Sunday, May 11, 2014

A World Turned Downside Up

Frightening omens had shaken the heavens and earth in Jerusalem. For three hours the sun turned dark at noon. There were earthquakes in the evening and the morning. Were the foundations of the earth giving way? Were the mountains about to slip into the heart of the sea?
Reports of the resurrection of Jesus began to spread quickly throughout the city. Even stranger tales were spreading. Resurrection rumors were everywhere. Many saints were raised from the sleep of death and left their tombs to walk the streets of the Holy City, appearing to many (Matt 27:52–53). Jesus himself was seen by over five hundred witnesses at once (1 Cor 15:6). What did these reports mean? Was death itself a phantom? Had a door been torn open in the impassible boundary between life and death? A report circulated that the veil of the temple was torn in two. That veil marked the sacred boundary of holiness between God and man. It was death to trespass this veil. Was the way to life and to the presence of God now opened to man without fear of death? The followers of Jesus heard that Mary Magdalene had seen a vision of angels at the tomb of Jesus that recalled the ancient Holy of Holies (John 20:12). Could a woman now see into the most sacred precincts? Could someone once so defiled by demons have a holy vision? Did it no longer matter that only men and priests in former times could peer into these sacred mysteries. Has the priesthood now jumped the gender line to include women, too?
Soon thereafter the Holy Spirit descended upon the Jewish pilgrims who had come from many nations to the temple in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Language barriers suddenly disappeared. Everyone heard the gospel in his own tongue (Acts 2:6). At last a vision was given to Peter challenging him to see that all nations have been made clean (Acts 10:15). All his life Peter had kept strictly to kosher law. Did the deep divisions between clean and unclean now no longer matter? God showed Peter that no man should be called unholy or unclean (Acts 10:28). Is there no distinction any longer between the circumcised and the uncircumcised? If ritual barriers have dissolved, do racial divisions matter any longer? Does God accept an Ethiopian eunuch and a Roman centurion in the same way he accepts a Jew? Have national borders been set aside so that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, Greek and barbarian, or even Scythian? Will God respect no difference in class any longer, dissolving the deep resentments separating bond slaves and freemen? The people begin to sell their possessions to distribute to any who have a need. Is there to be no scarcity any longer? Are rich and poor, who constitute the great civic divide, now brought together by some new reality in the spiritual world?
All the customary and ancient boundaries and borders seem to pass away. How can we orient ourselves any longer to these new and startling realities of a world where death itself has been made to die?
Jesus taught us to expect something like this. He said so many things that defined the kingdom of heaven as nothing less than a complete upheaval. He said that we should sell all we have in this world to secure riches in heaven. He said the first would be last and the last first. He said the greatest in the kingdom was the servant of all. He gave thanks that the kingdom was revealed to babes and not to the wise of this world. He admonished us to lose our lives in order to find them. He taught that the meek rather than the strong would inherit the earth. He said we should count ourselves blessed when men revile and persecute us; we should rejoice when all manner of evil is spoken against us. He said that persecution on earth means great treasures in heaven. He even said we should love our enemies. In sum, he was teaching us new ways to dream. He was instructing us in the imagination of resurrection power. In this strange new world publicans become evangelists (Matt 9:9), whores become virgins (Luke 7:36–50), thieves become alms-givers (Eph 4:28), and the chief of sinners becomes the chief apostle to the nations (1 Tim 1:15).
So vivid were these new realities that people began to do most unaccustomed things. In fact many did sell everything they owned and laid it at the feet of the apostles to distribute to those who had need. To have no fear of death or any recognition of scarcity was new to everyone. Somehow it was like a return to the world before the fall of man in the garden. These new horizons recalled the time when the earth brought forth abundantly for all and death was as yet unknown. It was like the Garden of Eden when God and man walked together in intimacy and joyful delight.
