One of the most famous conversations in Scripture is about forgiveness. Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Then he followed up his question with his own suggested answer of seven times. Many believe Peter thought he was giving a magnanimous figure since Rabbis taught that you should only forgive someone three times. They based this on the Old Testament book of Amos (Ch.1-2). Amos told how God was going to punish various nations for three sins and for four. The Rabbis believed that it was that fourth time that brought God's judgment and that people need not go beyond three times. Some Rabbis felt to do so would be trying to be more forgiving than God! Thus Peter thought he was going way beyond what was expected!
The Lord Jesus then gave His famous answer of forgiving seventy times seven (KJV) or seventy-seven times (NIV, ESV). What did Jesus mean? Was He saying that there is never an accounting for wrong? Hardly...read Matthew 18:15-17. Was He teaching that we keep track of how many times we forgive someone? I don't believe so...He consistently challenged the Pharisees for living by the "letter of the Law". It would appear that Jesus is teaching that forgiveness ought to be abundant and even "lifelong" in a Christian. We must avoid becoming hardhearted and unforgiving in our spirit and actions.
The parable that Jesus taught after His conversation with Peter puts this forgiveness in perspective. The King represents God and His GREAT forgiveness of us. We are represented by the servant who was forgiven MUCH.
Will we like that servant be unforgiving toward others whose earthly wrongs toward us DO NOT compare with our sinfulness toward God or will we forgive because we have been forgiven? We struggle with this because we often don't consider our sins to be that bad! And as far as repeated forgiveness...how many times have we asked the Lord to forgive us??? We ask for that EVERY Sunday in the Lord's Prayer!!!
Speaking of Sunday...see you then!
1. Read Amos 1:9-15 to appreciate the concept of three sins forgiven and then the fourth brings judgment.
2. What Old Testament character did Jesus possibly have in mind when using 77 as a number of emphasis? Genesis 4:23-24
3. When reading the parable in our sermon text there are two amounts of money owed. Do some research to find out what they might equate to in today's economy and you get a greater appreciation for God's forgiveness and our need to forgive others. "Nothing that we have to forgive can even faintly or remotely compare with what we have been forgiven." - William Barclay
4. Our wrong toward God (our sinfulness) is far greater than we can truly comprehend. Read Romans 3:9-19...it is NOT a pretty picture. And the cost of our wrong and consequent forgiveness is far greater than we can truly comprehend as well. Read Isaiah 53:4-6
5. Read again the last verse of our sermon text, Matthew 18:35. On a scale of 1-10, rate the importance Jesus places of forgiving others.