SUMMARY.--Who Shall Be Greatest? Becoming As Little Children. Causing the Little Ones to Stumble. Despising the Little Ones. How to Deal with an Offending Brother. Forgiving Those Who Injure Us. Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
18. What things soever ye shall bind. What was said to Peter ( Matt. 16:19 ) is addressed to all the apostles. It is spoken to all a second time ( John 20:23 ). All had the keys as well as Peter. The apostles were, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to establish the rules of the church discipline, as well as to announce the conditions of salvation by the gospel. These rules and conditions, found in Acts and the Epistles, bind and loose men. As they were to speak and write as moved by the Holy Spirit, what they announced would be ratified in heaven.
19, 20. If two of you shall agree. Two shall constitute a Christian fellowship. The united prayers of this fellowship for any legitimate object shall be heard. The assurance of this is found in the fact that Christ will be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name. Their united prayers will ascend, made mighty by the intercession of the Son of God. By his presence it becomes his prayer. In my name. As followers of Christ.
21. Then came Peter to him. The Lord had just spoken of the duty of seeking reconciliation with those who trespassed against us ( vs. 15-17 ), and there seems to have been some doubt in the mind of Peter how far this principle should be carried. Till seven times? It is stated that the Jewish Rabbins held that forgiveness must be extended to one who confessed his fault, but this was limited to three repetitions of the offence. Peter had an idea that the Savior's rule would insist on still greater forbearance.
22. Until seventy times seven. That is, there should be no limit at which it shall be refused if it is asked in the spirit of sincere penitence. By reference to Luke 17:4 , one can see the condition of forgiveness. It is that the offender professes repentance. We are to forgive men their trespasses on the same condition that God forgives us ours, and he does not forgive the impenitent. Our mercy must be just as unlimited as that of God.
23. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened. The Lord next enforces the great doctrine of forgiveness to our fellow-man in a parable. To a certain king, which would take account of his servants. The king is the Lord, the servants those who profess to serve him as King; the kingdom is his church on earth, but reaching beyond the earth.
24. One was brought unto him. Observe that he had to be brought. A defaulter does not willingly come to settle his accounts, any more than a sinner would seek the bar of judgment. Which owed him ten thousand talents. An immense sum. The talent was a weight, not a coin, and its value would depend on the purity of the precious metal used in the coinage. If the Greek silver talent is meant, the ten thousand talents would amout to about $7,500,000. What is meant is that the sum was beyond human ability to pay.
25. But forasmuch as he had not to pay. He had used his king's money and was not able to settle his accounts. He represents the sinner, who has no way to settle the debt of his sins. See Luke 7:42 . His lord commanded him to be sold. An absolute king is represented, who could do according to his will with his servants. It was common, even until modern times, for persons to be sold for debt. In many nations the wife and children were involved in the hapless fate of the debtor.
26. Fell down, and worshipped him. In Oriental countries, almost all who approach monarchs prostrate themselves and offer homage. This is especially true of those who urge a petition. See Esther 8:3 . Have patience, . . . I will pay thee all. This promise was one that could not possibly be fulfilled, though the servant might think it possible.
27. The lord . . . forgave him the debt. He is represented as so moved by compassion that he did far more than was asked and forgave the entire debt.
28. But the same servant went out. His own exhibition of brutality was immediately after the great mercy he had received. What follows shows that he had only been frightened, not converted. An hundred pence. The denarius, or penny, was a silver coin equal to from sixteen to eighteen cents. The whole debt would therefore be from sixteen to eighteen dollars. Its smallness compared with his debt to his lord is intended to show that our neighbors' sins against us are insignificant when contrasted with ours towards God. We need such boundless mercy that we ought to be prepared to give mercy freely. Took him by the throat. The great defaulter, who had been treated with such mercy, had no mercy.
29. Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. It will be noticed that this unfortunate debtor makes exactly the same appeal as his exacting creditor had made to his lord.
30. And he would not. He would not even grant delay, whereas he had been forgiven. Cast him into prison. To cast into prison for debt was once the custom in all countries.
31. His fellow-servants . . . were very sorry. Unmerciful treatment of the unfortunate is always wont to excite compassion. The servants were not only sorry for their wretched comrade, but they carried the case to their lord. It is always proper to carry the wrongs of fellow-beings which we cannot redress to our Heavenly Father.
32, 33. O thou wicked servant. The sin of which the servant was guilty and charged is not that needing mercy he refused to show it, but that having received mercy he remained unmerciful still.
34. His lord . . . delivered him to the tormenters. This language is to be interpreted by customs that still prevail in the East, where torture is still used to compel debtors to confess where they have hidden treasures that they are suspected of having concealed. In both Greece and Rome torture was used on prisoners to compel confession, and until within a century or two it was still employed in Great Britain and Europe. Till he should pay all. As, however, he never could pay, he was condemned to perpetual imprisonment.
35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, etc. Observe Christ says, "My heavenly Father," not your. God will not be their heavenly Father unless they emulate his spirit of mercy, and are as ready to forgive others their trespasses as he is to forgive their own. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." "As ye mete to others it shall be measured to you." "Forgive us our trespasses even as we forgive those who trespass against us." "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." If we are hard and unforgiving to our fellow-men, we can never expect our heavenly Father to overlook our own sins. It is a vital doctrine that we, by our own mind towards others, determine what shall be the mind of God towards us.