The Forgiven Forgive (By Rev. Timothy Landskroener
September 13, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Timothy Landskroener
Immanuel (Augsburg) Lutheran Church
Pentecost 15A - Proper 19A
September 13, 2020
The Forgiven Forgive
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. . . . 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:23-24, 27 ESV)
In the name of Jesus, the only Savior of the world,
The kingdom of heaven is all about forgiveness. That’s why we do well to hear about forgiveness often – God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others. After all, our Lord Jesus has taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, . . . Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Yet, how often do we take time to contemplate those words? Do we really know what we are asking for? Do we really want God to forgive us in the same way or to the same extent that we forgive others? Likewise, did Peter know what he was asking when he said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Probably not.
But what about us? Do we really want God’s forgiveness in the same measure that we forgive others? Or would we rather hold a grudge and refuse to forgive? Would we ever say we will forgive, but not forget? Is this the sort of forgiveness you want from God? And what about the repeated sins against us? Do we forgive as often as we’re sinned against? Repent, beloved. Repent of your shallow, unforgiving heart. Repent of keeping score in these matters.
For Jesus tells us today about a man who had gotten himself into debt with his master to the tune of 10,000 talents. That’s about 50 to 60 million work days’ pay. This servant owed a debt he could never, ever repay. So his master ordered that he, along with his family, be sold into slavery to settle the debt. But even then, the debt would not be satisfied.
For that servant there was only one thing to do, and that was to beg. So he fell to his knees and did just that. And in his blathering he muttered, “Be patient with me and I will pay back everything.” Considering the size of the debt, that was a silly thing to say. Yet, that’s the way it is with sin and guilt. We think we can actually do something to fix it. But the master had pity and showed mercy. He ignored the foolish statement of his servant, canceled the debt, and set the servant free.
As it was with this debt laden servant, so it is with you. You owed a debt to God that you could not repay. Your sins earned the penalty of death and damnation forever. Did you hear that? Your sins earned the penalty of death and damnation forever. Don’t shrug that off as though it’s nothing. Don’t dare to think of your sin lightly. For you know how sin had to be atoned for: look to the cross and see how seriously God takes sin. There was no other way to pay for it except for Jesus, God in the flesh, to suffer and die for it. That is the mercy of God: He Himself paid the debt, just like the master in this parable. He paid it in full, He paid it in blood, He paid it on the cross. And you too are forgiven and free.
Let that sink in a bit. The entire debt of your sin has been forgiven. It has been totally removed. You are free.
So what does this servant do when he leaves the presence of his master with his debt forgiven, and free? He sees a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii. To be sure this is no small amount. It’s equal to a hundred days’ wages, a third of a year’s wages, a few thousand dollars at least. He grabs the man by the throat and demands that he pay back this debt. This debtor too begs for mercy, for patience, and promises he would pay it back. But instead of showing mercy, the servant throws him in debtors' prison until the money can be paid.
Well, this upset the other servants. When they reported it to the master he becomes angry. He calls the servant back in and says, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” Without waiting for an answer, he turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he had paid his original debt in full – that is, for the rest of his life, and then some. Thus endeth the parable. And Jesus remarks, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Yet it’s not easy is it? Especially when we consider that some trespasses aren’t so little. Could you forgive someone who just killed or injured a member of your family? How about someone who deceived you, stole from you, or defrauded you? Of course these are extreme examples, but there are many other sins that people commit against us that we may not be willing to forgive, or at least we don’t want to forget.
Maybe it was a word that hurt you, or offended you, or simply upset you. Maybe someone called you a name you didn’t like, or lied about you, soiling your reputation. Maybe someone hurt you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe it was a teasing or joking gesture that you didn’t like one bit. Whatever it was, did you forgive the person?
Repent, beloved. You are saved by God's grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone: your debt went far beyond what you imagine. It was an eternal debt. But Jesus died for your sins and rose for your salvation and that's the end of the story. Trust in Him and you too shall be saved. But what Jesus is saying in this parable is that saving faith cannot coexist with an unforgiving heart; faith cannot coexist with willful sin and an unforgiving spirit.
So Jesus is here sounding an alarm for us. He reminds us every time we pray the Lord's Prayer that those who have faith forgive as the Lord forgives. So if you’re holding some grudge, cherishing some wrong committed against you, dwelling on it and talking about it with whomever will listen, then listen to your Lord’s solemn alarm, WARNING: YOUR FAITH IS NOT HEALTHY. If you continue to feed this unforgiveness in your heart it will eventually eat up your faith. Your faith in Christ will be lost in a sea of hatred - crushed by a rock of unmovable unforgiveness.
So what do you do if you find this warning hitting home today? If you are convicted by our Lord's warning, beware, for your greatest temptation is just coming. Because now your greatest temptation will be to try harder to forgive. You will try to will yourself into forgiving the truly wicked things people have done to you. If you try to try harder to be a forgiving person you will fail. You will succumb to your hatred and unforgiveness even more because you will be thinking of it even more. You will begin to feel that old feeling of spite and you will try to say, "No, I should be forgiving! If I'm not then God won't forgive me!" And you will brood about how to forgive the wrong done you and only find yourself spending even more time each day wallowing in the thought of that wrong. And your faith will die all the quicker.
No, the only thing that will work, the only way to deal with the matter is to look to Jesus Christ who has forgiven every debt that can be incurred – in Him is the only way out, in Him alone is life. If you keep a debt close to your heart, turn your eyes away from it, away from yourself, away from your inability to forgive, and cast your eyes on Christ. On the cross He earned forgiveness for you and for your neighbor. Look to Him, focus on Him, hold on to Him, and in time your faith will grow. In time His Spirit will change your heart. First you will actually desire to forgive as you have been forgiven. Then, in time, perhaps more time that you have left on earth, but in time, you will actually forgive from your heart. Look to Him. If you feel frightened that you are not a forgiving enough person, then forget about yourself and look to Jesus. If you are afraid you have lost your faith and are damned, forget about your faith and cling to Christ. If your faith is weak, come where forgiveness and the power to forgive is given out, leave your burdens in the pew and come and eat His body given for the forgiveness of sins and drink His blood poured out for your salvation. The line starts right there. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Rev. Timothy J. Landskroener
Immanuel Lutheran Church of Augsburg
1297 E 900 Ave.
Shobonier, IL 62885
church: (618) 846-8383