14th Sunday after Pentecost | Matthew 18:10-14

Matthew 18: 10-14

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Lutheran Church of The Way




“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.”


Despise them?

Who in their right mind would despise them?


Who could look at these little ones and feel anything but love and joy?

Who could actually hold these little ones and despise them or spurn them?


Even the most patient of mothers has a tipping point;

Even the most tender of fathers have been undone.

And even the most pious of worshipers have been perturbed on some noisy Sunday.


But Jesus isn’t chiefly concerned with how the darling kiddos make you feel.


Of course He would prefer that you rejoice in them and celebrate them as gifts.

Of course, He always wants you to care for them and love them in word and deed.

But when Jesus says to take care that we do not despise these little ones,

It has almost nothing to do with your emotions.


When Jesus says not to despise one of these little ones, He is repeating and emphasizing what He said at the beginning of the Gospel text.


“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives Me, 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 depths of the sea.”


So, see that you don’t.

See that you don’t despise one of these little ones by causing them to sin.


Few parents would grab their child by the neck and force him or her to do wrong,

So what does this mean?


Just ask anyone who has accidentally sworn in front of a toddler.

They know, chiefly because that child spent hours, days, and weeks reminding them.


Children hear, and children speak.

Children see, and children do.

What do they see? Mostly, they see what the angels see.

They see fathers disrespecting mothers.

They see mothers complaining and gossiping.

They see parents at home on Sunday morning more often than they see them here.


They see parents waste money on silly, useless, and vain things,

And so have nothing left at the bottom of what should have come from the top.


Children see, and children do.


With your help, children learn to treat people harshly.

By your example, they learn just the right moment to deliver their verbal blow.

By watching you, they learn how much more gets done when you don’t go to church, and how much more money you have when you keep all of it.


“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.”


So the angels have one eye happily on them, and one eye on their Father in heaven.


Not like your angels,

Who would turn their heads at the things you imagine to be secret,

If only they could.


Jesus is so serious about these little ones that He tells a parable that makes almost no sense at all.


No shepherd in his right mind would ever seek out one sheep by leaving 99 at risk.

99 is good, but it isn’t 100.

100 is a biblical number for completion, and fullness.

And so 99 might as well be 42 or 37. It’s incomplete, and that’s the point.


These little ones are worth every bit as much as you.

They are worth Jesus leaving the right hand of His Father;

No longer able to look on His face as even angels may.

They are worth Jesus gazing upon them with eyes flooded by sweat and blood.

They are worth the scandal of the cross, from which the angels divert their gaze.


All this Christ has paid, because they, these little ones, like you, are of infinite value.

For them Jesus has paid everything, and for them Jesus gives everything.

Upon them and you Jesus freely gives the fruits of His cross:

Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, now and forever.


In His Word, In His Baptism, In His Holy Supper;

Everything He has to give is given;

Not to angels or archangels, but to you and to yours, to me and to mine.

So let them see it.

Let these little ones who believe in Jesus to see Jesus.

Let them see love lived out in joy, generosity, kindness, and faithfulness.

Let them hear words of encouragement and compassion.

Let them see Jesus the Christ, crucified and risen for them and their salvation.

Let them hear the mercies of God.

In short: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.”


Of course, even if they didn’t learn it from you, they would still sin.

So Jesus’ charge to you adults is not so different from the charge given to Ezekiel in today’s Old Testament reading.


He was supposed to warn the people of Jerusalem and call them to repentance,

But God’s people would not have it, and the city has fallen.

So now what?

Chapter 33 of Ezekiel marks the beginning of God’s answer.


He says, keep going.

Continue to witness to Me by showing people my Son.

Continue to witness to Me by living within My commandments.

Continue to apply the message of My law, and to point out sin.

Continue to apply the message of My Gospel, to comfort sinners.


To which you may say, “I tried that already.”

And the Lord responds in turn,

“Circumstances don’t change My message, nor do they change your use of it.” (Kuschel, People’s Bible Commentary, P. 200-201)


So just keep going.

No concession, no compromise, no fear, all love.



About Pastor Hopkins