Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 months ago

Divine Forgiveness (Mat 18:21-35)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

To open them remains standing. Willbe going to the New Testament this morning, the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter Eighteen. Matthew Eighteen, Matthew eighteen will begin our reading and Verse Twenty One. This is the word of the Lord. Let us give our attention to itsreading. Then Peter came up and said to him, him being JesusLord, how often will my brother sin against me? And I forgive himas many as seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not sayto you seven times, but seventy seven times. Therefore, the Kingdom ofHeaven may be compared to a king who wish to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed himten thousand talents and since he could not pay, his master ordained or orderedhim 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, imploringhim have patience with me, I will pay you everything, and out ofpity for him, the Master, sister of that servant, released him andforgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he foundone of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred Dinari and seizing him,he began to choke him, saying pay what you owe. So this fellowservant fell down and pleaded with him, have patience with me, I willpay you. He refused and went and put him in prison until he shouldpay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what he had taken, whathad taken place, they were greatly distressed and they went and reported to theirmaster all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said tohim, you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you pleadedwith me, and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant,as I had mercy on you. And in anger, his master delivered himto the jailers until he should pay all his debt. So also, myheavenly father will do to every one of you. If you do not forgiveyour brother from your heart, you may be seated. Well, a bitof a hard saying to end that parable this morning, isn't it? That'sit's shocking and a lot of a lot of ways. Well, this morningwill be talking obviously about forgiveness, certainly God's forgiveness for us, but whatit looks like to be called to be people of forgiveness, people ready tooffer forgiveness to others? Why? Way of introduction, I want to considersome words from an English poet from seventeen eleven. Its name is Alexander Pope. You might be familiar with him, and Alexander Pope famously wrote an essayin the form of a poem entitled an essay on Criticism Part two. Hehad a lot to say about criticism, apparently, and in the poem hespeaks of the dangers of prideful and arrogant critique, on being too hard onpeople, and in the end of one...

...of the final stanzas of the poem, he remarks in a now famous line to air as human, to forgivedivine. That's a very long poem. It's very interesting. I would encourageyou to take a look at it at some point, but that's a linethat most of us are probably familiar with. To air is human, to forgivedivine. It's a profound truth, isn't it? One that doesn't takelong to put to the test, especially in our current culture, where everyoneairs everything on social media. where it looks like mass media has made itwhole industry on on journaling. The public foibles of public figures mean it doesnot take long to understand that airing is indeed a common human capacity. Butequally so, it is very difficult to find forgiveness and the public sphere,isn't it? We're really good at pointing fingers, but it is rare,so rare to find displays of forgiveness, so rare indeed that when we seethem, if we've seen them, it causes us to stop. Perhaps popewas right. Forgiveness, it seems, is a divine quality. Well,in our passage this morning is we have heard, we find a command fromJesus to forgive, to forgive extravagantly. But if pope is right, thatsets up a big of a bit of a problem for us, doesn't it? If forgiveness is indeed divine, how is it that we follow this command? Well, today we come to a passage and parable that that threatens thelistener with banishment from the Kingdom of God if we don't forgive, threatens withholdingof God's forgiveness if we are not people marked by forgiveness. Well, byway of introduction. I want to consider the context this morning. This parablecomes right after a passage that we actually looked at in Sunday school last week, talking about the process of restoring a brother within the church who is insin, the passage that we develop a lot of our theology around church disciplineon. And you'll note in Matthew Eighteen, verse fifteen begins if a brother sendsagainst you, and then Jesus lays out this process for how to restorethis brother, a process that finally, if you find that this brother canis continually not repentant, ends in excommunication of removing this individual from the body. So a horrible thing to think about, but it itself, as Paul willexplain later, is part of this process of restoration bringing someone in.And so as we think of this passage in Matthew About Church discipline, weshould remember that this whole thing is really about forgiveness and and how is itthat we treat sin within the body? Well, Peter, who is oftenthe disciple to speak up and situations like this, comes to the Lord afterhe is outlined this process of restoration and says, Lord, how often doI need to forgive a brother if he sends against me. Seven Times.Seems Fair and it's easy to point a...

