“Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth ...” (Matthew 17:20-21)

“Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20-21)
This statement follows this question and circumstance:
"Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him."
"You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me."Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?" (Matthew 17:15-19)

What does 'you have so little faith' mean?

Jesus is responding to his disciples' question, as they could not cleanse the demon.

What does Jesus mean by "faith"? Faith is not simply accepting or proclaiming to others that Jesus existed. Anyone can have faith that a historical person existed. Anyone can claim that Jesus performed miracles.

Faith is also not simply believing that God exists. However, this is not so hard either, because it makes scientific logic that God exists. Even scientifically it makes sense that God exists. Even if the "big bang" theory is accepted, there still must be a source for the atoms that caused the "bang" - not to speak of the love, personality and life that exists within the world.

Rather, Jesus is speaking of trust. Trust in the Supreme Being. Trust that He will take care of us and that He ultimately knows what is best for us.

Faith is also trusting that Jesus, Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon and all the other prophets were telling us the truth about the Supreme Being. Faith means that we trust that they were passing along to us the messages that the Supreme Being gave them to tell us. We are trusting that they knew the Supreme Being and loved God - and that God loved them. We are trusting, above all, that God loves us and cares for us.

This is confirmed by the Greek word πίστις (pistis) being translated to "faith" in the second sentence - the word πίστις means "the character of one who can be relied on."

What did Jesus mean by the 'mustard seed'?

Jesus is using a mustard seed to symbolize something very small. He is saying that just a tiny bit of faith has significant consequences.

What does a small amount of faith look like? If we had a small amount of faith we would be trusting in God. We would be relying upon God - even a little.

To rely upon God means that we have Someone significant to rely upon. We have Someone in our corner who will make a large difference in our lives. We have Someone we can trust will not harm us or take advantage of us.

That kind of trust can impact our lives and the lives around us significantly.

Is Jesus saying we should ask God to move mountains for us?

The meaning of the mustard seed analogy by Jesus has often been interpreted as encouragement to ask God for materialistic things.

Jesus' point wasn't that we should ask God to move mountains for us. He is saying that even a little faith is significant. Even with a little faith God will be there, ready to help.

Besides, when Jesus offered the idea of moving mountains, he was speaking of moving mountains to help others - not that we would move mountains for our own gratification.

Those who focus on receiving "stuff" from the Supreme Being - including wealth, health, family and even winning football games and so on - are attempting to put the Supreme Being into the position of being our servant.

Rather, Jesus' mission was to teach us that we are all God's servants. Our purpose is to love and serve the Supreme Being, not to be waited on by God.

What happens if God doesn't give us what we pray for? Will we not believe in Him then? Will we say, "if God doesn't give me what I want then He doesn't exist"?

A person who trusts the Supreme Being will not need to test Him. Testing God is the opposite of faith.

What about those evangelists who preach that we need to ask God to make us wealthy or heal our dog? What about evangelists who make millions of dollars asking their followers to send them money so they can pray to God for something for them? Are these teachers giving their followers more faith in God? Or are they testing God?

Some would say they are abusing their followers. Some would say they might have been described by Jesus:
"They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” (Luke 20:47)
This is the reason Jesus said:
“Many will come to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:22)
Not only does Jesus not accept these people, he called them "evildoers"! Why? Consider this statement, made right before the above statement:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
So it is one who does God's will that Jesus will accept. Not that we are constantly asking the Supreme Being to do our will.

Consider what happens if our mother tells us to do something, and we don't know why. What do we do? Do we demand to know why before we will do it? No. We simply will do it, trusting that what our mother is asking us to do is good for us and others. In other words, we are having faith in our mother by doing what she asks.

It is no different when we do the Supreme Being's will. It requires us to trust God.

And what does it mean to do God's will? Doing God's will means trusting in the Supreme Being and following the instructions He has given to us through His messengers.

Why will 'nothing be impossible for you'?

Again, Jesus is not speaking of a person suddenly becoming Superman just because he asks God for something. We might ask God to fix our leg or heal our mother from cancer but that will not necessarily happen. Why not?

Remember that Jesus is speaking to his disciples who were trying to execute service. They were trying to serve Jesus and the Supreme Being. They weren't asking why they were not the king or the world or why they didn't have a million dollars.

And the Greek word being translated to "impossible" - ἀδυνατέω (adynateō), which means "not to have strength, power, or ability, to be weak" according to the lexicon.

As such, Jesus is speaking of the Supreme Being giving those who want to serve Him the strength to do their service.

This is why this statement is being attached to the word πίστις (pistis) - which is speaking of reliance upon the Supreme Being. Relying upon God means accepting that if He wants me to do something, I will be given the strength to do it.

It is not as if we somehow want to grab onto faith, and then start trying to dominate the world by moving mountains around. In fact, having faith - trusting God - would automatically delete our thinking that we would need to move any mountains. We would simply have faith that if the Supreme Being thought the mountains needed to move, then they would be moved.

On the other hand, if we were trying to serve God, and the mountains needed to move in order to complete our service to the Supreme Being, we would have confidence that the Supreme Being would see that the mountains were moved. Otherwise, there would be no need to move any mountains.

And this was precisely what was taking place with Jesus' disciples and Jesus. The Supreme Being wanted to show the people that He had empowered Jesus - because Jesus was teaching others about the Supreme Being. This is why He gave Jesus the ability to remove demons. His disciples were not being given that ability at this time - although later we find that after Jesus left the planet some of his students became empowered in that way.

This is because they were trusting in the Supreme Being. Having faith in God means trusting Him.

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men...” (Matthew 17:22-23)

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:22-23)

Why did Jesus tell them he would be 'delivered into the hands of men'?

When Jesus returned to Galilee, he described the sacrifice he would be making in the coming days.

Jesus didn't have to tell his disciples what was going to happen to him. Why did he then? Because Jesus wanted them to be prepared to lose him.

Following being told, his disciples were grief-stricken:
And the disciples were filled with grief. (Matt. 17:23)
Jesus wanted them to be sure that not only did he know the sacrifice he would face. The word "delivered" is translated from the Greek word παραδίδωμι (paradidōmi) which means, according to the lexicon, "to give into the hands of another" or "to give over into (one's) power or use."

And "men" is translated from the Greek word ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos), which can mean "men" or "mankind" or "humanity."

Jesus is distinguishing between being given to mankind or men from being given to the Supreme Being. In the latter, one will be protected and sheltered. But in the former, Jesus knew he faced the wrath of men. Why? Because he understood that he threatened the power and authority of the high priests among the temple institution. This is because Jesus was God's representative.

What does he mean by 'kill him' and 'raised to life'?

He also wanted them to understand that the real Jesus - the spiritual person within - will rise after the death of the physical body.

Jesus describes the ascension as “life.” Why life? Actually, the original Greek does not mention "life." It simply ends with raised - or raised up - from the Greek word ἐγείρω (egeirō) which means "to arouse, cause to rise" according to the lexicon.

Thus we can understand from this that Jesus is not speaking of death here. The word "kill" is translated from ἀποκτείνω (apokteinō) which refers to mortal death - the death of the physical body.

So what will rise then - from the physical body? We know that Jesus is saying that the physical body will be killed, so what will rise must not be the physical body. This is confirmed later when Mary and others do not recognize Jesus when he rises. They do not recognize him because the physical body did not rise - the spiritual person within - Jesus himself - rose.

