“Lesson 21: Matthew 18,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)
“Lesson 21,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Jesus Christ taught His disciples principles that would help them lead His Church after His Ascension. The Lord also gave the parable of the unmerciful servant in response to Peter’s question about forgiveness.
List the following offenses on the board: being lied to; having something stolen; being betrayed by a friend. Ask students to silently rate each offense on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest to forgive and 10 being the hardest. Invite a few willing students to report how they rated each of the offenses.
Invite students to ponder why we should forgive others even when it’s difficult to do so.
Invite students as they study Matthew 18 to look for truths that can help them understand why we should forgive others.
Summarize Matthew 18:1–14 by explaining that Jesus instructed His disciples to humble themselves and become as little children. He also explained that those who “offend” little children, lead them astray, or cause them to stumble in the faith, would be subject to the justice of God (see verses 6–7, including verse 6, footnote a). The Savior then counseled His disciples to remove from their lives those things that could offend them, or cause them to stumble (see verse 9). (Note: The Savior’s teachings found in Matthew 18:1–14 will be discussed in greater depth in the lessons on Mark 9 and Luke 15.)
Explain that after the Savior counseled His disciples to remove from their lives those things that could cause them to stumble, He told them what a person should do if someone trespasses, or sins, against him or her. He also taught the Apostles principles of Church discipline.
Invite a student to read Matthew 18:15 aloud, and ask the class to look for what Jesus told His disciples to do if someone trespassed against them.
What can we learn from this verse about what should we do if someone trespasses against us?
Summarize Matthew 18:16–17 by explaining that the Savior told His Apostles that if a person refused to acknowledge his or her wrongdoing and confess his or her sin, and two or more witnesses testified against him or her, that person would be cut off from the Church. You may also want to explain that, today, those who preside over Church disciplinary councils where such decisions are made always seek the Lord’s will regarding whether an individual should be cut off from the Church, or excommunicated.
Invite a student to read Matthew 18:18–20 aloud. Ask students to follow along, looking for what authority the Apostles had received.
What authority did the Apostles have given to them? (Explain that the Savior had given the Apostles the keys of the priesthood, which gave them authority, under the direction of Peter, to perform sealing ordinances and make binding decisions regarding the Church, including whether a sinner could remain a member [see Matthew 16:19].)
Invite a student to read aloud the following account, related by President Thomas S. Monson, of a family whose two-month-old baby had died:
“[The] father was a cabinetmaker and fashioned a beautiful casket for the body of his precious child. The day of the funeral was gloomy, thus reflecting the sadness they felt in their loss. As the family walked to the chapel, with Father carrying the tiny casket, a small number of friends had gathered. However, the chapel door was locked. The busy bishop had forgotten the funeral. Attempts to reach him were futile. Not knowing what to do, the father placed the casket under his arm and, with his family beside him, carried it home, walking in a drenching rain” (“Hidden Wedges,” Ensign, May 2002, 19).
If you had been a member of that family, how would you have felt when the bishop failed to show up for the funeral?
Why would it be difficult to forgive the bishop?
Explain that after the Savior instructed the Apostles, Peter asked the Lord a question about forgiveness. Invite a student to read Matthew 18:21 aloud, and ask students to look for Peter’s question.
What did Peter ask the Savior?
Explain that some religious leaders in Peter’s day taught that an individual did not need to offer forgiveness to another person more than three times. In asking the Lord if he should forgive someone seven times, Peter may have thought he was being generous (see Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [1979–81], 3:91). Invite students to read Matthew 18:22 silently, looking for the Savior’s response to Peter.
How many times did the Savior say we should forgive those who offend or sin against us? (Explain that “seventy times seven” is a way of saying we should put no limit on the number of times we forgive others.)
What truth can we learn from the Savior about forgiving others? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: The Lord has commanded us to forgive those who offend or sin against us.)
What does it mean to forgive others? (Explain that to forgive others is to treat with love the person who has offended or hurt us and to have no unkind feelings toward him or her [see Guide to the Scriptures, “Forgive,” scriptures.lds.org; D&C 64:9–11]. Forgiving does not mean that we continue to allow others to harm us or that the offender should not be held accountable for his or her actions, legally or otherwise.)
Explain that after answering Peter’s question, the Savior taught His disciples a parable that can help us understand why we should forgive others.
Group students into pairs and invite each pair to read Matthew 18:23–35 together, looking for why we should forgive others. After sufficient time, invite students to report what they found.
To help students deepen their understanding of this parable, copy the following words on the board:
How much did the servant owe the king? (Write owed the king 10,000 talents under Servant.)
Explain that in Jesus’s day “10,000 talents equaled 100,000,000 denarii [Roman currency]. One denarius was a typical day’s wage for a common laborer” (Jay A. Parry and Donald W. Parry, Understanding the Parables of Jesus Christ , 95). Ask students to calculate how many years it would take for the servant to pay off this debt by dividing 100,000,000 denarii by 365 days (100,000,000/365 = 273,973). Write 273,973 years on the board under owed the king 10,000 talents.
How much did the fellowservant owe the servant? (Write owed the servant 100 pence under Fellowservant.)
Explain that 100 pence equaled 100 denarii. Therefore, the fellowservant owed the servant roughly 100 days’ worth of work, or nearly one-third of his yearly salary. Write 100 days on the board under owed the servant 100 pence.
Why do you think the king told the servant he was wicked for not forgiving his fellowservant this debt?
Ask students who they think each of the three people in the parable could represent. After they respond, write the following possible representations on the board: King = Heavenly Father, Servant = Us, Fellowservant = Those who have offended us.
What principle do you think the Savior was trying to teach His disciples about why we should forgive others? (Students should identify a principle similar to the following: If we want God to forgive us, then we must be willing to forgive others. Write this principle on the board.)
What can a person do if he or she is struggling to forgive someone?
To help students understand what we can do to be more willing to forgive others, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President James E. Faust of the First Presidency. If possible, make a handout for each student.
“We need to recognize and acknowledge angry feelings. It will take humility to do this, but if we will get on our knees and ask Heavenly Father for a feeling of forgiveness, He will help us. The Lord requires us ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10] for our own good because ‘hatred retards spiritual growth’ [Orson F. Whitney, Gospel Themes (1914), 144]. Only as we rid ourselves of hatred and bitterness can the Lord put comfort into our hearts. …
“… When tragedy strikes, we should not respond by seeking personal revenge but rather let justice take its course and then let go. It is not easy to let go and empty our hearts of festering resentment. The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. For all of us who forgive ‘those who trespass against us’ [Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 6:13], even those who have committed serious crimes, the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort” (James E. Faust, “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).
What did President Faust tell us to do that will help us forgive others?
According to President Faust, what can happen when we forgive others?
Remind students of President Monson’s story shared earlier in class and ask a student to read the conclusion of the account:
“If the family were of a lesser character, they could have blamed the bishop and harbored ill feelings. When the bishop discovered the tragedy, he visited the family and apologized. With the hurt still evident in his expression, but with tears in his eyes, the father accepted the apology, and the two embraced in a spirit of understanding” (“Hidden Wedges,” Ensign, May 2002, 19).
How has the Lord helped you forgive someone who has sinned against or offended you?
What has helped you forgive others? (Consider inviting students to respond to this question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.)
Invite students to ponder whom they may be withholding forgiveness from. Invite them to pray for a desire to forgive and the ability to let go of hurt and anger so that Jesus Christ can help them feel peace and comfort through His Atonement.