The law of Moses foresaw these days. Moses gave land allotments to all the tribes of Israel except the priestly tribe of Levi. He gave them no inheritance because the Lord’s priesthood was their better portion (Josh 18:7). There was a Levite in the early church named Barnabas. This man had bought and owned a piece of property that he sold and laid the money at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:36–37). The Levite Barnabas had become a Levite indeed. But Barnabas was not the only one selling his property. Many were doing so in light of the new age that had dawned. It was as though all of God’s people were priests. Everyone was satisfied that the Lord was his portion. And just as Moses had wished that all the people of God might share in the spirit (Numb 11:29), even so now the Holy Spirit of God descended on all and filled everyone (Acts 2:4). Now all of God’s people were prophets, even as Moses had wished.
What was this new and radically democratic world where distinctions of ritual sacrament and race and sex and sanctity and national identity seemed no longer to matter? What had happened to cause the very foundations of Jerusalem to tremble? All social and civil and sacred and class boundaries were suddenly dismantled and disassembled. A new community began to form where all shared the same simple supper. Whether from east or west, all ate the same bread and drank the same cup. It was a supper that expressed the equality of all those who needed the Savior. The cross, it seemed, was the great leveler of men.
What could possibly cause such upheavals? Was all of this because someone had come back from the grave and many, too many to deny, had seen him? Who could have imagined such a new world?
But then even stranger things began to happen. The believers began to understand that signs and wonders were not supernatural but altogether natural to God’s world. All that in former times had been thought to be natural was in fact subnatural.
The apostles of Jesus first showed the way to the new world. They began to do the miraculous works of signs and wonders. They healed the lame. They cured the demonically oppressed. They even raised the dead. The power of the risen Jesus was working through his apostles in resurrection power.
The wonders were so glorious that suffering itself was recalculated. The same opposition Jesus encountered was raised again against his disciples. Peter and John were arrested by the Council and beaten for speaking openly in the name of Jesus. But the apostles left the Council rejoicing. They rejoiced that they were given the grace to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. What was this power by which they rejoiced in suffering, embracing the shame of their suffering like Jesus?
Likewise, Paul and Silas came to Philippi, where they too were arrested and severely beaten and left with bloody wounds. Afterwards they were taken to a dungeon and pinioned in wooden stocks. But in the midst of their cruciform suffering, they prayed and sang praises to the Lord (Acts 16:19–34). The bleeding apostles sang for joy. Even until midnight they praised God. What was the power that caused these men to rejoice in such suffering? Who could believe such things? Paul and Silas knew that God always takes suffering and brings forth glory. It was the way they who had died to their own lives were now living in Christ. It was Christ living through them. So they praised God in anticipation of the glorious deliverance he would work. They knew he would intervene to save them by resurrection power.
So at midnight God sent an earthquake. The chains fell off. The prison doors all opened (Acts 16:26). But no one moved from his place. God was calling the prisoners of Philippi to constitute a new community of faith. Even the jailer asked what he should do to be saved. Only the Lord God of resurrection would begin his church in Philippi with prisoners in a dungeon who had come to know a new life of liberty in Christ. The witness of suffering always led to glory. Christians by their increasing thousands were ready to embrace the cross and suffer even unto death that others might thereby come to know the power of Christ’s resurrection. They understood that by much tribulation we enter the kingdom of heaven (Acts 14:22). They learned to recalculate suffering in view of the gospel glory that was promised thereafter. They embraced imprisonments, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, hunger, thirst, cold, and exposure, danger in the wilderness, danger in the sea, danger in the city, and all manner of toil and hardship (2 Cor 11:23–28) and called it all “momentary light affliction” unworthy to be compared to the “eternal weight of glory” prepared for them (2 Cor 4:17). It was redemption’s comic turn. Death lost its sting. The grave lost its victory. Redemption brought forth joyful singing. Lamentation gave way to laughter.

