Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Peter goes to Jesus with the question in verse 21. The rabbis taught to forgive offenders three times. Peter probably thought he was doing well by asking if he should forgive 7 times. That would seem generous, yet Jesus said to forgive 70 x 7. That’s 490 times. I can almost see Jesus marking on a ledger; we would lose track somewhere. That’s what Jesus was trying to get across–forgive wrong no matter how many times. Have you heard this? You don’t know what they did to me. Or I’ll forgive but not forget. What they mean is I’ll forgive until I remember it again. It would be nice if we could forget like God does, but we don’t have that capacity. That’s what he did for us–forgave and forgot. Sometimes it’s good to remember where we would be without the Lord. Jesus made the matter clear with this parable. If we could get the full significance of this, we could eliminate hurt feelings in the church.
Ten thousand talents was a weight of coin. It was different in different areas and countries. It could have ranged upwards of $37 million by our standards today. The man was unable to pay. Who could pay this amount? It was commanded that he and his family be sold to make the payment. That was a common practice in that day. He begged for mercy. The king forgave the debt. Here’s why he’s called the unmerciful servant. A man owed him 100 pence, about $20. He had just been forgiven of a huge debt. When this man couldn’t repay him, he asked for patience. This unmerciful man denied the request and had him put in prison. The king’s servants knew of this whole matter and got upset. They went to the king and told him. The unmerciful servant was called before the king. He said O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? He was angry with the man and had him delivered to the tormentors until he paid the debt owed to the king. This would have involved physical labor and torture. The parable ends with a warning. Don’t take it lightly. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. This is a pretty stern warming. How do we expect our heavenly Father to forgive us if we don’t forgive others. He says he will not. Don’t try to read too much into this parable. People sometimes over-interpret. For instance, I believe this is where Catholics come up with purgatory. They use verse 34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. They say a person goes to purgatory to pay the sin debt and then they go to heaven. Not so. The way you leave this world is the way you’ll stand before God. If you leave lost in sin, you’ll meet the Lord lost in sin. But if you’ve been washed in the blood, you’ll meet the Lord as a saved person, forgiven of sin. There is no place to get right with God after you leave this world.
The Lord forgave us a debt impossible to pay. Yet he did it. This puts us under obligation to forgive others. When you find you cannot forgive someone else, think back to the day the Lord forgave you. What is forgiveness? It means to dismiss or send away. God dismissed our sins sending them as far as the east is from the west. That cannot be measured. They’re gone! Buried in the depths of the sea. Isaiah says they’ve been blotted out. I see clouds and then they disappear. I can’t tell you where they go. I know my sins are taken care of; they’re gone because of what Jesus did on the cross. The only one who can forgive is the one who’s been transgressed against. In Eden man chose sin and transgressing a righteous and holy God. He shed the blood of an animal to cover their nakedness. Later he gave his own son’s life to forgive our sin. We know the devil is the accuser of the brethren. When he goes to the Lord to accuse us, there is no record. He doesn’t remember our sin. The blood washed it away.
We’re under obligation to forgive others. Joseph is the best human example of this. He wronged no one. He stood by God when a lot of us wouldn’t have. He got away from sin, even running from Potipher’s wife when she tried to seduce him. If going by a pool hall causes you to sin, don’t go by the pool hall. Don’t get close to sin. We’re all human and the lust of the flesh can lure us into sin. Joseph’s brothers sold him to slavery and years later he was second most powerful man in the world. His brothers were forced to come to Egypt for food. In Genesis 45 Joseph revealed to them who he was. They were afraid because of what they had done to him. He could have had them killed, but sometime in between being sold and when he met them again, he forgave them. Not forgiving others will make you miserable as well as those around you. People think they are hurting the other person by not forgiving them, but the only one getting hurt is the unforgiving person. Is there someone you have ill will against? Mark 11 reminds us that if we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us of our trespasses. When we don’t forgive, it’s a picture of pettiness. Jesus Christ looked ahead in time, saw our unworthiness but still died for our sin. He even looked on those who crucified him and forgave them.
Our debt is impossible to pay. Suppose I owed Wells Fargo one million dollars and couldn’t pay it. They send me notices and then a representative from the bank comes to my house. I begin to shake. I would know I was going to jail. In the middle of my excuses he interrupts me and says someone came and paid off my debt. Not only that he put one million dollars into my account. I’d accept that! Some believe that what we say about forgiveness and salvation is too good to be true–unbelief If I say to the bank “no sir” and not accept the payment of my debt, I have rejected it. That’s stupidity on my part. That’s what people do to God’s offer of salvation–reject it. I could say “fantastic” and tell Deb that we can go to Pigeon Forge and she can buy anything she wants. That’s acceptance. When people refuse to believe Jesus Christ can do what he says, that’s unbelief. Others reject the invitation to be saved; don’t take this wrong, but that’s stupidity not to accept such a free gift. Jesus paid the sin debt for you. Or we can accept it and have the debt of sin removed.
God is still presenting the same gospel, the good news from a far country. We have bad news after bad news these days. There is good news sent to us from a far land. I’m going there one day. It’s a better land. John 14 tells us that Jesus went to prepare a place for us and we can go there someday to be with him. I’m just a pilgrim passing through. My treasure is laid up in glory.
The invitation is two-fold. You’re carrying a sin debt; are you willing to accept the payment already made for it? God made an easy way. It’s not too good to be true. If you’re harboring ill will or have an unforgiving spirit, your invitation is to talk to the Lord about it. We battle this world. Our immediate reaction might be to get even, but that’s not God’s way. If Jesus can look down from the cross and forgive those who had beaten and scourged him, we can and should forgive too. We battle the same flesh. The devil tells us to get even, but we don’t have to. Trust the Lord and forgive.