Keeping Score: Matthew 18:21-22
“21) Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22) Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭21‬-‭22‬ ‭
Peter now approaches Jesus with a sincere question; “How many times shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Then he added; “Up to seven times?”
We’re not sure if his brother Andrew was getting under Peters skin or if he was talking about people in general… But Peter had a tendency of keeping score. He was counting and adding up everything people were doing against him. He couldn’t let go and give others a fresh start. He was setting himself up as both judge and jury.
Peter had a problem, he was plagued with anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. This was quickly becoming a greater sin than the offenses of others against him. Forgiven people should become forgiving people. But not Peter, he had a threshold where forgiveness reached its limit.
This is always a problem with legalistic people. They become judgmental of others. At some point they loose their joy and become cold, calloused and judgmental. Some people avoid religious folks because they come across as old grumps. Peter was well on his to membership in “The Grumpy Old Bitter Club.”
The answer Jesus gave Peter must have shocked him; “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” When Peter quickly did the math, that added up to 490 times.
Peter had lined himself up against two important biblical principles. First, by your standard of measure it shall be measured to you. This directly set up the second principle; the way you forgive others determines how God forgives you. Jesus had taught both of these principles in His sermon on the Mountain. (See Matthew 7:1-2 and 6:14-15)
I wonder how Peter would have responded had Jesus asked Him the question; “How often shall you sin and God forgive you; up to seven times?”
I don’t want to be judgmental, but as I read the four gospels, Peter pushed beyond his own standard in sinning against Jesus. Let me sight a few examples. One time he openly questioned Jesus about casting the nets on the other side of the boat, once He rebuked Jesus to His face, on the Mountain of Transfiguration he offered to build three tabernacles, then he joined the argument about greatness in the kingdom of heaven with the other disciples, he outrightly denied that he even knew Jesus three times, and then he stopped following Jesus and went back to his fishing business while recruiting other key disciples to join him. If I have my math right, Peter was in serious trouble based on his own standard.
So… Let me ask you a question; “How many times do you want God to forgive you for your sins?” What is your standard of measure? What is your understanding of forgiveness?
Stay tuned because this discussion becomes the basis of the next parable Jesus tells His disciples.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global.