The Importance of One
February 20, 2022 | Who's your one? | The Importance of One| Matthew 18:1-14
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We started this series by clarifying what it means to be a disciple of Christ. It is answering the call to follow Jesus with your life. Not to just say a prayer, attend church, but to spend your life in the pursuit of becoming like the master. (week 1)
We continued by examining the core assignment Jesus gave his disciples when he told them he was going to make them fishers of men and then sent them out to do just that three years later in the great commission.
To go and make disciples. (week 2)
That is the mission, that is what it looks like to be like Jesus.
The whole time we have been talking about the ‘one’.
We have said that discipleship is simply one person making a difference in one person's life by showing them how to follow Jesus the way they follow Jesus. It is spiritually replicating yourself and furthermore, it is the responsibility of every person that names the name of Christ.
Discipleship is simply one person making a difference in one person’s life by showing them how to follow Jesus the way they follow Jesus.
For the next two weeks I want to focus on ‘the one’, first by examining the importance of the one, and secondly, the impact of the one. My prayer is that having now seen your responsibility, these scriptures will light the fire and passion in you to holistically engage in the mission to reach the one.
I want to lay before you the evidence that for Jesus, for the kingdom of God, one is the most important number. That reaching one person for the kingdom of God is worth spending your life for.
The importance of one is evidenced…
In the way Jesus taught
Matthew 18:1-6; 10-14 (ESV)
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Don’t miss what Jesus does here. He starts where they are (who is the greatest in the kingdom) and not only answers that but drives down to the singular, the one. That even someone that, by all earthly measures, seems little and insignificant is of utmost importance to God. Unfortunately, the disciples didn’t fully grasp it because just one chapter later we find this encounter.
Matthew 19:13-15 (ESV) 13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.
We can kind of see where the disciples are coming from. Jesus is an important rabbi, he has important things to teach and important miracles to perform. Compared to giving sight to the blind or revealing truths from heaven, how insignificant is praying for a child? How dare a parent to bring their child to Jesus and interrupt him! Kids aren’t as important, plus they're noisy, messy, and disruptive, right? What could a little child, a baby, bring to Jesus or get from Jesus, the disciples didn’t think it was worth Jesus’ time. This was the culture of the time.
Like the disciples, we can become indoctrinated by the culture rather than the kingdom. Culture says the insignificant ones don’t matter. The poor, the sick, the marginalized, the unborn, they aren’t important.
Jesus, however, took time to not only minister to them, but to repeatedly teach on their importance.
Let’s go back to Matthew 18:12 and 13-
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
This was a parable Jesus used more than once to highlight the value of one in the kingdom of heaven. If you take notes in your bible, write Luke 15 next to that verse in Matthew.
In Luke 15 we find three parables, all illustrating the importance of one, including this one about a lost sheep.
Luke 15:1-32 (ESV) 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
What value does one sheep have out of a hundred, what is one coin out of ten, what is one rebellious and disobedient son worth?
It is evident by the way Jesus taught that in the kingdom of heaven, no matter how small, no matter how insignificant, no matter how ‘lost’ someone is, they are valuable to God; so much so that all of heaven rejoices when one sinner repents.
But the evidence is not just in the way Jesus taught, but…
In the way Jesus ministered
Jesus’ ministry reached thousands. He taught and fed crowds of 10,000s if our estimations are correct. He ministered from one end of Galilee to the other. He spoke to the crowds in Jerusalem at the festival. He healed multitudes. We have no doubt that his ministry touched thousands of people, but we cannot deny that, in all that, what the disciples recorded equally often is his interaction with the one. Right? We have already seen Jesus engaging with the children, but I want to highlight a few more of his interactions.
How many of you know the story of Zaccheaus?
Luke 19:1-10 (ESV) 1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Here is what we know about Zacchaeus before he met Jesus, he was a little guy, he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. Here’s what that means…(expound)
Jewish societal outcast, no respectable Jewish man would eat with him, he wasn’t allowed to testify in court, he wasn’t allowed in the temple. Unimportant and despised.
But that’s not what Jesus saw. He saw Zacchaeus, a man who was searching, a man who wanted to see Jesus. Imagine this scene, Jesus is surrounded by so many people you can’t see him. I imagine it’s like a parade, people are pressed in just trying to get a glimpse of Jesus, and in the midst of all of this, Jesus goes straight to where Zaccheaus is and invites him to invite him to his house. Where people saw a hopeless cause, Jesus saw a potential disciple.
Let’s go from there to the gospel of John 4, you don’t have to turn there, it is a familiar story, where Jesus encounters the woman at the well. But before then we get some details that I think are important.
John 4:1-7 (ESV) Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus refuses to fully reveal himself to the Pharisees because of the hardness of their hearts. He is in the mindset of seeing crowds come to him and he leaves to go back to Galilee, but instead of traveling the more traditional route, he goes through Samaria, where no respecting Jew would go. He sends his disciples to go buy food and he sits by this well. A Samaritan woman came to draw water. You know the story, right? Jesus engages this woman and quickly transitions to talking about spiritual things and ultimately reveals that he is the Christ. The thing he would not say plainly to the religious leaders, what he would not say to the Pharisees outright, he tells a singular Samaritan woman who from what we know about her was also a social outcast. Jesus crosses cultural barriers, religious barriers, and racial barriers to engage this ‘one’. Why? Because no one is beneath the father’s desire to see men and women drawn to himself. Not a Jewish male tax collector and not an adulterous Samaritan woman.
