In the sixth chapter He gives the form of prayer which we commonly call the Lord’s prayer. It contains seven petitions. At the close He stops to emphasize just one of the seven. You remember which one; the one about forgiveness. In the eighteenth chapter Jesus is talking alone with the disciples about prayer. Peter seems to remember the previous remarks about forgiveness in connection with prayer; and he asks a question. It is never difficult to think of Peter asking a question or making a few remarks. He says, “Master, how many times must I forgive a man? Seven times!” Apparently Peter thinks he is growing in grace. He can actually think now of forgiving a man seven times in succession. But the Master in effect says, “Peter, you haven’t caught the idea. Forgiveness is not a question of mathematics; not a matter of keeping tab on somebody: not seven times but seventy times seven.” And Peter’s eyes bulge open with an incredulous stare—“four hundred and ninety times!... one man—straightway!!” Apparently the Master is thinking, that he will lose count, or get tired of counting and conclude that forgiveness is preferable, or else by practice breathe in the spirit of forgiveness—the thing He meant.
Then as He was so fond of doing Jesus told a story to illustrate His meaning. A man owed his lord a great debt, twelve millions of dollars; that is to say practically an unpayable amount. By comparison with money to-day, in the western world, it would be about twelve billions. And he went to him and asked for time. He said: “I’m short just now; but I mean to pay; I don’t mean to shirk: be easy with me; and I’ll pay up the whole sum in time.” And his lord generously forgave him the whole debt. That is Jesus’ picture of God, as He knows Him who knows Him best. Then this forgiven man went out and found a fellow servant who owed him—how much do you think? Have you ever thought that Jesus had a keen sense of the ludicrous? Surely it shows here. He owed him about sixteen dollars and a-quarter or a-half! And you can almost feel the clutch of this fellow’s fingers on the other’s throat as he sternly demands:—“Pay me that thou owest.” And his fellow earnestly replies, “Please be easy with me; I mean to pay; I’m rather short just now: but I’m not trying to shirk; be easy with me.” Is it possible the words do not sound familiar! But he would not, but put him in the jail. The last place to pay a debt! That is Jesus’ picture of man as He knows him who knows him best. And in effect He says what we have been forgiven by God is as an unpayable amount. And what are not willing to forgive is like sixteen dollars and a fraction by contrast. What little puny folks some of us are in our thinking and feeling!