...finger at Peter here. But actually, if you look at rabbinical tradition around this time, the writing say,well, three times is enough if someone commits the same sin over and overagain. So Peter here is actually being quite generous doubling it and then some. But Jesus response is interesting. He says actually, seventy seven times.For those of you married here you might be saying, well, my spousehas gotten there. But I don't think Jesus is giving us a particular amountof times to forgive, but is speaking of a culture of forgiveness which hewill lay out for us in this parable that will look at this morning underthree headings. One, a time to forgive, to a time to collectand three, a time of reckoning. A time to forgive, a timeto collect in a time of reckoning. Let's look at this parable a littlebit closer. This first section a time to forgive. Jesus Begins Teaching andResponse to Peter's question and he tells of a King and it has come timefor this king to settle accounts with his servants and and one servant in particularis brought to him. The passage says he owes ten thousand talents. Nowto think about this number, a talent is the largest monetary unit in theGreek language and ten thousand is the highest Greek numeral. So if you thinkabout that, what what this guy is saying is he owes like a billiondollars. Not to say that Jesus e exaggerating, but he is very,very poignantly bringing out the fact that this guy owes a debt that is insurmountable, it's unimaginable. I mean think for a minute. What's a number thatyou could never save in your lifetime? Okay, that's how much this ciosa lot of money, and when he doesn't have the cash, the kingsays, well, sell him and his wife and his children and all thathe has and collect the proceeds. Well, we find here is that this debtheld against him as not only related to his pocket book, but hisentire life and that of his family. What's probably implied here is that thisking would sell this man into slavery, as well as his generations of children, which was not an uncommon practice in Roman law at this time, andchildren born into slavery would be the possession of the master unless they were somehowable to buy themselves out of that. And we know that this debt willnot soon be paid off. Well, the man pleads with the king.The text says he falls on his knees and he begins to beg verse.Twenty six, have patience with me. I will pay you everything now.This is kind of a humiliating scene, but there's also some comedy to it, because there is no way this man could ever repay this debt. Thisis an empty promise in a lot of ways. The king would do well, if he was thinking fiscally, to...

...sell this guy off, to cuthis losses and to collect what he could. But the king's response is interesting,isn't it? It says that he has pity on the man. Sometranslations say he has compassion, and this is a good translation. It bringsout this quality that we often see Jesus having when he comes upon the destitute, the poor, the needy. He has compassion on them. And sothe master forgives the debt and releases him. It's easy to miss this, butthere's two things going on here. One is this guy is a servantor bond servant of the king. He is the king's possession and it wouldtake much for him, debt excluded, to buy himself out of this relationship. But the king not only forgives this incredible ount of money, but hegives him his life. He frees him, the text says, and his wifeand his children. This man goes free to air. Is Human toforgive divine. If that is true, then this king has certainly showed divineforgiveness, hasn't he? This is no small transaction. You can imagine thisguy walking into the king's court, not sure what's going to go down,and walking out free, truly a new man. His future in the futureof his wife, the future of his children, has changed and a momentit's amazing to think about. Well, if our parable begins with a timeto forgive, it quickly and jarringly moves to a second section, a timeto collect. So this man, who has just been released from his debt, who has been given his life back, seemingly use his uses his first momentsof freedom to track down a fellow servant who owes him a hundred Denari. Now, a hundred denari is no small amount. Of this would probablybe several months money for a a regular day labor of this time. Andyet, in light of what this man has just been forgiven, there reallyis no comparison, is there? So the Texas he finds his fellow servant, he seizes him and he he grabs him and he begins to choke him, demanding pay what you owe. It seems ridiculous from our vantage point,doesn't it, that this man immediately would go out and it would seem,forget about this incredible debt that has just been paid on his behalf and beso unforgiving almost immediately. It's incomprehensible to think about, isn't it? Well, Matthew here, in retelling this story, is careful to show that the secondservants response to the call for repayment is precisely like the first servants.He falls to his knees, he takes the same posture and he says bepatient with me, I will repay you. What's different about this servant, though, is he actually probably could have repaid I mean it's not a smallamount, but it's something he could save...

