Summary: A sermon about forgiveness.
"Let It Go"
A little boy was saying his prayers.
And as he went down the list of his family, asking God to bless them, he skipped over his brother's name.
His mother asked him, "Why didn't you pray for Liam?"
He replied, "I'm not going to ask God to bless Liam because he hit me."
And his mother said, "Don't you remember Jesus said to forgive your enemies?"
But the little boy said, "That's just the problem.
He's not my enemy; he's my brother!"
I'd imagine that most of us can relate to what Peter was going through in our Gospel Lesson for this morning.
He was facing a similar problem--the problem of forgiving his brother.
In Matthew Chapter 18 Jesus has been dealing with the question of relationships between Christians.
And then Peter came up to Jesus and said to Him, "Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother...who sins against me?
Should I forgive as many as seven times?'
Jesus said, 'Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times."
I have often wondered, as I've read this passage, if Peter might actually have been thinking of his literal brother, Andrew.
Peter and Andrew were brothers and had grown up together.
And, not unlike lots of brothers, Andrew may have had a habit of doing something that drove Peter nuts.
Maybe Andrew was always "borrowing" something from Peter without asking for Peter's permission.
Perhaps, they had been fighting for Jesus' attention or for their place in the "pecking order" of God's Kingdom.
Maybe Andrew had a tendency to bully his brother, dismiss him, take him for granted--you name it!!!
We've all been there one way or another.
At any rate, Peter probably thought he was being really, really generous here in suggesting to Jesus that he should forgive Andrew seven times.
And there was a good reason why Peter might have thought he was being really generous toward his brother; the rabbis at the time taught that you only needed to forgive someone three times at the most.
The fourth time you could do whatever you wanted.
There was a three strikes rule long before baseball was even invented!!!
In any event, there is a lot of humor in the way Jesus responds to Peter.
Don't get me wrong, but I think there are many passages of Scripture that we get wrong because we take them literally, even though Jesus is going "over the top" and actually speaking kind of humorously in order to make His point.
There may very well have been a bit of laughter in Jesus' voice when He replied to Peter, "Peter, would you believe seventy-seven times?"
I mean, that's a lot of strikes!!!
In effect, Jesus was saying to Peter, "It's not a question of how many times you should forgive your brother.
That's not really the question.
There is something much deeper beneath all that.
The real question is, 'Why should I forgive at all?
And when you see that you should forgive you will see that there is that's there is no limit at all.
Forgiveness is something that ought to go on without limit."
Jesus has really only chosen seventy-seven times as a play on what Peter has just said to Him.
But what seventy-seven times really means is an unlimited forgiveness!!!
And then, to answer that deeper question of "Why should I forgive my brother," Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.
"Therefore," Jesus says, "the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began to settle accounts, they brought him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold.
Because the servant didn't have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment.
But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, 'Please be patient with me, and I'll pay you back.'
The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins.
He grabbed him around the throat and said, 'Pay me back what you owe me.'
Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I'll pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt."
This parable is really a picture of us, isn't it?
Jesus is holding up a mirror in order for us to see ourselves.
We are the servant who has been forgiven a huge and staggering amount of money, and God is the great king who has forgiven us.