22. Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus said to him, I say not to thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a certain king, who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him, who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he had nothing with which to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done. Then his lord, having called him, said to him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou didst beg me: Should you not also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the torturers, till he should pay all that was due to him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:21-35 RWEBSTR)
1. I'll tell you the outcome of today's Gospel text right at the start of my sermon today. Peter asks his Lord what to do if his brother sins against him: is it enough to forgive seven times? The Lord answers him, “Not seven times, no, seventy times seven times.” With this answer our Lord tells Peter that we do not count how many times we have forgiven someone. Among Christians we shall always forgive each other and not avenge ourselves. God is our avenger. If we avenge ourselves we infringe on his majesty and might! We will hear more of this in today's sermon.
2. Notice what the Lord Christ says, “Heaven is like the king who took his servant to account.” This command to forgive one another their sins applies strictly to the spiritual world. It doesn't apply to the secular world as there are differences in persons and position, and one having power over another. If someone holds such a position of authority he shouldn't passively look on as evilness is acted out or let everyone just do what he likes to do. Evil needs to be punished and the people need to be admonished to live a peaceful life.
3. It's not right if a father just looks on as his children do evil in front of his eyes. He needs to punish and not to forgive. Also the master and the mistress of the house need to punish their servants if they do wrong, and the secular government needs to punish the evildoers and not forgive them. The world has this habit: the more that is overlooked, the worse and more evil the world becomes. If the father and mother won't punish their children --the hangman one day will.
4. So we see, this command of the Lord doesn't belong to the world, it's meant for the Kingdom of Heaven where there are no differences, and where all have one and the same Lord above them. This Kingdom has it's beginning here on earth and is called the Christian Church where God rules through his Word. In this church (if one doesn't have the task of punishing people for their evilness) one should always forgive one another and always be friendly and full of grace towards his neighbor, even though he might deserve to be punished. In today's Gospel passage the Lord Christ shows us how to deal mercifully with one another.
5. The first reason for us to be forgiving: the example of the Lord Christ's forgiveness of our sin, even though He would have all the reason to punish us with all kind of evil and bad luck. However, since He has dealt mercifully us and treats us with unmerited grace, we too shall deal as He did with our neighbor.
6. Pay attention to this parable! With it the Lord Christ shows us how to receive the mercy of God, and He shows us our true being and God's true being; and He let's us see what we actually deserve and how God deals with us.
7. With this parable the Lord Christ shows us how great our debt before God is. Ten thousand talents then would today perhaps be one billion dollars. What the Lord God tells us with a sum this large is that the servant could never have paid it back. It's the same with our sin: we will never be able to make up for it. While we were still in our mother's womb, we are already in sin -- inherited from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The older we become, the larger the amount of our sin becomes: besides the sin we have inherited, we add to it our own sin! The debt of our sin grows just as the debt of the servant became larger and larger. He wasn't able to pay for his debt, just as we are unable to pay for our sin.
8. What a strange judgment that was, though! The king has him sold and his wife and children. With this the Lord shows us that we are absolutely unable to pay for our own sin and have to suffer death because of our sin. The apostle Paul says that the payment for our sin is death. The Lord God warned Adam and Eve in Paradise, “The day you eat from the fruit of this particular tree, you surely shall die!” And so you see, the Lord had to pronounce such a hard judgment on us -- it's only because of our sin that we have to die. Where will we find salvation? We see our debt in front of our eyes. The Lord God demands payment for our sin, but we are unable to pay!
9. What a comforting parable this is! Open your ears to listen and open your heart to understanding so that you will understand how to escape the terrible judgment of the Lord God. The Lord tells us this parable so we see what the servant did about his debt. He sees his great debt and he also sees his inability to deal with this debt -- and he has the threat of punishment for his debt in front of his eyes. And so he falls down in front of his Lord, beseeches him saying, “have patience with me!” With this he asked his lord for mercy.
10. The Lord God wants us to do as this servant did if we want to be free from sin. Whoever doesn’t admit his debt, but denies it as the Pharisees who thought of themselves as being pious and just did, only makes matters worse. Once we have admitted it we have to act on our admission, because we are unable to pay. Look at the Pope and his underlings -- what deceivers they are! They tell the people that with good works and alms giving they can pay for their sin. However, one thing is for sure: the only way to redemption for your sin is to fall down on your knees in front of the Lord God and ask him or forgive your sin as the publican did in Luke18, 13: “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!”
11. “It's true,” you say, “the servant really wants to pay for his debt.” Nevertheless, no matter what he says, he is unable to pay for his debt. This is how we are, isn't it? We think the Lord God is not so merciful that he is willing to forgive our whole debt. We think his mercy is not as unlimited and overflowing as that. We think we have to pay at least for part of our debt. This is what the Lord God wanted to us show us with this passage. Isn't it strange: even though the servant asks for mercy, he wants to pay for his debt. Of course it's true that whoever asks for forgiveness of his sin must at least have set his mind on not committing this sin again. To ask the Lord for forgiveness of one's sin and at the same time willfully commit the sin again, means that one is mocking the Lord God.
