Matthew 18:12-14

LOOK AT THE CONTEXT - The surrounding text

Matthew 18:12-14 (NKJV) “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.

If you've read through the Gospels, you've probably noticed there are some perceived discrepancies from one account to the other. The fact is, none of the authors were writing a detailed biography of the life of Christ. John said it, "Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25).

Each author was painting a specific portrait of Christ for a particular group of people. Therefore, they included or excluded certain aspects of the life of Christ and they arranged them in an order to help paint the picture. This "painting" helps us understand the meaning of certain events or teachings better. You see this in the story of the ninety-nine. There are two accounts of this story, one in Luke and one in Matthew; and, they are both arranged differently with surround text.

In order to grab what the author was showing we need to look at the context and order of what they were writing by backing up to previous stories and reading past the story we are looking at. When we look at Matthew's account of this story and we back up to the beginning of the chapter we see Christ talking about children. He was holding a human child but was using that child as an analogy of spiritual children; being those young in the faith. He then gives warning of anyone offending these young Christians. The statements we've heard of cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye actually is associated with this warning. You're better off to do this than to offend one and not make it to heaven. We see this truth because the statement is surrounded by a warning not to offend a young Christian. Jesus then moves to the story of the hundred sheep. Directly after this Matthew recorded instructions on dealing with a sinning brother or sister.

So, what do we learn from the context of this story? We need to be careful not to offend a young Christian but rather nurture them in the ways of Christ, like a child. The one who offends one of these young Christians is in danger of judgment. Yet, even those who err in this area are not apart from the Grace of God that they can not return. They can return so we are to confront our brothers and sisters in their sin and lovingly return them to the fold; along with the young Christian who was offended. With the story of the hundred sheep in the middle of this text, we see it is not Christ himself that goes after the one but Christ through the brothers and sisters in the church. When we ignore the ones who are offended and ignore the ones who are in sin, we actually are painting a picture to the world that is opposite of the Bible because we are staying with the 99 and letting the one out to the wolves.