Understanding Jesus’ Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)

We have been looking at the hard sayings of Jesus. As we come to the second half of Matthew 18, we encounter a hard saying of Jesus regarding forgiveness. Forgiveness is a difficult topic to discuss. It is much easier to tell other people how they need to forgive others than it is to do the forgiving ourselves. The question that Peter asks Jesus is a question that everyone has thought about at one time or another. But I also want to first consider how his question is different than ours. Our question often is, “Do I have to forgive?” But I want you to notice that this is not Peter’s question. Peter assumes that the answer is yes. Yes, we are to forgive. So then the next question comes up. How often to do I have to forgive someone who has sinned against me? Now our context has been the teachings of Jesus about submission and humility. Jesus has taught his disciples that they need to lower themselves. Disciples need to humble themselves so that they are not stumbling blocks to others and are actively trying to rescue those who sin against us. But it is this teaching about people sinning against us and trying to rescue their souls that Peter asks this question. How often do I have to do this rescue? How often do I need to forgive the person who sins against me? It is in this context that Jesus says these hard words. “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22 ESV)…

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