Matthew 18:21-35


“Then came Peter to him, and said, LORD, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven time:  but, Until seventy times seven.  Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his 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 fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.  And his fellowservant 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 fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.  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:  shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” [if this is talents of silver or gold, it would be 10,000 x 120 = 1,200,000 lbs of either silver or gold, whichever precious metal is being used.  This is a very large sum of money.]


Matthew chapter 18, we’re picking up this week where we left off at verse 21.  Now we’ve been studying through the Gospel of Matthew verse by verse, it’s been a little over a year.  We took over 8 years to go through the New Testament, got back to Matthew and just decided rather than go into the Old, we’d just go through the New again.  We’re going through the Old Testament now on Wednesday nights.  But it’s been awhile, we just slowed down in Matthew.  And we hit chapter 18, we’re on our third study [in chapter 18], and I’ve titled this series, these studies in this chapter True Greatness.  And the reason why goes back to the beginning of chapter 18, verse 1 where the disciples pose this question, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”.  And Jesus then goes on to illustrate and to depict to them what true greatness is all about.  Of course, greatness in the eyes of God isn’t necessarily greatness in man’s eyes, what I would humanly speaking consider greatness.  In God’s eyes it’s different.  And so he’s illustrated and he’s demonstrated what true greatness is.  It begins as he says, true greatness begins with a sincere humility.  It’s followed by a sincere and simple faith, but especially as we got into the last study, just before in the last two studies, it includes a heart of compassion and a heart of love.  Where there is real love abounding, the love of God abounding in a heart, you’ve got somebody whose pretty mighty in the eyes of God.  And as he shared, when you have that love, the heart of true greatness, the love of God in your heart, you’re somebody who cares about people, you care about those who would be considered the little ones, the insignificant ones in the eyes of the world.  They’re a priority to you, as he shared, their protection is important to you.  They just have a big part of your ear, even the little ones.  But then too, any relationship, when I love, if I’m truly great in the sense of what he says is greatness, if I love, relationships, the relationships that God has given to me are important to me---relationships within my family, relationships within the church, community work, I see these relationships, and they’re important to me.  And therefore, because I have love in my heart, as Jesus shared two weeks ago, last study, when there is a strain, when there’s something going awry in a relationship I have with somebody else, I don’t just ignore that, I don’t just let it roll…Because I love, I am moved, I love this person, and I’m even moved to want to do something about it.  And we noted last study, Jesus even said if I’m offended, if somebody has come against me and done something to me, as the offended, if necessary I’ll even go to the offender, and I will seek to win back my brother, I will seek to bring the relationship back to where it was before, because I love.  And I want harmony, and I want unity, I want closeness with the people whom God has brought into my life.  It’s important to me.  Well, continuing then with this thought of relationship is where we pick up now in verse 21 in this heart of greatness, this life of greatness.  And Jesus now speaks that such a heart is also a forgiving heart.  It’s a heart where I’m gracious and I’m merciful, and I forgive anybody of anything.  And that’s also because it’s the heart of God.  God’s a forgiving God.  And his heart and his love is that way.  So, let’s say a word of prayer, because you know, the cool thing about going through the Word of God, two weeks ago we talked about this issue of reconciliation and going to your brother.  And the cool thing is, it was two weeks ago, and I’ve heard multiple accounts and stories of people who actually were here on that morning, and in the last two weeks have gone to people in their lives, and have gone to seek to reconcile, to win back a brother or a sister.  And that’s the great thing about the Word of God.  It effects our lives.  It’s his Word.  You know, it’s not just in hearing, hearing’s important.  But man, it’s about doing.  And I think that’s beautiful, we go through this, and who knows what the Lord may say to your life, and what may result in your life as a result.  Let’s say a word of prayer together, and we’ll pick up with verse 21 of chapter 18.  ‘Lord, thank you for this opportunity to go through these Scriptures.  Thank you for your message to us.  This is a love-letter that you’ve written to your people, that you’ve written to mankind.  And you care so much about us, and you remind us in the text we’re looking at today.  But you remind us too that you want what’s best for us.  You want us to live great lives, to make our lives count, and to live meaningful lives.  And so, as you’ve been reminding us, that includes a lot about our relationships with other people, and how we are, and how we address things in those relationships.  And so I thank you Lord.  Help us to hear you Lord…in Jesus name, amen.’


Matthew 18, Part 3:  Forgiveness


Chapter 18, verses 21-35, “Then Peter came to him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?  And Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.  Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.  The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.  But that servant went out and found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  So his fellow-servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.  So when his fellow-servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.  Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow-servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.  So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.’”  Now, hearing Jesus sharing and illuminating this heart of greatness, hearing Jesus even mention how, you know, the heart is one to go to your brother, to seek to reconcile with your brother, a brother or sister whose done something against you. 