We can see elsewhere that Jesus made a distinction between the physical body and the spiritual person within - also referred to as the "soul":
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matthew 10:28)
Thus we can see how Jesus is discriminating between the physical body and the spiritual person within. The spiritual person is eternal while the biological body is temporary. The point Jesus is making is that we are not the physical body. The physical body has a lifespan of 50-100 years, after which the living being leaves the body.

Why three days?

Why did it take three days from Jesus’ body being killed to his ascension back to the spiritual world?

This is evident by what took place during the three days following the death of Jesus' physical body. During this time, Jesus was visiting his students and others, in a last-ditch effort to convince them to return home to the Supreme Being, and bring others with them. Consider this statement, made by Jesus, while in an angel-like body, during the three days after the death of his body:
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15)
How do we know that Jesus had left his body and appeared before his students in an angel-like body? Consider this statement from Mark:
Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. (Mark 16:12)
Thus we can know that Jesus left his physical body behind. Otherwise, they would have recognized him. He appeared once more before his students, pleading with them to continue his teachings. He wanted them to take on the responsibility of teaching humanity about God. He wanted them to bring home others, as he had.

That is why Jesus referred to himself as the "Servant of Humanity" (a more appropriate translation of υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου than "Son of Man").

Did Jesus die for our sins?

Many sectarian institutions and their teachers claiming to follow Jesus say that Jesus died for our sins. Is that really true?

When Jesus returned to Galilee, he described the sacrifice he would be making in the coming days. The account of Jesus' trial from the four Gospels indicates that Jesus was persecuted because of his teachings. Both Pilate and the Chief Priest were questioning Jesus about his teachings: Did he say this or that.

During this questioning, Jesus would not retract his teachings. He stood by them.

This means that Jesus' sacrifice was about him making a stand regarding his teachings about the Supreme Being.

Just consider a person who was to teach something and the government or another dominant institution were to condemn the teaching and threaten the teacher with death if the teacher doesn't stop teaching those things?

Most teachers would stop teaching those things because they didn't want to die.

Not Jesus. Jesus wasn't afraid. He was willing to be killed in order to continue teaching. He was ready to die for his teachings.

This is also indicated when Jesus appeared before his disciples after his persecution. He did not tell them that they had been saved by his crucifixion. Neither did he tell them to teach such a philosophy to others.

Rather, Jesus asked his disciples to take on disciples as he did, and pass his teachings on to others.

If we accept that Jesus' teachings can save us from our sinful nature, then we can accept that Jesus died for our sins.

Truly, Jesus' teachings can save us. In particular, we can identify his 'greatest' teaching:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)

"From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes ..." (Matthew 17:25-26)

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes — from their own children or from others?" (Matthew 17:24-26)

What does Jesus' analogy of taxes and the king's son mean?

Jesus is utilizing the situation as a teaching moment. Jesus is illustrating the intimate relationship between God and His loving servants - and comparing this relationship with the relationship of a son and father who also a king.

So the point Jesus is making to Peter is that if a person is subservient to God, then he comes under God's protection, and is not necessarily obligated to the general obligations of the physical world.

While this event relates to a temple tax, Jesus' lesson relates directly to one of the mainstays of the physical world: The law of consequences.

What is the law of consequences?

We can see this effect immediately if we hurt someone: We will likely be hurt back by them or by an authority. This is part of the law of cause of effect in the physical world.

This means that all of our activities that are performed with self-centered motive (inclusive of those extensions of ourselves - our families, countries, organizations, etc.) generate an account of sorts, which we will have to pay back (good or bad), either in this lifetime or the next.

The result is that we are given the opportunity to experience ourselves whatever effects we have upon others - good and bad. These will occur for us in our current lifetime or a future lifetime. This is why some of us are born into situations of more or
less suffering, as we may be suffering consequences of our activities during our prior physical lifetime.

This has also been described as "as you sow, so shall you reap." This concept has been confirmed in numerous scriptural verses throughout the Bible, both directly and indirectly (KJV):
Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good. (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. (Psalm 126:5)

Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness (Hosea 10:12)

“Then this shall be the sign for you: you will eat this year what grows of itself, in the second year what springs from the same, and in the third year sow, reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (Isaiah 37:30)

For they sow the wind
And they reap the whirlwind. (Hosea 8:7)

You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. (Leviticus 25:11)

When you are sowing the eighth year, you can still eat old things from the crop, eating the old until the ninth year when its crop comes in. (Leviticus 25:22)

“According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
And those who sow trouble harvest it. (Job 4:8)

“You will sow but you will not reap. (Micah 6:15)

He who sows iniquity will reap vanity (Proverbs 22:8)

The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward. (Proverbs 11:18)

He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)
We know from Jesus' various teachings that he also taught this principle:
I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:38)

For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ (John 4:37)

“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. (Matthew 25:24)

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! (Luke 12:24)

you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ (Luke 19:21)

He *said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? (Luke 19:22)

And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:18)
Even Paul - who was not a disciple of Jesus - also wrote about the law of consequences:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. (Galatians 6:7)

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountiful. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

What about consequences in the service to God?

Now if we were to act in a God-centered way: Acting to please God rather than for my own behalf, then we are generally released from the results of our activities. Working for God's behalf will not create effects that will have to be paid off. Serving God produces spiritual results, and over time, will also mitigate other consequences built up over our lifetimes. This is summed up nicely in Proverbs:
The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward. (Proverbs 11:18)
This works in much the same way that Jesus illustrates, with a king's son being exempt from taxes. The household of the king is exempt because the king is the ruler of the land. In the same way, God's loving servants are exempt because the Supreme Being is the Ruler and Creator of the physical world.

This doesn't necessarily mean that someone working to serve God won't also suffer the consequences of other outside activities. But such consequences help such a person continue to advance towards perfecting their relationship with God.

Working to please the Supreme Being has spiritual consequences. Working to please God gives us spiritual fulfillment, simply because we are innately each loving servants. This is the same reason people feel a little more fulfilled when they work on behalf of a loved one or family members: We are all servants.

Working for the Supreme Being results in the greatest fulfillment of our spiritual self.

Working to please the Supreme Being also helps others. Why? Because the Supreme Being loves each of us, and He is also pleased when we love and help His other children.

"Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Matthew 17:27)

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:24-27)

Why did Jesus tell Peter to pay the tax?

Jesus had just made a case for not being responsible for the temple tax. Why then did he tell him to pay it?

Because Jesus did not want to cause a commotion. He didn't want to squabble about a four drachma coin - worth about two dollars in today's money.

Jesus used the occasion to teach about who he was and the fact that they were serving God and therefore not responsible for the tax. They were already paying in the form of teaching on behalf of the Supreme Being.

What does Jesus mean by 'exempt'?

Jesus uses the word "exempt" here: "Then the children are exempt".

This word "exempt" is being translated from the Greek word ἐλεύθερος (eleutheros) - meaning "freeborn - in a civil sense, one who is not a slave" according to the lexicon.

Thus Jesus is stating that those who are serving the Supreme Being are free. They are not obligated to the same responsibilities and consequences of those who are attached to the names and forms of this temporary physical world.

Further to the lesson is the fact that Jesus is making a point about the relationship between the Supreme Being and His devoted children/loving servants. Just as a king would consider his own children and servants exempt from taxation, the Supreme Being covers and protects his devoted loving servants.

To the extent of our devotion to the Supreme Being, the Supreme Being gives complete protection against the calamities of the world.

God certainly takes care of every one of us, but for those who work diligently in His service, He takes special care.

Why do we suffer then?

