When Jesus taught Peter how to count
“Then Peter came and said to him, Lord, what number of times may my brother do wrong against me, and I give him forgiveness? till seven times? Jesus says to him, I say not to you, Till seven times; but, Till seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
If I had to guess, I’d say the only time that Peter was normally interested in doing math was when the fish were getting tallied at the end of the day. But regardless of how Peter felt about math, in Matthew 18 we find Jesus giving Peter a math lesson followed by a story so the point of his formula would not go over his head.
The formula is easy to quote. Most average Bible students are familiar with the 70 x 7 setup. It’s the answer that causes the frustration. I mean can the answer really be forgiveness as long as forgiveness is needed???
Do you think Peter ever wished Jesus would have left out the math lesson and stuck to teaching him how to be a fisher of men? Maybe. But if he ever did, he soon realized that the math lesson was doing just that (1 Peter 2:17-25).
So how did Peter get over the frustration that the 70 x 7 formula (which is much, much, much, much more than only 490) may have caused him? He did so by understanding where he stood in the follow-up formula that Jesus shared with him…and with us. By the time the math is finished, the story ends with the following:
“Then his lord sent for him and said, You evil servant; I made you free of all that debt, because of your request to me: Was it not right for you to have mercy on the other servant, even as I had mercy on you? And his lord was very angry, and put him in the hands of those who would give him punishment till he made payment of all the debt. So will my Father in heaven do to you, if you do not everyone, from your hearts, give forgiveness to his brother.” (Matthew 18:32-35)