Summary: Based on the parable of the Unmerciful Servant Matthew 18:21-35 about forgiving others as we are forgiven
Peter begins by asking Jesus a question, "how many times must I forgive my brother, up to seven times?
This would have been a very generous act in those days as God had finished his work of creation and on the seventh day rested, seven was a perfect number. So Peter thought he was being very generous offering to go that far but Jesus answer went a great deal further! He said to forgive seventy seven times! This was not a precise number but at that time one hundred was the largest number that could be envisioned and indeed it does not actually put a limit on forgiveness, rather makes it limitless. Jesus here is making the point that as many times as a person needs to be forgiven we ARE to forgive.
Now I want to look more closely at forgiveness and what we mean by it and what Jesus means by it.
Often people forgive with their mouths but then you may hear comments such as, "well, I have forgiven but I cannot forget or an argument brings back cries of "you did ... last year" and the old hurts are trotted out for an airing.
Is this forgiveness? What does Jesus tell us of forgiveness?
Hebrews 8:12 "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
This is what true forgiveness is, the forgiveness we are to strive to attain, nothing else is truly forgiveness. Jesus shows his love when hanging there on the cross he says, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing". If Jesus can show such forgiveness to be able to say Father forgive them - the very people that had beaten him spat on him jeered at him and finally nailed them to a cross him to die a very humiliating death whilst still taunting him.
That is all very well I hear you say but what about the terrorists that flew into the world trade tower? That is unforgivable. Was nailing the Son of God to a cross to die as a common criminal unforgivable? Where would we be if God could not forgive us for the death of His son?
Let’s look a little more closely at this parable. First of all, parables are stories using everyday situations to describe something spiritual in this case, the Kingdom of God and often end with a sting in the tail!
First of all the characters here are the king (God) the fist servant who owes a huge debt (we owe a huge debt to God) and the second servant owing a small debt to the first servant (owing another human being is infintesimal compared to what we owe God!) The first servant is threatened to being sold together with his wife and all his possessions as slaves in order to repay the debt but the master is lenient when he hears the servants please and knowing the man could not possibly hope to pay his debts, cancelled them (it was the equivalent of millions of pounds or dollars) and so the servant went out free not only from being sold but also from the burden of debt. Just imagine the relief!!!!!!!! This is how we should be feeling having been released from the burden of sin, completely forgiven and our sins forgotten. One would think then that this would put the servant into a happy frame of mind at peace with all but no, he sees a fellow servant and grabs him by the neck demanding immediate payment of a tiny debt
the equivalent of a few pounds or a few dollars but no the reprieved servant would not have compassion and had him thrown into prison. We have been forgiven EVERYTHING we are free and with no burden and we should therefore be willing to forgive our brothers and sisters because nothing they need forgiveness for is a fraction of what we have been frogiven by God.
The result of this unforgiving heart was that the master when he heard about it was angry and had him thrown into prison to be tortured until every bit of the debt was paid. Originally if you recall, the debt would have been millions of pounds or dollars too much to pay back in fact now he was going to have to pay it all himself. The original punishment would have been less because the fact that he, his family and all they possesed would have paid an amount of that debt but now there was no help at all.
Here comes the sting!!!
Jesus says in verse 23, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Now before you panic and say but I am trying to forgive someonme but what they did was so bad I can’t do it, God is gracious and merciful and if you have a problem with forgiving someone and you KNOW you should forgive as God forgave you, take it to God and ask for the grace to forgive, it maybe you need to understand why first.
Lord we come to you now and ask that if there is anyone we know we should forgive but have not been able to, please give us the grace to forgive and show us how to forgive In Jesus name amen.