Lectionary Year A
September 8, 2002
Matthew 18:15-20

IV: Broader Context


Here Jesus chooses to instruct the disciples, regarding how to deal with offenses by fellow church members. These first century believers were naive, lacked self-confidence, were defensive, uncertain, inexperienced and afraid, as well as probably being persecuted. Remember they were the first community in history to experience the first approaches to anything like a structured group of believers that would eventually be called "the church".

Their Lord apparently discerned that they needed help preparing to deal with offenses, conflicts and/or sinfulness on the parts of other fellow believers. He suggests a method that might give them some hope in dealing appropriately with challenges they would surely face as the church grew from infancy toward maturity.


* In Leviticus 19:17, we read in the Ritual of Moral Holiness, that believers are not to hate any of their kinfolk and that they shall reprove their neighbors or incur guilt on themselves. Thereby, they show brotherly love. So, early Old Testament folk had awareness of and responsibility for a neighbor who might offend them.
* Deuteronomy 19:15 states that one witness is sometimes insufficient in dealing with offenses and that frequently 2 or 3 witnesses are required to sustain a charge of wrongdoing and/or of a crime.
* These Old Testament passages show us that, in today's text, Jesus uses terms that would certainly be familiar to His (Jewish) disciples and Matthew to his readers.


Here, as previously, we might hope the Hellenists' appreciation of logic in arguments could motivate them to consider how some of Jesus' guidance might give them insight into Jesus' life as lived and responded to right reasonably. Surely the Hellenistic world of the first century could identify with problems offensive people and/or statements might cause others. Here, Jesus is quoting some ancient stipulations for dealing appropriately with such tensions human institutions such as the church evidently already exhibits. These teachings Jesus suggests to the disciples have some ethical allusions which could speak the Hellenists' language. Their philosophical interests could resonate with these ideas, too.

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