In Matthew chapter 18 Jesus is responding to the question the disciples posed of who is going to be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. There is so much that can be learned from this chapter, but the goal here is to point out how at least one disciple paid attention and applied this word to his life.
Peter was obviously paying attention to the lesson. In Matthew 18:21 he asks Jesus a question about what Jesus just said about forgiving others. Peter wanted to know to what degree he should extend forgiveness. Different takes have been used when expounding this passage. Some may see Peter as wanting an out for how many times he should forgive someone. Maybe he just wanted clarification. We still do that today as we learn God’s word. We often want to know how much or to what degree or where we should draw lines.
Peter got his clarification on how many times he should forgive someone who sins against him. The common teaching of the day was to forgive three times. Peter went to a greater degree and asked Jesus if he should forgive seven times. Jesus, when he replied to forgive “seventy times seven times” (490 times) was not actually giving a set number for people to follow. Rather, he was teaching unlimited forgiveness in a way that could be understood by the degrees he and Peter were discussing. Remember, the teaching of the day was to forgive three times, Peter more than doubled the degree when he asked about forgiving others, and Jesus extended Peter’s amount another seventy times.
The entire chapter is about how every individual believer is supremely important to God. So much so that Jesus told Peter in Matthew 18:14 that our Father in heaven is not willing that even one of these little ones should perish. Not one! Peter took this word being taught in that moment and assimilated it into his being. How is that known? We see it when we read what Peter wrote much later when he was teaching the early church. Peter writes later in his life in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Peter remembered the lesson Jesus taught that day. He remembered what Jesus said—the words quoted of him in Matthew 18:14. It became a part of him because he desired it and allowed it. If it were not part of of him, he would not likely have left with the Gentile men to go to preach the Gospel to Cornelius no matter what vision he had. He would have followed his own thought up degrees and boundaries rather than what Jesus taught him (Read Acts 10:1-11:18).
What are you allowing God’s word to accomplish in your life? What degrees have you set in following Jesus? What boundaries have you established? Are they based on God’s word? Do you even know what God’s word teaches about the issues that are personal to you and your walk in faith?