The Gospel passage for this week is the account of the unmerciful servant where we have the following words of Peter to Jesus: 21 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?22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 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.26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.28 “But when that servant went out, 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.
As a background to this passage, we know that It was common in Jewish custom to forgive someone three times. Here Peter, having grasped something of Jesus’ teaching, suggests showing much more forgiveness than this. Peter suggests forgiving someone seven times – a significant increase on 3. However, Jesus’ reply would have shocked everyone. In forgiving seventy times seven Jesus is telling people that forgiveness is at the heart of what being a disciple is all about. See for example Matthew 5:7, 6:14,15 and James 2:13. Jesus then goes on to tell a story which highlights our need to forgive because we have been forgiven. One of the key points about this passage is the contrast between the two debts. In the NIV version (above) the servant (us) owes the Master (God) ten thousand bags of gold, whereas the fellow servant owed the servant only a hundred silver coins. The AKJV of the Bible has the difference between 10,000 talents and a hundred pence. Some translators reckon the difference to be between £2.4 million and £5. It is suggested that the debt we owe to God vastly exceeds any debt that someone owes us. If God has forgiven us our massive debt to Him, we must forgive our neighbours debt to us – which will be tiny by comparison. Our sin brought about the death of God’s own Son. Yet God has forgiven us. In the light of this, how can we not forgive others?
Old Testament reading for this week: Exodus 14:19-31
Gospel reading for this week: Matthew 18:21-35
Epistle reading for this week: Romans 14:1-12
Psalm for this week: Psalm 114