Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 14, 2014
Pastor Craig Schultz
Text – Matthew 18:21-35
This morning we have yet another fearless conversation between Jesus and His disciples. Peter, as spokesman asks, “How many time must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
This time Jesus answers directly, “Not seven (the number of completion) times but seven times seven or completion squared or as some translate, seven times seventy, completion to the tenth degree which is eternity.”
Jesus’ point should have been obvious; forgiveness in His kingdom is unlimited. Rather than trying to explain the theology, He tells a story. Who would like to summarize that story for us?
(A wealthy king [think power] wants to settle an account with someone who owed him 10,000 years worth of income, an impossible debt to pay. He begged for mercy and the king granted it. The beggar then turns on a co-worker with less power than him and in debt to him for about 3 1/2 months wages. He demands immediate payment and resorts to physical violence and has him thrown in prison in spite of the man’s pleas for mercy. The king hears about the incident and has the unmerciful servant arrested, jailed, tortured and his debt reinstated.)
Now who would like to summarize Jesus’ point? (God expects His mercy to be passed on in kind)
Jesus’ own words are about as clear as it gets, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Forgiveness is serious business in the kingdom of God. It is the main business.
Forgiveness restores the broken relationship with God, opens heaven and it restores the broken relationships between people. It is the reason Jesus was born, lived and died. It is the reason the Holy Spirit was sent. It is the reason for baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is the reason we gather for worship.
It is one of many pieces of the Christian faith that make it stand alone among the world’s religions. Forgiveness was the first thing on Jesus mind after He was hung up to die on the cross. Remember He said to all who put Him there, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
Forgiveness was also the last thing on His mind as He ended the last supper with His disciples. He took the dessert bread and final cup of wine and said, “This is my body and my blood that I give you for the forgiveness of sins,” not just forgiveness for sins the one receiving the gift of grace committed but also the forgiveness to pass on to another.
Many religions and even good counseling philosophies want you to forgive because it’s good for your mental health and restoring the relationship. Everyone involved deserves to move on, to be given another chance, to let go. That’s not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no deserving. The servant the king forgave was not in any way deserving, neither was the servant who was indebted to him. Forgiveness that is rooted in heaven and passes through the cross is all undeserved, and that’s what makes it so precious.
We stand here today as children of grace. We didn’t ask for God’s love or do anything to deserve it, He simply offered it at great cost, the sacrifice of His own son. We aren’t forgiven because we deserve it so we shouldn’t withhold forgiveness because we judge others as undeserving. When and if we do, God can and will cancel our forgiveness. That’s the story’s point. There’s no room in God’s earthly or heavenly kingdom for people who hold grudges, seek revenge or who won’t forgive from the heart
Perhaps you have heard it said and have said it yourself, “I can’t forgive that person for what they did to me, my family, my friend, my business, my country, my whatever.
Perhaps you have heard it said or said yourself, “I can’t forgive myself for what I did.”
Well the first step is to admit “I’m absolutely right. I can’t forgive. True forgiveness isn’t mine or from me. It is God’s doing. I’m not talking about the inconsequential bump while you are in a crowd of people or unintentionally getting the wrong phone number, etc., I’m talking about those things you do and are done to you that cause your insides to churn. That’s when God needs to be a part of forgiveness.
Good news! God is a part of that forgiveness. He initiates it and orchestrates it and sees it through to completion! That’s all I want to say on the subject today. Let me give one of you the final word if you care to share briefly a time when God’s mercy found you, forgiveness washed over you and you were able to forgive another. Can we end on such a story and celebrate the miracle of forgiveness?