Forgiveness and Mercy- Sermon, Pentecost 15, September 13th, 2020, Matthew 18:21-35, Pastor Joe Asher, Kaiserslautern, Germany, LCMS, *IN NOMINE JESU*
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
21 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 times seven.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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 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, 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, 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.”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Today our Lord instructs all of us on forgiveness and mercy. And Jesus uses the parable of the unforgiving servant to do it. Christ is very direct and severe in His insistence that we are not to live like the rest of the world with broken relationships, holding grudges, and sinfully withholding mercy from those around us. From today’s Gospel, we know that we will face God’s righteous anger and uncompromising discipline if we fail to, verse 35…, at the every end of our text…
…forgive our brother from our heart.
We also have Jesus’ stern warning about forgiveness at the end of the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, when Christ tells us,
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
In each of these readings, Jesus gives us His holy standard. There is no
- Margin for error
- Comfortable latitude which allows us to avoid God’s command
- “wiggle room” which permits ignoring our Savior’s benchmark
We are simply required to forgive others when they sin against us. For the consequence is that if we don’t forgive, neither will our heavenly Father forgive our trespasses.
So why is our forgiving others so important to God? The answer is simple. Forgiveness is the heart/ foundation of our faith relationship with our Lord, and also forgiveness is the heart and foundation of our relationship with others. This is what Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant is all about.
And Jesus told the story about the unforgiving servant in response to Peter’s question, verse 21-
“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
Our Lord’s astonishing answer is in verse 22-
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
Seventy times seven… that is 490 times. But we need to understand that Jesus is using an idiom…, He is using an expression common to the Jews which means an unlimited number. 70 times 7 constitutes an unlimited number and communicates God’s will that as sinners live together, that they need to constantly forgive the transgressions committed within all relationships.
Think of it this way- Christ wants His followers to forgive others in the way He forgives us. That means without limit and based on His undeserved love. The Savior wants forgiveness to be our default, or our “go to” response when someone hurts us or sins against us. Jesus wants us to forgive each other again, and again, and again.
Now in your mind, you’re probably saying that “they don’t deserve it.” But neither did we. We are forgiven by God’s grace alone. It is Undeserved. So to illustrate the Lord’s forgiveness for us, and the way we are to forgive others, Christ told the parable of the unforgiving servant.
There was a King who wished to settle accounts with his servants. And one of his servants had a huge debt which he could not pay. It amounted to ten thousand talents! Now a talent is worth about 6000 denarii. If you were a common laborer, a hard day’s work would earn you one denarii. So one talent was worth six thousand days of work. That’s sixteen and a half years of common labor.
And this servant had a debt of ten thousand talents, which equaled sixty million denarii. So the position of this servant was hopeless. He was NEVER going to pay this debt.
So the king ordered the servant, his wife and children, and all his possessions to be sold so that a payment could be made. But the servant fell on his knees and begged his Master for patience. And the great surprise of Jesus’ parable is that the King
- Had pity on His servant
- Completely forgave the unpayable debt
- Released the servant from custody
Think of it. The servant’s obligation is completely gone! He didn’t deserve this judgement. What the servant deserved was the loss of everything. But the King—think of our heavenly Father here, with all of us in the place of the servant—But the King, based on His mercy, cancelled the man’s overwhelming debt and set him free.
This is the kind of God we serve. Our heavenly Father sent His Son to the cross to pay the full penalty of our sin. Jesus took our place, and the Father was satisfied, because the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son,
cleanses us from all sin. From the moment we believe in Christ, we stand forgiven and relieved of guilt before our Lord’s righteous throne. Since we have been forgiven so much and set free, the whole point of Jesus’ parable is… how can we not forgive others when they sin against us?
But we know the rest of the parable. After receiving mercy, the unforgiving servant showed no mercy to others. After his own debt was cancelled by the King, he found a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii and said,
Pay what you owe!
And when the liability couldn’t be paid, he choked the man and put him in prison.
This is NOT the kind of conduct God wants from His people. Since we have been forgiven our enormous debt of sin, our Lord would have us forgive all trespasses against us.
I’m not telling you what is easy. I’m telling you what following Christ means.
But here is the thing. We can never forgive the way Jesus does in our own effort and power. It is God’s forgiveness of us, and it is the power of God within us that makes forgiving others possible. (repeat) Because God LOVES us, He gives us mercy and grace and salvation.
The Holy Spirit, as we live and mature in our Christian faith, works God’s mercy and grace into our lives. Galatians 5:22-25 lists the fruit of the Spirit which He builds into our lives-
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
And from the very first fruit listed, LOVE, that is the place from where forgiveness flows. If we love someone, we are going to forgive.
And that takes us to our Old Testament Genesis reading. Joseph’s forgiveness of his brothers is one of the most astonishing stories in all of God’s Word. In your devotions, you can read the whole account of Joseph with his brothers in the book of Genesis, chapters 37 through 50.
And here on your bulletin insert, you have the conclusion of what happened. Once the father, Jacob, was dead, the brothers thought Joseph would exact revenge on the ones that had sold him into slavery. So they come before their powerful brother, fall at Joseph’s feet, and beg him to spare their lives and allow them to be his slaves so that their families will live.
But Joseph weeps at their request, because he realizes that all these years they have not believed that Joseph had completely forgiven them.
But Joseph LOVES his brothers, and he recognizes that in their sinfulness, God has stilled worked good by putting him in a place of power in Egypt so that lives could be saved from famine.
So Joseph tells his brothers, verse 21-
So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones. Thus he (Joseph) comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Love forgives. Love forgives. God builds love into our lives through the fruit of the Spirit.
So, how do we love those who have sinned against us? Well, God must give us that ability, really the grace, to love those who have sinned against us. It is a supernatural love which comes from the Holy Spirit. So, we pray for it, recognizing that God will give us those things which we really desire. He will not force His love on us. But when we ask for what is in accord with His will, the Lord will give us His abundant supply.
So if you’re struggling to forgive someone right now, pray to God for an “extra measure of the Holy Spirit” so that you will have the power of God within You that makes forgiving others possible.
And when you struggle to forgive, remember that the forgiveness of sins at Jesus’ cross is there for you also. Rely on the cross.
In Jesus’ name. Amen. +Sola Deo Gloria+
Prayers- Pentecost 15- September 13th, 2020
Dear heavenly Father, we know how difficult it is to forgive our brothers and sisters from our heart. We beg You, in Jesus name, to send us Your Holy Spirit to deepen our faith and make us obedient to Your will. Remove every bit of sinful pride within us, and lead us to forgive others in the way You have forgiven us.
Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………. Hear our prayer.
Blessed Savior, today we are installing our Sunday school teaching staff and the Board of Education at your altar. We pray that You would always help our teachers to present Your Word and the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to all within their charge. Bless their instruction, so that all who learn the Christian faith will be drawn to a deeper faith in Jesus.
Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………… Hear our prayer.
Almighty God, dear Holy Spirit, in these times of uncertainty, give us confidence in Your Holy Word, that we may be comforted with the knowledge that You will never leave us for forsake us.
Lord in Your mercy…………………………………………………………………….. Hear our prayer.
Finally, heavenly Father, in our families and among our friends and co-workers there are many who are in need of Your care. For those who are sick, hospitalized, away on duty assignments, traveling, unemployed, and for all other needs, we name our loved ones in our hearts before you now…
Lord in Your mercy/ hear our prayer…
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.