New Testament Lesson 16 (Matthew 18; Luke 10)

THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS

● Elder James E. Talmage said, “We have seen that the Pharisees and their kind were constantly on the alert to annoy and if possible disconcert Jesus on questions of law and doctrine, and to provoke Him to some overt utterance or deed . . . The ‘certain lawyer’ . . . put a question to tempt Jesus . . . We may assume that he wished to test the knowledge and wisdom of the famous teacher, probably for the purpose of embarrassing Him. Certainly his purpose was not that of sincere search for truth. This lawyer, standing up among the people who had gathered to hear Jesus, asked: ‘Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied by a counter question . . . If this man, who was professedly learned in the law, had read and studied properly, he should know without asking what he ought to do. ‘What is written in the law? how readest thou?’”1

● The lawyer then stated the two key requirements for eternal life (Luke 10:25–28).
— Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and might (Deut. 6:5).
— Love they neighbor as thyself (Levit.19:18).

— Elder James E. Talmage said, “The man replied with an admirable summary of the commandments: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.’ The answer was approved. ‘This do, and thou shalt live’ said Jesus. These simple words conveyed a rebuke . . . Having thus failed in his plan to confound the Master, and probably realizing that he, a lawyer, had made no creditable display of his erudition by asking so simple a question and then answering it himself, he tamely sought to justify himself by inquiring further: ‘And who is my neighbour?’”2

● The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). To fully understand the import of this question, we must understand rabbinical teachings on the matter: “We are not to contrive the death of the Gentiles, but if they are in any doubt about a ‘neighbors’ danger of death we are not bound to deliver them; e.g. if any of them fall into the sea you need not take him out, for such a one is not thy neighbour.”3

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

● The Jews had previously said Christ was “born of fornication” (John 8:37–41). This has two possible meanings: (1) As an insult. suggesting that his mother, Mary, was a fornicator when she conceived Him. (2) Suggesting that He is not a descendant of Abraham.

● They also said He was a “Samaritan” (John 8:42–49). This was a racial slur in those days.

● In response, Jesus gave them the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–35).

— The setting of this parable is the road to Jericho, which was notorious for being infested with thieves and murderers. As the main character in the parable is making his way along this road he is attacked, beaten, and robbed, then left for dead.

— Two men who ought to have been leaders of the Jews passed by–a priest and a Levite–without giving any assistance to this badly injured person.

— Then comes along a Good Samaritan (who would have been hated and disrespected by Jewish leaders). He and only he stops, pours in wine to disinfect the man’s wounds, and oil to promote healing. Then he takes the injured man to an inn and pays for his care.

— Jesus then asks the Pharisees, “who was neighbor unto this man,” and they correctly say it was the Samaritan.

— Jesus concluded the parable by saying to the lawyer, “Go thou, and do likewise” (Luke 10:36–37).

— The hidden meaning is that Jesus Himself is the Good Samaritan.

PRINCIPLES OF FORGIVENESS

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

● The parable of the Unmerciful Servant is a parable about forgiving in order to be forgiven (Matthew 18:23–35).

● The Lord then provides advice to us for when we have been offended (Matthew 18:15). Why is this the best way to resolve disputes?

● Peter asked how often he should forgive and Jesus responded “until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21–22). He used this high number to teach that we should always forgive others.

— Elder James E. Talmage said, “Ten thousand talents are . . . a sum so great as to put the debtor beyond all reasonable possibility of paying . . . The man was in arrears for debt. He did not come before his lord voluntarily but had to be brought . . . The contrast between ten thousand talents and a hundred pence is enormous. In his fellowservant’s plea for time in which to pay the hundred pence, the greater debtor should have been reminded of the dire straits from which he had just been relieved; the words, “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all,” were identical with those of his own prayer to the king. The base ingratitude of the unmerciful servant justified the king in revoking the pardon once granted. The man came under condemnation, not primarily for [his own] debt, but for lack of mercy after having received of mercy so abundantly.”4

PRINCIPLES OF FAITH AND MERCY

Connecting Faith with Priesthood Power

● “Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:17–24). As He always did, Jesus asked this father if He believed that Jesus was the Christ. This is crucial, since faith is required for any miracle to be performed. Who cannot feel for this helpless father as he cries out to the Savior, “Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

● The Apostles were troubled at not being able to cast out the evil spirit of this child (Mark 9:25–29). Jesus gave them two keys for increasing the power of their administrations: fasting and prayer.

