Humility and forgiveness — Part 1
A reflection for Good Friday
40 blogs of Lent — day 38
The Galilean ministry of Jesus is over. Over a period of time his ministry has taken him into Gentile lands, first just across the Jordan to Bethsaida, then to Tyre and Sidon, the Decapolis and Caesarea Philippi. In between opposition in Galilee got increasingly worse. Jesus was about to travel to Jerusalem via Idumea, another Gentile land, east of the Jordan, but first he gives the disciples teaching about humility. The last part of that is about forgiveness.
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.Matthew 18:21–27 ESV UK
Peter has a problem, Jesus has just taught about humility and honesty, and he realised that humility and honesty lead to forgiveness. But Peter still hasn’t learnt the lesson of humility. Humility upsets our sense of justice that says, “They hurt me, I must get them back.” He thinks that saying forgive seven times was a lot, after all the Pharisees taught that you have to forgive three times.
Jesus answer is shocking. To say that seven is not enough is bad enough. He was not saying forgive 490 times but on the 491st *WHAM!* Jesus was saying to Peter that you have to forgive and keep on forgiving. There is no limit to the number of times a humble man will forgive,
After this Jesus would start the journey to Jerusalem where he wold be arrested, face a sham of a trial and be executed in a humiliating public display. This was the way Jesus saves the world, by giving up everything he has, even his life. He had already given up a lot when he left heaven to become human, now even that was sacrificed. This is the story of Good Friday, God dies,
The cross is about a lot more than forgiveness but I’m going to mention just two of them in this post, forgiveness and the humility of Jesus that we should emulate. Jesus, the good person, dies for those who are bad, showing the great love he and the Father have for humans. I do not boast about the love I have for God, it is weak and fallible. What I boast about is the love God has for me which never fails.
Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything, says the man in the story. This in not an excuse I recommend using to your local bank manager. A footnote to the ESV says, “A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a labourer.” On that basis, the man owed the king 200,000 years wages. Even for a skilled man this would be 100,000 years wages. No banker would be lenient in those circumstances.
But God is not like that, his forgiveness is unlimited, enough to cancel all the sins that people have committed since there were people and all those we haven’t done yet, and in the cross the judgement of God is brought forward from the end of the wold to now. We are forgiven. We do not need to wait for the end of the age.
Jesus dies for all, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:34) words of forgiveness, in his last breaths.