No limits on forgiveness


Well I’m sure hearing that, Peter then comes to Jesus, verse 21, and he says ‘Lord, now how many times should I forgive my brother?  He does something to me multiple times, how often should I forgive him?  Seven times, Lord?’  Now, it’s true, I’m sure, Peter’s thinking he’s being pretty gracious.  For starters, the Jewish leaders, even in the Talmud the rabbis taught that you only needed to forgive somebody three times.  After three times, three strikes you’re out, you’re done, you’re finished.  If they do something a fourth time, no need to forgive ‘em.  The three strikes rule, you know.  Something that we I guess have in our culture to a degree today.  [Jewish businessmen in the Jewish community will give a business loan to one of their own who is trying to get into business, but if they fail in business three times, getting three loans and not making good, they are shunned from the Jewish business world from being able to get any loans or financial assistance from then on.  I never knew where they got that practice until now---it’s an application of what’s in their Talmud.] So Peter’s thinking, ‘I’m being gracious, seven times, that’s over two times as much.’  But you know the truth is, three times, seven times, really isn’t a whole lot of difference.  I mean, sometimes it might feel that way, depending on what somebody’s doing to me.  The fourth time, fifth time, sixth time and seventh time can seem pretty significant.  But three or seven, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between the two, not that much.  It would be nice, it is human, we like to set limits on forgiveness.  We like to put a specific number of times, some of us have people in our lives that, boy, you know, we’d like to set that limit, and maybe we have.  I think of some of you who have folks in your lives that struggle with addictions, and here you are.  And maybe you’ve passed seven a long time ago, you know, when it comes to deception and manipulation or taking advantage of you, being selfish.  I mean, seven you hit that a long time ago.  You’re thinking, ‘I’m up to twenty now, twenty-seven!  And I’m thinking right now, twenty-seven, that’s a lot of times.  I mean, here we go again, we’ve been in this season so many times.’  And maybe it isn’t a person of addiction [i.e. an addicted marital mate], maybe it’s just another person that’s in your life that’s very selfish, very brutal or perhaps as it happens more often in our church setting, it’s a dogmatic, judgmental person, thinking they’re always right about everything, and they’re the big cheese on all spiritual, prophetic and world events, and ‘bow down to me everybody, I want to run this whole church because I’m so intelligent and got it all together spiritually’---and you’re thinking, you know, ‘I’m setting a limit on how many times I’m gonna forgive that person.’  And maybe you’re done with this person, and it’s human to set a limit on forgiveness, to limit the number of times you’re gonna forgive this person.  But also maybe to limit the magnitude of the offense.  Maybe it isn’t the number of times, but a lot of us, it’s the offense.  There’s a certain point where you can do something against me, alright, but if you go beyond that level…Some of you are maybe here, and there are things that have been done to you, that if you were to share the story this morning, if you were to get up here and share what had happened to you, I mean, our hearts would grieve for you.  The pain that you’ve endured, the experience that you had, the things that somebody has done to you, or multiple people, and the magnitude of that.  So, maybe you sit here, and you’re going, ‘That’s just too high, it’s beyond the limit.  And so I haven’t forgiven, and I don’t need to forgive, that’s just beyond, that’s too hurtful, that’s too painful.’  And maybe if you were to share it, I’d go, man, that’s intense.  But, as you see from the text, and what you want and what I want is what God says, because he wants what’s best for us in our lives.  When he says to set a limit on forgiveness, that’s the wrong attitude.  That’s the wrong attitude, and that’s not good, to any way want to limit it, whether it’s the number of times, I’ve bourn with somebody, or whether it’s the magnitude of the offense.  To want to do that is not what God desires, and the truth is, it’s not greatness, and also the truth is it’s even sin to want to limit it, as you see in the text.  To go further, Jesus explains further to Peter, he says this is what greatness is, he says greatness is to forgive.  And when he says, obviously as you see there it’s to forgive, and it’s to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive, and to forgive---it’s to keep on forgiving, to not have any limit in any way.  Doesn’t matter the number of times, doesn’t matter how intense, how awful, the magnitude does not matter.  Jesus says to Peter, he says, “not up to seven times, Peter, but I say to you seventy times seven.”  Now, do the math, seventy times seven is 490 times.  Maybe some of you are thinking, passed that already with Joe, we passed that a long time ago, we did that last week.  You know, some of you, maybe you parents, ‘The toddler I have, we passed that a long time ago.’  [Try parents and teenagers.]  