One might question the first statement due to the many types of sufferings of the physical world, including violence, pain, sickness, old age and death. But these are only temporary sufferings that take place for the physical body. They do not inflict the spirit-person within.

We are not these material bodies. We are the eternal spirit-person that lives within this body. Much as a person gets into an automobile to drive it, each of us resides within this physical body for a temporary period of time. And just as the car will break down one day, this physical body will become diseased and die. And just as the driver walks away from a broken-down car, each of us will leave these physical bodies at the time of death.

We might compare the situation to a computer video game, wherein a person sits down at the computer and takes on a temporary game icon and begins to play the game. The icon might be shot up or blown up, but the person playing the game is unharmed. When the game stops, the person can get up from the computer and walk away unscathed, even though his icon got blown to smithereens.

Thus even though our physical body might be smitten with pain and suffering - we are still being protected and cared for by the Supreme Being. He is still here next to us - always offering us a way back home to Him.

In other words, we are each endowed with the freedom of choice - whether we want to love and serve the Supreme Being (our innate identity) or whether we want to love and serve ourselves - which is expressed within the physical world.

The later results in the fall down to the physical world and coming under the illusion of misidentifies ourselves with these physical bodies while we seek self-centered pleasure for the body or its extensions - the body's family, country or other organization. In such a state, we must be obliged to face the consequences of these activities.

In other words, those who are living self-centered lives devoted to the illusions of fame and fortune of this temporary body and the forms and names of the physical world will have to abide by the laws of cause and effect.

But those who are using these physical bodies to serve the Supreme Being are exempt from these consequences. For those, He gives special protection because they are working for His pleasure instead of their own pleasure. Jesus spoke to this point specifically:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Jesus was also respectful and considerate. He could have tried to escape the tax, but instead told Peter that their tax payments would be found in the mouth of a fish.

Jesus is illustrating that by Peter following the instructions of Jesus - as a devoted disciple - Peter would not be responsible for working to get the tax money. His payment was still being covered by the Supreme Being - Who was providing the money in a miraculous manner.

This is because the Supreme Being ultimately owns and controls everything.

“... unless you change and become like little children ..." (Matt. 18:3-4)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:1-4)

What does 'become like little children' mean?

A young child is not in control and tends to be humbled as a result. An innocent child will typically be completely dependent upon his or her parents. Theoretically, they have yet to be able to truly exercise their desires for control because their bodies are too small. So they are typically somewhat humble, innocent and trusting. Jesus is comparing this to the attitude one must have to become dedicated to God.

The phrase, 'kingdom of heaven' is not describing entering a location. He is describing entering a consciousness. The word "kingdom" is being translated from the Greek word βασιλεία (basileia), which means, according to the lexicon, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."

The word "heaven" is being translated from the Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos), which means, according to the lexicon, "where God dwells."

In other words, Jesus is speaking of a person becoming devoted to the Supreme Being.

This is confirmed by the major teaching of Jesus - also taught by John and Jesus told his students to also teach it:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near. (Matthew 4:17)
As defined with that teaching, Jesus (and John before him) is explaining that this consciousness of devotion to God is readily available. It is not a location that we have to wait until our bodies are dead to enter. We can enter such a consciousness at any time.

This consciousness is one where its inhabitants are completely in awe of the Supreme Being and humble before each other. They are meek, humble, courteous, respectful, gracious, and fun-loving.

Many imagine God to be a burning bush, a thunderous voice or even a void. These are not accurate. The Supreme Being is actually the Most Wonderful Person. He is the most loving. He is the most giving. He is the most playful. He is courteous and gracious. He is perfectly worthy of everyone’s praise and attention, because He is in fact, the Supreme Person. He is, in fact, the Greatest.

Therefore, in our pure state of consciousness, our lives become focused on loving and serving the Supreme Being. In the spiritual world, each person is focused upon their specific relationships with God and with God’s other children. These relationships are not void or boring. They are complex and fun, and always blissful. About the closest we can come to in comparison within the physical world would be watching very young children play.

We can enter such a state of consciousness at any time - because as Jesus taught, God is readily available.

What does Jesus mean by 'unless you change'?

It is not surprising that Jesus was asked who was the greatest in heaven. This is a typical concern among those of us living in the physical world. We all want to be the greatest. We all want to be king. We all want to dominate and rule over others. We all want to be loved by everyone and praised. This, precisely, is our disease: We want to be like God.

Most of us living within temporary physical bodies are doing so because we have this disease. We have the disease of enviousness of the Supreme Being. At some point, each of us rejected our position as one of His servants and decided to direct our love towards ourselves. This produced our envy of the Supreme Being.

In other words, we saw God getting all the attention. We saw God in control. We saw that God has the admiration and praise of others. We wanted to have those things.

This is precisely the symbolism of the apple and the tree of knowledge discussed in Genesis. Because we became envious of the Supreme Being, we wanted to have the knowledge of what it was like being the ruler. We wanted the knowledge of what it was like being in control. To be master instead of our natural position of loving servant. As stated by the serpent:
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5)
And later, after Adam ate the fruit, God said:
"The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:22)

What is 'knowing good and evil'?

This may not be the best translation. The two Hebrew words are טוב (towb) and רע (ra`) - which have a closer meaning of "pleasure" and "pain."

The concept of self-centeredness leads to pleasure and pain because these are related to seeking our own satisfaction - rather than the satisfaction of the Supreme Being - our innate position.

The Supreme Being and His expansions ("Us" above) innately experience pleasure and pain - but those who love and serve Him do not experience this separately because their pleasure is based upon the Supreme Being's pleasure.

Once we became self-centered, we were no longer suitable for the humble loving relationships of the spiritual world (as Jesus describes, "like little children").

So God gave us this physical body and this physical dimension where we could seek out our self-centered happiness:
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
Did the Supreme Being go out and make fur coats for Adam and Eve or something? Don't be ridiculous. This is a symbolic story of how we all fell to the physical world. These "garments of skin" are the physical bodies each of us occupy.

Why can we forget God here?

Here in this physical dimension, within these physical bodies, we can forget the Supreme Being exists. We can go about trying to get pleasure for ourselves. We can try to dominate and rule over others. Here we can find our own little niche and have others praise us as being great.

Here, we can assemble our own little "kingdom" where we rule the roost. This might be our house and family members, or perhaps we are the boss of a little office of people. And if nothing else, we can get a pet or two and be their king.

Or perhaps we even become famous as an actor or politician, and we can rule over many others or have many fans.

In some way, we get to develop our little kingdom where we try to rule over and/or be respected and praised by others. Even unsuccessful people get to find some kind of group we can have the illusion of control over, even if it is simply a couple of pets or some children.

We can go pretty far here pretending that we are the greatest. This, in fact, is what most of the self-help gurus teach us: They want us to think: "I am the greatest. The world revolves around me. I can do whatever I want."

These are all the illusions of someone who is jealous of God’s control. These are the desires of someone that wants to be in God’s position.

The only problem is that we are not in control. We are not in God's position. We do not really rule over others. We might think we are ruling over others or someone, but we can never really control others.

This is because those we are trying to control also want control. They might pretend they respect us, but really they are thinking they are in control, as they manipulate us with their feigned expressions of respect. In other words, we are all in a mutual illusion that we are somehow in control of something.

Aren't we in control?

None of us really has any control. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control our environment. While we try to manipulate others, we cannot really control them, because they will always have the freedom to at least think as they wish. Even oppressive governments cannot totally control their people, though they may try pretty hard. At some point, people begin to get out of hand.

