Matthew 18:1-9 Part 2

Matthew 18:1-9 Part 2


In order for us to receive the clearest understanding possible of this most important passage from the Gospel, we have to go back, now, and revisit one of the Kingdom parables – the parable of the zizanium in the field.  And as we do so we are reminded that Jesus spoke in “parables” or allegories in order to fill up Old Testament prophecy – which says that these “dark sayings” will be for the purpose of further blinding those who are blind and leading the blind!  And in our being reminded of that, the fear of God is stimulated in us anew; for His judgment against idolatry and false teachers consists, in part, in the further removal of the truth.  We are well aware of that very thing happening in our own country and in the Church as a whole.

But in Israel’s case the plunge into darkness led to national disaster and the termination of covenant blessings.  And Jesus’ condemnation of her leadership is of central importance in the Gospel of Matthew.

So as we recall all of that, let’s read the parable once again.  This is Matthew thirteen, verses twenty-four through thirty:


“Another parable He committed to them saying, ‘The Kingdom of the Heavens is likened to a man sowing good seed in his field; but while the men slept his adversary came and did over-sow zizanium throughout the wheat and went away.  But when the crop sprouted and bore fruit, then the zizanium was also made apparent.  And having come forward, the slaves of the housemaster said to him, ‘Lord, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have zizanium?’  And he affirmed to them, ‘A hostile man did this.’  And the slaves say to him, ‘Do you wish us to go and gather them?’  But he said ‘No, lest, as the zizanium are being gathered you should uproot the wheat with them.  Let them both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the harvesters, ‘Gather first the zizanium and bind them in cords in order to burn them; but gather the wheat into my storehouse.’

Then, after setting two more parables before the crowds of people, Jesus and His disciples went into the house.  And the disciples asked Him for an explanation to the parable of the zizanium.  And this is what He said to them:  ‘The one sowing good seed is the Son of Man.  And the field is the cosmos; and the good seed, these are the sons of the Kingdom; and the zizanium are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed it is the devil; and the harvest is the consummation of the age; and the harvesters are the angels.  Just as, therefore, the zizanium is gathered and is burned in fire, so shall it be in the consummation of this age.  The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out from His Kingdom all the entrapments and those doing the lawlessness.  And they shall throw them into the furnace of fire; there there shall be weeping and gnashing of the teeth.  Then the righteous shall be resplendent as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.  The one having ears let him hear.’”


Now.  The noxious weed “zizanium” is the devil’s sons who were over-sowed in God’s paradise – Israel!  And at the end of the age, there were only seven thousand (a qualitative perfection) of the remnant of the covenant in Israel.  The whole nation, which was to be the mountain of God and the light of His glory to the world, had been led to become worse than all the nations of the world!  (Babylon)  And at the end of the age, the harvesters came and cast their sickles.  And the alien pretenders were reaped and cast into the fire.

As Jesus said, all the entrapments and those doing the lawlessness were gathered up and burned.  Now, it’s very important that we see that Jesus calls the zizanium of the field, (the sons of the devil, the aliens who were over-sowed in the field) – entrapments and lawless ones!  These are the ones – the leaders and teachers and officials of Israel – 1) who interpreted and administered the law, 2) who provided the nation with its leadership, 3) who gave direction to the nation, and 4) let it into its perverted condition!  They and all their followers were the alien seed sowed in the Garden of God!  They were not the keepers of the Garden, but pretenders – hypocrites – who had been placed there by the evil one.  They were not who they were supposed to be; and through their “mask” of hypocrisy led the nation of God’s people (the “house” of God, the “mountain” of God) into apostasy – later to be crushed upon the Rock which is Christ!  Entrapments and lawless ones.

And this is the background/context through which we must enter into the text for this morning, for Jesus says here that those who are “born anew” as the babes, and whose “old man in Adam” has been humiliated and denied in Christ (Who suffered and was humiliated) are the ones who enter into His Kingdom!  And all those who receive these (who are new-born babes in Christ) are receiving Christ!  And the reason that Christ is received when one of these new-born babes is received is because the humiliation and denial of the old humanity-in-Adam springs from, is incited by, the rebirth in His new humanity!  It is He Who is the New Adam; and He is received when a new-born in Him is received!

