April 19, 2015   Matthew 18:21 – 35    Forgiveness


     Peter comes to Jesus and asks Jesus how many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me?    Should I forgive up to 7 times?    As I mentioned last week Peter is not saying if I sin against someone else.  Actually 7 times is a pretty good number.  Have you ever had to forgive someone 7 times for something?   It is interesting to mention in this passage that neither Peter nor Jesus say if the person who wronged Peter asked for forgiveness.   Even in the parable that Jesus shares the guy that owed the king a lot of money did not ask for the debt to be removed but said he would pay it back.  Give me time he says and I will pay you back. 

     Brian Hill went to his wife to ask forgiveness and he told her before he confessed that Jesus told Peter to forgive 70 times 7 or 490.  His wife Beth laughed and said you are well over 500 times but I forgive you anyway.  In a close family I am sure that we forgive over and over again but generally Christians do not offend each other over and over again.   Anyone who sins against another 490 times is habitually sinning.  Some spouses get into that I suppose but when things get like that I suppose they are not asking for forgiveness. 

    Jesus shares a parable or a story to Peter to illustrate.   A story can often make something really clear and people have a difficult time with forgiveness.  So Jesus said a certain king decided to collect on some old debts and he sent out his messengers to collect.  One man that was brought to the king owed the king a lot of loot.   The man owes him 10,000 talents.  I want you to understand that a talent is a lot of money.  One source had a talent at 66 pounds and another had it at 75 pounds.  So a talent is not a like a silver dollar.   A talent is more like 2 bags of cement.    It is a lot of money.   A talent is not a coin that you put in your pocket.   It is not $10,000 that the man owes the king.  The debt, the amount of money he owes is huge so some of the translators say it is several million dollars.   So the amount owed is like several million dollars for you and me.  If it was a billionaire then the debt would be several trillion dollars.   So let’s say it is several million dollars and the man only makes $ 40,000 a year.  In other words it is impossible for him to pay the king back.    It is out of the question that the king will ever be paid back.  

     So the man is brought before the king and he knows that he is in deep doo doo.  He is in one bad spot.  What is he going to tell his wife?   He does not want his kids and his wife to suffer for what he has done.  You can kind of read into this that he has wasted a ton of money, gambled it away or invested it in something risky because he can’t pay the king back.  The money is gone.  He falls on his knees before the king.   He begs and promises to pay the king back.  So he promises the king he will pay him back which he really can’t do but he pleads for his family.  

    It is remarkable what happens.   The king lets him go but he does something that the debtor did not even ask.  The king had mercy on him and forgave him everything that he owed.   The debt is wiped clean.  It is amazing absolutely amazing that the king would do that.  I remember a few years ago that a limo had a flat tire in New Jersey and this man stopped in pouring rain and changed the tire asking nothing in return.   The people in the limo got his name and the man who changed the flat tire got a notice in the mail that his mortgage had been paid off from the person in the limo.  It is just not what you would expect.   In this parable the money comes out of the king’s treasury.    The king says I will eat it.   I will take this on the chin.  I will forgive it.   I will not hold it against you anymore.   The person no longer has any responsibility to pay any of it back.  The debtor is set free.   

    That is what happens with forgiveness folks.   Jesus sets us free.  There is forgiveness.  God says I will not hold your sin against you anymore but we must receive it.   We must ask for it.     The other person is set free.  The person forgiving says I surrender my desire to punish you.  I set you free.   You no longer owe me anything.  I no longer desire to punish you.  I take it on the chin and I eat it.     The year of Jubilee was to set everybody free.  God likes it when the debts are removed and paid in full.  When you owe something you have bondage.   You have a responsibility to pay.    You are not totally free to do with your money whatever you want to spend it on.  Someone else has a claim on your money and your life.  Proverbs says the borrower is servant to the lender.  There is an obligation.  The king set this man free.   Who does the king remind you of?  

    The man who owed the king is like us.   We have a debt that we cannot pay and it is called sin.  It is called pride and we have sinned against a great king our creator God.   No amount of money can pay the debt.   You were not redeemed by corruptible things such as silver and gold so money cannot redeem us.  The cost was huge to pay for our sin.  We see others offences differently than our own.   We see our offences differently than God sees them.  We tend to minimize our sin and maximize others that sin against us.  We cannot pay for our sins – money does not cut it.  Some folks think if I go to church on Sunday and throw a few bucks in the platethinking that makes it all good.  It does not work like that because God is holy and 1 sin makes us worthy of judgment, punishment and hell.   The pain was great on the cross.   God the father also suffered.  God himself took sin.  Sin was put on Jesus.   Jesus who was sinless carried sin and then Jesus dies.   What is a life worth?   It is worth more than money.  No one can really pay for their salvation.  You cannot pay God back but we do owe Him our lives.   God made us and Jesus redeemed us.  We were bought back from slavery because we were slaves to sin.  We can serve and we can be thankful and we can bring before God a broken, humble heart that is so precious to God. 

