The 19th Sunday After Pentecost October 11, 2009
536, 325, 342, 36
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Dear fellow-sinners redeemed by Christ:
When I was growing up, saying “I’m sorry” wasn’t enough. When I would do something mean and thoughtless to my sisters and was brought to a knowledge of my sin, I would tell them that I was sorry, but the conversation wouldn’t end there. The one whom I had hurt would also say, “I forgive you.” The forgiveness was really the most important part. I probably would have stopped saying “I’m sorry” altogether if I had known that my siblings would simply hold grudges or lash out at me in anger when I was repentant and trying to make things right with them.
In our house, when someone came to you showing repentance and expressing sorrow over something they had done to you, your job was to give them reassurance. Since Jesus had forgiven them and they wanted to be rid of their sins and be right with you, you wouldn’t hold it against them.
But sure enough when someone says to us “I’m sorry,” how often wouldn’t we rather choke to death than say, “I forgive you” from our hearts? Our sinful nature doesn’t want to relieve or comfort anyone who has sinned against us. We’d rather let them feel the pain and hurt for awhile. We’d rather see them “get what they deserve” instead of being happy with the angels over just one sinner who repents.
Even Peter, the apostle, wondered if maybe there would be a time when there just wouldn’t be enough forgiveness to go around, a time when it might be alright to say, “Well, I forgave you last time, but this time, forget it.” It was Peter who asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” [v.21] And Peter, of course, thought he was being pretty generous. Wow! Seven times I’ll put up with someone who comes to me and wants forgiveness! That ought to be enough, right Lord? But that wasn’t Jesus’ answer. He said “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” [v.22] It’s unlimited, Peter. For every time someone comes to you with godly sorrow over his sin, you forgive him every time. Jesus taught Peter that there is enough forgiveness to go around I. Enough for you and II. Enough for your neighbor
Jesus illustrated His point by means of a parable. The story of a servant who owed a great debt to his master. When you are faced with the opportunity to forgive someone, see first that there’s enough forgiveness for you.
In Jesus’ story, as the king began to settle accounts with his servants, a man came to him with a debt of 10,000 talents. In today’s money that would amount to millions of dollars. The man had no ability at all to pay that sum so the king ordered that his wife, children, and all he had be sold. The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt, and let him go.
The master forgave the servant his debt even though it was an extreme and outrageous amount. He forgave it even though the master could have held it against him forever. When the master saw that the man was sorrowing, concerned, and troubled about the amount he owed, and when he saw the servant appealing to his mercy, he forgave the debt.
This is how your Heavenly Father has forgiven you, except your debt comes to far more than 10,000 talents. Each one of you has accumulated a terrific debt against God. From the moment you were born you started building a mountain of sin and guilt. As you grew older, the debt kept growing. God demands holiness from each and every human being. He wants you to do it right. He wants you to talk right, act right, and even think right.
How many times have you spoken a harsh word? How many times have you had an angry thought? How many times have you been lazy in spiritual matters? How many times have you done things you knew you shouldn’t? How many times were you doing things God didn’t like and you didn’t even know it? In Psalm 19:12. the Bible mentions our “secret faults” — the things we do of which we are not even aware but are against God’s will.
Christians are not “naturally good.” We are sinners too, surrounded by an unbelieving world. We sin daily and the sins are not necessarily small. Even when we think we are towing the line pretty well, just a quick glance at God’s Law will mirror for us the many ways in which we are missing the mark.
Realizing the tremendous amount we owe for the trouble we’ve caused our God, we go to our heavenly Master saying, “I’m sorry.” We pour out our souls to Him, renouncing our sins, desiring to turn from them, and looking for the assurance that He does indeed forgive.
What is the answer from heaven for the troubled heart? No matter how high our sins, no matter what great evils are contained there, the Father points us to the cross of Jesus. At the cross Jesus became sin for us and with His own life He paid our debt to God. Not with millions of dollars, but with His own precious blood He made up for what we have done. There is enough forgiveness for you—enough to go around for all of your sins.
There’s enough forgiveness for you, and enough for your neighbor too. Several years ago while I was shopping at the office supply store the checkout clerk asked if I wanted to add a $1 donation for hurricane disaster relief. I thought for a second and then said “sure,” but it wasn’t until later that I got to thinking that one dollar is really pretty small compared to what I have been given. Of course I could give a dollar to those folks who are in need of food, water, shelter, and loans to rebuild their homes and businesses. Why had I even had to “decide”? Even compared to what I had in my wallet at the time it was not very much.
It is the same way with forgiveness. Jesus has taken so much guilt and trespass away, He has canceled such a great debt that we owed to God that when someone comes and asks forgiveness from us for anything they’ve done to us, we have to admit that surely there’s enough forgiveness to go around. Can we—who have been forgiven years and years of stain by the Lord Jesus—really say to someone, “I won’t forgive you”? That just doesn’t make sense.
Jesus showed this to Peter in the second half of His parable when He said, “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. [vv.28-30] Does that seem very proper to you? No! and the master in the story didn’t think so either. When he found out what the wicked servant had done, he turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he had paid back the original 10,000 talents.
The one whose enormous debt had been canceled would not cancel the debt of just a few dollars when it was owed to him. Naturally the master was angry and why wouldn’t he be? He had forgiven the man millions only to see him show his “gratitude” by choking someone else for the sake of pennies. That’s how God feels when He sees our unwillingness to forgive. He thinks, “I’ve forgiven all their sins and they won’t turn around and forgive someone else?” Shame on us when we think that there is a limit on forgiveness, when we keep a repentant sinner from hearing the good news.
There is enough forgiveness to go around. There was enough for you after all. There is surely enough to share some with your neighbor. That’s what Jesus was teaching Peter.
It’s not hard to forgive when we see and trust in Jesus’ love and mercy toward us. Look at the great burden He has lifted from us. Look at His outstretched hands on the cross with the nails driven through. Look to the crown of thorns and the Garden of Gethsemane. Look to the joy of heaven which is ours because our sins have been washed away. He saved us from the pains of eternal Hell. He says to every trembling, contrite heart, “Fear not. As far as the east is from the west, so far have I removed your transgressions from you.” (cf. Psalm 103:12).
Let these things fill your mind and move your heart. Look at the pity and compassion Jesus has shown to you. That’s where we get the strength and the desire to turn around and share that same blessed message.
It’s easy to spare a dollar when you see how many more dollars the Lord has given you. It’s easy to say “I forgive you” when you realize how many times the Lord has said it to you! There’s enough forgiveness to go around. Even seventy times seven times.
Oh, may Thy love inspire my tongue!
Salvation shall be all my song;
And all my powers join to bless
The Lord, my Strength and Righteousness. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.