Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. — Matthew 18:21-22
Years ago, a grave injustice happened to me. I was a new Christian at the time, and this could have been a big hurdle for me. However, while I was vacuuming one day, God prepared me. Three times He asked me how I would respond if a particular wrong were done to me. I thought the enemy was causing me to imagine such a scenario, and initially I pushed those thoughts from my mind. A short time later, however, two letters came in the mail from someone close to me; they contained a confession of a wrong done against me.
The writer had become a Christian and was seeking forgiveness. I did forgive. I never mentioned the incident to anyone, and treated that person as though it had never happened — but I kept the letters. I did not know what I intended to do with them, but I had them hidden in a safe place. One day, years later, I asked myself the question, “Why am I holding onto these letters?” If anyone found them, the writer could have been hurt.
In our focus verse, Jesus’ instruction to Peter reveals how important it is for us to forgive others. After all, God forgave us! It is wonderful that in God’s Word we find promises like, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:12) and “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins” (Isaiah 44:22). We must be willing to extend to those who trespass against us the same grace that God gives to us.
I must confess that although I thought it was sufficient to forgive, I did not take forgetting seriously. I had kept those letters, which had that person’s misdeeds written in black and white. I finally destroyed them, making my forgiveness complete. God’s forgiveness is complete, and ours must be also!
Christ’s dissertation on forgiveness was prompted by a question from Peter regarding how often he should forgive one who had sinned against him. Seemingly thinking to be gracious, Peter suggested, “Till seven times?” Jesus offered the astonishing response that he should forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. This number was not as a “cut-off point,” but rather indicated that there should be no limit to the forgiveness extended to an offending party. No matter how many times someone offends, a Christian never has the right to withhold forgiveness.
Jesus then explained the reason with a parable about a servant who owed a king ten thousand talents. According to one commentator, one talent was worth nearly twenty years of pay for the average servant. This means the servant’s debt in the parable could not have been paid by thousands of years of honest work! Jesus clearly indicated that this was a debt that would have been impossible to repay. Yet, when the servant pleaded for mercy, the king forgave him that impossible debt.
The debt owed by the servant represents the state of every sinner, whose debt to God is every bit as hopeless as the servant’s debt to the king. As with the servant, the debt will result in certain destruction. The servant promised that if the king would spare him, he would pay it all, but that certainly was a pathetic promise. Yet, the king forgave the servant. What generosity! That is the generosity of God toward us.
In the parable, the servant soon met another servant who owed him a hundred pence. A pence referred to a denarius, which was worth about a day’s wage for most servants. This was actually quite a bit of money from the servant’s point of view, but obviously a mere pittance when compared with the immense debt forgiven by the king. When the first servant refused to show mercy to the second, he found himself treated in like manner by the king. The message of this parable is that those who fail to forgive others’ offences will suffer the loss of God’s forgiveness.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
V. Instructions of the King in light of His opposition
B. Instructions in light of His opposition
6. Instruction concerning forgiveness (18:21-35)
a. Peter’s inquiry (18:21)
b. Christ’s reply (18:22-35)
(1) His statement (18:22)
(2) His statement illustrated (18:23-35)
Offenses against us may seem great from our perspective, but when compared with our offenses against God, they are nothing. When we consider the mercy He has shown us, forgiving seventy times seven is very reasonable behavior on our part. May God help us to forgive others as Christ forgave us!