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Session 4: Forgiveness

1. Opening up

  • Review:Mark 1-4 answered the question, “who is Jesus?” Mark 5-8 showed us two different approaches to life that are still common today: the religious and irreligious approaches. Someone who takes the religious approach uses religion and rule keeping to feel good about themselves, to earn blessings in life, and to look down on others who are not religious (us versus them). The person who takes the irreligious (or non-religious) approach ignores or breaks the rules and lives however they want. They think they’ll be happy and have the best life if they call all the shots, make their own decisions, and decide what’s right and wrong. In the end however, neither the religious or the irreligious approach lead to life. Jesus came to heal the sick. To be healed and find life, you need to admit you are sick.
  • Homework: Our homework was to do the “Thought Experiment” where we imagined our lives depicted on an art gallery wall, with everything we’ve ever done, said, or thought painted as a mural for everyone to see. Have you thought about that? What did it feel like? (Parents, you don’t need to get the details from what was on your child’s wall. Instead, try to understand what the process felt like for them. Appropriately, share your own realizations.)
  • Pray: Having just reviewed the Thought Experiment, thank Jesus that He came to heal the sick. Then ask the Spirit to lead your study.

Transition: In these chapters we begin to see why Jesus came. He came to deal with a massive issue that relates to every person ever born: forgiveness.

2. QUESTION: What is forgiveness?

  • In Mark 9-12, Jesus does and says many things that begin to deal with the theme of forgiveness. Before we look at them, we need to think about what forgiveness is and why it’s needed.
  • Forgiveness defined:
    • ASK: When most people say I forgive you, what do they mean? What are they saying?
      • *ANSWER: It often seems like when people try to forgive someone, what they are actually doing is excusing or over-looking the wrong done. It’s like saying to one another “forget about it” or “don’t mention it;” maybe even acting like it didn’t happen. Some people call that “brushing it under the rug.” Oftentimes, when people “forgive” they are doing something like that, which means they are excusing it without acknowledging the COST of forgiveness.
    • ASK: What is your favorite valuable possession? Let’s imagine a scenario where your friend borrowed the possession without asking and broke it, beyond repair. Now if you really forgave your friend the debt, what would it mean for you?
      • *ANSWER: If you actually forgave the debt owed for the item, it would mean you would experience a loss. Either you would no longer have the valuable possession in working order, or you would have to pay to replace it. When it comes to forgiveness with things, there is a cost to forgiving a debt.
      • *But don’t miss this: When it comes to relationships there is also a cost to forgiveness. In fact, there is an even greater cost to forgiveness. And the greater the wrong done, the more costly the forgiveness.
        • ASK: Can you think of examples of this in any of your relationships?
    • Knowing this helps us get to a right understanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness means naming the wrong done and paying the cost of it. In other words, if my friend teased and made fun of me, forgiving him or her would mean that I both acknowledge the wrong (it is wrong and hurtful to mock someone) and committing to pay for the debt (meaning that I will keep our friendship and not hold the wrong against them).
  • This should change the way we think about forgiving each other. If forgiveness means paying or absorbing the debt of a wrong, then we can see why forgiveness is difficult. Sometimes it takes time to really forgive someone. The greater the wrong done and the more frequently it is committed, the more difficult it is to forgive.
    • Application: is there anyone in your life you need to forgive?

Transition: that can be a hard question to consider. But to find true life, we need to be people who pursue forgiveness. If we don’t, then we will be filled with bitterness and anger over time. The secret to forgiving others is to begin experiencing forgiveness yourself…