...up and repay. Nothing in comparisonto the amount that the first servant was forgiven, and that is a vividcontrast that we should note in this passage. But instead of releasing the man,like the gracious King did, he does quite the opposite, has himthrown into prison until the payment is able to be made to air. IsHuman to forgive divine, apparently, it's true. In this man's case,he is unable to forgive even right after this great forgiveness has been given tohim, and the text says that he's brazen about it. He does itin front of other servants. He doesn't even wait until, you know,nightfall comes, other folks are watching. He humiliates this fellow servant and hisunforgiveness, and these other servants are, I mean understandably shaken by this anddisturbed by it and go and tell the master. And so this time ofcollection then turns to the final section of the parable, a time of reckoning. The man's indiscretion comes back to bite him, doesn't it? The otherservants who saw what happened report the whole thing to the king and the MasterSummons this servant and he declares, you, wicked servant. I forgave you allthe debt because you pleaded with me. You should therefore have mercy on yourfellow servant, just as I had mercy on you. And then,his anger, this master turns the servant over to the jailers until his debtshould be repaid. We know how long that will take. This word forjailer's here is is kind of a disturbing one. It's not a common oneused. Some translations say tortures, and this would rightly fit this, thisinteresting word. This is not a pleasant sentence. Cell that this man isgoing to serve and he's not going anywhere soon. And then Jesus ends thisparable with this statement that likely caused us, made us a little bit uncomfortable aswe heard it read so also, and then the stomach turns a littlebit, doesn't it? So also, my heavenly father will do to everyone of you if you do not forgive your brothers from your heart. Jesuscan't mean this right. There's no way. We have theological categories that get usout of this. I mean, we know that we are saved bygrace through faith, right. We are not saved by work, certainly notsaved on the merit of our ability to forgive. We know that. Andyet here it is right in front of us, and it's not the onlytime that Jesus has said this, is it? Fact, a few chaptersprior at the end of the Lord's prayer, how does Jesus in the prayer?He says for if you forgive their trespasses, your heavenly father will alsoforgive you, but if you do not forgive others trespasses, neither will yourfather forgive your trespasses. As James and...

...his epistle summarizes it, for judgmentis without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. This parable, unlikesome others that we encounter, is not that difficult to understand, and yetwe will go to great intellectual lengths to veil the obvious implications that God's wordhas for us. Forgive of or you will not be forgiven. Why isthis so difficult? Well, because forgiveness is hard, some of you mightbe thinking right now. You have no idea what I've been through. Youhave no idea how difficult it is to forgive a specially when the trespass issourced and someone close to us, like brothers and sisters within the church,which is precisely what this text is aimed at and its context. Right,people really wrong us. People truly do wicked things. Brothers and sisters inthe church disappoint us, they neglect us, they don't meet with our expectations andit is hurtful and it is difficult to forgive. If you were togo out and pole people who have left the church, my guess is nineout of ten times you would find that they left because they were hurt bysomeone, perhaps even a pastor or a leader in the church, and they'veremoved themselves from this earthly manifestation of the Kingdom of God because they were unableto forgive. Forgiveness is hall art, it is costly, but here wehave fairly clearly that Jesus is asking us to own the debt of others,to forgive them, and not only that, but threatening to withhold forgiveness if wedon't. Well, perhaps this morning Jesus, in this text is iscalling us to reorient ourselves just a bit. Perhaps God is calling on us whostruggle with unforgiveness to shift our view just a bit. Perhaps you arefamiliar with the story of Corey Tin Boon. Cory was a Christian arrested for hidingDutch Jews under the Nazi regime during the Holocaust, she herself being throwninto concentration camps, and Corey writes about this experience and it's horrifying. Ifyou've if you've read any of her books, it's it's quite striking the suffering thatshe's gone through. And yet cory is constantly talking about how God hasforgiven her sense. She seems to make little of the offenses of others,constantly thinking about how she is offended a holy God, but how God inChrist has shown her great forgiveness. Well, one of the things cory did,in addition to writing books, that she would go and speak in differentvenues and one evening at a church in Munich, after she had talked,a balding man in a gray overcoat came walking toward her and she froze becauseshe immediately recognized him as one of the more brutal guards and camp raise atRavensbrook, one of these concentration camps,...

