Parables About Mercy

In Matthew 18:23-35, we find a parable about a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. To help understand what about the kingdom of heaven this parable shows us, we must look at the context.


What’s the trigger for us to look before the parable for the context?


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- Verse 23, “Therefore”


This means that there is something preceding the parable that the parable itself is in response to.


The context that prompted the parable to be taught was a question from the disciple and fisherman Peter. Verse 21, Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

I think Peter had an issue with someone that kept letting him down. Jesus’s response was not what Peter was expecting?

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:22)

This number is exponential, some translations have it as seventy times seven. It shows a large number and an unreachable number. The idea as we’ll see in the parable is that we are to show mercy because we ourselves have received mercy.


Let’s look at the earthly story (Matthew 18:23-35). Describe the earthly story in your own words:


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What are some of the abstract truths cast alongside? Remember to use the context of Peter’s question:

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- Forgiveness of sins

- Jesus paying the price for our sins upon the cross

- God’s mercy towards us should prompt us to do the same with others


Looking at Luke 7:36-50 and the parable Jesus tells us at Simon the Pharisee’s house when a woman who lived a sinful life washed the feet of Jesus with her tears.

Describe the earthly story (Luke 7:41-42) in your own words:


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Looking at the context, in particular the comparison between the woman and Simon, what’s the abstract truth cast alongside?

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- The one with more sins (the woman) required more mercy and showed more gratitude than the self-righteous sinner (Simon). Note that both are sinners!



Now we turn to the parable of the Barren Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9).

This shows us that God’s mercy will expire.

What’s one of the dangers of being self-righteous?


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- Judging others


What were the group in Luke 13:1-5 trying to get Jesus to admit?


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- That the ones that had died in the Temple had been bad sinners and had deserved their punishment

- The framing of this is the incorrect idea that sin is linked to sudden & unexpected suffering, pain, and death


What was Jesus’s response?


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- No


Instead, Jesus takes the conversation to a deeper level?

“I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13: 3,5)

Thinking about the barren fig tree, what does fruit look like in this parable?


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- Repentance


The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

What is Repentance?


2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Repentance is a change of direction, back towards God. The tears of the sinful woman at Simon’s house physically show what 2 Chronicles articulates!


Repentance can’t be separated from faith. It isn’t simple enough to believe in Jesus and accept His offer of grace without a real alteration of the inner person – a transformation. It is this transformation that produces fruit (James 2:18).


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost Of Discipleship) describes it as “Cheap Grace”, if you like a shallow faith or a superficial love of Jesus!


What other fruit may result from a Christian life, a life that follows and obeys Jesus?


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What do these 3 parables and their context teach us about God?


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- He is merciful and loving

- He is patient with us



What is the difference between Mercy and Grace?


Mercy is the act of withholding deserved punishment, while grace is the act of endowing unmerited favor. In His mercy, God does not give us punishment we deserve, namely hell; while in His grace, God gives us the gift we do not deserve, namely heaven.[1]


How does this link to the fruit that God expects to see on our branches?


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[1] https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-the-difference-between-grace-and-mercy.html

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