Let’s move from there, to another, a maybe less familiar scene in John 5.
John 5:1-9 (ESV) 1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Try and picture it, archeological evidence paints this picture. This pool is actually two pools, with these porches on all sides and one in the middle. Jesus coming to this place sees what John describes as a multitude of invalids. A great crowd of the weak, powerless, and sick. Those who were blind, lame, and paralyzed. In the midst of all of this, Jesus focuses on the one. This one man who had been afflicted for thirty-eight years. Jesus, knowing he had been here a long time, engages him.
Are you seeing a pattern yet? Jesus ministered to the ones that no one else thought were worthy. The societal outcasts, the habitual sinners, and the helpless. We might say it like this, Jesus put his money where his mouth was. Right? He didn’t just teach about the importance of the one in the kingdom of Heaven, he ministered to them as though they were important.
In a leadership meeting the other day we spent some time looking at what Jesus did in the book of John and then looking at what the disciples did in the book of Acts. Why? We were looking for the things that the disciples learned from Jesus and continued, the things that stuck with them from how Jesus ministered. There were quite a few things that stuck out to us, and in the same way, I want to show you that not only does the evidence show that Jesus taught the importance of one, not only does it show that Jesus ministered in accordance with the importance of one, but it also doesn’t stop there. The third evidence is…
In the way the Holy Spirit continued
We don’t have time to go through all of these, just the summaries, but if you want to jot down the scripture references, it would be a good exercise to go through them and read them in their entirety.
Acts 3:1-10 (ESV) Peter and John on the way to the temple
At this point in Acts, Peter has preached at Pentecost where 3,000 people were saved, the church is growing daily and there is most likely, for an apostle, a lot to give attention to. We find Peter and John going to the temple for prayer where they stop to focus on one. One lame beggar, who was laid daily at the temple to beg.
Peter got his attention and in the name of Jesus, told him to get up and walk.
Acts 8:26-40 (ESV) Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
As we move farther into Acts, God has done many marvelous things in Jerusalem, now, because of persecution, many disciples are leaving Jerusalem and preaching as they go. One such disciple is Philip, one of the deacons that had been appointed to help with the widows. He went to Samaria and began to preach and a great many people began to be saved. The apostles came and even more amazing things happen. The apostles leave and Philip is there with all of these new disciples. Amazing opportunity, amazing potential, it’s exciting, and then God says, get up and go to the desert, to a certain road.
Then God says, go over to that chariot, where this man is reading from Isaiah and Philip starts a conversation that ends with this one man being baptized because of his belief.
After the encounter, God supernaturally carries Philip away, and the Ethiopian Eunuch continues on his way.
Acts 10:1-8 (ESV) Peter and Cornelius
Fast forward again and we find God supernaturally bringing this one centurion into contact with Peter so that he could hear the gospel.
An angel of God speaks to Cornelius and tells him where to send for Peter. While this is happening, God is giving Peter a vision that will move him from his prejudice to go visit with Cornelius, a gentile.
Acts 16:14-15 (ESV) Lydia converted
As we continue journeying through acts, if you remember the story about Paul attempting to go preach to the unreached nations, after trying to go southwest and having been prohibited by the Spirit, then trying to go north and being prohibited again by the Spirit, ends up in Troas. Where he receives what we call the Macedonian call. A vision of a man urging him to come and help them in Macedonia. Pretty amazing stuff, isn’t it? Amazingly, the first and most prominent encounter upon his arrival is described this way.
14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
God moved Paul and company to change their travel plans, to cross the sea, go into this town, find if there were any practicing Jews and preach the gospel to them, and it all leads to one woman named Lydia.
Acts 16:25-40 (ESV) Paul and the Jailer
Just a few days later in the same town, Paul and Silas end up in prison for delivering a woman from a demonic spirit. Beaten, chained, and in the innermost prison, a jailer tasked with keeping them securely. There in that jail, God caused a great earthquake so that all the prison was shaken and doors and bonds were opened.
Surely, all of this was for a great purpose.
Yes, so one jailer might encounter the saving word of the Lord and be baptized, leading his whole family to the Lord.
Shortly after, Paul and company set out from there, having ‘only’ reached a woman named Lydia and an unnamed jailer and his family.
God, through the Holy Spirit, interrupted religious observations, successful and fruitful church growth; He broke down cultural and racial barriers; He used dreams, earthquakes, and providence to bring his people into contact with these individuals. The ones.
The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.
His heart is still for the insignificant, the marginalized, the hopeless, helpless, the small, and the ordinary. Heaven still rejoices when one sinner repents.
Jesus is still concerned with the one.
What would it look like if you got this kind of passion for one?
What if you sought them like a lost sheep or coin?
What if your day-to-day was spent on the lookout for one? One meaningful interaction with one person for Jesus?
What if we could say to God, today, lead me wherever the one is?