But, as Jesus says at verse six, “Whoever entrap one of these little ones…”, and Jesus there gives the seriousness of having done that.

Now, you will notice that there is a transition here from “receiving” a new-born for Jesus’ Name, to the dire consequences resulting from “entrapping” one of them.  In “receiving” one (verse five), Christ is received!  Whereas if one is “entrapped”, then one suffers the terror of being dealt with in the wrath of God! (verse six)

As we deal with these two words “receiving” and “entrapping”, we should understand that they are not exact opposites.  One would expect that if Jesus were speaking in opposite terms, He might have said “receiving” and “turning away”; that one who “received” one of these new-borns for His Name would actually be receiving Him; and if one “turned away” one of them he would bear the judgment from God.

But He didn’t say that.  The two words are not exact opposites.  Entrapment is a much broader term than the opposite of “receiving” would be; and it is definitive of the entire broad spectrum of Pharisaical, hypocritical leadership!  And that’s why we began this sermon by reading the parable of the zizanium in the field; for there Jesus says that the “entrapments” and the lawless ones will be harvested and burned in the fire.  And here in our text He says that one is better off suffering the most ignominious end to his life rather than entrap one of these who has been rebirthed in Him!  More about that in a few minutes.

First we have to go back and make sure that we have an adequate grasp of a word which we’ve already addressed a number of times before.  And that word is skandalizo – “to trap”, or to “entrap”, or “to snare”, or “to spring shut”.  And again, as we’ve made mention of before, there is no basis for translating it as an “offense” or a “stumbling block”.  There’s another word for “offense”; and whenever someone is hurt or “offended” by another, then that word is used.

But “skandala” is a lure to destruction and to help us with this a bit.  Let me set the word into another Biblical metaphor – that of “blindness”.  Should a blind person be given instructions as to the location of a place where he desperately wants to be, but the instructions are completely faulty, then he’s in grave danger of being lost or killed!  Now if we were to fill out the allegory and give it its Biblical content, we would say that spiritually blind people who lead other spiritually blind people inevitably lead them into a wilderness where they fall into pits or are attacked by wild animals!

And if we take the allegory even further:  if one is instructed as a child in what is right and wrong, but the instructor nor the teaching is righteous; then, again, inevitably the instruction is a snare which leads to ruin and destruction!

Now, in the so-called “wisdom” literature, and in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the Greek word skandala has been used to translate those conditions.  And I want to take a couple of those examples in order to help us even further.

And the first example, we see quoted by Paul in Romans chapter eleven:  He quotes from Psalm sixty-nine (which has to do with the suffering and humiliation and death of the coming Messiah).  Here’s the quote from the Psalm – verse twenty: 


“Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.  They gave Me also gall for My meat; and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.  Let their table be changed into a snare before them – a trap!”


The table which is referred to here indicates the whole consignment of blessings which have come to the Jews because of God’s promises to them.  But at the time of the appearance of their Real food – the body of God’s Anointed One – they tortured and killed Him!  The table of blessings from God reached its fullness in the Bread of Life, and they would not eat of Him.  You remember, of course, the occasion in which Jesus said that He was “the bread of Life”; and many of His followers turned away!

The fact that Christ Jesus is our “Table” and our “Bread of Life” is described in Scripture as a snare and a trap.  He is also called the Rock upon which many are crushed.  But the word is skandalizo – the word in our text.

But the Jews didn’t see any need for a New Humanity in this man from Nazareth!  They were perfectly all right the way they were!  (And anyway, one day the Messiah would come and rule the world from Jerusalem!)  They were Jews.  And God had blessed them from the beginning.  They had their ancestry from Abraham.  And their Pharisaical/Priestly system of law; and their Torah and Midrashim.

Their table didn’t include feeding on the body of this man Jesus.  It didn’t include being “rebirthed” in His humanity.  It didn’t include destroying the old man and the old way of life and becoming as the “babes”.  They were Jews!  Their “table” was full.  And the hypocritical, idolatrous, false teaching of the leadership of the nation – the “alien zizanium” in the field – led the entire people of God into ruin; the blind leading the blind; and they all rejected and punished and murdered the “fullness” and completion of their own table!  They were “snared” and “entrapped” and crushed on their own table!

