Matthew 18: A Systematic Philosophy for Dealing with Humans and Error--Part Two

Matthew 18:10-14 NKJV
(10) Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. (11) For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (12) What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? (13) And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. (14) Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

This is part two of an ongoing study. For part one click here.

The above pericope is primarily recognized as the Parable of the Lost Sheep. It is a continuation of thought, however, and it only serves to further establish the concepts Christ has taught us to this point; primarily that we are His children and said children are to trust, obey, and be humble as well. Christ's use of parables serves to portray abstract concepts as practical.

An underlying principle in this pericope is that God is very interested in His sheep, i.e. His Children. This principle is expressed to the degree of going out and finding one lost sheep, out of a hundred faithful. Obviously then, God has concern for even the "one" who goes astray.

We should also note that here Christ has "shifted attention away from the physical violence of a hand or the lust of an eye to the mental attack of scorn"(1), that is why he mentions the word despise. Verse ten offers us a third warning; this warning says that we are not to despise even "one" of the little ones. The Greek meaning for "despise" here means to neglect or disregard, to view one as non-important.

The faithful interpreter here should remember that the message to the "children" in these passages is purposely being applied to His immediate audience, i.e. the children, surrounding Jesus, as well as subsequent believers, metaphorically.

Often when we disregard a person we consider them less competent as others; therefore, they are neglected, ignored, and even pushed aside. The end result of such behavior is possibly crippling to the potential of the individual, also they're abilities are untapped, and their growth stunted. Here Jesus shows us the principle of the Body edifying itself. If we should not disregard them, then it is almost certain that we should regard them properly, by prayer and blessing at the very least.

Vs. 10

This verse may serve as a point of interest because it possibly gives rise to the idea of guardian angels. I believe this to be true but I believe it applies to God's children generally, young or old. For example, the Psalmist declared prior this reference in Matthew:

For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In
their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
(Psalms 91:11-12 NKJV)

"In the Bible angels did more than deliver messages and observe human affairs. They also were personally involved in protecting God’s people in times of great need."(2) It is also common that angels minister to each believer (Hebrews 1:14; Psalm 34:7).

Vs. 11

This text causes us to search, because this verse is actually omitted in certain ancient Greek manuscripts. In fact, there are some translations (NIV, NET, NJB, TEV, Moffat, Godbey) that do not include this text in the English translations at all; others (NASB, HCSB, ESV) include brackets indicating it as inserted but omitted text.

The NKJV is our primary reference text for this study, so we will follow its pattern. The NKJV insert the verse but identify it as omitted in certain ancient texts. Dr. Spiros Zodhiates makes these comments:

"Since verse 11 is not found in some older manuscripts, certain commentators suggest it was added by later copyists from Luke 19:10 to provide a transition into the next three verses. But since it is found in most manuscripts, we suggest it is authentically from Matthew himself and Jesus used the same thought twice, once when He introduced the parable of the ninety-nine sheep here, and later when He spoke to Zacchaeus as recorded in Luke 19."(3)

In the context of this pericope, Christ is discussing lost sheep. Therefore, it is quite obvious that the states of those sheep are being referenced here as well. This is what Christ has come for, to save those people who are lost. The rendering of "lost" here is accurate since it refers to the occasion whereby one wanders away, much like sheep, and becomes lost. The sheep was lost because of its own carelessness however, of its own accord. The reference here is reminiscent of beginning things. For example, it explains much of the Incarnation ("come to save") and also tacitly references the lost condition that Adam and Eve’s rebellion brought upon humanity.

Adam and Eve was a people truly blessed by God. In fact, the Garden of Eden was a testimony of his favor towards them. They desired to know good and evil, and to choose what was right for their own selves. As a result of The Fall humanity has become much like sheep gone astray. It is by our own arrogance and negligence that we are often prey for predators stalking the flock. God never loses, purposely or out of weakness, any sheep He saves and brings into His fold. People are not lost because of God, (see the Good Shepherd, John 10:14) but because of their own determination to wander. (4)

This entire discourse (ch. 18) seems to touch on the root of human error, so much so that it even beckons the first happening of human error, e.g. The Fall. God's goal then is to reconcile lost people, it is His main purpose. It is ironic that we choose to wander from the Shepherd, purposefully, yet He still takes time to bring us back to the flock.

God deals with His sheep in various ways concerning their lostness; for a discourse on those who are lost and yet God allows to return of their own volition see the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).

Vs. 12

Here Jesus invokes the participation of those hearing. He says, "What do you think?" Obviously, He knew their thoughts but wanted them to think or talk this through with Him.

Part Three begins with studying forgiveness. Check back.


1. Exegetical Commentary on Matthew, by Spiros Zodhiates, Copyright © 2006 by AMG Publishers. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

2.. Understanding Christian Theology (560). Swindoll, C. R., & Zuck, R. B. (2003). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

3. Exegetical Commentary on Matthew, by Spiros Zodhiates, Copyright © 2006 by AMG Publishers. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

4. Halley's Bible Handbook with the NIV Copyright © 2000 by Halley's Bible Handbook, Inc.

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