Summary: Many see the Bible as a rule book – what do I need to do? It is not about what we need to do it is about what Christ has done for us. Christ has unlimited –that is infinite – forgiveness available for us.
. Forgiving someone can be especially difficult for many of us. Peter thought he was being generous with seven times. After all some of the Rabbis taught that one needed to forgive the same sin only three times. Peter was, in his way, trying to be obedient to Jesus who said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. So we go from the common teaching of three times to a potential of 490 times. Who could keep track of this? Do I have to carry a chart around or a smart phone to keep score so I don't go over the magic 490 number? Seems to me if I need to keep a chart that I really haven't actually forgiven. With the record of forgiveness the chart could only serve as a negative reminder. Would I need a separate chart for each unique offense? This clearly is not what Jesus was talking about. Jesus is talking about an infinite number – a number and a concept that we as mere mortals can not grasp. The number seven in the Bible is a number of completeness. Seventy would be ten times this completeness and seventy times seven represents a number that Peter, and the other disciples can not grasp. The number of times we are to forgive is infinite. We can try to grasp infinity but do we really understand. The Universe is thought to be infinite. Try and define this and come back next week with an answer that shows complete comprehension. Our minds and outlook have finite limits. We want to see a number. How may times must I forgive my brother Lord – give me a number please – how about seven? This is twice plus one that the Rabbi's say is enough.
Jesus – the eternal living Word – does not think like us. He is not bound by the limits of finiteness that we are. He has given us Law and Gospel in His written word the Bible. He clearly wants us to forgive as He has forgiven us. He knows that we will struggle with this and forgives us when we fail. Many see the Bible as a rule book – what do I need to do? It is not about what we need to do it is about what Christ has done for us. These two verses are not about us. They are about Christ. He has unlimited –that is infinite – forgiveness available for us.
Christ made one sacrifice for all sins for all time. He did this for you and He did it for a wretch like me. I hope you are paying attention. The only one I accused of wretchedness was me. You are however free to infer that a greater group was implied. God's law shows our wretchedness. The law serves as a mirror so that we can see our sins. It serves as a curb so that we can live together and it serves as a guide so that as disciples we may follow Jesus. Some of the Law is finite and easy to see. Some is in having the attitude and mind of Christ. Not completely attainable in this life but only in heaven where there is no sin.
We have a Savior who understands our struggles because He left the throne room and lived with humanity. His forgiveness is infinite. We need to repent and we need to ask. Do not confuse forgiveness with permission. He condemns sin. He gives forgiveness not permission. His written word is clear. Do not murder –this includes abortion. Do not commit adultery –this includes sex before marriage. Do not steal – this includes working for cash under the table. Do not practice homosexual behavior – the courts can not change God's laws. These sins and all others will be forgiven when we confess and repent. They will be forgiven again if we slip then confess and repent. He will forgive us when we slip but He won't give us permission to sin freely. As David confessed so can we:
Read together Psalm 51