Seven times Seventy…

Thursday 20th December

Matthew 18:21-35


One day a man decided to take his car out for a spin. As he got behind the wheel madness took over. His foot became ever increasingly closer to the floor of the car until before he knew it he was doing 100mph down country lanes. He drove through red lights, cut up other cars until finally he crashed into a ditch. Little did the man know that an unmarked police car was following his every move.  The man was released from hospital with minor injuries and was duly arrested for reckless driving and criminal damage. Once in court the judge read out the convictions and pronounced the verdict. GUILTY. The man burst into tears knowing that he would not be able to pay his rightful punishment. The judge, instead of giving the sentence of the huge fine, said ‘your debt has been paid. You are free to go.’


Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother that had wronged him. He knew it was Jewish custom to only forgive the same person 3 times so he asked if 7 times would be enough. Jesus instantly replied that he should forgive 7 times 70 times. He then further explained this statement in the parable found in Matthew 18. Jesus describes that there was a certain man who owed his master 10,000 talents. This amount is a more than a lifetime’s wage, an amount that he would not have been able to pay. The master threatens to sell him and his whole family as slaves to pay for the debt. The desperate servant begs for mercy and the master graciously and compassionately lets him off. The servant then finds servants of his own who owed him 100 denarii (about 3 months salary). Yet instead of showing the same compassion he had received, he grabbed his servant by the throat and threw him in prison. His master, upon hearing this, summoned him back, rebuked him and threw him to the torturers until he could pay his loan back.


Jesus then says, much like the verses we read in Matthew 6:15, that this is the same treatment we will receive when we do not forgive our brothers/sisters with sincere hearts. The merciful master in this parable and the gracious judge in the above story could both represent God. The immeasurable debt is the same as our sin. We have no way to pay it back. Yet because God is a merciful and loving Master and Judge, He sent Jesus to pay for our debts. In fact Jesus became our debt and a “ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). That is not to say we can live reckless and sinful lives; on the contrary, we must try to live like Christ in all that we do and say.


This parable was a response to Peter’s question of forgiveness. In essence both the story and parable highlight the importance of knowing our debts have been paid. However, it doesn’t stop there. We have a responsibility to recognise how much we have been forgiven (an immeasurable amount that couldn’t possibly be paid for by anything we could do) and with that knowledge forgive others with that same measure of grace given to us.


Jesus’ sum of 7 times 70 was not supposed to be an actual figure but rather the principle that if our brother/sister wrongs us, for whatever reason, we must always be willing and ready to forgive just as we ourselves have been forgiven of much. There should be no limit to how much we can forgive. Jesus concluded His parable with the reality that if we do not forgive as we have been forgiven then only danger and heartache waits for us. Notice that forgiveness in verse 35 is not just words but a heart choice. Ask Jesus to soften your heart so that you may forgive those who have wronged you, remembering the great debt you have been forgiven from. Thank you for Your grace dear God!!

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