Matthew 18:19-20 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Matthew 18 begins with an important question, and basically the whole chapter is the answer to this question. On the face it is a simple question, who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? But in order to understand it, there is a lot you need to know. It requires a good understanding of God's will, and God's plan.
Jesus begins the explanation in a simple way, he puts a child in their midst, to teach them humility. You see, the question, who is the greatest - is not what's important - what's important is being in the kingdom of God, in fact, its really the only thing that matters. And pride, which is what the question about greatness is all about - is a temptation, that can keep you out of the Kingdom of God. Either you are doing the will of God, or you are rebelling against the will of God, and rebellion is sin, and the wages of sin is death.
Jesus continues the explanation in the parable of the lost sheep. And the center of the parable is the joy that comes when the lost are found. You see, the most important thing to know about God and his will, is how important mercy is - mercy is the center of who God is. It is in the mercy of God that he sent His Son, Jesus Christ to be our Savior, to pay for our sins.
Now mercy is not something that you earn or deserve - mercy is not even something that you can repay. Mercy is being found when you are lost, alone, and all hope is gone - when you are ready to give up, lay down, and die - and God comes and lifts you up and carries you, and restores you, giving you life and hope through the forgiveness of sins which is ours in Christ.
Having said all that, Jesus can return to the question of who is the greatest - and give them this answer, the one who would be great is the one who would show mercy to others as God has had mercy upon us. And that's where the bulk of our text falls, it is the instructions on how to go about showing mercy to others.
Oftentimes I hear people saying that they have no problem forgiving, but they just can't seem to forget. By yourself it is quite hard to forgive and forget, and by yourself, it is also quite hard to show mercy. We are often tempted to extract a price, even if is only small - saying, if they don't apologize - then I don't have to forgive them. So where do we find the grace and strength to show mercy?
In the love of God which we have received in Jesus Christ - a love that changes us
And in the promise
That where 2 or 3 are gathered, Jesus is with us.
You see, showing mercy, at least from our perspective is not what we do, as though it depended on us - rather it is about bringing people to Jesus.
For in the forgiveness of sins that is ours in Jesus there is life, salvation and peace.