Hard Sayings of Jesus by FF Bruce


Matthew 18:35—“So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” 

  • The parable arises out of a conversation between Jesus and Peter.  Jesus repeatedly impressed on His disciples the necessity of forgiveness: they were not to harbor resentment, but freely forgive those who injured them.
  • Peter asked “Seven times?”—with the Jewish tradition of 3x, 7x was extraordinary.  “Not seven times, but seventy times seven” said Jesus (Matthew 18:21-22).  Perhaps by the time one had forgiven for the 70x 7th time, forgiveness would have become second nature to one.
  • The gospel is a message of forgiveness: it could not be otherwise, because it is the gospel of God, and God is a forgiving God.  Micah 7:18—“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgressionof the remnant of his inheritance?
  • It is expected that one who receives the forgiveness which God holds out in the gospel, those who call Him their Father, will display something of His character and show a forgiving attitude to others.
  • If not, what then?  Jesus answers this question in the parable of the unforgiving servant, which He told to confirm His words to Peter about repeated forgiveness “until 70x 7.”  In the story, a servant of the King was in debt to the King for millions.  The King knew perfectly well the servant could never repay such a debt but he felt sorry for him and remitted the debt.
  • The servant who had just been forgiven found someone else who owed him just a few pounds and demanded to be repaid.  The man could not so the servant threw him into debtor’s prison.
  • Since the unfortunate man was to be there until he repaid the debt and since in prison he had no opportunity to earn the necessary money; his outlook was bleak.
  • Jesus is depicting for us a horrible example of an unforgiving, though forgiven, man.   It is the height of ingratitude.
  • Word gets back to the king and he calls the servant, “you wicked (or evil or even you scoundrel) servant—all that I forgave you.”  Emphasis on the ALL—all that immense amount. He had been the recipient of extraordinary grace.
  • And those who receive extraordinary grace should act in accordance with the grace they receive.
  • The king handed the servant over to the tortured and was to remain imprisoned until his entire debt was discharged.  He would not be freed if a token amount was paid so this meant that he would never get out.
  • Jesus in v35 makes an application of his parable.  The lesson that is driven home is that the followers of Jesus must each (the word is important; there are no exceptions) forgive.
  • Praying the Lord’s prayer implies that the person praying has already forgiven any injury received; otherwise it would be impossible honestly to ask God’s forgiveness for one’s own sins.


Mark 3:28-29—“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

Luke 12:10—“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

  • There are few more distressing conditions calling for treatment by physicians of the soul then that of people who believe they have committed this sin.
  • When they are offered the gospel assurance of forgiveness of every sin, when they are reminded that “the blood of Jesus . . .cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7.
  • Jesus was expelling demons from many lives but the scribes accused Jesus Himself of being possessed by a demon.
  • When Jesus knew this, He exposed the absurdity of supposing that Satan’s power could be overthrown by Satan’s aid.  Then He went on to charge those who had voiced this absurd conclusion with blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.  Why?  Because they deliberately ascribed the Holy Spirit’s activity to demonic activity.
  • But what if one were to repent of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  Is there no forgiveness for the person who repents of this sin?
  • The answer seems to be that the nature of this sin is such that one does not repent of it, because those who commit it and persist in it do not know that they are sinning.
  • Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit denotes the conscious and deliberate rejection of the saving power and grace of God released through Jesus’ word and act.
  • It is a matter of great importance pastorally that we can say with absolute confidence to anyone who is overwhelmed by the fear that he has committed this sin, that the fact he is so troubled is itself a sure proof that he has not committed it.
  • It is suggested by Luke that the blaspheming of the Spirit involves a refusal of His powerful help when it is available to save the disciples of Jesus from denying Him and so committing apostasy.  Apostasy is the deliberate and decisive repudiation of Jesus as Lord.
  • In Mark’s context, the sin against the Holy Spirit involves deliberately shutting one’s eyes to the light and consequently calling good evil; in Luke it is irretrievable apostasy.