     The parable goes on.  The unforgiving and unmerciful man leaves the Kings presence and goes out and finds someone who owes him $20.00 not 20 million dollars but 20 bucks.  Then he grabs him by the throat and demands that the pay him back the 20 dollars.   His fellow servant fell on his knees and begged him to be patient with him and that he would pay him back.  But the man refused him and went off and had him thrown into jail until he could pay off the 20.00.  Other servants saw how he acted to the man who owed him a few dollars and they went and told the master about it.   The master who had forgiven the servant called him back.  The master or king told him I forgave all your huge debt should you not have also forgiven your fellow servant?    The master was angry and turned him over to the jailer until he should pay back all he owed.  

    Several of the translators use the word jailer in this passage.  The King James uses the word tormentors.  The Strong’s Concordance for the Greek also uses the word tormentors or torturers.   It gives you the feeling of punishment and pain.  This is tough stuff folks.  The living bible says the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid the very last penny.  The New International says in anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all that he owed.  There is a price to pay if you do not forgive.  I mentioned last week that anger, hatred, and depression can come from unforgiveness.  There is the desire to punish the other person and every remembrance of them brings pain if we do not forgive them.    

   Then Jesus says so will my heavenly father treat the person who does not forgive from the heart.  I think that puts a lot of folks in trouble.   Who does the tormenting or where does the tormenting come from?   My heavenly father will treat you like the King or the jailer treated the unforgiving servant.   If there is a spiritual strong hold or demon activity it becomes impossible to remove the demon.   Why because God sent it to bring the person around to forgive.   You can try and cast the demon out or remove the demon influence in a person’s life but it will not move.   God sent it to the person because they will not forgive.   Do you remember Saul in the Old Testament?   God sent a tormenting spirit to him.  The point of it is of course to correct the person’s behavior.  God does not delight in punishment. 

    We are commanded to be a forgiving people.   Colossians 3:13 - Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.   Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Luke 11:4 - Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ "   Matthew 6:14-15 - For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.   - Mark 11:25 - And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."  If you do not forgive how can you accept forgiveness?   Is it possible to forgive yourself of sin if you do not forgive others?   Why do we have trouble receiving forgiveness?    

    Forgiveness is a better way to live than to carry unforgiveness.    I believe the King represents the heavenly father.  God has forgiven us the 20 million or the trillions of dollars.  God paid the price.  So whatever we have experienced from others is the 20.00 and our personal sin is the 20 million dollars.   Why should we forgive according to this parable?   We should forgive because we have been forgiven so much more.  God has forgiven a far greater debt than we have had put on us by others. 

    This is what I think Jesus is telling us and I will illustrate with a couple of stories.   Richard Wurmbrand was tortured for Jesus in a Romania communist cell for 14 years.   It was written of him that he did not have 1 square inch of his body that was not scarred for Jesus.   Think about that for awhile.  Every square inch of his body was scared from being whipped or beaten.  The cost or amount of debt that was done to him was $20.00 worth and his sin to God is 20 million worth.   We do not see our sin as God sees it.  God loves us so completely when we sin it hurts him deeply. 

  This story is rough and it comes from James Montgomery book I’m Gonna Let it Shine.  Clementine a beautiful young African girl at the age of 17 went to a church to escape Rwanda militia men.   Twenty men took her from the church out in a field and raped her and they dumped battery acid in her and in 3 months she found out she had aids.  She was consumed by bitterness and hatred as you would expect.  After 4 years she met a man who told her that she was being consumed by hatred and bitterness.  He told her about Jesus who could forgive her.   Why did she need forgiveness?  He told her that Jesus could give her the power to forgive those that had so brutally treated her.   Two years later he saw her living in total poverty but her face shined with the presence of Jesus.  She died at the age of 23.   Don’t you just want to know God who can help a person like that walk in victory?  

     Our God can help us in impossible situations.   God can give you joy when you walk with him.   It is neat to walk with God who has power to change lives.      It is hard for us to think of Clementine in terms of this passage.   I think her sin to God was greater and the cost to redeem her to God was greater than the awful stuff she experienced.  Her debt ot God was greater and her sin greater than what was done to her.    God paid more for her than then the paid that she experienced.   I will let you labor and think about the cost that God paid for your sin.  We cannot grasp the cost that Jesus paid for us on the cross.    Clementine went from prison to freedom.  She found meaning in life through forgiveness.  I am sure it was not easy but we can also.