As the Savior had taught, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). And the wheat fields of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world, were now white for the harvest. The apostles of Jesus went forth as sowers of seed. These faithful ones went forth weeping and bearing precious seed. But according to the resurrection promise, they understood they would surely return with shouts of joy, bearing their seed with them.1

1.  Gage, W. A. (2011). Return from Emmaus: The Resurrection Theme in Scripture (pp. 86–89). Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Warren A. Gage.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The God of binding dilemmas (Ezekiel 14:1-11)

Commenting on Ezekiel 14:1-11, Robert Jenson says:
We encounter again the mysteriously simple relation between the Lord's will and our wills. The antimony appears everywhere in scripture. Jesus tells his hearers that no one can come to him except those whom the Father gives him, and he does this in a speech aimed at bringing his hearers to him (John 6:65). In the case always adduced when theology takes up this matter, the Lord hardens Pharaoh's heart against letting Israel go and then destroys him for not letting Israel go (Exod. 7:3-5; 12:1-16). 
We should ask ourselves: if we find predestination offensive, what would we rather have the Lord do? Let us go the ways of our rebellion, to the destruction that terminates those ways? Or turn history over to our wise rule? Or, as Ezekiel here portrays God's rule, be himself in some mysterious way responsible also in our iniquities? One may of course say that God is surely not bound by such dilemmas. But that would be true only if he withdrew from his history with us; if he soldiers on with creatures who are both finite and fallen, he too faces alternatives. One may say that God should not in the first place create a history that poses such choices. But what other sort of history would we, in our great wisdom, institute?1

Most noteworthy, I think, is Jenson's commitment to God not withdrawing from history with us. That is to say, God is intimately involved in all of history. Then we should ask, what does he reveal about his involvement in history and with us? Is he so transcendent that he is entirely distant, decreeing all things which come to pass a long, long time ago, far, far away (while remaining there), and only "coming down" to visit his people here and there, from time to time, for the purpose of letting us know how distant and transcendent he always has been? 

Or is it because he is transcendent that he is also imminent, decreeing all things that come to pass, including his own personal involvement and interaction with men? If the former, then God is fully responsible in and for all our iniquities. If the latter, then God is only responsible for his choices--both his eternal decree and his personal involvement, moment by moment, with men who make choices freely (that is, by their own volition). When men make sinful choices, God not only responds accordingly, moment by moment, but he also works things out according to his eternally good purpose and pleasure.

Perhaps one way to apply this is to use Jenson's example of Pharaoh. God hardens Pharaoh's heart and God destroys him for not letting Israel go (whom he would eventually command to let go). But the human author of Scripture does not inform us about what volitional decisions of Pharaoh brought about or provoked God's decision to harden Pharaoh's heart, as revealed to Moses in time and space. Instead, the human author of Scripture informs us about one limited aspect of God's eternal decree, one limited aspect of God's over-arching plan for saving his people and glorifying his name in the Earth. 

But if God is intimately involved and deeply committed to his image-bearers, then why not assume that Pharaoh's own sins had provoked or moved the Lord to harden his heart? Yes, I realize that the Lord tells Moses that he would harden Pharaoh's heart before the narrative shows his heart being hardened. But does that really change the historical possibility that Pharaoh had already provoked the Lord to the point of planning a hardening of his heart? Only God knows anyway. It seems that it's entirely likely that Pharaoh was always confronted with alternatives--alternatives which could have kept him from the Lord's hardening. But if that's the case, then the Lord faces alternatives as well, alternatives in time and space among his image-bearers. If that's the case, then the Lord binds himself by such dilemmas and such dilemmas fully comport with the eternal decree of the Father, the provision of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit, all of which we only know about in an extremely limited manner anyway, as it has been revealed in Scripture.

1.  Robert W. Jenson, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Ezekiel [Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2009], p. 119 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

5th century Preterist exegesis of Matthew 24

In a fifth century document commonly referred to as Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum, the author makes a number of fascinating remarks concerning Matthew chapter 24. Of particular interest is his repeated reference to Jesus' statements about the destruction of Jerusalem. The author clearly believed that the prophetic statements of Jesus in Matthew 24 involved, in the very least, literal historical fulfillment in the Jewish wars leading up to the destruction of the Temple in 70A.D. But he also imposes a convenient distinction between a "spiritual Jerusalem and a physical Jerusalem," making it possible for many of Jesus' statements to also apply to the "spiritual Jerusalem" (i.e. the Church), which spans the entire course of church history until the final consummation.