...specifically the camp that her best friendhad died in at the hands of guards like this one, and he beganwalking toward her. She she doesn't know it hurt to do her. Hermind is is flooded with images of the injustice that this man had committed againsther and her friends. And he walks up to her and and he says, thank you for being here, thank you for speaking. You know,you mentioned Ravensbrook in your testimony. I was a guard there, and hesays, but I've I've since come to faith in Jesus and I've experienced hisforgiveness. He says, Oh, how I would love to hear that forgivenesscome from Your Lips. And she froze again. All this she could thinkabout was the great injustice done to her. Well, she writes about this experiencein one of her books. It says I pray to Jesus help me. I can lift my hand, I can do that much, but youmust supply the feeling. And Corey lifted up her hand and she says,as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in myshoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands, and thenthis healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being. I forgive you, brother, with all my heart. I cried, she writes. For a long momentwe grasped each other's hands. The former guard and the former prisoner.I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then, but evenso I realized it was not my love. I had tried, but I didnot have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.As Corey continues to write, she talks about how God's grace allowed her tolook past this man and his great injustice toward her, to a God whois holy and Cory's great injustice toward him, but also to a rugged cross thatstood between her and the wrath of God. And as she looked tothe broken body and shed blood of Christ for a sinner like her, shewas able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to extend forgiveness tothis man who had done her so wrong. It is very difficult for us tostare down the Cross of Christ, in all of its brutality and allof its beauty, and continue to withhold forgiveness. The power to forgive isnot found in our own ability to muster up a heart of forgiveness, butto consider afresh God's heart of forgiveness shown to us in Jesus Christ, andas we shift our orientation, our focus to the great redemption that is inChrist, the debts owe to US grow strangely dim as we focus on apayment that has been made on our behalf by the blood of a crucified saviorand his lavish forgiveness offered to us. We grow in the ability to forgiveby the power of the spirit. The power to forgive others is truly divine, but given to us as we reflect...

...on the divine forgiveness offer to usin Jesus Christ. So, this morning, is we conclude, I want toconsider a few of the Apostle Paul's words. Church it Coloss A,was struggling with some different issues, returning to habits that did not reflect thefreedom that they had found in Christ. But interestingly enough, Paul does nottell them to muster up enough will to act like Jesus, but he callsthem to reflect on the great debt that was paid on their behalf. Andthis morning I want to conclude by reflecting on those words together. From Colossianschapter two, beginning in verse thirteen, Paul writes to the Colossians. Hesays in you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of yourflesh, God made alive, together with him having forgiven all your trespasses bycanceling the record of debt that stood against us, with its legal demands.This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Our life was gone, Paul says, dead in the depths of our debt were we imprisoned byour own sin. But God, rich in love and mercy, came tous in Christ, giving us life by uniting us to his son. Andhow did he do this, Paul Answers, by canceling the record of our debtthat stood against us, with all of its legal demands. God tookthat bill that we could never repay and he nailed it to a Roman crossalongside his son. And now that notice of debt that was insurmountable is stampedin the blood of Jesus, paid and for. He has paid our debtand he has set us free from what held US captive and he has givenus life. And now we stand free, free to love, free to showmercy and, yes, free to even forgive, because he first loved, showed mercy and forgave us. Amen. Let's pray together.

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