The Mercy Needers

The Mercy Needers

Others in Matthew, class 8: Mt. 18:15-35 – The Mercy Needers

The “Others” in this week’s lesson are different from any others we have considered to this point. These others are not “other” because they are different than or distant from us. In fact, they are likely very much like us and close to us. The reason they are “other” is because they deserve retribution from us. They owe us. They have done us wrong in some way. We see them through eyes of hurt, anger, disappointment, vengefulness. This other is not a stranger, but a wall has gone up between us and them.
Matthew 18:15 identifies the relationship as a “brother.” Yet, it is a brother who has sinned against us. This is a sibling who needs our mercy.

The Instruction, Mt. 18:15-20
Because it takes two to make a relationship (“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” Rom. 12:18), The Lord recognizes the possibility of broken relationships. Yet, Jesus’ gives three mercy steps to take before accepting that a relationship is broken.
1)Go to the person in private. Mercy is present in that the wrong is not publically broadcast. The individuals have an opportunity to settle a matter without public embarrassment.
2)Take along one or two others. Mercy is present in that the individuals have opportunity, still out of the public eye, to be heard by and receive the guidance of arbiters so that fairness and accountability prevail.
3)Tell it to the church. If the grievance is on-going, so great, and unsettled in previous attempts at peace, then the body that is affected by the brokenness within its members gets to express the desire of all for restoration, saving a relationship and possibly a soul. This is mercy.

The Parable, Mt. 18:21-35
Prompted by Peter’s question of how often a disciple of Jesus must forgive an offender, Jesus called for extreme mercy both by the numbers (7X70) and in a story. Jesus related a situation in which a debtor pleaded for mercy from his creditor and received even greater mercy than he asked for. Then, that mercy-receiver refused a plea for mercy from his debtor, though his debtor asked for less mercy than the man himself had asked for and been granted. When the original creditor heard of this, he revoked the mercy once extended to the “wicked servant.” The point of the parable was expressed this way: “Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

Suggested Questions

Who are some “others” you can identify in this parable?

What is the connection between mercy and forgiveness?

What are some positive motivations for showing mercy through forgiveness?

How is our forgiveness like God’s forgiveness or different from God’s forgiveness?

Why do many of us find forgiveness so difficult?

The king’s mercy seemed unconditional when offered to his servant. What condition was later revealed?

How did Jesus teach this same lesson but in ways other than a parable?
See Mt. 6:12 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.