The Unforgiving Creditor

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king, who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he had nothing with which to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, who owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord, having
called him, said to him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou didst beg me: Shouldest thou not also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the torturers, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
(Matthew 18:23-35)

If men have to avoid causing others to stumble, what is their duty to one who does stumble? If God forgives the erring, as is implied in His seeking, as the shepherd, the straying sheep (Matt. 18:12,13), how should men act to their offending brethren? To this Jesus turns - the carrying forward of his thought being indicated by the word "Moreover" by which he introduces this subject. He then lays down the duty of an injured man towards a brother who has done him wrong. To injure another - and Jesus is thinking of soul, not body - is in his eyes a grievous offence, and the offender is gravely wrong. He has therefore to be won, if possible, to a recognition that his action is wrong, for apart from this recognition, recovery is impossible. Unless sin is recognized for what it is, and is repented of, forgiveness is impossible. An offender is like the straying sheep, though in his anger and self-will he may not recognize that he has left the flock. Jesus puts the duty upon the offended brother of seeking out this man who has strayed. He alone probably knows of the wrong, but whether others know or not, he has the greatest responsibility. He must seek out alone the one who has done the hurt, tell him his fault, and so seek to "gain" his brother. This is the whole purpose of this counsel, and it is a perversion of the command to use it as a process of self justification. The subject discussed by Jesus is the peril of men who are offenders - a peril so great that Jesus calls upon the offended to seek the recovery of the wrong-doer. If he fails, and if others called in to help also fail, a man is shown to be unfit for the society of the brethren, and God regards him as unfit for His flock. He is like a "rogue" animal, mischievous and destructive.

This command that Christ's follower be ready to forgive and also to seek to establish the conditions for forgiveness, led Peter to say, "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?" (verse 21). Jesus answered, "I say not unto thee, until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven" (verse 22). Peter thought seven times a generous offer. Jesus in effect says, You cannot keep count at all. To talk of counting is to miss what forgiveness means. When forgiveness is extended the past is forgotten by the injured so far as holding a matter against another goes. Ten times seven would not exhaust the obligation - that number could be multiplied by seven, and so stated counting becomes impossible; there is no limit. The figures used by Jesus are fixed by the boastful claim of Lamech that he had the power to avenge offences. There has been a difference of opinion whether the number is seventy and seven (=77) or, seventy-seven fold (=490), but J. H. Moulton says seventy-seven times is unmistakable in Gen. 4:24 (LXX), and he adds: "A definite allusion to the Genesis story is highly probable: Jesus pointedly sets against the natural man's craving for seventy-sevenfold revenge the spiritual man's ambition to exercise the privilege of seventy-sevenfold forgiveness".

From: Parables of the Messiah by John Carter