom (vs 1-5)

So, now here it is.
They are concerned over who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now, our text in Matthew starts out like . . .
Matthew 18:1 NIV - Anglicised
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
However, there is more to it than just them coming to Jesus and asking him a question over greatness.
In , it says . . .
Luke 9:46 NIV - Anglicised
46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.
Luke 9:
And in , it says . . .
In , it says . . .
Mark 9:33 NIV - Anglicised
33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?”
Mark 9:33
So, it wasn’t just as innocent as them wanting to know something.
They had actually been arguing along the way about which one of them would be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom.
And even before they ever came and asked Jesus the question, after he calls them out on their argument . . .
Mark 9:34 NIV - Anglicised
34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
They kept quiet because they knew that they were arguing over something they had no business arguing about.
Because Jesus had taught them to be humble, to be servants, to help others.
And they were still wrapped up in this worldly mindset of power, fame, and fortune.
They couldn’t focus on helping anyone else because all they had on their mind at that point was helping themselves.
In their minds they had this great opportunity and they were going to do whatever they needed to do to get it, even if that meant stepping on top of one another.
Which we see play out every single day.
People afraid that somebody will get “ahead” of them.
We call it “keeping up with the Jones.”
If they have one car we have to have two.
If they have a 20 ft camper we have to buy a 40 ft one.
If they have a two story house we have to build a 3 story house.
And we don’t care who gets hurt along they way.
But it is all earthly stuff that is going to fade away.
Every bit of it is temporary.
And Jesus’ disciples are stuck in this mindset.
And we had better be careful or we will end up in the exact same place, if we are not already there.
So, Jesus calls them out on their behavior . . .
Matthew 18:2–5 NIV - Anglicised
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
Matthew 18:2–4 NIV - Anglicised
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And back to . . .
Matthew 18:2
And back to . . .
Mark 9:35–37 NIV - Anglicised
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
Mark 9:35 NIV - Anglicised
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Mark 9:35–36 NIV - Anglicised
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them,
And in Luke . . .
Luke 9:48 NIV - Anglicised
48 Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”
Luke 9:
And I hope we get the point here.
First, we have to become like little children.
And he is talking about our innocence and our faith.
We have to follow Jesus and trust Jesus, as a child follows and trusts what their parents say.
We have enter heaven clean and innocent.
And most importantly we have to humble ourselves and put others first.
We have to live to serve and help others, not ourselves.
That is what leads to greatness in God’s kingdom.
It is how we love God and love others that matter, not how much power or influence over others we have in this life.

Dealing with Sin (vs 6-9)

Which also brings Jesus to another point that he needs to make with his disciples.

Get Rid of What is Causing Sin (vs 7-9)

This one regarding the worst little three letter word in human language…S-I-N.
Jesus says . . .
Matthew 18:6 NIV - Anglicised
6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
And you all have heard all of the descriptions over the years about how big mill stones were and the analogy of being tied to one and thrown in the ocean.
The mob used to do a similar thing by tying people up and then tying cement blocks to them and throwing them into the ocean.
Of course they would sink to the bottom and drown, which they say is one of the worst ways a person could die.
And Jesus is saying that you would be better off in that situation than if you caused one of His children to sin.
Which, can in itself take many forms.
Doing things that you know is a temptation for the person around them.
Doing things to that person that would cause them to sin either through temptation or through anger.
And one of the biggest is leading them astray through false teaching and false hope.
This “it’s okay, God will let it slide” mentality.
Afraid to tell someone the truth out of a fear that you may offend them.
However, there is a big difference between loving someone and enabling them.
Loving them means telling them the truth because you care.
Enabling them means just accepting their behavior because you are afraid not to.
Many times when we enable, we also unknowingly approve of the sin.
And we can’t do that.
There is a fine line, but you have to walk it under the power and control of the Holy Spirit.
So, we have to be very careful about leading others into sin, but what about our own personal sin?
Jesus says this . . .
Matthew 18:7–9 NIV - Anglicised
7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 8 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 maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
Matthew 18:
Now, we get to the root of just how dangerous sin is.
Jesus knows that humans are fallen creatures and knows that sin abounds in our world.
He knows it will continue to abound, but he says woe to the man who falls into a life of sin.
And he compares the penalty of a life of sin with losing a hand or a foot.
And what he is saying is related to their livelihood and acceptance.
In their time, if you were disabled you couldn’t work because no one would hire you and you were looked down upon by society as basically cursed.
And Jesus is telling them they are better off that way than to live a life of sin and suffer the penalty, which is death and hell.
And he is also saying that whatever is causing you sin, get rid of it.
And I will tell you that gouging out your eye, cutting off your hand or foot, is not going to cause you to stop sinning.
Body parts don’t cause sin, they just participate in the carrying out of sin.
Sin starts in our heart.
If our heart is not clean and not pure then it is sinful.
And the only way to deal with a sinful heart is to give that heart over to God for God to change.
And if you don’t then regardless of what popular teachings tell you today, you will spend your eternity in hell.
In this place Jesus says is a place of eternal fire.
A place that Mark describes as one where the fire never goes out, and where the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched.
And people have all these ideas and thoughts on hell, but this is the reality.
Sin = Death & Death = Hell.
However...
Repentance = Salvation & Salvation = Eternal life.

Altar Call

Which to you makes more sense?
And I know that many of us here tonight have accepted Jesus as our Saviour, but have we allowed him to fully change our heart?
Have we given ourselves fully to the Holy Spirit?
Have we allowed the Spirit to get rid of those things that are causing us to sin?
Or are we still wallowing in sin?
Also, how are we toward others?
Other Christians and other non-Christians?
Do we treat them with dignity and respect or do we do things ourselves that lead them astray?
Do we do things that would cause them to fall into sin?
Do we enable their own sin?
And these are all tough things sometimes, but we owe it to God and owe it to them, to tell them the truth and to love them but love them with the truth.
So, maybe you are here tonight and you struggle in one or more of these areas.
You can ask God to help, and he will.
So, as the music plays I will give you that opportunity tonight, to allow the Holy Spirit to search you and remove anything that He finds unpleasing.
Will you do that tonight?
The altars are open, will you respond?
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