1. Then the disciples came up and asked Jesus, “Who, in your estimation, is really the greatest in the Kingdom of/from the heavens?”
2. But instead of directly answering their question, He first called a little child over to Himself, and placed him in the center of the room,
3. and once they had focused on the child, He said to them, “Boys, I really and truly want you to get this…unless you change the way you think about things…until your mind is cleansed from your cynicism and competitiveness with one another…until you have a paradigm shift that moves you from the silliness of being ‘childish’, so that you can enter the freedom of becoming ‘child-like’…and until you grasp the difference between these two concepts…you’re never going to be subjects in My Kingdom at all!
4. Whoever will remove the mental clutter of adulthood, so that he or she can re-connect with what is the best part of childhood…the simple, basic ideas of trust…humility…love…forgiveness…imagination…that person will rank very high in the Kingdom of/from the heavens.
5. Furthermore, you should know that I am so identified with these little ones, I can tell you that whoever receives and loves and welcomes and celebrates one little child like this for My sake, and in My name, receives and loves and welcomes and celebrates Me.
6. On the other hand, whoever hurts one of these precious ones…or abuses them in any way…or takes advantage of their simple trust…or causes them to grow up and be less than what they should have been…it would actually be better for that individual to have one of those huge grinding-stones that they use in the mills fastened around his neck, and to be sunk in the depth of the sea.
7. The world suffers terribly because of those who bring this kind of sin into it. Children are going to have a difficult enough time learning to make right choices for themselves, without selfish adults making it even harder for them to do so. The on-going struggle to choose the right path is a fact of life and a rite of passage…but those strong ones who cause the weak ones to go astray bring a certain kind of curse on themselves!
8. So, let Me put it this way…your desire to be a good example should be such that if, say, your hand or your foot causes you to stumble and sin, you would be willing to just cut it off and throw it away. It would, in fact, be better for you to go through life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet, and your very existence become so worthless that you end up being thrown into the fires at the garbage dump outside Jerusalem which never go out.
9. By the same token, if your eye causes you to stumble and sin, you should be willing to pluck it out and throw it away from you. Again, it would be better for you to go through life with only one eye, than to have two eyes and live in such a way that would cause you to end up being thrown into the fires of Gehenna.
10. This may sound extreme to you, but you need to comprehend the importance of this point. It is simply unacceptable to damage one of these little ones…or even to resent or despise them in any way. Remember this… their personal angels are constantly in touch with my Father in the heavenly realm.
11. (Verse 11 doesn’t exist in any original manuscripts.)
12. Now think about this…if a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray and gets lost, won’t that man…if he’s a true shepherd…leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?
13. And then, if he finds it, doesn't he make far more over it than over the ninety-nine who haven’t wandered off?
14. Well, your Father in the heavenly realm feels exactly the same way about people… especially these little ones. He doesn't intend to ever stop searching for those who are lost, until every single one is found!
15. So, since your Father is so relentless in His love for you, you should be relentless in your love for one another. For example, if your brother or sister wrongs you in any way, you should have the integrity to go and tell him or her about it, directly…and keep the conversation and the whole matter between the two of you. And if he/she ‘hears’ you…I mean listens to you and receives what you have to say and comprehends it, you have won back your brother or your sister.
16. But if the offender refuses listen to you, don’t give up your pursuit of reconciliation, yet. Take along with you one or two others, so that every word may be confirmed and upheld by the testimony of two or three witnesses…and try again.
17. If that doesn’t work, and he or she still won't listen or receive you, then, and only then…go public with it. Get up and tell the whole church what’s going on between the two of you. And if that still doesn’t work, and you still can’t work out a way to re-connect with that person in relationship, then you may have no choice but to stop your physical efforts, and just pray for him or her. In that case you will have to love the one who hurt you from afar, as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18. Let me tell you why this is so essential. First, as I have already told you…whatever you forbid and declare to be improper and unlawful on earth must be what is already forbidden and declared unlawful in the heavenly realm. In the same way, whatever you permit and declare proper and lawful on earth must be what is already permitted in the heavenly realm.
19. This is why relationships are so important. See, if two of you on earth come into the kind of agreement that exists between those in the heavenly realm, you create a supernatural harmony together that makes a symphony…and that kind of harmony is the music of God…the ONE song, or the ‘Uni-Verse’…no discord…no dissonance…no instrument out of tune with the others. And when that symphony is played, the agreement causes whatever…anything and everything…they may ask to come to pass and be done for them by My Father in heaven.
20. Because wherever at least two or three are gathered or drawn together in and into My name…when that kind of harmony takes place…there is a revelation of the Christ, and there the I AM is in the midst of them”.
21. Then Peter, intrigued by all this talk of reconciliation and harmony, came up to Him and said, “Lord, how many times may my brother sin against me, and I forgive him and just let it go? I mean, you’re talking about a relentless pursuit of reconciliation so that people can be in harmony with one another…so…should I go so far as to forgive him seven whole times?
22. Jesus answered him, “Oh, Peter, you’re way off…I say that you shouldn’t stop at seven times, but that you should forgive seventy times seven…and by that I mean into infinity! You never, ever stop forgiving.
23. Let Me explain it this way: The Kingdom of/from the heavens is like a human king who wanted to settle accounts with his attendants.
24. When he began the accounting, it became apparent that someone owed him a huge amount of money. So the man who owed so much was found and brought to him, and when all of his debts were added up it was discovered that he owed the king several million dollars.
25. Well, the man didn’t have anywhere near that kind of money, so the king ordered him to be sold into slavery, along with his wife and his children, and everything that he possessed, so that at least some of the debt could be repaid.
26. So the man, overwhelmed with the enormity of the debt, and the severity of the situation, fell on his knees and just begged the king, pitifully. He said, ‘Please, sir, don’t destroy my family by selling us into slavery. I beg you to have mercy and patience with me, and I promise that somehow I will pay you everything.’
27. And the man seemed so sincere that the king’s heart was moved with compassion for him. So, as a gesture of good will he released him and forgave him of the entire debt!
28. And would you believe, the very same attendant got up and went to find one of his fellow attendants who owed him about twenty dollars. And when he found him, he grabbed him by the throat, started wringing his neck, and demanded, ‘Pay me right now what you owe me!’
29. So his fellow attendant, startled by this attack, fell down and begged him earnestly, saying, ‘Please, just give me time, and I promise to pay you back!’
30. But he wouldn’t hear of it, and he went out and had the man put in prison till he could pay the debt.
31. As you can imagine, when his fellow attendants saw what had happened, they were indignant, and so they went and told everything that had taken place to the king.
32. So the king called the man back in and said to him, ‘I’ve never in my life seen anything like this display of ingratitude and wickedness on your part! Out of the goodness of my heart I forgave and cancelled all that huge debt of yours because you begged me to, and I felt sorry for you.
33. How is it possible that you could leave here, and go straight to this man and treat him the way that you did? You received so much mercy from me…where was the mercy you should have given him?’
34. And the king was understandably incensed and irate with this insensitive ingrate, and turned him over to the torturers in the jail until he should pay all that he owed.
35. The point of the story is this: My heavenly Father expects every one of you to be as forgiving as you have been forgiven…don’t force Him to treat you the way the king treated the man because of his unwillingness to show the same mercy that was shown him!”