In Jesus’ Words: Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)

70x7This is a hard one.  When I first started studying and writing about Jesus’ spoken words, my intent was to shut out all the noise and opinions coming from the world and just concentrate for a while on exactly what Jesus had to say.  His recorded words, not anyone else’s.  Most of the time that has been very encouraging, sometimes it speaks close to my heart, and other times like this one, it can be a little hard to swallow.  I kept wanting to add a “yes, but…” to Jesus’ words when reading this next passage.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Slave

Then Peter came to Jesus and said, “Lord, how many times could my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

“I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus said to him, “but 70 times seven. For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began to settle accounts, one who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him. Since he had no way to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt.

“At this, the slave fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!’ Then the master of that slave had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan.

“But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him 100 denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’

“At this, his fellow slave fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he wasn’t willing. On the contrary, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. When the other slaves saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened.

“Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And his master got angry and handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. So My heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you does not forgive his brother.

70×7.  Catchy phrase, isn’t it?  I think Jesus knew it would get our attention more than just saying we are to forgive forever.  Not only are we to forgive “70 times 7”, but we are to forgive with our heart.  In other words, we are to mean it.  Sometimes we pretend to forgive the one that wronged us.  We start talking to them again, resume our lives, but it’s not 100%.  We’re still a little mad in our hearts.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t ask to be forgiven or admit they were wrong, or we know they’ll do it again.  But aren’t you glad God did not put any restrictions on our own forgiveness, no matter how many times we fail?  As someone once said, “We want mercy for ourselves and judgement for others.”

God invented forgiveness.  It comes from Him.  Forgiveness is for us, not for the other person.  It means we are free from carrying all that resentment.  We are no longer responsible for the outcome, and through the act of forgiving, we are saying that we trust God to deal with it in His way instead of our own.  Forgiveness brings us closer to God.  How can I go to God with my prayer requests and thankfulness if I am holding a resentment in my heart?  We are to cleanse all of that before we seek God’s presence.

And the best reason… forgive so that we may also be forgiven.  Once we are forgiven, we owe no debt to God.  We are free to start over.  We are clean in God’s eyes.

Is it still hard?  Yes.
Is it worth it?  Yes.

The last thing I want to do is be hypocritical when I am writing about Jesus, so in full confession, I admit I have a grudge that has been hard for me to forgive.  I have carried this burden for a couple of years now, and although it is a minor offense, it can drive wedges.

My prayer today to my heavenly Father, and every day going forward, even if it takes me 70 X 7 days, is that I can completely forgive the grudge in my heart.  I am asking God to help me forgive.  And perhaps when I do that, others I know who have been affected will also be able to forgive. Who knows where this could lead?  I’ll never know if I continue to stay in the same place I am today.

Author’s note: I held on to this posting for a couple of days while I sought to forgive.  I can honestly say I feel a lightness and optimism in my heart that I didn’t have a few days ago.  It feels good.  It is a daily journey, but God promises us that it will be worth it.

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In Jesus’ Words: Parables about Heaven and Hell (Matthew 13:31-53)

fishing-net

The parables Jesus told were not just moral stories on how to live – they told us about heaven and hell.  I imagine the questions people might have asked Jesus would go something like this:  If you are the Son of God from heaven, then tell us what is heaven like, and is there really a hell?  Wouldn’t you ask the same thing if you could?  Jesus’ response is found in his parables.  He did not really explain the physical nature of heaven in his stories, as our minds would not be able to fully understand that.  But he did do a lot of explaining on how to get to heaven and avoid hell.

When people say to me today, “I don’t think here is a hell,” or “I don’t believe God would send anyone to hell,” this is my response:

Hell is the complete absence of God.

It is a place that is void of any characteristic that comes from God – love, peace, joy, righteousness, grace, forgiveness, hope, light, and good.  Take away all of that, and take away your ability to call out to God anytime for help, from a place where God is completely unavailable and does not reside, and that is what hell is like.  It’s like that old expression:  You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone.  Appreciate God’s characteristics and beauty today, and call out to Him now while He is still available to you.

~ Matthew 13:31-53  Parables on the kingdom of heaven ~

Jesus presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into 50 pounds of flour until it spread through all of it.”

Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”

He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea. It collected every kind of fish, and when it was full, they dragged it ashore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but threw out the worthless ones. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out, separate the evil people from the righteous, and throw them into the blazing furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

“Have you understood all these things?”

“Yes,” they told Him.

“Therefore,” He said to them, “every student of Scripture instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who brings out of his storeroom what is new and what is old.” When Jesus had finished these parables, He left there.

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In Jesus’ Words: Speaking in Parables (Matthew 13:10-17)

parables

Not many things pass the test of time. Fads quickly come and go. Languages evolve. Styles change. But storytelling has always remained constant. Two thousand years ago Jesus told parables to the people, and those stories are still memorable and relevant today. Almost everyone has heard them in some form. We cannot say the same about most other things. But it was not a common practice in Jesus’ time to speak in parables. The disciples began to ask Jesus why he was spoke in such a way. In fact, they often questioned Jesus about why he did certain things, especially things that seemed contrary to the current thinking or way of life.

Why did Jesus do what he did and say what he said?

The only explanation is that He must have known something that we did not.  Something we could not see.

If someone had insight into heaven, knew the past and the future, knew God’s will intimately and had been there from the beginning, then that person would most certainly act differently and speak differently. Otherwise they would be a fraud.

Why did Jesus agree to die the humble death that he did on the cross, when his power was already well-known through his miracles of healing the sick and raising the dead?  Even the people watching at the cross wondered why he didn’t just come down.  The reason: He knew something more than just what was happening at that moment.

~ Matthew 13:10-17  Jesus speaking in parables ~

Then the disciples came up and asked Jesus, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

He answered them, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You will listen and listen,
yet never understand;
and you will look and look,
yet never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn back—
and I would cure them.

“But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! For I assure you: Many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”

Isaiah also must have had knowledge of something more. Do you want to know what God is like? Isaiah 51-58 gives a wonderful insight into God’s view, the past and the future, a hope and a warning.
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