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, canceled 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.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Jesus came announcing God’s kingdom and proclaiming forgiveness of sin. That forgiveness went well beyond simply releasing from guilt or cancelling debt. The forgiveness Jesus proclaimed transformed lives. It brought restoration to lives that were broken by disease, rejection and by sin itself. Above all, God’s forgiveness heals separation and restores relationship with him.
He has just explained how the purpose of confronting sin is to restore relationship, bringing reconciliation with a brother or sister (verse 15), in the same way that God’s forgiveness brings reconciliation to me. Now Jesus shows how the two go together.
After telling Peter he wants him to forgive without limit (70 times the seven he thought was a lot), Jesus goes on – “therefore” – to illustrate this with a parable. He shows the stunning inconsistency between being forgiven and restored to relationship with God, and refusing to join him in his mission to bring forgiveness of reconciliation to others. The relationship I’ve been restored to by God’s forgiveness is as a son, working with my father to bring reconciliation to all who will receive it (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). It’s an absurd contradiction to ask for God’s forgiveness but oppose forgiveness for someone else.
It could be tempting to think that I should forgive others so that God will forgive me. But Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness doesn’t come through anything I do. It’s his “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (26:28).
Jesus, forgiveness isn’t always easy. Thank you for the enormous price you paid for my forgiveness. I want to be part of what your project to reconcile and restore all who will accept it. Please give me your gracious, generous words of forgiveness and reconciliation, especially to people who have hurt me.
Written by David Cornell