And even if the dictator or emperor remains in power throughout his lifetime of 60-75 years, the dictator will still be subject to disease, old age, and finally death. So even a great ruler such as Caesar or Napoleon never achieved complete control, despite their thirst for it. They could not control time. They could not prevent their own demise.

In other words, they only had a temporary illusion of control.

The only control we have is the freedom to choose our direction in life. We can choose where to focus our attention. We can choose what we aim for. We can choose whether we want to serve God or serve ourselves.

If we choose to serve ourselves, we end up serving the physical body and the forms of the physical world.

Can we humble ourselves like children?

We can not enter into the consciousness that Jesus is teaching with an attitude that we are the greatest. We cannot enter into the world of loving God with an attitude of self-centeredness. Such an attitude is like being a bull in a china shop.

We might compare this to an adult trying to enter into a game that a group of small children is playing. The adult just would not fit in. The adult would be not only too big physically, but they likely could not relate well with the game or the children. The adult would probably over-emphasize the rules and the scoring system to enable someone to win, while the children would likely not care who scored the most points. The children want to just ‘play.’

Jesus' analogy is not perfect. Children often attempt to manipulate their parents to get what they want. Children can be very self-centered. We can also assume that children were probably better mannered during Jesus' day compared to modern children, with regards to respecting elders. Therefore, it is probably safe to say that the child Jesus had stood before the group as he talked was better behaved and humbled than many of the children in modern society.

While we have this disease of wanting control, each of us is, deep within, naturally meek. This is evidenced by the respect we tend to give to those who act humbly, and the disdain we give those who act proudly. This is because within, we relate with being humble.

The ultimate act of humility is love. This is actually Jesus' primary instruction:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

“And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. ..." (Matthew 18:5-7)

“And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!" (Matthew 18:5-7)

What does Jesus mean by 'welcomes one such child'?

The word “welcomes” is translated from the Greek word δέχομαι, which can mean "receive" , but also can mean, according to the Greek lexicon "to receive into one's family, to bring up or educate."

In other words, it means to receive, but also to guide or teach a person. In this context, Jesus is speaking of helping guide a child into a consciousness where God is the center of our lives. Jesus is speaking about teaching others to love God, in other words. Should a person teach a child to love God and do God's will, as Jesus did, then Jesus will be pleased ("welcomes me").

What does 'causes to stumble' mean?

This clearly indicates the opposite of the first statement. That adversely guiding someone who is trying to follow Jesus yields the worst outcome. Jesus is stating that to utilize a position of influence to steer an innocent person away from the Truth is to offend the Supreme Being and Jesus.

This is actually the state of affairs of some teachers of sectarian institutions today who teach false interpretations of the scriptures and Jesus' life. They end up teaching materialism in the name of Jesus - emphasizing that if we ask Jesus we can become wealthy or successful. Meanwhile, they ignore Jesus' most important teachings, such as the "greatest commandment" to love the Supreme Being with all our hearts and minds.

What does 'woe to the world' mean?

"World" is translated from the Greek word κόσμος (kosmos), which means "the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family" according to the lexicon according to this context. Jesus is speaking of the physical world - the world where we misidentify ourselves with these temporary physical bodies and we think that this world is all there is.

In reality, we are not these physical bodies. We are the spirit-persons who are temporarily dwelling within these bodies, and at the time of death we will leave them.

So what are “the things that cause people to stumble”? These "things" are the temporary forms and names of the physical world. The attractions of the physical world are geared towards self-indulgence. The illusion of the physical world is that the shapes and forms that our eyes perceive will bring us happiness.

Rather, these are simply reflections of floating molecules that combine for a while and give the impression of permanence. They do not bring real happiness. They do not fulfill the spirit-person within.

What does it mean to 'stumble'?

Previous NIV versions - and some other Bible versions translate the Greek word σκάνδαλον (skandalon) to "sin". Others translate it to "offend" or "offense."

But "stumble" is a reasonable translation. This is describing a consciousness of self-gratification. Regardless of the word used, it is the opposite of love. Love is caring for others, and this is centered around caring only for ourselves.

But what about the "you have to love yourself before you can love others" doctrine that so many are teaching today? Does this teaching even make sense? At what point does a person's love for themselves translate into love for others?

Rather, this teaching is self-centeredness dressed in fancy words. They are essentially teaching their followers to stumble.

In fact, loving ourselves is our disease, and why we are currently away from the Supreme Being.

“Woe” - from the Greek word οὐαί (ouai) - is an expression of grief. Jesus is saying here that those who mislead others must suffer the consequences of misleading others.

The physical world is full of illusion and physical attractions, but those who teach that these will fulfill us shall be responsible for the consequences of those teachings.

"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off ..." (Matthew 18:8-9)

"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell." (Matthew 18:8-9)

Was Jesus teaching to literally amputate body parts?

This statement by Jesus specifically to his disciples about teaching others has been misinterpreted by some. It has also been the cause of ghastly castrations, amputations and other mutilations over the centuries.

The point of Jesus’ discussion here is not to tell people to start cutting off their appendages or gouging out their eyes if they cause them to 'stumble.' Jesus was not speaking of literally cutting off our hands or arms or legs. Or gouging our our eyes.

So let’s break down the meaning:

What does he mean by 'cut it off'?

Jesus is not speaking of literally cutting off hands or feet here. Yes, he is speaking metaphorically and symbolically.

The reference to "cutting off" and "throwing away" means to withdraw from those activities that demean our consciousness. Jesus is using the physical body parts for symbolic emphasis. He is stating how much more important our spiritual lives are than our temporary physical bodies.

This is further evidence that Jesus taught his students that we are not these physical bodies.

The word "stumble" here - translated from the Greek word σκανδαλίζω (skandalizō) - has been translated to "sin" in some Biblical versions of this verse.

According to the lexicon, the word means, "to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaphorically, to offend."

In other words, Jesus is speaking of the importance of focusing our lives on God.

What does 'enter life' mean?

The phrase "enter life" comes from εἰσελθεῖν and ζωὴν - meaning "to go out or come in: to enter" and "life - the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate; every living soul" respectively.

This means that Jesus is speaking of spiritual life - not physical life here. He is speaking of life as the spirit-person within becoming fulfilled. This again relates to the fact that each of us is not the temporary physical body. And because we are not these physical bodies, we can only be fulfilled spiritually - not by the temporary forms and things of the physical world.

Jesus is speaking of spiritual fulfillment - which he has defined elsewhere clearly:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37)

What is the 'fire of hell'?

Here "hell" is being translated from the word γέεννα (geenna) - taken from a place south of Jerusalem called Gehenna. This is a place known for dumping and burning the carcasses of animals.

Thus Jesus is using this symbolically to describe the destiny of a person whose consciousness is mired within the confines of self-centered materialism.

Hell can be anywhere where our consciousness is self-centered. Hell is a place of suffering and pain - loneliness and strife. Is this where we are right now? Oh, but we don't feel that much pain now? What about loneliness? What about anger, or bewilderment? Are we feeling empty or incomplete?

Yes, a person who takes on a physical body in the physical world has descended into hell. It is a matter of how deep into hell we have descended. Descending further into hell means to waste this opportunity within a human form of life and reject our opportunity to learn about love, mercy and kindness - and the unconditional love that God gives us.

And the "fire" of hell relates to the products of self-centeredness - greed, lust, anger, and violence. These arrive with a heart of emptiness and self-loathing. These are often compared to fire - πῦρ (pyr) - because they burn from within.

