(Tap footnote to read it. Old Testament quotations are underlined. "Love" with a caret ("^love") is agapé.1"agapé" The Greek words ἀγάπη (agapé, noun), and ἀγαπάω (agapaó; verb) are typically translated "love". However, unlike our English word "love" – which primarily speaks of affection and feelings – agapé centers on choice and behavior. It’s the "love" based on will, choice, behavior, and action; not feelings. (Feelings-based love is the Greek word φιλέω (phileó), which properly means "brotherly love/affection".) Thus, you could hate someone passionately and still treat him with "agapé". Agapé "love" is best understood as the pursuit of what is most beneficial to someone or something, regardless of the cost to yourself or the type of response received from the person or thing. It can also indicate a preference for someone or something over other things. )
The Greatest in the Kingdom
- In that hour, the disciples approached Jesus saying: “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens?”
- And having summoned a young child, He had the child stand in their midst,
- and He said: “Amen I tell you: If you aren’t changed and become like the little children, you definitely won’t enter the kingdom of the heavens.
- “Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.
- “And whoever welcomes one such young child in My name, he welcomes Me.
- “But whoever lays bait to ensnare1“lays bait to ensnare” is a single word in the Greek. It specifically refers to a “bait stick”, meaning the trigger stick of a trap or snare to which the bait is attached. Think of the part of a mouse trap to which you affix the cheese. On reaching for the bait, the “bait stick” triggers the trap and ensnares the unsuspecting victim. It can also refer to offending someone or someone stumbling, and is often used those ways. one of these little ones who believes in Me, it’s better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.
- “Woe to the world for the bait that ensnares.2“bait that ensnares” the noun form of the verb used in verse 6, see note on verse 6 For it’s necessary for the bait that ensnares to come, yet woe to the man through whom this bait that ensnares comes.
- “And if your hand or your foot ensnares3“ensnares” see footnote on “bait that ensnares” in verse 6, since this is the same Greek word. you, cut it off and throw it from you. It’s better for you to enter into the life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the fire of ages.4“fire of ages” is literal, though it’s traditionally translated “eternal fire” here. However, that’s less literal and “fire of ages” captures the severity of the fire, which the traditional interpretation doesn’t. The word translated “ages” (αἰώνιον) here is the adjective form of the Greek word “αἰών” (aion), which is used – for example – in Matthew 24:3 when the disciples asked about the “culmination of the age“.
- “And if your eye ensnares you, pluck it out and throw it from you. It’s better for you to enter into the life one-eyed, than having two eyes and to be thrown into the fire of the Valley of Hinnom.5Most translations render this “hell” but any lexicon will tell you it’s a proper noun referring to a specific valley – the Valley of Hinnom – just outside Jerusalem. Symbolically, it’s where the Jews believed the wicked were punished in the afterlife. However, it also has historical significance which is lost when it’s merely translated “hell”. Two kings of Israel sacrificed babies as burnt offerings to the pagan gods Baal and Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom. (2 Chronicles 28:1-3, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Jeremiah 7:30-31) As a result, God sentenced them to judgement through the prophet Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 19:1-11) Their sentence was carried out about 20 years later when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem. He burned almost everything and enslaved all Judah. (2 kings 25:1-12) It was the worst judgement Israel had yet seen. This happened again a few decades after Christ when Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.
- “See that you don’t scorn one of these little ones. For I tell you: their angels in the heavens continually see the face of My Father in the heavens.
- [“For the Son of Man came to save the ones who have been lost.]6It’s unclear whether this verse was originally part of Matthew or added later, and there are good arguments on both sides of the debate. It’s nearly identical to Luke 19:10, so it changes nothing doctrinally.
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
- “What do you think? If any man happens to have one hundred sheep and one of them was led astray, won’t he surely7“won’t… …surely” The Greek here is a stronger word for “no” than is typically used and always carries an emphatic sense. leave the ninety-nine on the mountain, and having departed from there, seek the one who is led astray?
- “And if he happens to find it, amen I tell you that he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine who haven’t been led astray.
- “Thus, it’s not the will of your Father in the heavens that one of these little children should perish.
