Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
Many of us love stories about Mercy and watching incredible acts of forgiveness play-out on the world stage, the local scene, etc. Who doesn’t love a story about redemption, right? But, when it comes time for us to forgive others, we often find it very difficult to do so. And, do any of us really know anyone who is willing to forgive someone 77 times?! The reality is that we actually do – and, His Name is Jesus. Over the three years of Jesus’ public Ministry here on earth, He healed, forgave, loved, etc. like nobody in His-story had ever done and nobody in His-story has ever done since. Mercy is God’s Gift to us. Like the Master in the parable in the Gospel, God can choose to show Mercy to us (not giving us what we deserve) and Bless us with Grace (giving us something none of us can ever deserve). But, it’s His choice; not ours’. It is critical that we choose to remember and to be Grateful each and day for what Jesus did for us on the Cross and to, then, “pay” that Mercy forward to others (like forgiving a thief 77 different times for 77 different infractions). Through a Spirit of Remembrance and Gratefulness, we are to keep forgiving – even when it hurts. The metal stakes that pierced Jesus’ Wrists and Ankles were at least 7 inches long and were wide enough to hold a grown-man vertically on a piece of wood for an entire day. When those stakes pierced Jesus’ Limbs, they would have also pierced His ulnar nerves that ran through His Elbows and His tibial nerves that ran through His Ankles. If you’ve ever hurt your elbow (e.g. hitting your ‘funny bone’), you know how much just bumping into the ulnar nerve(s) can hurt…; now imagine severing them. Jesus knew the stakes – both the metal ones and the Eternal consequences of His Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection. He was under such agony and stress in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His Passion that He actually sweat blood (a condition known as hematidrosis). Jesus fell 3 times carrying the Cross to Calvary and the water swelling around His Heart and Lungs (that the Roman soldier would eventually expel with a spear to make sure the Jesus was dead on the Cross) all indicate that He was most likely severely-dehydrated (“I thirst” – John 19:28) and suffering from some kind of cardiac arrest (as per the pericardial and pleural effusions in His Chest). The word “excruciating” didn’t even exist until after Jesus’ Passion on the Cross (it comes from the Latin excruciat- ‘tormented’, from the verb excruciare (based on crux, cruc- ‘a cross’)). And, as Jesus hung on the Cross (with the weight of His body pulling Him down and Him pushing up just to be able to exhale), He still found the breath to utter (in Luke 23:34), ““Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”. So, when we’re finding it difficult to forgive someone for their sin(s) against us, we should do our best to remember the extreme forgiveness that Jesus offered (and offers) for us. For it will never be harder for us to forgive someone in this world than it was for Jesus to show each and every one of us His Mercy on the Cross.