In chapter eleven of Romans, Paul completes his three-chapter analysis of the position of Israel before God (having rejected the Messiah) by quoting from this very Psalm about the suffering and death of Christ.  Listen to these couple of verses:


“As it has been written, God gave to them a spirit of stupor (blindness) – eyes not to see and ears not to hear – until the present day!  And David says, ‘Let their table be changed into a snare and a net and a trap and a retribution to them.  Let their eyes be darkened so as not to see, and their back always bending.’”


As another Old Testament example, the apostle Peter says the same thing to the refugees from Israel before the great tribulation.  And he quotes from Isaiah chapter eight which says that the Messiah will be a stone of crushing and a Rock of entrapment of the Jewish nation.  And Peter uses that Isaiah quote to differentiate between the apostate Jewish nation and these few who, as the elect of God, had escaped.  They were the ones who were precious stones in the temple of Christ’s body – built upon that very foundational Rock upon which the nation was crushed!

There are a number of other Old Testament examples, but the last one I’ll use is Jesus’ reference to Zephaniah chapter one in His parable of the sower in Matthew chapter thirteen.  Zephaniah, in his prophecy of the destruction of Israel, says that God will cut off from the land the wicked and the entrapments.  And Jesus, in His parable of the sower, says that the wicked snatch the Word of Truth from some; and others are entrapped by persecutors and by sufferings!

Now, what comes out of this study (which includes more than just these three examples) is that these “snares” or “entrapments” – the skandala – are enticements (deceptions; lures) to apostasy and unbelief!  And they include 1) the setting up of false worship and idolatry; 2) the teaching of false doctrine; 3) the manipulation of understanding by hypocrisy; 4) persecution of believers and causing suffering; 5) building an environment of unbelief and impiety; 6) tantalizing to promiscuous behavior; and others, including the re-interpretation of the Law for personal benefit!

And the study also makes it clear that the context is set in eschatology – the end of the age is coming in which these “entrapments” have led the nation to the brink of destruction and exclusion from Christ’s Kingdom.  The leadership of Israel –the elders and priests and scribes and civil government officials – have enticed the nation to apostasy and unbelief, snaring them in apostasy and unbelief, leaving them lame, blind, deaf, sick and imprisoned.

But Jesus said that those who are newborn as babes in Him shall enter into the Kingdom.  And because they’ve been rebirthed into Him, when one is received for His Name’s sake, then Christ Himself is received!  And woe to the man who entices one of them to apostasy 1) by persecution, 2) by false doctrine, or 3) by manipulation, or 4) by temptation to disobedience and lust!  For the temptation or enticement of one who is newborn in Christ is an entrapment of Christ!

You see, if one receives Christ when one receives a newborn in Him (for His Name), then one entraps (entices) Christ when one snares a newborn in Him!  And one would be better off to have been plunged in the depths of the sea to meet the Judge in his depraved state, rather than to have been one to entrap a newborn in Christ to sin!  Our care in speaking only the Truth in Christ – and living in Him – that we not become a snare to one of His little ones. 

And then in verse seven Christ gives His disciples a warning of entrapments to come because of Him.  It’s inevitable, He says.  In John chapter sixteen Jesus refers His disciples back to the things He has told them about Himself, and He says, verse one:


“These things I have spoken to you that you not be entrapped.  They will put you out of the synagogue; and they will kill you as an offering of service to God” (because of Jesus).


Jesus told them of their election and their security in Him in order that, in the hour when these entrapments of persecution come, they might remember it all.

And, indeed the enticements to recant the faith did come!  Stephen was stoned; Paul died in prison; Peter was crucified; John was banished to Patmos; on many occasions the apostles were thrown out of the synagogues and stoned; history records the severe persecutions of some of the others; and “woe to the world because of the snares!”  The persecution of these new-born babes in Christ brought retribution from God upon Israel in the worst world-wide holocaust in all of history – 70 AD.

