One of the greatest themes that is seen in the Bible from beginning to end is the theme of forgiveness. God has chosen to forgive those who humbly come to Him in faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their savior. Many of the Old Testament stories are written to help us understand the concept of forgiveness to one another and how God forgives us. The New Testament is filled with stories of people who have changed lives because of God’s forgiveness. They are examples of how we should live today in light of God’s forgiveness in our lives.
Esau and Jacob- Forgiveness Lesson Between Brothers
One of the strangest stories of forgiveness to me is the story of Esau forgiving Jacob with a divine wrestling match to get Jacob’s attention. Jacob had tricked Esau into giving over his birthright (his right to the familial blessing as firstborn). Understandably Esau was foolish in doing so and pretty angry with Jacob. Rebekah, their mother, helped Jacob escape with his life.
After Jacob had been away from the family for a long time, he decided it was time to return and try to make amends. He started back to the family home only to find out that Esau was looking for him with 400 men at his side. Fearing the worst Jacob split his family and servants into two groups. His hope was that whichever group Esau found first, the other could escape without being killed.
Jacob prayed earnestly in Genesis 32 to be spared from the wrath of his brother. He wrestled with God that night in agonizing prayer and a physical battle. The result was that Jacob was left crippled and with a new name—Israel. In Jacob’s prayer he begged God to remember His own promises that Jacob was supposed to be in the line of God’s promise to bless the world.
The whole episode seems to not be about Esau forgiving Jacob, but for Jacob to realize that God had already forgiven him.
When Jacob and Esau finally met Esau asked what all the fanfare was about. Jacob had sent several waves of gifts and servants to meet Esau and soften up his anger. However, Esau was not looking for Jacob to harm him, only to show his forgiveness to him.
David and Mephibosheth
King David, after the death of Saul and Jonathan, sought relatives of the former king to show forgiveness and kindness (2 Samuel 9). Even though Saul had sought to kill David for many years, David was willing to show forgiveness on the household of Saul.
David invited Mephibosheth, a grandson of Saul, to eat at his royal table as part of the family. Mephibosheth was a crippled man who still had some of Saul’s servants working with him. David gifted all the land of Saul to Mephibosheth for his servants to work and earn from. However, Mephibosheth himself became as a son to David.
Jesus Healing the Paralytic
In Mark 2 a story is told of four men who brought their lame friend to Jesus for healing. They tore the roof off of a house to get into the presence of Jesus. When they arrived the Bible says that Jesus looked at the four men and saw their faith. Instead of healing the crippled man, Jesus forgave his sins.
The reaction of the crowd, and possibly the paralytic, was one of surprise. They knew that Jesus was capable of healing people, but that Jesus would pronounce forgiveness on the man was not what they expected.
As a token sign of proof that Jesus was the true Son of God, He then told the man to get up and walk.
Many people in Jesus’ day came to Him for healing of their body but Jesus knew that true healing happens when a person is forgiven of their sins.
Parable of Two Debtors
Jesus was at the house of Simon the Pharisee for a meal when a woman came in and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Luke 7 says she kissed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair. She proceeded to open an expensive box of ointment and anoint Jesus.
Simon, the host, was amazed that Jesus did not reprimand her. She was a known sinner. Though the Bible does not say it, it is commonly believed that she was a prostitute. Simon wondered why Jesus did not know who she was and why He would allow her to even be near Him.
Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and He called the host aside. Jesus asked Simon a question in the form of a parable instead of railing on the Pharisee for his doubts about Jesus.
The story was told of two men who were forgiven for their debts. One owed ten times more than the other, but they were both in the same condition—neither could pay their debt. The man to whom they owed the money forgave them both.
Jesus’ question to Simon was which man would love the creditor more? They were both forgiven their whole debt, but the one who had a greater debt would probably express his love and appreciation in a greater way.
This woman had been forgiven by Jesus for a much greater sin debt than many people. She showed her appreciation by tenderly washing Jesus’ feet and anointing him with a very costly ointment.
Paul Forgave John Mark
The young man John Mark joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. But John Mark decided that he was not cut out for the job and returned home. According to Acts 15, when it was time to choose their team for their second missionary journey Paul was bothered by the fact that John Mark left them.
Paul and Barnabas could not agree on having John Mark with them for the next trip and parted ways. Paul took Silas as his helper and Barnabas took John Mark.
As Paul was winding down his ministry he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:11 that he wanted John Mark to come be with him. He found that the boy had grown into a man profitable for the ministry. Paul found it within himself to forgive John Mark for abandoning their ministry many years before.
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The Holy Bible, King James Version (KJV)