3. Experiencing forgiveness from God

  • Relational problems with God:
    • Think about what we just talked about: 1) Forgiveness in relationships costs something. Instead of just excusing someone, when you forgive them you are saying “I will pay for your debt. I will clear away the wrong you did against me.” 2) If someone repeatedly wrongs us it makes it harder to forgive them, because the cost is even greater.
      • *ASK: With those things in mind, what does this teach us about our relationship with God?
      • *ANSWER: If we remember our “Thought Experiment” we know that we have repeatedly wronged God. He made us and cares for us moment by moment. Yet when we ignore His authority and His Word (which He gave for our good), we wrong Him. He have damaged our relationship with God again and again. Because of that the cost of forgiveness is very great.
  • Jesus’s Mission:
    • If we understand the cost of forgiveness, we can begin to understand why Jesus had to come. Read these two passages and answer the question: Why did Jesus come?
      • *Mark 8:31 “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
      • *Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
    • Jesus came to pay the price of our forgiveness. He came to suffer on the cross by giving his own life. And he gave that life as a ransom.
      • *In the ancient world where Jesus lived, a “ransom” was the price paid to release a prisoner of war. If an enemy soldier wasn’t killed in battle, he was captured and enslaved. So when someone paid the ransom for his freedom, they were literally freeing him from slavery. This is a great picture of the work of Jesus for us: he died to pay our debt and ransomed us from slavery to sin and selfishness.
  • Why? As we put all this together, we start to see why Jesus came and why he had to die. Let’s finish by answering that question.[1]
    • ASK: If you had to explain this to someone, how would you answer the question: Why did Jesus have to die? (brainstorm together)
    • ANSWER:
      1. To pay your debt. As discussed already, the wrongs we have done against God and others have created a massive distance between us and God. Our sin has created relationship problems with God because we have repeatedly wronged Him. The cost of forgiveness is so large that we could never pay it. Jesus came to pay it for us.
      2. To deal with justice. Someone might ask, why can’t God just forgive us? The answer has to do with the cost of forgiveness. If our wrongs are simply excused and no payment made, then there is no justice. Think about one more example: imagine someone breaks into your house and destroys all of your family’s Christmas presents. Sadly, each and every gift is demolished into thousands of pieces. Imagine that as you come home and make this horrible discovery, there is a police officer at the front door with the criminal under arrest! As you begin talking to the officer you find out that this Grinch-like criminal has done the same thing at several other homes in the area. But just then, the criminal begins to sincerely ask for forgiveness. He seems genuinely sorry. What should you do? Would anyone really want to ask the police officer in that moment to let this Grinch go free? No! First, he has destroyed the property of several people and should be held responsible to replace it. Second, it would be unloving to all of your other neighbors because this criminal could do the same thing to them if he was just simply released. The point is this: the law matters! Laws are in place to protect people and treat others with respect and kindness. God has loved us and our world by giving us His law. If God simply ignored all the law-breaking then He would not be just. He wouldn’t be loving us with the law. Jesus came to so that the penalty of breaking the law could be paid.
      3. To rescue us. God shows us His perfect wisdom in saving us. Jesus died so that God could both be a just Ruler (who loves and upholds the law for our good) and save us (from our sin and the debt we owe). This is the meaning of Romans 3:23-26. God neither “gave up” on us or “gave in” to our sin. To accomplish that took perfect wisdom! In the example used above, if the criminal asked for forgiveness AND someone came in to pay for the all the broken presents on his behalf, then both mercy and justice could be upheld. The cost of forgiveness would be paid and forgiveness would be granted to the repentant criminal. And if that happened, chances are the criminal’s heart would begin to be changed. The good news of Mark is that Someone came to pay for the cost of forgiveness.
      4. To free your heart.
        • ASK: Have you ever heard of someone giving their life for another person? Can you think of an example?
        • ANSWER: Parents, if you know of a sacrificial story then share it here. One possible example is the story Arland D. Williams.[2] Arland was a passenger aboard Air Florida Flight 90. There are three bridges on the Potomac River named after him. On January 13, 1982, Flight 90 crashed right after take-off and went down into the icy Potomac River. As the plane began sinking, a helicopter hovered over the tail area to rescue passengers. Arland was the first passenger who could have grabbed hold of the helicopter ladder and climbed to safety. Instead, he pulled passengers out of the plane and gave them his spot on the rescue ladder. Then he did it again and again and again. He kept on doing it until finally he died, giving his life to rescue the other passengers.
          • This is what Jesus did for you. He gave His life for yours, to save you. When you begin to realize that he did this for you, it begins to free your heart from selfishness. Jesus died for you, to free you, because He loves you.


[1] The following list in part comes from Tim Keller in a sermon entitled “Become a Little Child” preached on April 1, 2001.

[2] Told by Tim Keller in a sermon entitled “Become a Little Child” preached on April 1, 2001. Illustration begins at the 34:45 minute mark.


Transition: in summary, here’s the big picture of Mark 9-12…

4. The BIG Picture GOAL: to see that true forgiveness is costly. Finding true life means giving forgiveness out and experiencing God’s forgiveness. Jesus came to pay for our forgiveness.

  • Homework: this week, think about forgiveness. Who do you need to truly forgive? Why do you need God’s forgiveness?

5. For next time…

  • Choose the day and time for your next study.
  • Kids and parents: Read Mark chapters 13-15. If this will be a challenge for your son or daughter, read it together over a few days. Read it, or listen to it using a Bible app, like the ESV Bible app or the YouVersion Bible app.
  • Parents, look over the next lesson… coming soon!