We begin a lengthy series today: the parables of Jesus. Our guide will be Klyne Snodgrass and his book, Stories with Intent.
The first parable is The Unforgiving Servant, Matt 18:21-35.
First, a brief on the chp: it is a “two-stage double indirect narrative parable.” (Dang, Klyne, that one confused me.); there are a variety of issues; he gives important evidence to filter through in interpretation, including canonical, Greco-Roman, and later Jewish — and this stuff is excerpted enough that the reader gets what is needed. He sorts through the options. Here are some good points:
1. Parables often contain hyperbole and tend to be pseudo-realistic.
2. The problem — a pseudo-problem for me — is that the king is both attractive in grace and yet problematic in reneging on forgiveness.
3. “The problem is with reading parables as if they were equations, as if every part of the parable was to be a mirror of reality” (71). More problems are created by readers by making them equations than anything else. Let the story be what it is; and no more. They show pieces of reality, not all of it.
4. “The instruction of this kingdom parable — as elsewhere in Scripture — is ‘Do unto others as God has done to you’.”
5. Here’s a good one for what this parable is all about: “The kingdom comes with limitless grace in the midst of an evil world, but with it comes limitless demand” (73).
6. God does not have torturers, and the story cannot be pushed to yield information about the nature of judgment. “Here the principle that the teaching of the parables must be verified from nonparabolic material is of obvious relevance” (73). Very good point.
7. “When you get the gift, you get the Giver, who will not let you go your way” (74). And: “Forgiveness not shown is forgiveness not known” (75).
Here’s the parable itself:
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ?Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times??
22 Jesus answered, ?I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. [fn6]
23 ?Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents [fn7] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 ?The servant fell on his knees before him. ?Be patient with me,? he begged, ?and I will pay back everything.? 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 ?But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. [fn8] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ?Pay back what you owe me!? he demanded.
29 ?His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ?Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.?
30 ?But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 ?Then the master called the servant in. ?You wicked servant,? he said, ?I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?? 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 ?This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.?