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Sermon24-15 Mt18 Guide

Matthew 18:15-20, theme verse Matthew 18:19

The praise and honor and glory be to our heavenly Father who seeks true worshipers who worship Him with the Spirit and truth.

In the fourth Sunday of the Lent season, I pray that God may bless you all in His love, grace and blessings. As we have been looking into the Gospel of Matthew, in this week, we would like to meditate on the Matthean church identity through Mt. 18:15-20 together to learn few lessons.

1)    As we already saw last few weeks, the Gospel of Matthew was written by Apostle Matthew, was sent to the church community of Jewish converts around AD 75-80, when the Christian community was separated from the Jewish community after the first Jewish - Roman war in AD 66 – 74, in order to teach the identity of His church and the way of life of Jesus' disciples who witnessed the destruction of the temple so that the church community could be established as the missional church to take great commission to go and make disciples of all nations.

2)    By the way, in order to understand the Matthean theology about the church and its identity, I think we need to look at the historical background of the first century when the Matthean church community is face up with. I mean, after Jesus was ascended to heaven in AD 33, Jerusalem church experienced the explosive growth through the coming of the Holy Spirit. But, with the martyrdom of Stephen in AD 34, Jewish Christians in Jerusalem church had to be scattered due to great persecution by the Jewish not only, to the region of Judea and Samaria, but also foreign lands through Alexandria to Cyrene in the northern Africa and also through Phoenicia to Antioch in Syria, and started to live there as Lord’s church communities. And then around 30 years later, they became to be persecuted by the Roman people, since Emperor Nero spread the rumor that Christians had set the fire, when the Great Fire of Rome broke out in AD 64. Then in AD66, the Roman procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus plundered the treasury of the Jerusalem temple which led to a large-scale Jewish liberation movement led by the Zealots, and also Eleazar, the son of high priest Ananias to stop the ancestral rite to the Roman emperor in the temple so that the first Jewish-Roman war was outbroken. So, Emperor Nero dispatched his commander Vespasian so that Roman soldiers occupied Galilee in AD 67, and Jerusalem in AD 70 and finally the war was ended with the Rome’s victory in AD 74, by occupying the last fortress, Massada, where all Jewish rebels committed suicide. Yet, this destruction of the temple in 70 AD during the Jewish-Roman war caused tremendous challenge and confusion to the Jewish community and the Judeo-Christian community too, since it was the center of their worship and religious life. Accordingly, these two communities had to provide the theological explanation and solution to this destruction of the temple, answering to the questions of where and how they can encounter God's presence, which was a symbol of God's faithfulness and power, how they can now experience God's mercy and forgiveness, and how they can now know the will of God.

3)    In response to these theological challenges, the Jewish community, after the Zealots, Sadducees and Esneans who had formed the anti-Roman camp, were almost wiped out in the Judeo-Roman war and lost their power, tried to restore Judaism by the moderate Pharisees who survived from the war, distancing themselves from politics and mainly leading a civil piety movement after the era of Herod the Great. So through the Yamnian conference in AD 90, led by their leader, Rabbi Yoyanan ben Zakkai, they moved to “Rabbinic Judaism” which emphasized charity instead of temple sacrifice based on Hosea 6:6, and also centered on the torah, based on Yeshivah, i.e., torah study school.

4)    On other hands, the Christian community who did not participate in this Jewish-Roman war and took a refuge in a city called ‘Pella’ across the Jordan River just before the invasion of Roman army to Jerusalem was now completely rejected by the Jews and was even excommunicated from them. In this situation, through his Gospel, Matthew laid the theological foundation centered on Jesus as follows; a) First, after saying Jesus who is greater than the temple, came this earth, even as God of Immanuel, God who is with them, Matthew urged that the presence of God in Jesus can be experienced in the worship gathered in the name of Jesus as 18:20 says, and through the mercy ministry toward the least who had been persecuted in the name of Jesus as 25:31-46 says, and also through the disciple making ministry as 28:18-20 says. b) And then secondly, the forgiveness of God can be tasted by confessing Jesus as the Messiah who came for and completed the vicarious atonement ministry on the cross as Mt 14:24 and 26:28 says and believing in Him, devoting themselves to Him and following Him. c) And thirdly, the will of God can be known through Jesus, as true teacher who interpreted and taught the true meaning of the Law of Moses.

5)    And then Matthew introduced Jesus saying that He will build His church in the confession of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of living God, as Peter confessed in Mt 16:16, and also Jesus promised the protection of His church from the the power of hell and also the granting of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which means the authority to proclaim the gospel of the reign of God and the forgiving of sin and acceptance as His covenantal people through baptism, and then Jesus called this community to enjoy the presence and forgiveness and will of God as the church “ἐκκλησία” where this ‘ekklesia’ which we can only find in the Gospel of Matthew, as the translation of the Hebrew “qahal” which means “the assembly of the Irsael whom as called by God to live a holy life in His covenant,” so that through this, He meant that His church became true Israel in His redemptive history.