The length of his comments are far too lengthy to record in full (spanning more than 20 pages), so I will condense each section accordingly, focusing mainly on his insights concerning the "physical Jerusalem":

But he [Jesus] answered them, "You see all those, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down." 
If some city rebelled against its earthly king, does he not remove the rights from that city and send his soldiers to make it desolate so that the city that did not recognize the power of its king in good times can know it in bad times and that its very desolation can attest how previously the good graces of the king had benefited it? But this nation rebelled against me, the heavenly king, ruined my law, scorned my commandments, killed my servants, raised their ungodly hands against me and further plots to kill me unless my immortal nature would defend me. So I will remove the pledge of my truth from it, that is, the Holy Spirit. I will remove my army, that is, my holy angels who protected it, so that here a stone will not stand upon another stone. Therefore, when salvation departs from it, perdition must rule it. 
As he [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" 
That is, when will these things be so that stone will not remain on stone, as you say? ...[T]hey ask that first question of their own accord and for their own sake... [for] we never saw the destruction of that temple... 
And Jesus answered them, "Take heed that no one leads you astray." 
[T]he apostles asked... "What is the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem?" ...for at the end of the Jewish nation Jerusalem was destroyed, which seemed to be Jerusalem but really was not. ...[T]he Lord does not say distinctly which signs pertain to the destruction of Jerusalem...[so] the same signs may seem to pertain both the manifestation of the destruction of Jerusalem and to the manifestation of the end of the world... What can we say then? If we wish to fully understand in a spiritual manner these signs of famine, wars, and earthquakes, they cannot pertain to the manifestation of the destruction of Jerusalem because then spiritually a nation did not rise up against nation, that is, a heresy did not rise up against heresy. ...The physical Jerusalem existed, which already has been besieged figuratively, but there is another, spiritual Jerusalem, namely, the church of Christ, which also must be tested to the end of the world and still is being tested. Therefore, just as there are a spiritual Jerusalem and a physical Jerusalem, so also those signs of which the Lord speaks must be understood both in a spiritual sense and in a physical sense. When understood physically, they indicate the destruction of the physical Jerusalem, but when understood spiritually, they indicate the testing of the church at the end to come.  
"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars." 
He was saying that at that time there would be rumors of physical battles, which the Roman emperor was preparing against Judea. For just as it is accustomed to happen in the preparation of war while leaders are chosen and an army is gathered and counted, a rumor runs around, especially to those against whom the army is being prepared. But as Josephus explains, after the army entered Judea, it did not immediately turn to Jerusalem but to the individual cities of that region, and various wars were first fought and many cities captured, and thus the army besieged Jerusalem last of all.1 So he commanded his disciples, "See that you are not alarmed," but fulfill the task of your preaching. The spiritual Jerusalem has the physical Jerusalem as its type. For unless that temple had been destroyed, the observance of that Law would not easily have been restrained. But it was destroyed so that even if the Jews wanted to keep the Law later, they could not. 
"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." 
At that time all the nations and the kingdoms, which seemed to be under the rule of the Romans, were gathered against the Jewish nation, and nearly all their kingdoms were gathered against the kingdom of the Jews. ...[N]early all those nations and kingdoms were stirred up against one nation, Judea.  
"And there will be famines, plagues, and earthquakes in various places." 
Whoever reads Josephus can find out what are the plagues and famines and earthquakes before Jerusalem was captured.2 
"So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)." 
Some say that the abomination of desolation was the image of Caesar that Pilate put in the temple. But the Evangelist Luke more accurately interprets what is the desolating sacrilege. For in the place where the current passage of Matthew and Mark write, "But when you see the desolating sacrilege," in that very passage Luke writes, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near." And so he says who are in Judea, namely, in order to show by the other resemblance of the explanation of this passage what is the desolating sacrilege standing in the Holy Place. For there was an army of foreigners and the Roman emperor standing around Jerusalem, which up until then was holy. Peter also explained this in Clement.3 Finally, the text itself also showed that this is the desolating sacrilege. For it is as if he goes back over all those things that he had said earlier and summarized them briefly and says, "So when you see the desolating sacrilege...standing," that is, "When you see those very battles now standing around Jerusalem, which you had previously heard about." ...The Roman army is called the desolating sacrilege because he would make the souls of many Christians desolate of God. For before the Romans captured Jerusalem, for half a week Christ bore by his doctrine the constant sacrifice of the Jews from his midst. For it is said that he taught for three years and six months; that number makes half of seven years, so that that sacrifice that was constantly in use would be removed from their midst and the sacrifice of praise would be offered with their voice and the sacrifice of righteousness in works and the sacrifice of peace through the Eucharist. But up until the end of the age there was an uproar because the Jewish custom of offering sacrifices was never rectified.  
"Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house." 
[N]ote that when he says, "Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains," it is possible to understand this physically according to history at the time of the Romans. 
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." 
[E]ven if the Jews were sinners up to the time of Christ, nonetheless they were his children, not his enemies, and so every wrath that fell on them was a chastisement coming out of mercy, not a condemnation coming down in anger. But when the Lord was crucified, they ceased to be his children and became his enemies. For that reason now no longer corrective chastisement came on them, but an eradicating condemnation. For Jerusalem was captured by the Assyrians and was repaired again. It was destroyed by Antioch and rebuilt again. It was invaded a third time by Pompey, and again it was repaired. For just as before the day of a person's death comes, he indeed seems to be ill but is not able to die, so also Judea was vexed before Christ but was not destroyed. But after they had committed that horrible patricide, crucifying the Son of the Father and bringing death on him from whom they received life--and what is worse, killing their Lord though they were servants and killing God through they were mortals--he struck them with such a blow that they never have been healed. For just as they committed such a crime as has never been committed nor ever will be again, so also such a sentence came on them as never has come nor ever will.4 

