Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?
The disciple asking this question to Jesus understood that you should be forgiving but surely even that had its limits. Forgiveness is a mark of what it means to be a good person. Here Peter was thinking he had this down but Jesus, as usual, takes forgiveness to a whole other level. Jesus says to Peter that not only should he forgive seven times but seventy-seven times. This is one of those things that will require some further explanation and so Jesus will tell a Peter a parable, a simple story to illustrate a spiritual meaning, to help him understand. He begins like this,
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousands bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
Clearly this guy had gotten himself into some financial trouble with the king. He wasn't able to pay his debt and so, his day had come. Jesus is using the language of his day to explain a spiritual principle. If we can understand what it meant back then, we can likely make sense of it for us today. The people of the day would have related to this story. They would understand that this servant who "owed him ten thousand bags of gold" had amassed a debt that ruined he and his whole family.
At this the servant fell on his knees before him. "Be patient with me," he begged, "and I will pay back everything." The servants master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
The man did what any of us would have done. He begged and pleaded. That is what is predictable here. What is outrageous is what the king did. This king was not like other kings and when this man pleaded for mercy, he was heard. The king, knowing he could never pay back his debt, took pity on him and not only let him go but canceled the debt. This is the kind of king we are dealing with. This king isn't fair, this king outdoes himself because he hears the cry of those who make mistakes. And what was the response of the man?
But when that servant went out (after he had been set free) he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. "Pay back what you owe me!" he demanded.
The man was free of his burdens but when it came to lifting the burden of others he still held it over them. This man was behaving the way he should've been treated. He received grace but did not want to extend that same grace to others.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay it back."
This was the same request the forgiven man made to the king.
But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Everyone knew what great deed the king had done in forgiving this servant who owed hims so much. When others around them found out that he was ungrateful word got back to the king.
Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?
This is the message Jesus has for people back then and that he has for us today. Jesus was telling Peter that he was in debt. That because of his sin he is like a man who is in "10,000 bags of gold" type debt. This is a debt you cannot pay back. In fact the whole world is in this kind of debt. Jesus goes on to tell Peter that the "kingdom of God is like" someone who has a debt to collect and when he comes to collect it, the kingdom forgives the debt. The kingdom isn't done though. Having forgiven your debt the kingdom now has an expectation of you. Now that you have been forgiven, you should do the same for others. This is how the kingdom of God invades our hearts, by forgiving it, and how it expands, by extending that same forgiveness to others.
There is caution here and it would be easy to leave this part out but Jesus continues the story.
Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said. "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had on you?" In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
Jesus was coming to change the world one heart at a time. His message for the people back then and his message for us is to recognize the good God we have and the kingdom to which we are being called to live in and bring about in our world. This is the God who gave us life and the God who we are indebted too. We owe God everything. So here is what we are called to do as Christ followers. All we have to do is acknowledge God as king because when we do watch what happens. We become forgiving people. The perspective of seeing God as someone who won't condemn us because of our sins and sets us free compels in us a heart to do the same for others.
This is how my Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
Christianity is an invitation to make this world a better place and making the world a better place starts with you. It starts with me. Jesus was teaching Peter what he would've taught us today. You have to get to the place where you understand that God's kingdom starts with you. It starts in your heart. When you realize how much God loves you, how much God has done and is doing for you, you now stand on different ground. You are not behaving like someone from this world who holds sins, debts, and burdens over people. You are a person who does the opposite. You are like your Father in Heaven.
Know this about your Father in heaven too:
Meditation: You God, set me free through your son. You God, forgave all my debts through your son. Help me set others free by telling them how to live lives of forgiveness. Let my life be a living testimony to how true this parable is. In Jesus name, Amen.