Pentecost 14, 2014
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I need to learn how to forgive...truly forgive. It is often hard to forgive. It seems even harder to forget. My son is at the age where if he doesn't like the food we put on his tray in front of him...it will be pushed, thrown, or flung onto the floor. It frustrates me. Why doesn't he learn from the numerous times he has been told "no" or stopped, or had his hand held or poked not to do that? How many times do I need to tell him "no" before he learns and listens? I'm sure many of you have been through that frustration as well. You might think... "Pastor don't stress it...we've all been there." or "Pastor...he's just a little boy...take it easy."
Here in our text we hear that same frustration ring out of Peter. “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” (Matthew 18:21) How many times do I need to forgive my brother who sins against me? He keeps doing the same thing over and over again. He doesn't learn. It's frustrating! What's that magic number...the number of times that I forgive? Seven times? Then can I finally let him have it? You know the frustration. How many times do I have to tell you not to do that? How many times do I need to forgive you? For doing the same thing? For doing it to me over and over again? I can't put up with it anymore!
And what does our Lord tell Peter? "Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:22) Really? 77 times I have to forgive? That's a huge number...but hey at least it's a number! Alright...I guess that means when you get to 78 you don't have to forgive anymore. It might take a little while...but finally I'll be able give it to him for all he's done to me! NO! That isn't the point. Jesus would have us forgive...always...forgive! Really?
Listen to the parable of our Lord. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 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.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 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. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35)
A servant owed a king 10,000 talents...and couldn't pay it. The king wanted to settle the account...an unheard thing...for even allowing this servant the opportunity to pay his debts. The servant couldn't...there was no possible way he could. He owed 10,000 talents. A talent itself was valued as 117 years of wages! To put it in a modern perspective going by the average wage as reported last year by CNN of $45,790... One talent would be the equivalent of $5,357,430.00. Ten thousand talents would be the equivalent of $53,574,300,000.00. Even if one were desperate enough to sell their own body...the most they would get would be $2,000,000.00 on the black market! Needless to say...this servant owed more than he could ever dream of paying...in 10,000 lifetimes!
So what did the king do? The king knew he couldn't pay the debt back...ever! The king had pity on the servant and forgave his debt. What a huge gift. What great generosity. What compassion. But it had little effect on that servant. That servant went out and found a fellow servant that owed him a hundred denarii, the equivalent of 3 months wages, choked him and demanded his money. That fellow servant asked for patience and he would pay him back. 3 months wages. Certainly many have owed that or more among us. But the first servant would not be patient and had the man seized and jailed. Even though he himself had a huge debt...beyond imagination forgiven...he wouldn't forgive the debt of his fellow servant; he would have no mercy!
Then the king jailed that servant until he could pay his debt...a debt he couldn't repay...a lifetime sentence! And what do we think? That wicked servant deserves to be jailed! He got what he deserved! He had been forgiven...but wouldn't offer that forgiveness to another who owed him less.
My brothers and sisters in Christ listen to our Lord's words of warning: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35)
Our Lord wants us to forgive...to keep forgiving..over and over again no matter how many times your brother sins against you. Let me remind you that we pray the Lord forgives us just as we will forgive in the Lord's Prayer. Remember the words you have spoken with your own lips. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Those things that are hard to forgive...Christ has forgiven. Christ Jesus died for the sins of Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, John Wayne Gacy, and Ray Rice. Christ Jesus died for my impatience, for all of my failures...Jesus died for all of my sins; for all of your sins. Christ Jesus died for the sins of the world...all of them...and God remembers those sins no more.
We have an awful lot to learn about forgiving others...but we have been given the greatest example of forgiveness. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isaiah 1:18) God promises "I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember [your] sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12)
God loves you more than you could ever imagine. He values you to the point of giving up His Son to die for you. Your sins have been forgiven. They are remembered no more. By God's grace you are forgiven and by that grace you may forgive others, remember their sins no more, and love as Christ has loved you. Come to the Lord's Table this day and receive the forgiveness of your sins and the strength to overcome sin and forgive in the very body and blood of Christ that was given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.