Peter thought he had the best answer to impress the man Jesus. In the public school, he’d tell his friend, “I got this.” In a Catholic school years ago, he’d wave his hand saying, “Sisster, Sisster! It’s 7!” He thought to himself, well, there’s 7 of them in a week, until the Beatles centuries later made it ‘8’.” Peter thought to himself, “I bet there will even be seven sacraments once I become Pope.” He thought right, for a change.
Jesus retorts, “Silly man, it’s not your magical number ‘seven,’ it’s the bigger seventy times against your measly seven.”
Dumbfounded, as Peter often is, he’s speechless. I sometimes think that Peter is the fall guy in order for Jesus to make his important point, important. He’s the Costello to Abbott. Or, he’s the Gracie to George.
“Reach beyond that perfect seven,” He said to His apostles and to us today.
Seven contains the number three of the heavens and soul with the number four of the earth and body. Hence, the term, “Seventh Heaven.” Guess how many colors there are in a rainbow?
Here’s a spiritual sentence that needs to be said twice. It’s the imperfect perfection of perfection. That’s our daunting Christian task. Seven may solve the predicament, but extending it beyond that number makes it God-like. And, I also add, makes it the best of us.
“Oh hummm, I can’t be like God so I’ll settle for the ‘seven’ part,” says us to ourselves every, single day.
When added the opposite sides of a dice always equal the number seven. I have no idea what that means but aren’t you glad you came to church today?
“Seventy times seven,” says the Son of God. Troublesome? I hope so. Jesus tempts us to do better than the mere good we sometimes do. Temptation. We usually thinks that it’s the devil’s method. Jesus tempts us each day to do better.
We think goodness, but how often turn away from it. Ignore it. Kindness can then tempt us in any situation. But, we tried it how countless times and how many times it just didn’t work.
The key to Jesus’ thinking is more than that we “tried.” “Nah,” we say to ourselves, “I tried this seven perfection shtick and it fell flat.”
Gee, I wonder who many gifts are from the Holy Spirit? “That’s all! Only seven of them to be lived for a lifetime? I need more!”
King Solomon’s temple took seven years to build; every seven years is considered a holy year in the Hebrew Torah; Israelites during the battle of Jericho were told that marching around the walls of the city “those many” times would ensure their victory; in Jewish tradition, the deceased are mourned for seven days; in the Christian tradition there are seven deadly awful sins, and the plaques numbered the same number. (That list was only six. I can be lazy in my “imperfect perfection” attempts.)
What does Jesus Christ startlingly say to his followers and to us today? When does the better become good and then when does the good become the best of your life? There are many more numbers to witness and live throughout our lives.
To hate and to divide is the easiest game in town to play. No thinking. Self protection. Selfish. Carefully watch out for it in others and especially watch out for it within yourself. To forgive anyone is a game changer, if only for your own well-being. You sincerely reach out and extend a wish of forgiveness; no “ifs” about it. None of that “If I hurt you in any way…,” or “If I offended you whatsoever…” That’s called showing yourself as a blatant fake.
That’s the weak seven, but it seems to work, sometimes. As Christian men and women, Jesus asks us to go beyond that perfect number and to multiply our numbers again and again to those we have harmed and to what we have harmed in ourselves.
What number of years causes an itch in a marriage? Snow White has how many little, friendly friends?
Jesus powerfully tells us to, “It’s the new math we hated teaching our kids but it’s the religious new math that leads us toward perfection!”
Watch and see what happens…