In the name of the Father and the Son + and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Grace, mercy and peace from GOD our Father and our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our text today is taken from the Gospel according to St. Matthew the chapter… 18th
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[g] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[h] 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[i] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[j] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[k] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
In the middle 1800s the Spanish prime minister was visited on his deathbed by his priest. With a look of concern the priest asked “Does your Excellency forgive all your enemies?” With a look of calm and collectiveness the prime minister replied, “I do not have to forgive my enemies.” The priest looked confused and asked, “Why not?” The prime minister smiled and said, “I have had them all shot.”
Most of us don’t have the political clout or intestinal fortitude to have people shot rather than forgive – so I guess we will have to find another way of taking care of handling wrongs against us.But this is the old Adam in us isn’t it? The old Adam – rearing his ugly, self-centered, “get even, or die trying attitude,” head and enjoying it! For we would much rather repay a wrong done to us by getting back or getting even with the person who wronged us. Oh yes – sweet revenge, we can almost taste its intoxicating flavor dripping from our tongues and lips.
Because it is hard to forgive, isn’t it? Sometimes – and maybe even much of the time – it isn’t so much about getting even as it is about holding on to the anger and pain and evil thoughts – for that too is equally satisfying to our old Adam bellies, isn’t it? Someone does us wrong and maybe we don’t get even, but we do withhold forgiveness don’t we?
But that’s ok isn’t it? After all I was right wasn’t I? I am justified in my words and thoughts and deeds against him for what he said, or against her for what she did – right? I can call her that name because of what she said about me – right? Yeah that’s ok right? Well he isn’t doing it the way I thought it should be done so I am completely in the right here – right?
Besides that puts me in pretty good company doesn’t it? Now I can pal around with the likes of Cain and Judas and Herod and Pharaoh – right? Wait a minute – those aren’t the ones I was trying to be like.
Ah, there is my table – David the murderer and adulterer, Peter the liar, Paul the practitioner of genocide – all unwilling to forgive just like me. Whew I feel better – right?
Doesn’t that lack of forgiveness make us into hypocrites? Me – pastor, a hypocrite? You – follower of Christ, a hypocrite? Not me. Yes, you. In your lack of forgiving aren’t you forgetting that you have been forgiven?
In our text today Peter asks a question…. Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times? What was behind Peter’s question? It had been a Jewish custom to forgive three times – “based” on Scripture, however, done so in error. The Bible never places a limit on forgiveness, nevertheless it had been interpreted by rabbinical scholars that this was all that was required, three times.
So you see when we look at Peter we see his deception as he is trying to look good to Jesus by more than doubling the forgiveness from three to seven times.
However, Jesus sees through him – just as he sees through us. He knows Peter is thinking in that old Adam way and Jesus answers him… I do not say to you seven times, but seventy seven times. [or in some versions 70 x 7]
Just as Jesus heard the same from Peter and the other disciples then – the sound of the gears turning in your heads right now is deafening here in the pulpit as you do the math and figure out how many times do I have to do this before I don’t have to do this forgiveness stuff. Let’s see, seven times zero is zero and seven times seven is forty-nine…that’s a total of…four hundred ninety! Then we either pull out our phones, or our iPads, or laptops and begin an Excel file on everyone. Hey look I’m at 490 with him – ah, now I can Biblically go about no forgiving him anymore!
However, that wasn’t where Jesus was going was it? Jesus did not put a cap on forgiveness. Jesus was aware of this error in the teaching of His people that said three times is enough. He heard what Peter said – doubling the amount. So Jesus goes one step further. He multiplies Peter’s doubling by seventy! What this truly means is that the number of times we are to forgive one another is a great number! He is not setting a limit, but saying there is no limit to the amount of forgiveness you are to give to one another – regardless of the sin.
And that’s another question – does the size of the sin matter? Does it matter to GOD? Should it matter to you? Isn’t GOD willing to forgive all sin – small or large? Shouldn’t we be as willing to do so as well? Then Jesus does what he often times does and that’s teach. He tells a parable about a servant who owes a great sum of money to his king. When the account is called due the servant doesn’t have the sum owed. The king is ready to have the man’s possessions, family and the man himself sold to make payment.
The king is just and right to ask for payment. There is no unfairness in what he is about to do. Money was owed to the king and it was his right to call the account due. There is no injustice being done here by the king.
The servant then pleads with the king to have patience and that he would pay everything back. The king knows the servant means well, but he also knows that this is an impossibility on the part of the servant. Ten thousand talents is a large sum of money, and the king knows that the servant can’t possibly pay this back. Moved by compassion for his servant the king forgives the debt. Wow, great story Jesus! Let’s pull this one a part and see what Jesus is saying. The king is GOD the Father. The servant is us sinners. The debt owed is what is owed for all of our sins. Try as we might we cannot even begin to pay the LORD what is owed – it’s an impossible sum. We can’t possibly pay it back – and in fact go deeper and deeper into debt every day. So GOD forgives the debt owed – through the Cross of Christ and His blood shed there and forgiveness is earned for us. Like I said, wow, great story Jesus!
But the parable doesn’t end there does it? This same servant runs into another who owes him a small amount of money – but equally unbearable. How does this forgiven servant react to the one who owes him so little – even after this one begged for mercy? This forgiven servant shows no mercy and throws him into jail until this one can pay his debt back.
Hypocrite? You bet.
Hmm does this sound familiar?
Our Father in heaven forgives this enormous debt of our sin, sinned against Him. Yet, when someone wrongs us in such a small way – and let’s face it, the sin of our neighbor against us, pales in comparison to the sin we have been born with and committed each and every day of our lives against God Almighty – this small sin against us we refuse to forgive?
Yet, that is who we are. We are the forgiven servant running around holding grudge, claiming righteous anger and because we have been wronged so terribly – unwilling to forgive the small when the LORD forgives the so very large.
Feeling pretty Law ridden at this point – or at least I hope you do. Ready for some Good News?
Jesus died for that sin too. He died for our hypocritical ways of living our lives. Jesus suffering and death – His blood on the Cross covers the sin of being unwilling to speak forgiveness. Thank goodness GOD doesn’t have an Excel sheet on each of us with a topping out of 490! Thanks be to GOD the forgiveness never runs out.
And now blessed with the forgiveness of sins that we have in Jesus and responding to that constant and unending well of forgiveness – we too can share the love of Christ by forgiving others. Not because we have to, but because we get to. This is a great and wonderful result of being forgiven so much – that we too can forgive what has been done to us.
To be sure we will find ourselves in those situations where we are tempted to be unforgiving, hold a grudge, or even get even. When we do then we count on the power of the Holy Spirit to remind us of Whose we are and what has been forgiven in us and then we can resist that temptation to be unforgiving. For we are the children of the LORD – the new Israel. All we need do is ask for the forgiveness of an unforgiving heart. We turn to GOD and plead with Him, as did the first servant in the parable, to please forgive this debt owed. And in GOD’S perfect mercy and loving kindness, He does forgive that too and then we can share that forgiveness with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. What wonderful words the LORD has given us this morning. Amen.
The Peace of the LORD – which surpasses all understanding – will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus the Light of the world.