Who Is the Greatest in the Kingdom Realm?
1At that time the disciples came to ask Jesus, “Who is considered to be the greatest in heaven’s kingdom realm?”
2Jesus called a little one to his side and said to them, 3“Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in. 4Whoever continually humbles himself to become like this gentle child is the greatest one in heaven’s kingdom realm. 5And if you tenderly care for this little one on my behalf, you are tenderly caring for me. 6But if anyone abuses one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for him to have a heavy boulder tied around his neck and be hurled into the deepest sea than to face the punishment he deserves!
7“Misery will come to the one who lures people away into sin. Troubles and obstacles to your faith are inevitable, but great devastation will come to the one guilty of causing others to leave the path of righteousness! 8If your hand clings to sin, cut it off and throw it away. If your foot continually steps onto sin’s path, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better for you to enter into heaven crippled and maimed than to have both hands and both feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9And if your eye is always focusing on sin, pluck it out and throw it away. For it is better for you to enter into heaven with one eye than to be thrown into hell fire with two.
10“Be careful that you not corrupt one of these little ones. For I can assure you that in heaven each of their angelic guardians have instant access to my heavenly Father.”
A Parable of the Lost Lamb
11“The Son of Man has come to give life to anyone who is lost. 12Think of it this way: If a man owns a hundred sheep and one lamb wanders away and is lost, won’t he leave the ninety-nine grazing on the hillside and go out and thoroughly search for the one lost lamb? 13And if he finds his lost lamb, he rejoices over it, more than over the ninety-nine who are safe. 14Now you should understand that it is never the desire of your heavenly Father that a single one of these humble believers should be lost.”
Restoring Broken Relationships
15“If your fellow believer sins against you, you must go to that one privately and attempt to resolve the matter. If he responds, your relationship is restored. 16But if his heart is closed to you, then go to him again, taking one or two others with you. You’ll be fulfilling what the Scripture teaches when it says, ‘Every word may be verified by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17And if he refuses to listen, then share the issue with the entire church in hopes of restoration. If he still refuses to respond, disregarding the fellowship of his church family, you must disregard him as though he were an outsider, on the same level as an unrepentant sinner.
18“Receive this truth: Whatever you forbid on earth will be considered to be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be considered to be released in heaven. 19Again, I give you an eternal truth: If two of you agree to ask God for something in a symphony of prayer, my heavenly Father will do it for you. 20For wherever two or three come together in honor of my name, I am right there with them!”
21Later Peter approached Jesus and said, “How many times do I have to forgive my fellow believer who keeps offending me? Seven times?”
22Jesus answered, “Not seven times, Peter, but seventy times seven times! 23The lessons of forgiveness in heaven’s kingdom realm can be illustrated like this:
“There once was a king who had servants who had borrowed money from the royal treasury. He decided to settle accounts with each of them. 24As he began the process, it came to his attention that one of his servants owed him one billion dollars. So he summoned the servant before him and said to him, ‘Pay me what you owe me.’ 25When his servant was unable to repay his debt, the king ordered that he be sold as a slave along with his wife and children and every possession they owned as payment toward his debt. 26The servant threw himself facedown at his master’s feet and begged for mercy. ‘Please be patient with me. Just give me more time and I will repay you all that I owe.’ 27Upon hearing his pleas, the king had compassion on his servant, and released him, and forgave his entire debt.
28“No sooner had the servant left when he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him twenty thousand dollars He seized him by the throat and began to choke him, saying, ‘You’d better pay me right now everything you owe me!’ 29His fellow servant threw himself facedown at his feet and begged, ‘Please be patient with me. If you’ll just give me time, I will repay you all that is owed.’ 30But the one who had his debt forgiven stubbornly refused to forgive what was owed him. He had his fellow servant thrown into prison and demanded he remain there until he repaid the debt in full.
31“When his associates saw what was going on, they were outraged and went to the king and told him the whole story. 32The king said to him, ‘You scoundrel! Is this the way you respond to my mercy? Because you begged me, I forgave you the massive debt that you owed me. 33Why didn’t you show the same mercy to your fellow servant that I showed to you?’ 34In a fury of anger, the king turned him over to the prison guards to be tortured until all his debt was repaid. 35In this same way, my heavenly Father will deal with any of you if you do not release forgiveness from your heart toward your fellow believer.”