Session #116 Who’s Missing?
Scripture Matthew 18:10-14
Summary Matthew 18:10-14 is a continuation of how we are to relate to one another in the kingdom community. In this teaching, Jesus tells the familiar parable of the lost sheep, reminding and challenging us to always be mindful of who’s missing. Henson draws three key points from the parable before sharing implications for the kingdom community.
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “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? 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. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:10-14
A continuation from previous sessions. It is still about Humility. Pride looks down on others. Humility looks out for others. Don’t Look Down on Any One but Look Out for Every One. Who’s Missing?
Don’t Look Down on Any One (Matthew 18:10-11)
The question that started it all was asked by the disciples in Matthew 18:1, “Who’s the Greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus continues in His response with, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones” (Matthew 18:10a). Jesus is telling the disciples, Take Heed: see to it, pay attention, ensure; and Do Not Despise: look down on any One.
In church, we may not intentionally look down on any One but in all the busyness, in all the serving, do we know if someone was missing? Who’s missing? Do we even bother?
Is it worth our time or attention? Our tendency is to esteem the ‘greater’ ones, those who are more prominent, more talented, more involved, more engaged, more present, are these the greatest? And it is all too easy to miss the ‘lesser’ ones, those who are not as useful, not as involved. Who’s missing?
Specifically, these are the stumbled, the wounded, the hurt, the offended, the lost. These may be more impressionable, more easily influenced, less mature, vulnerable, disobedient, prone to wander, and get lost. Who’s missing? It is easy to disregard these. Hence Jesus’ instruction: Don’t Look Down on Anyone.
The same Angelic Attention is Accorded to every one (Matthew 18:11). In case you think these are lesser in any way, or not as great, these also have the angels watching over them. Angels who see the face of My Father implies that they have access to the King and are high-ranking angels in the presence of God.
What about Angels?
Angels assigned to individuals can be seen in the accounts of Daniel in the lions’ den and to warn Joseph to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. In Acts 12:15, while it was Peter himself, those who gathered praying had thought it was Peter’s angel, so they said to the girl who answered the door, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”
Angels assigned to nations can be read in Daniel 10:10-21 to fight against the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece. Angels assigned to churches can be read in Revelation.
In Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?”, we see that they are not for us to command or send at our disposal but for the purposes of God and His kingdom. A warning is given not to worship angels (Colossians 2:18). Also, Satan and his ministers can transform themselves into angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Jesus’ main point is not elevating the service of angels but emphasizing the status of believers (disciples, God’s children). Every ONE is precious and important, accorded the same angelic attention.
For this same reason that everyone is precious, the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11; Luke 19:9–10).
If it is important to Father God, it should be important to us too. As a parent of seven children, I know when one is missing. Everyone is dear to me. Or when one is ignored or left out, I sure can feel it. Each one is so important that Father sent Son to look for those who are missing!
God sends Jesus. Jesus sends us.
So Jesus said to them again, “… As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21
If it matters to the King, it should also matter to His kingdom people. This is Jesus’ reason for coming and our reason for going.
Look Out for Every One: “Who’s Missing?” (Matthew 18:12-14)
A parable is a simple relatable story that illustrates and clarifies a key point. The shepherd is very familiar and relatable. It is a low-class occupation. It is not unfamiliar to Israel. Shepherds are used to describe Israel’s leaders, kings, prophets, judges, priests.
Note two important points when interpreting parables. To whom was the parable addressed? What was the issue or question that brought on the telling of the parable?
The Parable of Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:12-14 was addressed to disciples (in the context of kingdom community) and the question of greatness (some are more important than others).
In Matthew, this parable addresses:
Importance of One Sheep
Initiative of the Shepherd
Intent of the Shepherd
Importance of One Sheep (Matthew 18:12)
This parable brings out and emphasises this point (one vs ninety-nine). Do we value and esteem one another in the same way?
Initiative of the Shepherd (Matthew 18:12)
The shepherd must leave the rest for this one. He has to make necessary preparations by placing the flock in the care of another shepherd or under-shepherds. He is inconvenienced as it takes effort and time.