In a nutshell, hell is where ever the Supreme Being is forgotten. It is the place where self-centeredness reigns. The place where Jesus wants his students - and each of us - to rise from so we can return home to our consciousness of loving God and loving others.

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones ...” (Matthew 18:10)

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)

Who are 'these little ones'?

The word 'little ones' is being translated from the Greek word, οὗτος (houtos). It doesn't really mean "little ones." I actually simply means, "these" or "this" or otherwise what is being referred to previously.

Jesus is referring to the subject of his statements in Matthew 18:5-7 as Jesus was referring to spiritual children - that is, those who have humbled themselves to God.

Jesus is speaking of humility here. This is one of the primary requirements for entering the spiritual realm. In the physical world, everyone is proud of themselves. The inhabitants of the physical world are seeking to be higher than others. We are seeking to be better than others. This is why so many strive to win sporting contests and various other competitions. We want to be the hero. We want to be the greatest. We want to be the victor.

In the spiritual realm, the Supreme Being is the hero. He is the greatest. He is the victor. And this is His natural position, because, in fact, He is these things. He doesn't have to prove it to anyone.

The inhabitants of the spiritual realm thus do not struggle to win anything. They are the fans of the Supreme Being. They recognize and support the Supreme Being's superiority. They are feeling humble about their own positions. They see themselves as insignificant and see the Supreme Being as their personal hero.

As such, the inhabitants of the spiritual realm also see others as greater than themselves. This is because they are satisfied within. They do not need to promote themselves or gain the attention of others because their relationship with the Supreme Being completely satisfies them.

Who are 'their angels in heaven'?

This next sentence refers to the children's guardian angels. The word "angels" is translated from the Greek word ἄγγελος (aggelos) - which means "a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God." This means they might be from the spiritual realm, but the Supreme Being is sending them. They have access to the physical world because they are being sent.

Each of us has one or multiple guardian angels as we take our physical journey. These angels watch us and care for us. They hope the best for us. They support the process of learning that the physical world takes us through. They typically do not interfere, but they try to encourage us to make the right decisions.

This interaction takes place because we are missed in the spiritual world. We once dwelled in the spiritual world. In the spiritual world, no one is forgotten, and love and care pervade. Those we left in the spiritual world - especially the Supreme Being - have not forgotten us. They want us to come home.

Who is our real family?

The spiritual world is full of individuals just as this world is. The only difference is that in this physical world, mostly everyone is selfishly motivated, whereas in the spiritual dimension, everyone is loving the Supreme Being and motivated by their care for others. This is why Jesus says they, ".... always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

In other words, the central relationship in the spiritual world is with the Supreme Being. This is communicated here by Jesus as he reflects upon the relationship between the angels and the Supreme Being. The term "always see the face" means their consciousness is focused upon the Supreme Being and they are in constant contact with the Supreme Being.

This opposes the concept of heaven as portrayed by many over the centuries, of God being a vague impersonal force or floating apparition. By the phrase, ".... always see the face of my Father in heaven.” we can know that the Supreme Being is a Person. And we can know that He is personally present in the spiritual realm - and the inhabitants of the spiritual realm have close personal relationships with Him.

With regard to the guardian angels watching over us, it is important to understand that we are not these physical bodies. We are each a spirit-person who is currently occupying and operating a temporary physical body.

We might compare this to a person who sits down in a car and drives a car away. The car is not the person, but is the vehicle for the person. When the car stops, the person gets out, just as when the body dies, we leave the body.

We might better compare it to a person who sits down at a computer to operate a video game. The person will pick an icon and the computer game will take the person away into the game - even though the person is still just sitting at a computer. In the same way, while the spirit-person is operating a physical body, from a spiritual aspect the person is not necessarily away from the spiritual realm - we still retain our spirit-person form - but it is covered up. Our consciousness is preoccupied with our false identity and the illusions of the physical realm.

Within the physical world, we are enamored by space and time. We look through the molecular arrangements called our eyes and see light bouncing off of other molecules and we surmise that we are seeing reality. What we are actually seeing is molecules swirling around us, taking on shape and form momentarily and then moving on. Every "thing" we see is recycling molecules. Even our body recycles molecules. Scientists have found that within five years every molecule in our body will be exchanged for another - rendering a different body.

Is this like looking at a waterfall?

Because the water within the waterfall is always moving, we are never seeing the same waterfall. The water is always new water. This is how molecules are also moving around us - never standing still. Always in motion.

So our concept of time and space is illusory. The reference points we make are all in motion so there is no standard of reference that we can consider constant in the physical world.

The only things that are constant are the spiritual elements existing within this physical world. The personality that is "me" is constant. The Supreme Being is constant. The spiritual realm is constant.

We might compare the physical world to a movie set. The movie set is built up specifically to make a film. The set is not a real place where real people live. It is a facade of a real place. It is set up to give the moviegoer the impression that the place in the film is real.

Can we find reality here in the physical world?

Yes, the potential is there, if a person makes the effort. In the movie analogy above, for example, a moviegoer is watching a film in a darkened theater. This gives the movie the impression of being real, since the surroundings are dark. But the moviegoer can, at any time, step out of the dark theater into the daylight, and see reality.

That is why both John the Baptist and Jesus taught that the "kingdom of heaven is near." They taught that each of us can reconnect with the Supreme Being even while we are here on this planet.

However, for most in the physical world, we have forgotten our relationship with the Supreme Being. This is why we feel empty inside. We have forgotten our relationship with God, and this has created a hole within us.

In an attempt to fill that hole, we seek the love and attention of others. This means we strive to achieve fame and recognition, and this is achieved by winning or otherwise becoming accepted - which drives many to join groups or organizations in order to be accepted by others.

But we quickly find that accomplishing the acceptance or recognition from others does not satisfy us. This is found by sportsmen who achieve some big success - say an Olympic athlete who wins a bunch of gold medals. Once the athlete gets the gold medals and receives the fame and recognition for their accomplishment he begins to understand that it brings no real fulfillment. It does not fill that empty hole within.

This is also found out in so many other ways. For example, a family man or woman will feel that having a child will fill that hole within but they soon find out that the child is a responsibility and a lot of work - and the hole still remains. For this reason, they might think that another child will do the trick. Or maybe having an affair. Or maybe something else.

As each of us seeks and gains the various accomplishments the physical world offers us we continue to find this emptiness continues even though we become winners or gain the recognition of others.

This is because the emptiness is only filled by regaining our lost relationship with the Supreme Being.

In the same way, the physical world is not a permanent place for the spirit-person to reside. It is a temporary place set up to enable us to act out our self-centeredness. To hopefully learn that we aren't going to become fulfilled by winning or by becoming better than others.

The only thing that will fulfill us is our relationship with the Supreme Being. This is a subordinate position. We are the Supreme Being's subordinates. Yes, the Supreme Being gives us a chance to play out our self-centeredness in an attempt to try to be the center of it all. But this is because He gives us the freedom to love Him or not. Because love requires freedom.

And as Jesus states here, love also requires humility.

“ If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders ...” (Matthew 18:12-14)

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders off, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matthew 18:12-14)

What does Jesus' analogy of the hundred sheep mean?

This parable is comparing the man to the Supreme Being. And the sheep to each of us. The sheep that walks away represents each of us who rejected the Supreme Being and left the spiritual realm to chase our self-centered desires.

This statement follows Jesus' previous statement regarding being watched over by angels:
"For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)
Remember that the word "angels" is translated from the Greek word ἄγγελος (aggelos) - which means "a messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel, a messenger from God" according to the lexicon.

