God’s Saving Word: Mercy and Forgiveness
Matthew 18:15-35: Today’s reading begins with Jesus’s instructions for handling matters of discipline within communities of faith and reproving one who has sinned. By means of a parable, Jesus teaches that there is no limit to the number of times one is called upon to forgive another.
When Someone Sins
15 “If your brother sins against you, go to him and show him his fault. But do it privately, just between yourselves. If he listens to you, you have won your brother back. 16 But if he will not listen to you, take one or two other persons with you, so that ‘every accusation may be upheld by the testimony of two or more witnesses,’ as the scripture says. 17 And if he will not listen to them, then tell the whole thing to the church. Finally, if he will not listen to the church, treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector.
Prohibiting and Permitting
18 “And so I tell all of you: what you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and what you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.
19 “And I tell you more: whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”
22 “No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven, 23 because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts. 24 He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the king ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt. 26 The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’ 27 The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
28 “Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said. 29 His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’ 30 But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything. 32 So he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to. 33 You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’ 34 The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”
35 And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Today’s Key Verse: Matthew 18:27
“The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.”
Reread verses 15-17. What steps are outlined to initiate reconciliation within a community of faith? Has your community of faith ever had to put into practice such steps? If so, what was the situation? How was it resolved? How did Jesus respond to the question Peter asked (verse 21)? What does his response (verse 22) teach you about God? Compare verse 35 with the words from the prayer that Jesus taught in Matthew 6:12: “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us.”
Merciful God, each time I sin and confess my transgressions, you offer forgiveness over and over again. Teach me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. Amen.
Luke 18:1-14: Jesus teaches about prayer and about avoiding self-righteousness.