Take the Initiative. Break the Inertia.
It is more encouraging and affirming to remain in our comfort zone, just as it is easier to look after obedient sheep than to look for lost sheep. It is also easier to remain busy with activities and programmes, ignoring the assignment of looking for lost sheep. This step will require humility. Are we prepared to do the same?
Intent of the Shepherd (Matthew 18:13)
He intends to find and save this sheep. He intends to rejoice. He knows potential danger (cliffs and predators) and the possibility of death and destruction. He does not desire that even one is lost or destroyed. However, this is not guaranteed: “And if he should find it…” (IF denotes a degree of uncertainty). In other words, a possibility that the shepherd does not find the sheep.
What about “it is not the will of your Father”? Does that not guarantee that this person will not ever perish? (Matthew 18:14)
Will (thelema) does not refer to God’s predetermined outcome, but His expressed desire, that which brings Him pleasure (1 Timothy 2:3–4 and 2 Peter 3:9). He does not desire that anyone, least of all any one of His “little ones”, perish. Apollumi: apo “away or wholly” + ollumi “destruction” is a very strong word, not just partially destroyed but wholly, entirely, devastatingly destroyed.
NOTE: Jesus was referring to believers/disciples (not pre-believers). Thus, if a sheep is not found or does not return, it means destruction. If it is found there will be great rejoicing!
Implications for the Kingdom Community
Don’t look down on any ONE. Look out for every ONE.
We are to Exclude None and Esteem All. Who is the greatest? Everyone! Same angelic attention accorded to all.
Who’s Missing? Number Off. Leave No Man Behind.
Every ONE is precious and important (Philippians 2:3–4).
Leaders Take the Lead (set the example)
This is addressed to all disciples, all are to look out for others, but leaders have greater accountability. Leaders take the Initiative. Break the Inertia.
Which are we more concerned about? Are we concerned about losing the 99? Or concern for the lost? The tendency is to be comfortable, clubbish and clique-ish. It is very possible for any group to become inward and selfish over time. Every sheep is important but the 99 should be matured enough to look after themselves. They should be trained to assist in looking out for others. Awakened, aligned and assigned. They are not needy, craving to be entertained, and consumeristic all the time.
Hurt by Church. Healed by Church
Yes, ultimately it is God who heals. But trust must be regained in the kingdom community by those who have been hurt by the community. God’s solution is to use the church to heal those who have been hurt by the church. The healing may come not necessarily from the same ones who caused the hurt or offence. God will raise and use others to be His instruments of healing. Through this, the entire kingdom community learns, grows and matures.
Rejoice with the Returning
Beyond “attractional” church services and initiatives, the kingdom community can be a more welcoming community, especially for returning sheep. This helps with the re-entry and prevents re-stumbling. Sadly, too many have returned only to be rejected and hurt again and again. Do not be like the big brother of the prodigal who felt that he was the greater, the more obedient and hence the more deserving of a party. Exclude none. Esteem all.
Not Everyone Wants to be Helped
The kingdom community has a responsibility, to live righteously and not cause anyone else to sin (Matthew 18:6-9); to go look for those who have left the community because of sin or stumbling (Matthew 18:10-14).
The individuals also have a part to play. Those who have been stumbled or sinned against the need to learn to forgive and be healed (this will be addressed later in Matthew 18:21-35). However, sadly, many remain bitter and hurt, refusing to return; as if taking it out on God to spite Him. We must do our part well. But not everyone wants to be helped. God does not desire any to perish. He makes every way possible but these have personal decisions to make too
Matthew 18 speaks of Kingdom Community. There are those who have been stumbled, hurt, wounded, or offended, wandered off course, lost. Are we aware? Do we even care?
Are we only interested in the more useful ones? Do not look down on anyone. Look out for everyone.
This teaching reminds us to ask, “Who’s Missing?”
Because everyone is important to Jesus. Is everyone important to us? Jesus took the initiative. Will we? Jesus’ intent is to rescue, to recover, to rejoice. What’s ours?
Is the Lord bringing someone to mind now? Is He giving you an assignment regarding this person? Go for it.