This means that Jesus is not speaking of guardian angels as merely sitting and watching - they are specifically engaged by the Supreme Being to help us.

Why, then are they watching over us? Why do we have guardian angels? Because the Supreme Being cares about us, and wants us to come home to Him. This is the reference to the lost sheep. God wants us (His lost sheep) to return to the spiritual realm and return to our innate love for Him.

So He delegates to those who serve Him, to watch over us and help us, so we can come home to the Supreme Being.

How does one become lost?

Certainly, God never loses us. He is in control and we are always living in His creation. So we are never lost in that sense.

But because the Supreme Being also gives us the freedom to love Him or not - those who decide not to love Him become lost. We become lost in our self-centeredness. Without love for God, we become lost in our own desires.

When we choose ourselves over God, we become lost. It is not as if we can ever get away from God. But God does give us space to forget Him.

This is the purpose of the physical world. To allow those who want to get away from the Supreme Being the ability to not see Him and forget Him for a while.

You see, The Supreme Being created us to love Him and be with Him. But love requires freedom. So He gave us the freedom to love Him or not.

Those who chose not to love Him are given these temporary physical bodies. These allow us to chase our self-centered dreams around for a while.

But He wants us back - when we are ready.

How does the man save the sheep that 'wandered off'?

This describes the Supreme Being sending his messengers to the physical world to call us back. The Supreme Being wants us to come home to Him but He never forces us. He could if He wanted. But the Supreme Being doesn't want slaves. He wants to exchange love.

The Supreme Being also expands Himself within the Holy Spirit to escort each of us as we journey through the physical realm.

Thus He can be here but not have to leave the spiritual realm. Such is the absolute power and unfathomable authority over time and space. He is not limited either by time and space nor by His individuality. He can expand Himself without limit and be with each of us simultaneously.

Such is the greatness of the Supreme Being.

"And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off."

Jesus is describing the unconditional love and affection the Supreme Being has for each of us. Even though we have offended Him and rejected Him, He is ready at any time to take us back. All we have to do is want to return to Him and become determined to return to Him and He takes us back to Him.

Sometimes people will wonder why they can't just pray and be taken back just like that. But we have to understand that the Supreme Being doesn't want us to whimsically decide: He wants us to make a determination to return to Him.

And sometimes, that determination must be developed. For this reason, after we ask to return to Him He will still present us with various obstacles to overcome. These obstacles are meant to make us more determined. They are meant to make us more resolute.

After all, love cannot be whimsical. It cannot be something done just out of convenience. Love is a complete emotion. It requires complete dedication.

Just imagine if we told someone "I love you - but only when it is convenient to do so." Is this love? No. It is not love.

Love must be unconditional. It must be given without condition or convenience. It must be given with complete trust and dedication.

Why is God 'not willing that any of these little ones should be lost'?

Jesus is referring to the children he is showing before his disciples - but he is also speaking about all of us. He is illustrating that the Supreme Being is attentive and wanting each of us to return to Him.

The word "lost" has been translated to "perish" in the 2011 NIV, as it has been in the King James Version and most of the other English versions. We kept the 1984 NIV translation of "lost" here because the word is being translated from the Greek word ἀπόλλυμι (apollymi), which can mean "perish" or "lost."

What the translators may not have realized is that the spirit-person never perishes. Each of us is a spirit-person - not the physical body - and each of us is eternal. We do not die when the body dies.

But we can become lost. By rejecting the Supreme Being we are escorted to the physical world and given these temporary physical bodies and physical minds - which allow us to forget the Supreme Being and become lost within the illusory nature of the physical world.

And just as the sheep who wanders off can be found and brought back, no matter how far we go down, there is still a path back to the Supreme Being for each of us.

We just have to sincerely ask.

One might wonder why we left Him in the first place if our relationship with the Supreme Being brings us happiness. When God created us, He gave us each the ability to choose whether we wanted to love Him or not. He also gave us a piece of Himself. That means that not only can we choose whether to love Him or not, but we have the ability to want to become like Him - which can breed envy because we are not God.

Why does God give us these choices?

Because there cannot be love without freedom of choice. Forcing someone to love is not love - it is slavery.

Though we have rejected God, He doesn't give up on us. He still tries to teach us what will make us happy. This entire physical universe is set up to help guide and teach us. This is called mercy.

His mercy is also why the Supreme Being sends His representatives to guide us back to Him.

Also notice that Jesus specifically states “your Father.” This means that God is our Father just as He is Jesus' Father.

We simply have to accept the mercy of the Supreme Being and decide we want to return to His Loving Arms.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him ...” (Matthew 18:15-17)

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

What does 'sins against you' mean?

Here Jesus is discussing a situation that might occur between two fellow disciples or students. Otherwise, there would be no purpose for him saying that if the other did not accommodate or correct the transgression, then treat the situation as one would treat a tax collector or unbeliever ("pagan").

The term 'sins against you' is broad and covers situations where there is a dispute between two people. In such an affair, each party typically thinks the other party offended them in some way. This could be communicated as a 'sin" against them, but mostly it is considered some kind of transgression.

We must remember that Jesus was speaking directly to his students. And since Jesus was disregarded and largely dismissed by temple rabbis and temple organizers (pharisees and sadducees), the only group that Jesus could be referring to was his circle of disciples.

What 'church' is Jesus referring to?

The translation here is obviously not correct in its word choice because at the time of Jesus' teaching, there was no "church."

The word "church"
is being translated from the Greek word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) which simply means an assembly or group of some sort. Thus a more appropriate translation would be "assembly" rather than "church."

In this case, "assembly" would aptly describe the addition of "take one or two others along."

Jesus is also speaking to his students at a particular time and circumstance - not to the entire world some two thousand years from the time he spoke those words.

These are specific instructions, and yes they can be applied in a broader sense, but finding two or three people to help settle a disagreement between ourselves and someone else may prove difficult in many circumstances.

Today, two people might employ a mediator or arbitrator to help work out a difference. Courts are also sometimes used but these can get nasty because lawyers charge big dollars for their services.

How does Jesus suggest we manage disputes?

The bottom line of Jesus' point is to try to focus our lives upon the Supreme Being, and get through our petty disputes as simply and quickly as possible.

What about the disputes between the various sectarian institutions?

Today various sects that claim to follow Jesus disagree about what Jesus was teaching. But the disputes are with Jesus, not between the various sects. Because Jesus taught simple truths that can be easily applied.

The problem is the election and appointment of the teachers by the various sects. This contradicts Jesus' teachings.

The process given by the Supreme Being and practiced by Jesus is that scripture should be translated and interpreted by those who have been empowered by the Supreme Being rather than by those chosen or appointed by other people.

In the case of the sectarian organizations that have delivered the Bible and its various translations, those translators have largely been chosen and employed by committees of politically oriented members whose purpose was to sustain their respective organizations. In other words, they were not chosen by God. They were politically appointed. Their appointment was made with an intent to support the institution.

This is illustrated by the various appointments of the Nicene Council bishops made by the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century AD as he sought to organize a single institution consistent with Rome's intent to dominate the Middle East and Europe. This facilitated the Roman Catholic Church's domination of the region for over a thousand years.

Emperor Constantine organized the First Council of Nicaea in 325 by assembling prominent church leaders from around Europe. This enabled the council to negotiate and decide on a single doctrine. This political process was reinforced by succeeding councils, such as the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 A.D. This was organized by the Roman Emperor Theodosius II, and led to the creation of the Roman Catholic Church.

