“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” —Matthew 18:21-22
How many times should we forgive someone who sins against us? When Peter asked Jesus that question, Jesus answered, “…not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Rabbis in the New Testament taught that we were supposed to forgive a person up to three times, but Jesus’s answer is not speaking about a specific number in a day that when we arrive at that, we just stop extending forgiveness—Jesus is simply demonstrating that forgiveness is actually limitless.
Jesus follows his response with a story, “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 thousand 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. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go” (Matthew 18:23-27).
The whole story that Jesus tells us is designed to illustrate the gospel and the grace that God has lavished on us. The man in the story owed the king ten thousand bags of gold. To the New Testament listener, this would not make sense at all; ten thousand bags of gold amounted to 160,000 years’ worth of wages—this man could not pay it back in his lifetime!
We are the man in the story, which is designed to educate us about our poverty before a holy and righteous God. Yet, the king—God—was filled with compassion, took pity on the man and decided to cancel the debt. Like the man, we are immersed in sin and have a debt that we cannot repay. If we take an honest look at our own life and do an inventory of the last day, the last week, the last month or even the last year, would we be able to say we are without sin? We are far more sinful than we think and our debt is not just enormous, it is immeasurable before God.
When we repent and cry out for mercy, the King of heaven lavishes us with grace and mercy. Colossians
2:13-14 tells us, “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Isn’t this such good news?
Dear King of heaven, thank You for Your grace and mercy, forgiving me of my debt. No words can express my gratitude towards Your generosity.