Following the revelation of the mysteries of the Kingdom (13), Matthew presents Jesus in various situations where His kingdom preaching is opposed, and the King is rejected. Yet, in light of this opposition from Herod the Tetrarch (14) and the Pharisees and scribes (15), Jesus continues to demonstrate that He is the promised Christ who came to satisfy not only the hunger of the Jews but also that of the Gentiles (14 and 15). However, at this crucial point, Jesus makes a stunning announcement – the satisfaction He came to bring to the nations will come at a high cost: His own betrayal and death (16:21, 17:12, 22-23). Jesus also reveals that His death is not because of a lack of power or authority. He is completely in charge of His mission and willingly lays down His life to atone for His sheep (17:24-27).
This Sunday, we begin a new series in our study through the Gospel of Matthew called “The Right-Side-Up Kingdom” (18-20). It begins with Matthew’s fourth discourse, in which Jesus focuses on His disciples to prepare them for His absence. In this address and the subsequent narrative, Jesus reminds them of the values and priorities that characterize all who enter His kingdom and join the community of the saints, the church.
It begins and ends with what it means to be great in the kingdom (18:1-5, 20:20-28). Christ-like and child-like humility characterize His followers through and through. His community (the church) is pictured like a flock of sheep. If anyone in the community strays from Christ, the heart of their Shepherd goes after them to bring them back (18:10-14). Believers, humble and lowly like Christ, are to be eager for restoration when conflict arises among the saints (18:15-20) and to offer limitless forgiveness in light of their own forgiven offenses (18:21-35). In the ensuing narrative chapters, Christ teaches concerning divorce (19:1-12), children (19:13-15), idolatry (19:16-26), and sacrifices and rewards (19:27-20:16).
Values such as faith, humility, forgiveness, and lowliness may seem upside down to the world, but for God and His children, they are actually right-side up. What else would we expect from a King who is “gentle and humble in heart” (11:29)?