1.  Josephus, Jewish War, 3-4
2.  Ibid. 4:285-86 
3.  Pseudo-Clement Recognitions of Clement 1.65 (see A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 volumes. [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature, 1885-189; Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951-1965; Reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994], 8:94
4.  Thomas Oden & Gerald Bray, eds., Ancient Christian Texts: Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus imperfectum), volume 2 [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010], pp. 371-388

Friday, May 2, 2014

Literary Structure of Matthew 14-17

As I have noted in an earlier post, chapters fourteen through seventeen of Matthew's gospel comprise one complete narrative section. For simplicity's sake, I said that this section begins in chapter fourteen, but that section actually begins at the end of chapter 13, in verse 53, "when Jesus had finished" his discourse of parables (13:1-52). The structure of this narrative section is also chiastic:

A)  Jesus visits his hometown and his suffering for the Kingdom is foreshadowed by the prophet John (13:53-14:13)

   B)  Jesus feeds 5,000 Jews and is confronted by Pharisees about "bread" (14:14-15:20)

      C)  Jesus flees to the district of Tyre & Sidon and is confronted by a Canaanite woman of greater faith than the Pharisees: she loves even the "bread crumbs" which fall from the Master's table (15:21-28)

   B')  Jesus feeds 4,000 Gentiles and is confronted by Pharisees about "bread" (15:29-16:12)

A')  Jesus visits Caesarea Philippi and his suffering for the Kingdom is prophesied (16:13-17:27)

The literary parallels are even more obvious when compared section by section (as seen below):