12. Do you think it is asking too much of God to forgive your sin? Do you think God doesn't like it when you call out to Him? I tell you, the Lord God loves it if you ask for the forgiveness of your sin. He is really happy to forgive you your sin if you come to Him with a sincere heart. Listen to what the Son of God says, “The king felt sorry for his servant and so he let go of him and let go of the debt, too.” This way this king is gives us such a vivid picture of how God is; no one could give a better example than this.
13. We must never think of God as being a severe judge who doesn't pardon sinners -- that's absolutely the wrong idea of how God is, even though the Law of Moses gives us a different idea. The Law talks about hopeless sinners who don't care about being pardoned. However, the sinners who confess their sin are sorry about their sin and don't want God to be angry with them. They feel sorry about their sin and that they didn't follow God's commands. That's why they ask God to forgive them their sin --these are the ones who shall find mercy, as it is written. We have a merciful God with a fatherly heart. And because of his fatherly heart he feels sorry for us; our sorrow and misery touch His heart (as Hezekiah tells us in chapter 18:23). He doesn't want the sinner to die because of his sin; He wants the sinner to come back to Him and live. If He finds a heart in you that asks for His grace and feels truly sorry for the sin committed, and who doesn’t want to do it anymore -- He wants to forgive your debt, let go of it, and show you grace. Just as in our parable the king did to his servant.
14. How does God show His grace? This is displayed in other parts of the Gospel where we see the Lord Christ Jesus taking up our burden and paying for our sin with His life. Whoever has such trust in the Lord Christ wins His heart with it so that He won't punish him or her. The Lord Christ has a compassionate heart and He feels pity for us in our misery, therefore He offered Himself, through the seed of a woman to break the power of the devil.
15. This is true doctrine, and -praise be to God - it is preached from the pulpit of our churches: through our faith in Jesus Christ, that means through the mercy and grace of God we receive the forgiveness of our sins and eternal righteousness. We see it in this parable: the servant owes such a large sum of money, he has such a great debt, but out of mercy and grace and without asking for works the king forfeits repaymnet because the servant begs him to have mercy.
16. It is an erring, false, and blasphemous doctrine of the Catholic Church to tell the people who owe the same large debt that they have to pay for their sin with good works. On the other hand: that we only direct the people to the goodness and grace of God in Christ they call a heretical teaching.
However, if you study today's Gospel passage closely --don't you, too, come to the conclusion that we are right? That what is displayed in this parable: the goodness and grace of God? How does the servant get pardoned? By calling on the goodness and grace of God or by working for it by doing good works? To sum it all up: God wants to forgive us and let go of all of our debt. However, the Lord God wants us to deal with one another in the same way: to forgive one another's trespasses and be kind and merciful to our neighbor, and not immediately repay every single little trespass, etc . We Christians are people whose own sin has been forgiven by a merciful God and who in turn should also forgive our neighbors and live a life of charity.
17. Another important point the Lord God wants to show us with this parable is that we understand that He forgave us an immense debt, which we could never have paid back to Him. Knowing this, we shouldn't be troubled by these much smaller debts for trespasses which other people owe us. What are the hundred pennies they owe us compared to the billion of dollars we owe God? So again, let's not take too close account of other people's offenses against us, instead, let's focus on what God has done for us.
18. If you compare a penny with one hundred pieces of gold dollars it is not much, is it? And so you see: with this parable the Lord God shows us that we actually have no reason to complain about the evil others do to us. What is their debt compared to the debt we owe to the Lord God. Imagine this: God closes his eyes in order not to see your debt and lets you go; how then, can you be such hard, merciless, and unforgiving people? In God's Name - be forgiving! Put your sin onto a scale and put your neighbor's sin also onto a scale: and then do with it what your merciful Father in Heaven has done unto you. If you do the same, then you will be good Christians.
19. Another interesting fact in this parable is that the Lord calls all of us servants. His says, “The same servant went outside and found another fellow servant who owed him a hundred pennies.” These words of the Lord Christ should move towards compassion, too and help us to let go of the thought that you have to avenge yourself because we are all fellow servants and all have one and the same Lord above us. Let Him punish the offenders -- that's his responsibility and His right. He doesn't like it if you intrude, thinking He needs your help or advice. At another place in scripture the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine…!” It's God's responsibility to punish sin; to do so He not only uses our arch enemy, the devil, who can attack and damage our bodies -- He also uses father and mother, master and mistress, and the secular government. These all have the mandate, given to them by God, to punish the evildoers.
20. That's why, whether you are a child or a servant: if someone wrongs you -- don't be overcome by anger, don't avenge yourself but forgive the offender. Remember: he's your fellow servant; you hold no power over him. Think for yourself that you let the one do the punishment who's right is: God in Heaven; I leave the punishment to the proper authorities and if they don't duty there is a God in Heaven who won't leave it unpunished. The farmers, the peasants, the citizens should not avenge themselves but beware of vengeance. That's what the Lord seems to say here in our parable when He says that we all are fellow servants.
