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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 13, 2020 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Pentecost

Passage: Matthew 18:21–18:35

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Date: September 13th, 2020; 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.
  • When it comes to forgiveness there is no moral arithmetic or record keeping.
  • We are to be ever and always willing to forgive!
  • So, 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 here?
  • Yes and No.
  • If someone continues to sin against you - let’s say someone repeatedly steals your car - you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.  
  • Call the police to have them help the situation and maybe install a car alarm system.
  • 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, whatever we can on our end of things, 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 relationships.
  • As God’s people, we have the privilege of reflecting His light and we demonstrate our identity by being gracious and forgiving, just as God has been gracious and forgiving to us.
  • 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” (3:11).
  • There is no doubt that there are relationships in our lives that are difficult.  
  • There will be times when we are sinned against and when we are 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 a carefully crafted parable that has become known as the Unforgiving Servant.  
  • In it we hear Jesus’ stern warning against our withholding forgiveness to those who have sinned against us and we learn that we are empowered by God to forgive as we have been forgiven.
  • God’s forgiveness flows through us in infinite quantity and quality.
  • We heard that a king decided it was time to clear up his business ledgers, so he called in his debts.  
  • A man who owed an amount of money that no person could ever pay back in a lifetime, was brought before the king.
  • It is estimated that a day labourer would need to work 60,000,000 days to pay off this amount of debt.
  • Knowing that he would never see this kind of money from the man, the king ordered him to be sold, along with his family and possessions. At least he would get something back. 
  • The man begged for the king’s mercy, asking him to be patient, foolishly promising the impossible – that he will pay the king back what he owes.  
  • We heard that the king was deeply moved with compassion and he did the unexpected.  
  • He forgave the entire debt.  He wiped the slate completely clean.  Not a penny left owing.
  • The king 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 hard to wrap your mind around!
  • Just imagine the weight that would have been taken off of this man’s shoulders now that this impossible burden was taken away from him!  
  • We might get a bit of a sense of this when we pay off our credit cards or student loans 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 some money that was a drop in the bucket compared to what he owed the king.
  • He seized him, started choking him, and demanded that he be paid what he is owed.
  • The indebted man fell down and pleaded for patience and more time - the very same way that the newly debt free man pleaded for patience and more time before the king.
  • But his response is far different than the king’s.
  • Although he had just been shown incredible grace and mercy from the king - he refused to reflect that and instead had the man who owed him a few hundred dollars put in prison. 
  • He responded in a way that completely ignored the generosity and grace that he had received from the king.
  • 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 sinful things we do each and every day that are against God’s will - 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 hear the Gospel, the Good News, 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. He has wiped the slate clean. There is nothing left owing.  
  • The price was paid as the Son of God poured out his blood on the cross in payment for our sin. 
  • 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 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 and we are strengthened to live as His forgiven people.
  • The heavy weight of the burden of your sin and death has been removed in Christ. 
  • You have been set free from it.
  • And because our debt to God has been paid in full, we can then forgive those who sin against us.     
  • As His disciples, we receive the flow of forgiveness that begins with God in Christ - and then, by the power of the Gospel, that same forgiveness flows out from us to others who need our mercy.
  • What a gift it is that in Christ’s forgiveness we can live without the resentment and anger that causes us and others harm.  
  • This isn’t easy and our experiences of anger and hurt might last even after we have forgiven someone.
  • But this should not lead us to doubt the fact of God’s unlimited forgiveness and we should recognize that these emotions and feelings cannot surpass the promises of God.
  • So dear friends, let go of the hurt, anger, and desire for retribution that you have against those who have sinned against you. 
  • Instead, live in the love, forgiveness, and peace that is ours in Christ for eternity.   
Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls—
And bid resentment cease;
Then, bound to all in love,
Our lives will spread Your peace. Amen.
(LSB # 843, v. 4)
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

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