A)  13:53-14:13 
  • Jesus "came into" (ἐλθὼν εἰς) his hometown
  • The people ask questions about Jesus: what they think of him, whose "son" (υἱός) is this man?
  • Jesus affirms he is a "prophet" (προφήτης) who is not welcome in his own "household" (οἰκίᾳ)
  • Jesus inadvertently "offends" (ἐσκανδαλίζοντο) some Jewish brothers
  • Jesus flees because Herod's wife had "John the Baptist" (Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής) "deliver" (δός) his head to her on a platter
  • Herod thinks Jesus is "John the Baptist" who has been "raised from the dead" (ἠγέρθη ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν)
  • Jesus could not do many mighty works there because of their "unbelief" (ἀπιστίαν)

B)  14:14-15:20
  • Jesus is followed by "great crowds" (πολὺν ὄχλον)
  • Jesus feeds 5,000 Jews
  • Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee & "got into the boat" (ἀναβάντων εἰς τὸ πλοῖον)
  • Jesus is confronted & challenged by Pharisees and scribes
  • Jesus speaks to his disciples about the Pharisees and eating "bread" (ἄρτον)

C)  15:21-28  Jesus withdraws to Tyre & Sidon and is confronted by a Canaanite woman of great faith

B')  15:29-16:12
  • Jesus is followed by "great crowds" (πολλοὶ ὄχλοι)
  • Jesus feeds 4,000 Gentiles
  • Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee & "got into the boat" (ἐνέβη εἰς τὸ πλοῖον)
  • Jesus is confronted & challenged by Pharisees and Sadducees
  • Jesus speaks to his disciples about the Pharisees and their "bread" (ἄρτων)

A') 16:13-17:27 

  • Jesus "came into" (ἐλθὼν εἰς) the district of Caesarea Philippi 
  • Jesus asks questions about about the people: what they think of him, and who the "son" (υἱὸν) of man is 
  • The people think Jesus is "one of the prophets" (ἕνα τῶν προφητῶν)
  • The people think Jesus might be "John the Baptist" (Ἰωάννης ὁ βαπτιστής) 
  • Jesus speaks about John the Baptist's death (7:12-13) and himself being "delivered" (παραδίδοσθαι) by Jewish authorities and then "raised from the dead" (ἐγερθῇ ἐκ νεκρῶν)
  • Jesus does a mighty work among his "faithless" (ἄπιστος) generation 
  • Jesus doesn't want to "offend" (σκανδαλίσωμεν) a collector of Herod's temple-tax outside his "house" (οἰκίαν)

Literary Structure of Matthew 18

In light of a bible study I'm preparing to teach soon, I recently searched through a number of commentaries to dicipher the literary structure of Matthew chapter eighteen. The most valuable commentary I found pertaining to the literary structure was Davies and Allison's volume in the ICC. Upon further reflection though, I wasn't entirely convinced that Davies and Allison outlined chapter eighteen correctly, so I dove into the text myself and came up with something far more fluid. It also ends up being a chiastic structure as well, instead of the triad which Davies and Allison produced. Below is how I see Matthew chapter eighteen. 

Literary Structure of Matthew 18

A)  18:1-4 – Becoming like Children in the Kingdom of Heaven: Humility before brethren who turn-back
B)  18:5-9 – If a brother causes another brother to stumble
C)  18:10-14 – Do not despise the Father’s lost sheep
B’) 18:15-22 – If a brother sins against another brother
A’)  18:23-35 – What the Kingdom of Heaven is like: Forgiveness of brethren who ask for it

      1          At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
               And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,
               and said, “Truly I say to you-all, unless you-all are turned-back and come-to-be like children, you-all will not come-into the kingdom of heaven.
               “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.      
      6      But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
      7          “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!
      8          “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.
               “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.


   10          “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually 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 any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?
   13          “If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.
   14          “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

   15          “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
   16          “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three  witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
   17          “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
   18          “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
   19          “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for
                  them by My Father who is in heaven.
   20          “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
   21          Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
   22          Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.


   23          “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his  slaves.
   24          “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
   25          “But since he adid not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
   26          “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’
   27          “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
   28          “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
   29          “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’
   30          “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
   31          “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
   32          “Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
   33          ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’
   34          “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
   35          “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”