If anyone asked you what Jesus emphasised the most in his teaching, what would you say?
I think my first response would be “forgiving others”.
Why was He adamant that if we did not forgive others, we ourselves would not be forgiven?
The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) says it all.
Firstly, Peter approaches Jesus and suggests that he is more than twice as holy as the Pharisees. He is clearly feeling super-spiritual.
The Pharisees had a rule that if someone offended them, they were compelled to forgive them three times on the same day. If I were a Pharisee and you kicked me at morning tea, I would forgive you. If you kicked me at lunch, I would grit my teeth and forgive you again. If you kicked me at afternoon tea, I would forgive you with smoke coming out of my ears.
But if you kicked me at supper I would definitely kill you!
But Peter suggests that he is capable of doubling that and that for him seven times is manageable.
He gets the shock of his life as Jesus counters with “Not seven times but seventy times seven” (verse 22).
And He doesn’t really mean 490 times, but every single time.
He tells Peter and the rest of the disciples a parable, a story of a servant who owed his king 10 000 talents. A talent is a weight, the heaviest in Israel, probably of gold, maybe of silver. This sum is greater than the tax revenue of all Israel.
The king orders him to be sold into slavery, together with his wife and children, a common penalty in the Ancient World for debt. Of course this will not repay the debt. It’s a mere token. But at least they would get something for him.
And he will probably not see his wife and children again.
The servant falls to his knees.
“Give me time, Lord, and I will repay you everything!”
You’re kidding me, right? I mean, this is a sum that is beyond the whole nation of Israel, let alone one man.
The king feels sorry for him.
Actually that doesn’t hack it. The Greek means that he feels sorry for him in his guts. The king is overcome with a huge wave of compassion.
And he cancels the debt. Tears it up in front of the servant’s face.