This essentially defined Jesus and his teachings for the next 1600 years.

This was done through a political process. An election of sorts, where the council had to come to an agreement. As such, there were differing opinions regarding who Jesus was and the emphasis of his teachings. But Constantine pushed the council to come up with a single interpretation.

This is a political negotiation, determined by men.

While a political negotiation in an assembly of people might help us settle disputes, the Supreme Being and His messenger cannot be defined by a political process. His teachings cannot be interpreted correctly by a political process.

The Supreme Being is who He is, and His teachings are what they are. Only the Supreme Being and His representative can define them and interpret them.

Can councils represent God?

From the Nicene Synods and Nicene Creed forward we find practically the entire state of affairs of the various sectarian institutions have followed a process of electing leaders including popes, bishops, cardinals, priests and ministers through political assembly and/or political councils.

This makes each of these leaders unable to represent God. Why? Because they were elected by men. They are being chosen by men within these institutions. And as a result, those popes, bishops, priests and ministers are representing the men of the councils and institutions that elected them. They cannot thus represent the Supreme Being.

Why can't these councils represent God? Only a loving servant of the Supreme Being can represent Him. Groups of people cannot represent God. By their very nature, groups utilize methods of agreement - such as negotiation and politics - which remove their ability to represent God. God's will cannot be subject to negotiation. Or politics. His will is His will.

Our relationship with the Supreme Being is a personal one. This is how the Supreme Being operates. He has personal relationships with each person.

Because the Supreme Being enjoys personal loving relationships, this is how we can connect with Him. By connecting with one of God's loving servants.

Did Jesus do this?

Jesus illustrated this. Jesus had a personal relationship with God. But he still accepted John the Baptist as his personal teacher - by accepting his baptism. Then he went out and taught people, and accepted each student on an individual basis.

Then he asked each of his disciples to go out and pass on those teachings to others.

Jesus did not appoint any single person. Nor did he ask a council to get together to elect the next leader. Rather, he asked all of his students to pass his teachings on.

Those who were able to this had heard and followed Jesus' teachings and were thus empowered by the Supreme Being to pass those teachings on to others. This is what James, Peter, John, Thomas and other disciples of Jesus did.

There was no council or appointed group. Yes, Jesus selected twelve "close" disciples to assist him in his preaching affairs. But he also sent out 72 disciples (Luke 10:1) to go out and preach for him. So he wasn't appointing only twelve people or even 72. Rather, there were 72 individuals who had each heard Jesus' teachings and applied them to their life - and passed them on to others.

This is God's system. One individual learns from a devoted teacher who learned from another devoted teacher. This leads to a succession of devoted teachers, each learning not only from their teacher but the teachers before them. This is why Jesus not only quoted John the Baptist, but also quoted Moses, David, Isaiah and others before John.

What empowers each of these teachers is not appointment or selection by men or councils. God empowers His messengers. It is an individual process, not a political process.

This is because love for God is deeply personal and takes place between each individual and the Supreme Being, who is the Greatest Person:
“But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen. by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5-8)

“... whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven ...” (Matthew 18:18)

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18))

What does Jesus mean by 'bind'?

This statement by Jesus follows his previous statement regarding seeking mediation regarding a dispute with another: "If your brother sins against you...."

The word "bind" is translated from the Greek word δέω (deō) - which means in this context, "to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc." Thus we can know that Jesus is referring to "binding" as a promise, or agreement made with "one of your brothers."

This refers to the relationships existing between Jesus' disciples and students.

How will it be 'bound in heaven'?

Jesus is clearly stating that the promises and relationships that bind people together will continue on a spiritual level. Why is this?

While things that take place within the physical world occur amongst the forms and names of this temporary dimension, within these physical bodies we are each a spiritual living being. Each of us is spiritual in essence. We are not these physical bodies.

Thus while the things we do within the physical world may affect others' physical bodies, the relationships we have with others have a spiritual context as well - because we are each spiritual beings.

The degree in which there is a spiritual context relates to whether that relationship with another person involves our spiritual lives or not. A relationship that is purely physical - say each person seeks a physical self-centered result - then that relationship may not have a spiritual context. But it will still affect the spiritual life of each person in the relationship in some way. If the relationship has only a physical aspect, then it will result in each party in that relationship becoming further entrapped within the physical realm - maintaining our ignorance of our spiritual identities.

But in the case of Jesus' students and disciples, these relationships had spiritual context because their common denominator was their teacher, Jesus - who is God's representative. And their spiritual lives were specifically being impacted by following Jesus' teachings - and they needed to cooperate together in order to assist Jesus in his service to the Supreme being. Therefore, their relationships were specifically related to their spiritual lives - and how they treated each other would reflect upon their spiritual lives.

What does 'loosed' mean?

The word "loose" is translated from the Greek word λύω (lyō) which means "to loose any person (or thing) tied or fastened," and "to loose one bound, i.e. to unbind, release from bonds, set free."

Thus we see that Jesus is also metaphorically relating to the topic as well as practically. The binding nature of an agreement made through mediation or otherwise creates a bind or obligation between two or more people. Honoring those obligations has practical and even spiritual implications for Jesus' students - who need to cooperate with each other in order to serve Jesus - who was serving the Supreme Being.

Thus Jesus is requesting not only that his students cooperate with each other: But that they treat each other fairly. To free someone from an obligation is sometimes an act of mercy or forgiveness. Say a person crashes into our car they should be obligated to fix the dents. But if the owner of the car were to forgive the person and dismiss the obligation say because the person could nor afford it - "loosen" - then that person would be showing compassion and forgiveness. This will also affect one on a spiritual level - because compassion and forgiveness are spiritual traits.

Is there a broader meaning?

Remember that the initial question they asked, was:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matthew 18:1)
This is a coded question that indicated Jesus' disciples were thinking about who would become the spiritual leader after Jesus left this world.

Jesus did not want his disciples involved in a power struggle after he was gone - especially over who is the real successor. This is, in fact, what so many sectarian organizations have done around their teachers for thousands of years. Self-promoting students will think they received some sort of special benediction from the teacher who has now left them.

They believe they have been appointed as the successor of the teacher - and will proceed to create a hierarchy within the group or organization.

In the case of some, such as Paul - who was not a disciple of Jesus - who formed an institution that did precisely that - created electorate bodies - councils of elders and so on. This structure eventually led to electing bishops and popes among the Roman Catholic Church.

By doing this, they abandoned the precepts Jesus taught and showed by example, that God chooses His representative. God's representative is not elected by a political assembly - a group or council made up of people. This was the very structure that Jesus argued against among the temple institution - where the high priest Caiaphus was appointed by the Roman prefect Valerius Gratus.

Jesus argued strongly against this politically-driven system. This was a central reason for Jesus' subsequent arrest and persecution.

Who chooses God's representative?

This was illustrated by John the Baptist, who sent his disciples to ask Jesus something:
“John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ ” (Luke 7:20)
This illustrates that John the Baptist - who baptized Jesus - did not select or appoint God's representative.

In fact, it is God who empowers His representative to teach on His behalf. While the teacher must first become a student of an empowered teacher (also illustrated by Jesus as he took baptism by John) and must apply those teachings, should he or she apply those teachings, the Supreme Being may empower them to teach in one respect or another.

