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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 15: Matthew 18:21-20:34, by Kevin M. Williams

Even in the parable Yeshua uses in verses 23-35 of Matthew Chapter 18, we see some evidence of this principle.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

The first debtor asks for patience from the king. The king is moved with compassion by the slave’s plea and forgives the debt (which some estimates place at $3 billion by today’s standards—a heavy debt indeed!).

The obligation therefore is not to forgive “willy-nilly” when someone sins against us, but rather, when someone asks for forgiveness, to respond with compassion and forgive.

The lesson may be considered in this way: it is not about carte blanche forgiveness; it is about molding our hearts and ourselves. When someone comes and asks forgiveness, are we really ready to forgive, or do we prefer to hold our grudge (as the slave did with the other slave that owed him money)? What if they ask three times, having committed the same transgression three times, are we ready to forgive? What if they sin against us seven times, do we still have the capacity to be moved with compassion and forgive? What if they offend us seventy times seven times for the same debt and genuinely beg our forgiveness? Is it still within our nature to truly forgive, knowing that the pattern shows they will simply turn around and do it again?

As Yeshua’s teachings were almost universally about our own personal condition and how we respond to God and others, this would seem to be the more biblical approach to Matthew 18:21-35.

Yet as biblical as this appears, and with an entire collection of precedent setting books in the Hebrew Scriptures supporting the point, this principle is not always easy to practice. Once offended, it is often human nature to nurture hurts and let the distance between ourselves grow wider and wider, making reconciliation all the more difficult. This may therefore, be why Yeshua admonishes, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those; who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you … if you love those who love you what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them”(Luke 6:27-32).

So the injunction is not to “forgive” without first witnessing repentance as some have suggested, but to “love” those who have sinned against us, even though they do not deserve our love.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2004, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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