April 29, 2007
Matthew 18; Luke 10
Regarding the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, I invite you to visit this great BYU Studies article by John Welch: article. Here is the full-blown article: article. Here is the Ensign version of the article: article.
This is probably enough to keep you studying for weeks! But we have two chapters to address during this lesson…here’s my attempt:
Before tackling chapter 18 I believe we must first glance back into chapter 17 to see how this bears on chapter 18, especially verses 24-27 of Matt 17. This is a “two-drachma tax.” Note that this is a temple tax, used to pay for the upkeep of the temple. Jesus says that in the fish Peter will find a “four-drachma coin,” enough for them both to pay the temple tax. Note the references to children, kings, offenses in these verses. Now let’s go to chapter 18.
v. 1: Why are the disciples concerned with who is the GREATEST in the kingdom of heaven? Does his previous message in Matt. 17:22-23 have anything to do with this question?
v. 2: Why does Jesus even entertain this question? Why doesn’t he just point to the child from afar instead of calling him over?
v. 3: What does conversion have to do with being a little child? The verb “be converted” translates a Greek verb that means “turn.” To be converted, to repent, is to turn back, to return. In what sense is repentance a return?
v. 4: What did THIS little child do that evidenced humility and how does that make a person the greatest in heaven? How does conversion AND being like a little child qualify us for heaven? Does this kingdom of heaven relate to the “kings of the earth” back in Matt. 17:25? In Israel and Rome at this time, the child was not a legal person. Children were the property of their parents. Is that relevant to understanding what Jesus meant when he said that we must become as children to take part in the reign of heaven?
v. 5: Is this a literal “little child” Jesus is speaking of?
v. 6: The Greek word translated “offend” means “to cause to stumble.” Does the fate of the offender of “little children” relate to the fish back in Matt. 17:27? The word for millstone here literally means “millstone of a donkey.” This is much larger and heavier than the millstone people used by hand. I’ve seen millstones from 50 to 1,700 lbs. in weight. Interestingly, the reason millstones left a mill were that they wore out by getting too thin for grinding, cracked or broke. Another reason was that they were considered unlucky or evil. Until the 1700’s millers did not have cranes in a mill to move and lift the millstones for dressing. So people lifted and flipped them with large wedges and pry bars. If they were dropped they would end up in the mill’s basement taking out everything downward in its path. So for a long time millstones that hurt or killed any one were considered unlucky or evil. So perfectly good millstones were retired out of the mill and became tombstones to mark the graves of the last person they killed. They also became door steps so others would step on them and carry their evil away with them. So for a long time a millstone removed from a mill meant that it was evil or had killed someone. Does this superstition add new light to verse 6?
v. 6-9: Note the JST here! Do these offenses relate to the offense spoken of back in Matt. 17:27? Consider the relationship with “household” here. What does it mean to “enter into life?”
v. 10: The NIV breaks the next 4 verses into the “Parable of the Lost Sheep.” Whose angels are these? Why does it matter that they see the face of God? How does this pericope relate to the previous one? Does an offense given have the potential to cause “one of these little ones” to be lost? How so? The word translated “despise” could also be translated “not concerned for.” The word translated “face” can also be translated “person,” and in Greek “those who see the face of a king” is used as a title for court officials. Does this reference to “king” relate to Matt. 17:25 “king” and “kingdom” in Matt. 18:1-4?
v. 11: This is omitted in most modern translations since primary sources indicate it was surely a later addition to parallel Luke 19:10. Does leaving this verse out impact the rest of the text?
v. 12-13: What does this first line mean and why is it asked? Why is Jesus suddenly speaking about sheep? Why did the one sheep get lost? Who is the parable about? And why is the sheep in the mountains verses some other place? Is this one sheep more important than the others?
v. 14: Now we’re back to “little ones.” This implies that “little ones,” “sheep,” and “little children” are all the same entity. What is this entity?
v. 15-17: What does the relationship between these brothers have to do with lost sheep? The word trespass here is the same as offense. The Greek term “brother” can mean “fellow believer” or “fellow Christian” (cf. BDAG 18 s.v. ἀδελφός 2.a) whether male or female. It can also refer to siblings, though here it is used in a broader sense to connote familial relationships within the family of God. Therefore, because of the familial connotations, “brother” has been retained in the translation here in preference to the more generic “fellow believer” The earliest and best witnesses lack “against you” after “if your brother sins.” Does leaving this phrase out change the meaning? Why does Jesus outline this course of action when there is an offense? Why does the brother become as a heathen man and a publican (or a pagan and a tax collector in another translation) when there is no resolution when you’ve made an effort at resolution? What responsibility does this teaching place at the feet of both parties in this relationship? The author, Matthew, was a tax collector. How does that impact your understanding? Does this relate back to the tax issue in Matt. 17?