Just as Jesus taught personally to students to have them carry on God's message, and just as John the Baptist taught personally to students like Jesus and others to have them carry on God's message, Jesus wanted his disciples to go out and teach to others individually. He was opposed to the ceremonial (and empty) pomp and circumstance of the institutional temples of those days. That is why Jesus always criticized them, and overturned the tables of those selling on the temple grounds.

So do we think that Jesus would have wanted what exists today in the form of splintered sectarian institutions who elect their teachers by voting and pay them salaries to teach?

No. Jesus wanted his disciples to go out and teach his message freely and individually. Not professionally.

The Supreme Being is a ‘relationship Person’. He is not so concerned about our individual merits or accomplishments. He only cares about how we treat others, and whether we want a relationship with Him. These are within our range of choice. Because love requires freedom, the Supreme Being created us with the freedom to love Him and love others, or simply love ourselves (greed).

Therefore, we are always being presented with a choice to look out for ourselves or look out for others. We are always being given the choice to devote ourselves to the Supreme Being or devote ourselves to ourselves. Ultimately, these are the choices that determine the future of our spiritual lives. Should we choose to devote ourselves to the Supreme Being, the Supreme Being will show us His representative and guide us back to Him.

Jesus spoke of this clearly:
"Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (John 7:17)

"... if two of you on earth agree about anything ...” (Matthew 18:19)

"Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19)

What does Jesus mean by 'anything you ask for'?

What is the significance of two or three of his followers coming together in Jesus' name? Does this mean that groups of more than two can combine to make up new rules and appoint teachers like deacons and other types of councils do?

Not exactly. Jesus was speaking specifically about "anything you ask for." The key to understanding this phrase is the Greek word αἰτέω (aiteō), here translated to "ask." This word can also mean to "beg."

Jesus is speaking of prayer. Multiple people praying for the same thing. Jesus is suggesting that if multiple people come together to pray in his name then he will be there for them, supporting them in their quest to grow closer to God.

Jesus is not talking about praying for material things. He isn't talking about praying for wealth or to win a football game. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus suggests we pray for:
-Praising God ("Hallowed by Your Name")
-Asking to serve God ("Your will be done on earth")
-Helping us grow spiritually ("Give us today our daily bread")
-Forgiveness ("Forgive our debts")
-Saving us ("deliver us from evil")

When Jesus says, "come together in my name" he isn't speaking of his name only. He is speaking of coming together for the purpose of following Jesus' teachings - the foremost of which is to love God.

God and Jesus are attracted by relationships. Particularly relationships of sharing and giving. When two or three people come together for the same purpose there is a meeting of minds. When they come together with the purpose of pleasing God, that combined mission pleases God and His loving servants.

This means coming together to glorify God and pray together for spiritual strength and guidance. It means singing His Names, as Jesus and his students did regularly:
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)

What does 'sung a hymn' mean?

It means they sang praises to God. They praised God and His Names and virtues on a regular basis. While praising God and His Names is not emphasized much by some sectarian teachers today, it was an important practice for Jesus and his followers, and among the Prophets and teachers of the Old Testament:
Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the Name of the LORD. (Genesis 4:25)

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the Name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8)

and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the Name of the LORD. (Genesis 13:4)

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the Name of the LORD, the Eternal God. (Genesis 21:33)

Isaac built an altar there and called on the Name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. (Genesis 26:25)

he may minister in the Name of the LORD his God like all his fellow Levites who serve there in the presence of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 18:7)

I will proclaim the Name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! (Deuteronomy 32:3)

After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the Name of the LORD Almighty. (2 Samuel 6:18)

The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. (1 Kings 3:2)

I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God, as the LORD told my father David, when he said, 'Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.' (1 Kings 5:5)

"My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. (1 Kings 8:17)

"The LORD has kept the promise he made: I have succeeded David my father and now I sit on the throne of Israel, just as the LORD promised, and I have built the temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. (1 Kings 8:20)

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the Name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:2)

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the Name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God." (1 Kings 18:24)

With the stones he built an altar in the Name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. (1 Kings 18:32)

But Naaman went away angry and said, "I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the Name of the LORD his God... (2 Kings 5:11)

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His Name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the LORD in the splendor of His Holiness.
(1 Chronicles 16:28-30)

So David went up in obedience to the word that God had spoken in the Name of the LORD. (1 Chronicles 21:19)

David said to Solomon: "My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. (1 Chronicles 22:7)

Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the LORD." (1 Chronicles 22:18-19)

Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to Him for burning fragrant incense before Him, for setting out the consecrated bread regularly, and for making burnt offerings every morning and evening and on Sabbaths and New Moons and at the appointed feasts of the LORD our God. (2 Chronicles 2:4)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the Name of the LORD be praised." (Job 1:21)

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the Name of the LORD Most High. (Psalm 7:16-17)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the Name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7)

Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the Name of the LORD. (Psalm 113:2)

Let the Name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. (Psalm 113:2)

From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the Name of the LORD is to be praised. (Psalm 113:3)

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the Name of the LORD. (Psalm 116:13)

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the Name of the LORD. (Psalm 116:17)

Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the LORD. (Psalm 118:26)

That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the Name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel. (Psalm 122:4)

Our help is in the Name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:7)

Praise the LORD. Praise the Name of the LORD; praise him, you servants of the LORD, (Psalm 135:2)

Let them praise the Name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created. (Psalm 148:5)

Let them praise the Name of the LORD, for His Name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. (Psalm 148:13)

The Name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD; exalt the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea. (Isaiah 24:15)

Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the Name of the LORD and rely on his God. (Isaiah 50:10)

And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the Name of the LORD, and to worship Him (Isaiah 56:6)

At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the Name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. (Jeremiah 3:17)

You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the Name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. (Joel 2:26)

And everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls. (Joel 2:32)

"Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the Name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder. (Zephaniah 3:9)

But I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the Name of the LORD. (Zephaniah 3:10)

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:9)

For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord.' " (Matthew 23:38)

"Blessed is the king who comes in the Name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:38)

And everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.' (Acts 2:21)

"Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)
Calling on God's Names can be done quietly, in private, and amongst our friends. Note also that from the Scriptures we find that God does indeed have a Name. He also has multiple Names, including Jahweh, Jehovah, Eloi, Abba and others. He also has Names in other languages as well. Each of God's Names, regardless of the language, has the power to connect us with the Supreme Being.

Why is praising God so important?

Praising someone is a facility we all use to endear someone. It is a way of connecting with someone. When we praise God we are providing a means or facility to get close to God - to open our hearts to Him.

Think about why we might praise anyone or call their name: To invoke them. To reach out to them. We praise someone or call out someone's name when we want to relate with them. When we want to connect with them.

It is the same as praising and calling on God's Name. When God's Name is praised, we are attempting to establish a relationship with Him. This is pleasing to the Supreme Being. Why? Because the Supreme Being enjoys relationships. This is why we were created in the first place: To exchange a relationship with God.

This is also why everyone is constantly looking for relationships. In fact, each of us is looking for that perfect person to love and exchange a relationship with. We each search for our soulmates, and when we think we find them, we might marry them, only to find out later that they are not the perfect person we expected them to be.

The Supreme Being is the Perfect Person we've been looking for. As we search for our soulmate here on earth, we are actually looking for the Supreme Being.

When we share our relationship with the Supreme Being with others, this is particularly pleasing to Him. The Supreme Being enjoys multiple relationships. He is pleased when we share with others what we share with Him - love.

This is the reason Jesus' second-most-important instruction is connected to the first:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
And this is the reason why Jesus would be pleased when people come together to praise God, and help to complete his mission of asking everyone to love and serve the Supreme Being.