Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Passage: Matthew 18:21–18:35
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Date: September 17th, 2017; Pentecost 15; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel lesson this morning St. Peter asked Jesus a fair question.
How many times are we to forgive someone?
Peter then offered a guess. Is seven times enough?
If you think about it, forgiving someone seven times is a lot.
We have a tough time forgiving once - let alone seven times.
But Jesus said that even forgiving someone seven times is not enough.
Jesus said seventy times seven.
But the number isn’t important – What Jesus means is that we are to forgive someone who sins against us without limit.
This seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?
Does that mean that we are supposed to sit back and let people sin against us, let people walk all over us, and we just keep forgiving them?
Is that what Jesus is saying?
Yes and No.
If someone continues to sin against you - let’s say someone repeatedly steals from you - you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Maybe you lock your stuff up more securely or call the police to have them help.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you just sit back and let them keep on sinning against you.
But as God’s people, we do our best to seek reconciliation.
We are not to hold onto grudges and let them fester.
We forgive and do our best to bring about healing and reconciliation in our relationship.
As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
There is no doubt that there are relationships in our lives that are difficult.
There will be times when we are sinned against and hurt deeply by our friends and family, our coworkers, and even complete strangers.
But to withhold forgiveness, to live with a grudge and to be filled with anger, is not to live according to God’s will.
To illustrate this truth, Jesus tells this parable.
A king decides it is time to clear up the books, so he calls in his debts.
A man who owes an amount of money that no person could ever pay back in a lifetime, is brought before the king.
The man begs for the king’s mercy, asking him to be patient, foolishly promising the impossible – that he will pay the king back what he owes.
The king is deeply moved with compassion and he does the unexpected.
He forgives the entire debt. He wipes the slate completely clean. Not a penny left owing.
It’s incredible. The king has saved this man from losing everything he had – including his family, as they would have been taken and sold into slavery.
The king’s grace and mercy is beyond comprehension.
Just imagine the weight that would have been taken off of his shoulders!
We might get a bit of a sense of this when we pay off our credit cards or finally take care of our mortgage.
The newly debt free man walks out of the king’s palace, and as he is walking home, he comes across a fellow who owed him a few hundred dollars.
Although he had just been shown incredible grace and mercy from the king - he grabs the man who owes him little in comparison by the throat and chokes him, threatens him, and demands repayment.
He had just been forgiven an un-payable debt solely by the grace and mercy of his king.
And here is a guy who owes him hardly anything and he wants him thrown in prison.
How could he be so cold-hearted and foolish?!
How could he not be moved to show the same compassion that he had just received?!…
The trouble is - we are this man.
We are this man every time we withhold forgiveness to those who sin against us.
You have done it. I have done it.
You see, just as the man’s debt to the king was impossible to pay, so is our debt to God impossible to pay.
Because of our sinful nature, because of all of the things we do each and every day that are against God’s will - we can never do it!
We can never do enough to repay our debt to God.
We deserve eternal punishment for our debt. We deserve eternal death and separation from God.
This is what we deserve for our sin. And there is nothing we can do through our own effort to change that fact.
But the Good News is that just as the king had mercy on the man in our story, so God has had mercy on you.
God has cancelled your debt.
The price was paid as the Son of God poured out his blood on the cross in payment to satisfy our debt.
Christ Jesus has been gracious and merciful to you beyond comprehension.
The punishment, the separation that we deserve has been replaced with freedom and eternal life with God.
No matter what we face in this life we know that in the end our debt to God has been paid in full.
We know that things have been made right with God and our heavenly home awaits us.
We have been given God’s Word, the Bible, to tell us that it is for this very reason that Jesus took on our flesh.
We can look back at that moment in time when God personally claimed us in our baptism, settled our accounts, and removed our sin-debt.
God has given us the gift of his true body and blood that strengthens our faith in the truth that our debt to God has been paid in full.
You have been set free from the burden of sin and death.
Because our debt to God has been paid in full, we can forgive those who trespass against us.
We can live without the resentment and anger that causes us harm.
We can live in love and peace with the people around us because we live in love and peace with God. This is for eternity! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.