Short and sweet today. Another example of Peter presuming to know something only to be rebuked by Jesus. And a message for all if us as we come to Thanksgiving, a time when all of our powers of forgiveness just might be tested.
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
There had been some disputes among the disciples, some arguments, if you remember or know, about who would be the greatest among them. Maybe Peter was feeling resentful toward his fellow followers of Jesus, and maybe Peter was tired of forgiving them their trespasses against them. Peter wants to know, just how many times do I have to forgive these jokers?? Forgiving is hard. And besides, they just keep on offending him!! But Peter is feeling magnanimous, and offers up the divine number of seven. Seven being the divine number, forgiving someone seven times must be a divine act, forgiveness to the limit.
No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Huh?? The divine seven is not enough?? Seventy times seven?? Four hundred ninety times I have to forgive someone??
No, Jesus is not even saying four hundred ninety times. Our forgiveness of others, by the call and demand of Christ, must be unlimited. We are to never stop forgiving someone their sins against us. In the words of Brian Zahnd in his book “Unconditional? The call of Jesus to radical forgiveness” – “Conventional forgiveness, easy forgiveness, reasonable forgiveness is what most rationally minded people are willing to engage in. Christ’s followers are called to radical forgiveness, unreasonable forgiveness, reckless forgiveness, endless forgiveness, seemingly impossible forgiveness. The expectations regarding forgiveness that Jesus places upon his disciples are among the most demanding aspects of Christian discipleship, but these demands must not be ignored.”
Peter thinks his offer of forgiving an offender seven times is out there, over and above the expected. Nobody can expect more than that, and most would not go that far. And he’s right.
Except Jesus does expect more. Jesus demands more. He’s not calling for any forgiveness that comes from simple human decency. He calls for extreme forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness that comes on a crucifix and cries out “…Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”… Luke 23:34 ESV
Jesus is Lord.
“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”
Matthew 18:21-22 NLT