- “Now, if you brother sins [against you],8There is a great debate on whether the words “against you” were original to Matthew. Several of the earliest manuscripts don’t contain “against you”, but the vast majority of later manuscripts do. The context of verse 21 (with Peter asking how many times to forgive someone who sins “against me”) would support the longer reading. However, the context of the previous verse is about sheep who are “led astray” and those who hurt “little children”, which wouldn’t include offenses “against you”. There is also Galatians 6:1, which – though a different book – would seem to support the shorter reading. On the other hand, the sheer volume of manuscripts that support the longer reading can’t be ignored. The debate is ongoing. go rebuke him with evidence of his fault9“rebuke him with evidence of his fault” is one word in Greek. It means to correct or expose something (typically bad/wrong), which includes the idea of supporting evidence for the correction or exposition. between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
- “But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you so that “By the mouth of two or three witnesses, every spoken word might be confirmed.”10quotation/allusion to Deuteronomy 19:15
- “But if he disregards them, tell the church assembly. But if he also disregards the church assembly, let him be exactly like a pagan and tax collector.
- “Amen I tell you all: Whatever you bind11“Binding and Loosing” were recognized legal terms in the Jewish faith. Binding and loosing meant to “forbid” or to “permit” a practice in the faith. Josephus says that that the Pharisees “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.” Jesus gave the church assembly to the authority to do what previously only the Pharisees – the religious elite – had been permitted to do. Given the context here, it likely means to bind (forbid) or to loose (permit) associating with someone who has fallen into sin. However, it could also refer to forbidding or permitting religious practices, though that idea isn’t contained in the immediate context. on earth will have been bound12“will have been bound” is two words in Greek. The first is the Greek word for “to exist” in the future tense, so “will be”. The second is the Greek work for “bind”. Here it’s in the Greek Perfect tense here, which indicates an action that was completed in the past that results in a state that’s ongoing until the present. in heaven. And whatever you loose13“loose”, see note on “bind” earlier in this verse on earth will have been loosed14“will have been loosed is two words in Greek. The first is the Greek word for “to exist” in the future tense, so “will be”. The second is the Greek work for “loose”. Here it’s in the Greek Perfect tense here, which indicates an action that was completed in the past that results in a state that’s ongoing until the present. in heaven.
- Again, amen I tell you all: If two of you on earth agree about any matter – if they ask – it will become so through My Father in the heavens.
- For where two or three have gathered in My name, I’m there in their midst.
Forgiveness and the Unforgiving Slave
- Then having approached Jesus, Peter said to Him: “How often shall I forgive my brother when he sins against Me? Up to seven times?”
- Jesus tells him: “I don’t tell you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
- “Because of this, the kingdom of the heavens may be compared to a man – a king – who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
- “And having begun to settle his accounts, one debtor who owed ten thousand talents15A “talent” is not a coin but a measure of weight. It was about 75lbs, or 3000 silver shekels in weight. A talent of silver was worth about 6,000 denarii, which was the going rate for a day’s worth of unskilled labor. However, the Greek word translated “ten thousand” here can also mean “countless” in a figurative sense, so the exact number might not be important. was brought to him.
- “But since he had nothing to repay the debt, the master ordered him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and the debt to be repaid.
- “So having fallen down, the slave was bowing at his feet,16“was bowing at… …feet” is one word in Greek, often translated “worship”. It comes from the Greek words: “pros” (meaning “towards”) and “kyneo” (meaning “to kiss”). It literally refers to bowing down on your hands and knees and kissing the ground in front of a superior or authority figure. Some Egyptian pictographs have the hand outstretched, as if to send the “kiss” toward the one being revered. saying: “Be patient with me and I will repay everything to you.”
- “And having been moved with compassion, that slave’s master released him and forgave his debt.
- “But having departed, that slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii.17“denarii” is the plural of “denarius”, an ancient silver coin. It was the going wage for a day’s worth of manual labor. And having seized him, he was choking him, saying: “Pay back what you owe!”
- “Then having fallen down, his fellow slave was begging him, saying: “Be patient with me and I will pay you back.”
- “Yet he wasn’t willing. But having departed, he threw him into prison until he paid back what was owed.
- “So having seen what happened, his fellow slaves were extremely grieved. And having gone to their master, they explained everything that happened.
- “Then having summoned him, his master says to him: “You wicked slave! I forgave all that debt because you begged me.
- “Weren’t you required to have mercy on your fellow slave, just like I had mercy on you?
- “And having been provoked to anger, his master handed him over to the prison torturer18“prison torturer” is one word in Greek. It refers to a prison guard whose job it was to extract information from prisoners through torture. until he paid back all that he owed.
- “And My heavenly Father will do likewise to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from your heart.”
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