The text of today is taken from what is termed by some as Matthew’s “Community Discourse” (18,1-35). It is the fourth of the long discourses in Matthew. Some see the discourse as divided clearly into two parts (18, 1-14 and 18, 15-35), with various indications, which point to such a division. Some of these indications are as follows: Both sections end with a parable (18, 12-13 and 18,23-34), after the parable is a concluding statement of Jesus, which begins with the word “So” (18,14.35), there is also in the sayings, a reference to the heavenly Father and the saying is about the subject of the preceding section (“little ones” and “brother/sister”).
The discourse begins with a question about the disciples regarding greatness. Unlike in Mark 9,33, there is no dispute among the disciples about who is the greatest. In his response, Jesus makes clear that being in the kingdom or coming into it, is not a matter of one’s talents or qualities, but “becoming like a child”. In first-century Judaism, children were often regarded as inferior and were treated as property rather than as persons. The point Jesus makes here is that one must acknowledge dependence on the Father. The reception of a child is an indication that one has accepted the values of the kingdom and one is no longer concerned about being greatest. Since God does not give up on anyone, Christians must also be prepared to accept those who may have strayed. Not only must they be valued, but they must also be sought out like God himself seeks them. The focus in Matthew’s parable is on the sheep that has gone astray. This means that the straying members of the community ought to be the focus also of the community.
While to be a Christina one has to make an individual commitment, one cannot forget that Christianity is also and even primarily a communitarian religion. This means that each is responsible for the other. I am indeed my brother or sister’s keeper.