v. 18: How does this verse relate to the previous verse? What does the word “bind” remind you of? X Matt. 16:19; D&C 128:8. Why would Jesus use this phrase here? Does it relate to the familial relationship?
v. 19: This seems to be speaking about group prayer. What is the power of shared prayer and how does this apply to previous verses? What does “Amen” really mean?
v. 20: What does it mean to have Jesus “in the midst of them?” How does this relate to covenantal relationships within marriage? What about Matt. 25:40? and 3 Ne. 20:22?
v. 21-22: Why does Peter ask about forgiveness after getting the outline of how to deal with offenses in the previous 6 verses? The number 7 implies completion. With this in mind, what is Peter asking? How does Jesus counter this view? What does this teach about the Atonement?
v. 23: This seems to echo the senario back in Matt. 17:24–27. How?
v. 24-35: As you read this parable, identify the characters. Are they static or can their identity change? Who are you in the parable? Note that Elder Holland defines the money in v. 24 as 1 talent = 75 lbs. or $300,000 for a total of $3 BILLION! In contrast, the money in v. 28 is calculated at 1 day’s wage equalling 1 pence, or $50 for a total of $5,000. What does this contrast teach us? Compare the two debts. See King Benjamin’s “unprofitable servant” speech at Mosiah 2:24. How does this parable relate to The Lord’s Prayer in Matt. 6:9-13? How does this parable relate to The Beatitudes found in Matt. 5?
v. 1-16: How do you picture these missionaries and what is the nature of this mission they’ve been sent on?
v. 12: What is the day written of? What does this teach about sharing the gospel? Why is it worse for this city than Sodom, the most wicked of OT cities?
v. 13: Tyre and Sidon are two other notorious OT cities (Isa 23; Jer 25:22; 47:4). The remark is a severe rebuke, in effect: “Even the sinners of the old era would have responded to the proclamation of the kingdom, unlike you!”
For more on verses 1-24, please visit Jim F.’s Sunday School notes.
v. 25-37: See the notes at the top of this post regarding the articles on the Good Samaritan for further study.
v. 36: Jesus reversed the question the expert in religious law asked in v. 29 to one of becoming a neighbor by loving. “Do not think about who they are, but who you are,” was his reply.
v. 37: The neighbor did not do what was required (that is why his response is called mercy) but had compassion and out of kindness went the extra step that shows love. See Mic 6:8. Note how the expert in religious law could not bring himself to admit that the example was a Samaritan, someone who would have been seen as a racial half-breed and one not worthy of respect. So Jesus makes a second point that neighbors may appear in surprising places.
v. 38-42: This pericope has always intrigued and puzzled me. I wish I had been there to more fully get a picture of what was going on and what is meant to be learned from this story. First, Mary & Martha are sisters and friends of Jesus, also the sisters of Lazarus who Jesus will later raise from the dead. At the beginning we get a sense that Martha is older and the owner of this house, therefore the responsible hostess to the Savior. Verse 39 tells us that Mary “also” sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. This implies that both women had listened to Jesus before and it appears that at the moment only Mary is sitting at his feet while Martha is overwhelmed with the tasks of hosting Jesus, and possibly his disciples, too.
I appreciate Martha’s request of Jesus. Too often it seems people are afraid even to complain and ask for help, but continue being “cumbered about much serving.” However, instead of getting the additional help she requests, she is reproved. Is she reproved? The custom of the day forbid a woman to be taught by a rabbi, which Jesus was considered.
v. 40: The NIV translates the word “cumbered” to “distracted.” The term distracted means “to be pulled away” by something (L&N 25.238). It is a narrative comment that makes clear who is right in the account, being Mary. Also, the NIV translation indicates that this distraction is what instigates Martha’s irritation with her sister and demand for her help.
v. 41: Here is an expression of love: “Martha, Martha.” When was the last time you heard Jesus say your name TWICE? We heard him earlier declare, “Thou art Peter.” How does Jesus addressing Martha by name in this manner make you feel? Is he condescending? Compassionate? Empathetic? Is he chastising her or praising her about her carefulness and thoughtfulness? What are the “many things” he’s referring to?
v. 42: What ONE THING is needful? Mary has chosen it. What is it? There obviously are MANY parts but one of them is “good.” What does the word “good” make you think of? How does this pericope relate to the previous parable? Does this relate back to Matt. 18? Does this relate forward to the next chapter’s messages and stories? X John 6:35; John 11:22,24-26.