But the enticements to apostasy are still coming.  It is inevitable.  The Lord Jesus Christ is still a terrible snare and a Rock of crushing to those who will not believe and who seek His overthrow as King of the Heavens and the Earth.  And we who have humiliated and denied the old man and have been reborn into Him are constantly being enticed (entrapped) to sin and unbelief.

But God loves the body of His dear Son; and woe to the man who entraps one of these little ones who has been rebirthed into the second Adam!  It would be so much better if he had never lived than to be judged for that sin by the Father.

God the Father delivered His Only Begotten Son over to the elders and priests and scribes to be humiliated and shamed, persecuted and murdered.  And the nations were gathered together against Him to participate in it.  He suffered and died as God-man – in our flesh.  He was crucified, dead and buried.  He descended into Hades – the realm of death; but it could not hold Him.  He came up out of there as the Risen God-man.

So, even depraved humanity couldn’t thwart God’s Sovereign intent to save His elect people.  All of us – the entirety of the human race – deserved to suffer eternal separation and death, for we are a fallen and cursed race!  From Adam on, we are dead!  The realm of death is our chosen and preferred state, and it is a matter of justice that we receive what we deserve!  We are children of our father Adam.  We belong to the realm of the dead.  The race is dead!  And the fruits of death is eternal death!

And since we exist in deadness, we prefer ourselves rather than God.  We don’t wish to give honor and obedience to another – we want autonomy (the covetous essence of deadness)!  We want, above all things, to be free from the constraints of holiness!  We are, naturally, creatures of the night; we love what is dirty and perverted; we crave what is obscenity and smut; we are full of self-esteem and self-concern, which is the essence of covetousness; we are no different from the animals – ready to fill every lusty appetite!

And Jesus said, “You must be changed to (even) enter the Kingdom.”  You can’t be dead in sin and enter the Kingdom – you must be reborn as a new baby is born.  Your father Adam must no longer be your origin – you have to have a new origin!  And Jesus, the sinless Man, came up from the dead in order to be the new origin for man!  He is the second Adam; not dead like the first, but alive, having defeated death!  The first one is death – the Second is Life.

And whoever would enter the Kingdom must “die” to death, and be made alive in Jesus Christ.  He said, “You must be changed….”  Your origin; your heart; your mind; your actions – YOU – everything.  The old must be humiliated and it must die.  And you must be reborn as a new baby with a new origin!

And each one of these for whom Jesus died and was raised form the dead is so loved by God that anyone who would entrap one of them to sin is threatened with the everlasting vengeance of God the Father!  You see, the love of God the Father for His Own Begotten Son is of unspeakable and unapproachable dimensions; and His love for His adopted new-borns is grounded in the fact that we have suffered the humiliation and death of self in the humiliation and death of Jesus.  Paul says that we share in His suffering and death!  And that we are raised in His resurrection to newness of life!  And that newness of life is characterized by walking in holiness – under the authority of the Spirit of Christ in Whom we have been reborn!  And it involves the continued rejection of the old self and it’s old, self-concerned way of life, and turning unto Christ and His Kingdom and the Glory of God.

Now, for any whose heart might be impaled upon the Sword of Christ, and whose sin is exploding in your soul, you ask, “What should I do?”  As the apostle Peter replied, “Turn away from your accursed stated of being,” hear the One Who has been sent, and be changed – that your sins may be blotted out.  Turn from your iniquities and continue steadfastly in doctrine, in fellowship and in prayer.

As we meet today for the Lord’s Table it is with all of this in mind.  The Lord Christ is our Table.  And in Him come all the blessings of God the Father.  We here signify our union in Him, and our attachment to Him and death and rebirth in Him.  And it is declaration to the world that this is true.  [And we pray that God will cause us to participate in the glory of all His virtues and His perfection; and as seductions and persecutions and temptations and inducements to sin-and apostasy come to us, we pray His mercy and grace upon us that we might not compromise the Faith in those pressures.  And that we might speak the truth to those around us.  And that we might address culture and society for the Name of Christ.  God make us strong in Christ – and protect us from His enemies – the entrapments and the lawless.]