21. Let's look at another aspect: if you don't compare God's great mercy towards yourself with the comparatively small debt of your “fellow servant” toward you, and if you don't want to forgive his relatively small trespasses but hold on to them in an unforgiving, unchristian attitude: what do you expect to gain by this kind of behavior? You gain nothing, but that others see your great mercilessness. Other Christians will see this and feel sorry about this kind of behavior; they will come before the Lord and tell Him this. That means that the Holy Spirit will be saddened by this kind of behavior, because it hurt the other Christians to see you acting like this and so they complain to God because of your behavior. No one should think such complaining to God is worth nothing. Normally the Lord God would overlook your bad behavior toward your “fellow servants”, pretending He didn't know about it, but since you have brought the other Christians to their knees with your bad behavior, the Lord God will hurry and punish your bad behavior.
22. As intercession for others and the act of blessing others is not in vain so also cursing others and complaining about the evil doers is not in vain. The Lord God takes it serious if we curse others, however, He wants us to be kind and merciful towards our “fellow servants”. If we do this we will meet Christians who will be thankful for our grace and mercy, and pray to God in our behalf asking God that He return our friendliness and kindness toward others.
23. What miserable people these are who don't take into account God's blessing, or do they consider the value of other's blessing or cursing them. One can be hit by both blessing and curse: the pious will experience blessing and the evildoers will experience curse. The people will curse the wholesale dealer or farmer who doesn’t sell his grain - as the misers do - but waits until it gets more expensive. King Solomon says in Proverbs 11:21, “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.” The godless don't pay attention to either blessing or cursing, but the curse of others will catch up with them: just wait and see. We see in the parable what happens when the “fellow servants” curse you. Let's have a look!
24. The lord sends for the evil servant. Here we see, that when you don't show mercy toward your next, but rather avenge yourself and punish, then God won't look away. He will summon you. This will happen on Judgment Day. He will hand you over to the torturers until you have paid your debt.
25. Poor soul, looking at the outcome of it all, what did you gain from your wrath? God meant to have mercy on you and forgive all your debt if only you would have forgiven your neighbor, too; if only you would have been merciful to him also. However, if you are an unforgiving soul, the Lord God won't forgive you either, but will hold you accountable for your sin. What a deal! Because you won't forgive a debt a few pennies worth, you will loose the pardon of the Lord God which is worth far more than one can imagine. The Lord God would have liked to pardon you so that you wouldn't have to spend eternity under His wrath and judgment.
26. And so the Lord closes this lesson with the following words, “The same will happen to you if you don't honestly forgive your brother from the bottom of your heart. He calls us brothers, which means there shall not be unfriendliness and strife among us. However, we're sinful, weak beings and will always sin against one another.
27. How shall we deal with one another: like cats and dogs that scratch and bite each other? Would it not be much better to be forgiving, as God is forgiving, and instead of punishing my brother help him? God forgave me my huge debt, so why should I hold on to the small debt my brother owes me, which is just a few pennies worth anyway? If I weigh the debt God forgave against the debt my brother owes me, then I must truly thank God for forgiving me, and that He in his mercy and grace adopted me as His child, even though He could have rightfully judged me in his wrath.
28. This is the lesson, which our dear Lord Christ teaches to his beloved Christians today. He wants us keep our anger in reign and not be constantly mad at our neighbor, but rather be happy that the Lord God forgave us our debt.
29. Looking around we notice, though, how often Christians seem rather to be controlled by the devil; they are unforgiving, want to get even, are full of anger instead of following God's way of loving and forgiving one another. Don't forget, though: if you don't want to forgive, God won't forgive you either. If you want to get even, punish and avenge yourself, God will do the same to you. God's wrath and anger are eternal: don't mess with Him. Don't forget that He alone has the right to punish sin. If you leave the offender alone God will take of him.
30. Looking around, you see one sinner punishing the other sinner in his wrath. How can someone be so delighted by his own wrath? These people are so full of wrath and anger that they even can't pray the Lord's Prayer anymore. The reason for this is because while praying this prayer, they feel the Lord telling them that if they don't forgive others, He won't forgive them their sins. They don't want to pronounce such a judgment on themselves and therefore rather don't pray this prayer. Don't you also think that they show with such behavior that the devil has bound them already? What kind of a Christian is one if he even won't pray the Lord's Prayer anymore? He is disobedient twice! He not only is unwilling to forgive his brother but he's unwilling to pray the Lord's Prayer.
31. These same people also stay away from the Lord's Table. And why such behavior? Only because in their pitiful anger they won't receive the heavenly comfort of sitting at the Lord's Table. They would rather swelter in their own sins, and fall under the eternal judgment of God than forgive their brother.
32. If you should happen to have such a hardened heart, hardened by wrath and anger, go read the Gospel and ask God to forgive your unforgiving, wrathful, unchristian frame of mind. Forgive your brother, don't wait any longer, so that God's judgment will not overtake you, but rather that you also get to the place where your sin is forgiven by God, and that you receive eternal life through Christ, our Redeemer. Amen.