Jesus began this session explaining that leadership in His Messianic court would rest on unreserved trust in Him and His teaching. He draws the picture of a disciple who is like a younger child, but draws that image from His own culture where such children would never be a smart-aleck, but would always act as they were told. This is what Jesus calls a “little one” who should command the highest respect by His disciples.
A particular sin is taking advantage of such trust to mislead anyone. Would you dare trying to lie to the Father in Heaven who can read your very heart? Lying to one of His trusting servants is just as bad. Don’t abuse trust for any reason; it’s a cruel parent who plays head games, seeking to manipulate his own children instead of trusting them with the truth and free moral choice.
But Jesus now turns and says we should expect this world to be filled with people who do that and worse. That’s the way it is after the Fall — count on it. Still, God is watching and will surely pour out His wrath on such behavior. If not in this life, then surely in eternity, just recompense will fall on such moral depravity.
Jesus uses typical Hebrew hyperbole to emphasize His otherworldly viewpoint. It’s better to go through life maimed and crippled than to earn the wrath of God in the next life. If you cannot resist the temptation to abuse your position of trust, do whatever it takes to simply make it impossible. It’s a common Hebrew figure of speech to put out your eye or amputate a hand or foot to disable temptation. It’s a sort of preventive justice so you don’t end up falling under Lex Talionis — “eye for an eye.” Know yourself; if you know you are likely to abuse a position of trust, then stay away from such positions.
The kind of contempt for people that leads to abuse of trust is truly dangerous on the order of burning in Hell. Just because you can get away with it on the human level, don’t be fooled. God’s angels are watching and they will report it to the Father. The faith of these trusting “little ones” empowers their angels. Is your lack of faith, in trying to control things God reserves to Himself, binding your angel from guarding your life?
Try to understand how Jesus exemplified the divine shepherd. His servants who get misled and wander off into the power of the Devil are not just a minor annoyance to Him. It leaves Him with a sharp sense of loss. He came willing to die a horrifying death just so He could redeem them. He would go out of His way to chase them down, and would celebrate grandly when He rescued them. If He’s going to make such a big deal out of one percent like that, how much anger would you expect He holds for anyone who manipulated that sheep into getting lost?
You should tremble at the mere possibility that you could somehow lead one of His sheep astray.