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Lesson 142: The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

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INTRODUCTION. This parable, found only in Matthew, followed a question by Peter, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" (Matt. 18:21). Peter was trained in the law and the prophets as well as Jewish tradition. The Jewish rulers taught that man's duty was to forgive three times but no more. By stretching forgiveness to seven times, Peter had gone well beyond the Jewish tradition. Imagine Peter's surprise when Jesus replied, "seventy times seven," or seventy sevens! The idea is completion times completion or infinity. Jesus then spoke a parable about forgiveness to illustrate God's mercy, justice, and forgiving love.

In the parable the servant owed the king 10,000 talents (about $10,000,000 or more). The amount was more than could be paid in a lifetime of work. The first servant's fellowservant owed 100 denarii (pence, KJV; shillings, ASV) to the first servant. This amount was about $17.00, a debt that could be paid in time. Although the king forgave the first servant his enormous debt, the servant refused to extend mercy to his fellowservant.

The parable teaches that justice and mercy are equally important. As God's mercy and forgiveness have no bounds, no limits, our mercy and forgiveness of others must likewise have no bounds, no limits.

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