Theme: Conquered Pride
This week we learn a lesson in humility
“And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
As we concluded yesterday’s study, we noted, “Sin is so serious that any inclination toward it must be dealt with radically.” What should be done? Many people know that these verses led the early church father Origin to have himself castrated in order to avoid sexual temptation. But this is not exactly What Jesus meant since here, in Matthew 18:8-9, Jesus explains his reference to eyes and hands (v. 9 adds “eyes”) by speaking of “things that cause people to sin” (v. 7). He means: Get rid of whatever is tempting you to sin. Suggestive movies, especially the kind you can rent at video stores and bring home to watch privately. Even the daily talk shows that wallow in depravity almost endlessly. Or books that urge you to get ahead by smashing others. Or talk that promotes racial bias. Get rid of the poison. Protect your mind from the defilement.
Of course, in the final analysis the answer to any problem is never merely to run away, especially since it is so hard to avoid temptations in our culture. The real answer is a love for God and the transformed mind and heart that flow from it.
“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answered their question, but we want to follow up by asking: Did the disciples get it? Were they actually turned and changed to become like little children? We know they didn’t get it right away, because they are still fighting for the top position two chapters later. On that occasion the mother of James and John came to Jesus asking that one of her sons be chosen to sit at his right hand and the other son be chosen to sit at his left hand when he came into his kingdom (Matt. 20:21). They had probably put her up to it. So when the other disciples heard what she had asked Jesus “they were indignant with the two brothers” (v. 24). They wanted those positions themselves.
What did Jesus do? He got them together and went through it all again. “You know how the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vv. 25-28).
As long as Jesus was with them, they didn’t get it. But when he died they did, when they understood at last that he had given himself for them and had bought their salvation at the cost of his own life. And they really were changed.
It is beautiful to see. The disciples were all guilty of this self-advancing spirit, according to the gospel. But among the many guilty, James and John stand out as most guilty because of their compliance in the efforts of their mother to get them the first places. Yet think what happened to them! At one time Jesus called them “Sons of Thunder,” no doubt because of their arrogant, boisterous attitudes (Mark 3:17). On another occasion they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a village of the Samaritans which did not receive them (Luke 9:54). But they changed when they finally got their minds off themselves and onto Jesus.
We are not told much about James, but he must have changed. We never hear of him struggling for prominence after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord, and he eventually died for Jesus, being executed by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2). John lived to be a venerable old man, known at last as the “apostle of love.” He was living humility when he said, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). If Jesus can turn a “son of thunder” into an “apostle of love,” he can conquer pride in us and teach us humility. He needs to, if we are to belong to his kingdom.
How do we know the disciples didn’t get Jesus’ message at this time?
When were the disciples changed?
Have you allowed Jesus to conquer pride in you?
Pray that you will have a love of God and a transformed heart and mind to keep you from sin.