The Miracle of the Tribute Money

● Jesus obtained by miraculous means the amount needed for the temple tax (Matthew 17:24–27). By doing do, He demonstrated the importance of being subject to rulers and to the law of the land. But He also showed that He is the Master of all things, both temporal and spiritual.

Becoming like Little Children

● Priesthood leaders are servants, not masters (Mark 9:30–35).

● Jesus warned against offending little children (Mark 9:36–37,42).

● Except we become “as little children” we cannot be exalted (Mark 10:13–16).

● Jesus used a child as an example of celestial behavior (Matthew 18:1–4).

● To “offend one of these little ones” in this context means to “cause to stumble” (Matthew 18:6). Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “We hear disturbing reports of parents or guardians who are so far removed from the Spirit of Christ that they abuse children. Whether this abuse is physical, verbal, or the less evident but equally severe emotional abuse, it is an abomination and a serious offense to God.”5

“Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me”

● Jesus’ disciples were disturbed when some little children were brought to him, fearing they would cause a disturbance (Mark 10:13).

● Jesus corrected his disciples and told them to let the little children come to him (Mark 10:14–15).

● Jesus then gathered the little children around him and blessed them (Mark 10:16).

The Sanctity of the Marriage Relationship

● The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking him about the lawfulness of divorce (Matthew 19:3).

● Divorce was a much-discussed issue among Jewish scholars and leaders, and the Pharisees hoped that Jesus’ answer to their question would allow them to stir up anger among the Jews (Mark 10:1–12).

● Jesus told them that divorce was not ordained of God (Matthew 19:4–6).

● Why Moses allowed divorce among the Israelites (Matthew 19:7–8).

— In ancient Israel, a man could put away, or divorce, his wife for insignificant reasons. Jesus taught that in a perfect world, such as the celestial kingdom, divorce does not exist. Because the earth is not yet perfect, divorce is allowed but should not happen except for the most serious reasons.

● A man who put away his wife for a frivolous reason was still married to her in the eyes of God, and he thus committed adultery if he married another woman (Matthew 19:9).

DOCTRINAL INSIGHTS

What are some doctrinal insights we receive from this week’s lesson material? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.

We set the standard by which we will be judged (Matthew 7:2).. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “Ever keep in exercise the principle of mercy, and be ready to forgive our brother on the first intimations of repentance and asking forgiveness; and should we need forgiveness, our Heavenly Father would be equally merciful unto us.”6

— President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Remember that we must forgive even if our offender did not repent and ask forgiveness . . . Do we follow that commandment or do we sulk in our bitterness, waiting for our offender to learn of it and to kneel to us in remorse? . . . This reconciliation suggests also forgetting. Unless you forget, have you forgiven? . . . No bitterness of past frictions can be held in memory if we forgive with all our hearts.”7

— President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“We see the need for [forgiveness] in the homes of the people, where tiny molehills of misunderstanding are fanned into mountains of argument. We see it among neighbors, where insignificant differences lead to undying bitter-ness. We see it in business associates who quarrel and refuse to compromise and forgive when, in most instances, if there were a willingness to sit down together and speak quietly one to another, the matter could be resolved to the blessing of all. Rather, they spend their days nurturing grudges and planning retribution. . . .

“If there be any who nurture in their hearts the poisonous brew of enmity toward another, I plead with you to ask the Lord for strength to forgive. This expression of desire will be of the very substance of your repentance. It may not be easy, and it may not come quickly. But if you will seek it with sincerity and cultivate it, it will come. . . .

“There is no peace in reflecting on the pain of old wounds. There is peace only in repentance and forgiveness. This is the sweet peace of the Christ, who said, ‘blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ (Matt. 5:9).”8

The spirits of little children always inherit celestial glory (Matthew 18:10–11). The JST (footnote 11c) says that little children do not need repentance. It is not God’s will that “[any] one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14).

Little children, because of their humility and purity are and will remain “alive in Christ” (Moroni 8:12; D&C 29:46–47).

Notes:

1.  Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [1916], 429.
2. Jesus the Christ, 430.
3. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible [1909], 751.
4.  Jesus the Christ, 392–396.
5.  In Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 107; or Ensign, May 1991, 80.
6.  Address to the Twelve, Tuesday, July 2, 1839; in History of the Church, 3:383.
7.  In Conference Report, Oct. 1949, 132–133.
8.  “Of You It Is Required to Forgive,” Ensign, June 1991, 2, 5.

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