6)    By the way, according to the chapter 5, 12 and 18, even this community of the Lord had been suffering with internal conflicts such as the differences in the position on the Jewish tradition and laws, I mean, pro-law verse anti-law, and on the mission, I mean, mission toward Jewish people or mission toward the gentiles and the political position to the Roman empire, I mean, Anti-Roman or Pro-Roman. In response to these internal conflicts, Matthew tried to challenge them through Jesus’ teaching, I mean, a) in regard to Jewish tradition and laws, while focusing on right interpretation of the law, by providing pervasive references to Jesus’ interpretation of Jewish traditions and the laws (5:21~48; 22:37~39) with the emphasis on the abiding validity of the law, Matthew tried to harmonize the law and grace of God. b) In regard to the mission, while still respecting the continuity between the Israel and the church, by focusing also on the discontinuity, in s situation where Jewish mission to Jewish people was no longer possible due to the excommunication from the Jewish community, he persuaded that the gospel should not go beyond the Israelites and go to the world, by ending his gospel with Jesus’ great commission to go and make disciples of all nations. c) And finally in regard to the political conflict to the Roman empire, he said they had to establish the community of forgiveness and reconciliation beyond political differences, and that is the meaning of peacemaker in Jesus teaching in Mt 5:9. So, today’s text of Matthew chapter 18 also should be understood in that sense.

7)    I mean, the chapter 18 is composed of three sections; a) in the verses 1 through 14, Jesus exhorted that His church had to become the community to wander to find a lost sheep and welcome it in His name, saying this humble person is the great in the kingdom of heaven. b) And then in the following verses 15 through 20, He taught the church disciplines as the means to keep the purity of His church. c) Then He urged that His church should be the community of forgiveness through the parable of unforgiving servant.

8)    Even though today’s text, the verses 15 through 20, in one hands, Jesus tried to teach us the procedure in the church discipline when a brother committed a sin, in other words, first, the private one on one exhortation on the sin, followed by the group exhortation on the sin, and then the church discipline should followed, as the expanded application of the keys to the kingdom of heaven which Jesus promised to give to His church, in reality, we have to keep in mind few important aspects of this church discipline; a) Firstly, we have to clearly understand what kind of sins we will disciple. According to our church order defines, the church discipline should pursue the correction of sins and the establishment of the Saints in case that the church member does not meet the responsibility the Bible requests, for example, he or she does not attend the worship service or commit the crime such as the murder, theft, false witness, or fornication, or hurt the church unity by favoritism, partiality, or selfishness, but not to punish the imperfectness of sanctification, lacking ability, the difference in temperament or character. b) And secondly, before the discipline, we have to check whether we have clear education or training in church, since it does not make sense to discipline the facts that were not taught at all. c) And lastly, we have to remember that the purpose of this discipline should be repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation through the education.

9)    That’s why before this text of church discipline Jesus taught the lesson about the children and after the text, the lesson about the forgiveness. And also two people in the verse 19 that if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven, are referring to two people who achieved forgiveness and reconciliation and also two or three people in the verse 20 that where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them, are referring to two or three people who achieved forgiveness and reconciliation of the Lord. Therefore, since church is formed to form, we have to keep in mind that His disciples should also aim to build people through education, forgiveness and reconciliation.

10) Through today’s Bible verses, we would like to learn few things. Firstly, as Matthew placed the Great commission at the end of his Gospel to emphasize the church as a missional church, in fact, even though the Matthean community was nothing more than a small community of people who had the identity of the least, poor and lowly outsiders or the marginalized, this small community was called to be the missional church of transformation for a large city, Antioch, which was the third largest city in the Roman empire with an estimated population of 50,000 to 100,000 and more than 40% of the city area was occupied with the government buildings and also the temple of Zeus, Apollo, and Artemis, etc., based on the imperial theology with which Zeus gave the authority to represent the gods to Rome and the Roman emperor so that they carried out this mission by caring for the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the naked and the imprisoned with God’s mercy and compassion, while living out and proclaiming the presence, reign, mercy and forgiveness. So we also should not forget that this mission was also given to us. Then secondly, as Matthew said that the power which enabled this small community to undertake such an enormous task come from Jesus, whom they confessed as the Christ, the Son of the living God so that he ended his gospel with Jesus’ promise that “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” I hope we could also proclaim His gospel to the world relying on Jesus, our enabler. And finally one more thing we need to think about is our church situation. I mean, as Calving said in his book “Institute of Christian Religion” about true believers that “a small and contemptible number are hidden in a huge multitude and a few grains of wheat are covered by a pile of chaff,” I think fearfully that our situation is not different from that of Calvin. But, like as small yet courageous Matthean community who lived as His missional community of forgiveness and transformation in gigantic gentile city of Antioch, I hope we, in the center of this gigantic Babylon where the prostitute and mammon are striding, following our Lord who came as God of Immanuel and be with us, while enjoying His presence and proclaiming the gospel of forgiveness and taking His great commission to go and make disciples of all nation, we may continue to walk in this road of pilgrim, following in the narrow gate, until His glory fills the earth.

Key Questions as Small Group Activity

Q1 Today’s text says that Matthean community as His church had lived as a missional church of transformation in a gigantic city of Rome, Antioch. I think this is the identity of His disciples, I mean, even as a small community, they courageously lived as a missional church to transform the world. In that sense, I hope we could have a time to review our life to check whether there lives a radical gospel in us. Then I hope you could share your thought with your team members to share His grace

Q2 And also, it says that the enabler which made them transform the world as a missional church was Jesus, our Lord. If so, after we review our life to check whether our Lord is living in our life as our Lord, I hope you could share your thought with your team members to share grace.

Love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Prayer Note

Dear ( God’s attribute which you found Today ) God!

Thanks for ( something you received through the sermon or  even during the week )

Praise, gratitude and glory be to You, Lord!

Today, I realized my sin (pains) that ( the sin God reminded through the sermon ),

please forgive (or heal) me and help me not to repeat ( the sins you recognized   ).

I learned that ( something you learned through the sermon                                    )

Please help me to live in that (  learned way of life                                                )

I pray in ( Jesus’ attribute you find ) Jesus’ name. Amen.

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