Christ Used This Millstone Imagery
Christ overheard His disciples arguing about who would be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 18:1-6). I like His disciples because they are just like us today. Arguing about how smart we are, how self-important we are and how holy we are; except, we are not.
In this passage the Greek words translated as millstone is actually a stone turned by a donkey such as depicted in the graphic above. This huge stone tied about someone’s neck so that they could be drowned, wow, talk about hyperbole!
To understand this passage requires that we understand the context of the verse and the imagery involved. This was very easy for Christ’s audience since they saw this item probably on a near daily basis. This is where they took their grain to be ground into flour so they could make their daily bread. They would have seen the millstone as an instrument of life, not as a weapon of death. Why did Christ use this symbol of life as a symbol of an agonizing death?
Christ brought the Gospel to bring life where there was only death due to the incorrect understanding of the Mosaic Law. This Law was never designed to bring life but to underscore man’s utter sinfulness and their total inability to procure righteous through any effort on their part. Yet, both the Sadducees and Pharisees turned the Law into a great weight drowning the people in their sins for generations. They did this so they could be above the Law all the while imposing this great weight of the Law on the people (Lk 11:42-46).
And now He was hearing His disciples becoming trapped in the same fallacy. They were not discussing how to understand the Gospel or how to better teach the Gospel to the people; they were arguing which of them would be great in Heaven. They had so little understanding that they sounded like Job who wanted to take his case into Heaven and stand before God arguing about “his righteousness” (Job 13:14-15; 31:35-37)! The Hebrews had a “glimpse” of God’s righteousness on Mount Horeb and they trembled, begging Him not to speak directly to them again (Ex 20:18-21). How does one speak to those who have no comprehension of what they are saying to give them some understanding of the gravity of their situation? Christ used an example everyone could grasp, even today.
Sitting a child on His lap He instructed them that only those who understand their ignorance can be saved. We are so ignorant because we have never known true holiness. Christ veiled His holiness when He walked the earth except for the episode on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9). The three who saw that event proved by this discussion that they did not understand the significance of what Christ had revealed to them. They were probably using their experience as an excuse to prove that they were “better” than the others who were not invited to view this special event.
Christendom is replete with this history of veiling the Gospel to promote one’s own glory. The promotion of man’s glory requires the diminishing of God’s glory. This is the formula for heresy. God’s Gospel has been misrepresented for most of man’s history by the people chosen to take that message into the world. This includes both Jews (Old Testament) and the Christians (New Testament). We are less than children before God.
For example, look up into the night sky. What you see, and think are individual stars, are actually galaxies composed of billions of stars. In the midst of this staggering number of stars is a very small planet that hosted the visitation of God (Christ) and was the cause of the creation of all that we see (Ge 1:1-2:3; Jo 1:1-9). Now, let the expanse of the universe represent the infiniteness of God’s holiness and mind while the earth will represent the mind of man. The universe pales into insignificance before God the Father Who encompasses this universe (infinity has NO boundaries) but it demonstrates how little we can comprehend God and His Gospel from our own very limited perspective; yet, we would contend with God for glory?! Thus, Christ reminded His disciples, and us, that at our very best we will always be as little children before Him. Unless we realize our utter dependence on Him, and His absolute independence on us, we will continue to live in our foolish pride.
This is what happened to the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Scribes and lawyers, Christendom throughout most of the Church Age and continues down to our time. For when we lose sight of our insignificance and utter dependence on Christ, we promote our own gospel, just like Satan. Then, we cause those who look to us to follow us in our sin. We then take that which was provided for life and turn it into a weight of death. We take the yoke of the Gospel, which is light, and make it an instrument that weighs people down into sin (Mt 11:29-30). And this is exactly what Christ says to His disciples.
The Sea is a metaphor for man’s restless sin nature which produces all that man is capable of thinking and doing. Anything from this source is sinful no matter how good it appears. This is the source of the “goodness of Man”. Christ is saying that that those who live by such a system of dead works will continue to live by such a system. This is consistent with Paul’s statement in Romans when he writes, “…and God gave them up…(Ro 1:18-31).”
The imagery of tying a millstone around one’s neck is a metaphor for that great weight of works when the Gospel is perverted to a system of self-righteousness. Those who live by their self-righteousness only demonstrate their sinfulness. thus, God then allows them to remain in their works, a form of self-hardening of the heart.
This will be clearly shown at the White Throne Judgment Seat by the lives of those who were kept from the true Gospel by such a system of worthless works. It would have been better for these perpetrators to have been drowned, never been born, than to cause people to miss the true gospel.