A Beautiful Mess 🎨 (Matthew 18:12-20)
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A Beautiful Mess 🎨 (Matthew 18:12-20)

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If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish. If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. I tell you the truth, whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.

The Kingdom of God is at its best with its COMMUNITY IS FIGHTING FOR UNITY.

Overall Commentary: 🌎

Jesus knows His departure is getting closer and closer. This group of followers has to become a community. He is going to spend the next few chapters helping us understand what that community looks like.



Verse 12-14:

  • 100 sheep: This is a normal amount of sheep. The picture would not be small or gaudy. This would have been easy to picture.
  • "Sheep": Notice how Jesus refers to those in this parable as sheep. This means He is referring to those He has already found, and one of His "found ones" wanders away. We often look at this parable out of context and think it is talking about the "unconverted." It is about the people of God.
  • Shepherds: At this time, being a shepherd was considered dirty, manual labor work that was too messy for the upper class of society. However, Jesus uses this depiction repeatedly to help us understand that living in a community is not always pretty and perfect.
  • Did He leave the sheep helpless? There is a misconception that Jesus left the 99 to fend for themselves while He sought His lost sheep. This would have been irresponsible, but that was not the case. The shepherd would often go looking for wayward sheep and leave His other sheep in the care of competent stewards.

Verse 15-17: The Steps of Accountability:

  • Offending you or just being offensive? There is a little debate over whether the text is supposed to say if you are personally offended or if that person is in sin. The earliest translations do not contain the text saying anything about you being personally offended. The best way to see the text is to see that it works in both situations.
  • What types of issues are worth discussing? This is not a license to become a church bouncer or someone who constantly points out the issues of others. This is talking about someone who you see as having continual, habitual, unrepentant sin.
  • First, privately: The first step is to go to this person privately. This is to resolve the issue and see if you can walk with them. It is also to see if you are correct in your assertion.
  • Second, with a couple of witnesses: This is not necessary as someone who has seen the issue and is now ready to stand against this person. This could be someone there to hear the case and see if there is an issue. This is not gossip. You have brought this into your confidence because you are not concerned for the soul of the person wandering away from the faith.
  • Third, to the church: If that person still does not turn from this dangerous direction, you can bring it to the church. This would have been common to the people hearing Jesus' message because the local assembly did much of this. The church leadership would then decide the best next course of action.
  • Fourth, be seen as someone outside the community: If that person will still not listen, you have to place healthy boundaries in your life. This doesn't mean you act as though they are dead to you. It means you have to guard yourself and begin praying for them to come home.

Verse 18-20: Verses in Context

  • All have the authority to apply God's Word: Jesus says the same thing He said in Matthew 16. However, then He was talking to Peter. Now He is giving all followers of Christ the right to enact the Word of God and hold each other accountable.

Top Takeaway- God is With Us in the Struggle

The final verse of this passage is special because it reminds us that God is in this. He will be with us when we live together in a community. This means things will get messy from time to time. He's with us in the mess, too.

Message Notes

Further Resources for Deeper Study