He uses when he says that, he uses a Greek idiom that it’s a little ambiguous to us today 1900 years later.  So for that translation some translations may say 77, you may have 77, or 70 times 7.  The point really isn’t the number, clearly in what he’s saying.  The point in what he’s saying to Peter, ‘You say 7, 490…’  The point is to not limit it, to not stop, to continue to go on, to forgive and to forgive and to forgive, because as we see in the Scriptures the love of God has no limits.  In Ephesians chapter 3, Paul even describes love, he says that you as God’s people would begin to just be blown away by the height, depth and expanse of the love of God.  And the way he lays it out is, the point is it’s just infinite, the love of God.  And you and I never get to the end of the love of God.  I mean, I can trip up every single day since the day I was born [and we often do, if you’re being honest with yourselves], do all sorts of awful things.  I mean I have, I can think back not too long ago, I had a day that was just a bad day.  [Now don’t kid yourselves, this is no excuse as a license to sin.  I know this pastor personally, and he is steadily growing in the sanctification process, growing more and more sinless.  But as humans we will never in this life be without sin.  We must put what the pastor is saying in proper perspective.]  And I grieve when I think about it, ‘Oh man, you know.’  I thank God that God’s love just keeps on going, it’s an infinite love, and there’s no limit to it.  I don’t get to the end, and go ‘Oh no!  Oh man, too far this time.’  But there’s no limit.  That’s Agape’ love.  You know, 1st Corinthians 13:4-8, describing the love of God, in the NIV it says this in verse 5, “Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”  And so therefore if it keeps no records of wrongs, there’s no counting, you know.  [Comment:  Can you see, or even begin to see what Jesus and  God the Father, are trying to do with us in this growth/sanctification process, well beyond the do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments?  God is trying to develop his holy character within each and every one of us.  Matthew 18:1-35 is a boilerplate for God’s true character of love, which this whole three-sermon series has so clearly expounded for us.  These hurtful life-experiences we’re placed into are designed to help us develop the loving character of Jesus Christ and God the Father.]  There’s no counting, so no number, you know what I mean.  You can’t say 490, because you’re keeping track of it if you know you’re up to 489.  Forgiveness just keeps no record.  I just keep bearing with you.  Love bears, suffers long, I forgive, and I forgive, and I forgive.  It’s human to want to set a limit, but it’s greatness, it’s the love of God to not limit forgiveness.  The Roman playwright, Plotus, who lived about 200 years before Christ, he said this, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”  Somebody else put it this way.  It is manlike to punish, but Godlike to forgive.  And that’s what he’s saying.  ‘If you guys want to know greatness, whose the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’  Then he talks about the heart, and he says it’s a heart that forgives---that’s divine, that’s god-like, that’s true greatness.  You know, in our society it’s depicted that way certainly through Hollywood, you know Hollywood would say that to be gracious and merciful is to be weak.  You know, you watch the programs that come out of Hollywood, what is seen as strong is to be hard, to be vengeful, you know, ‘I’ve got the battery on my shoulder, come on, I dare you, knock it off, I dare you!’  And if they hit the battery they’re in trouble.  That’s Hollywood, that is what we’re told is strength.  And Jesus is saying to the disciples and to you and I, that is weakness.  What’s truly great is to be gracious, to be merciful and to forgive.  That’s when you’re strong.  An American sociologist Francis Stewart Chapin said, “Never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it foregoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.”  So, today, where are you at in your life?  Is there that area of real weakness that you’ve got this thing of unforgiveness towards this somebody?  And maybe you’re listening, and your emotions are being stirred, and you don’t like mornings like this.  ‘I don’t like you going there, Steve’, because you’ve got this thing, you know, and you don’t even want to think about it, because of what happened to you and the way you were treated and what was done to you.  And you’ve just put a limit on it, and said ‘No, I just keep that down in my heart, I am not going to forgive that person, no way, they hurt me too much, and so here I am.’  And here we are in the Word of God.  Maybe it’s unforgiveness towards an “Ex” that you have, maybe it’s towards a sibling.  Maybe it’s toward a parent, maybe it’s toward another family member or a friend or maybe it’s even toward a church leader, things that have happened that have been pretty painful in your life.  But Jesus is saying, ‘Understand that if you are sitting there and that is in your heart, that’s weakness.’  He wants so much more for your life. 


It’s Sin Not to Forgive


He wants your life to be so much greater.  It might be human, but as weakness, as you’ll see and as we continue going on, it’s also disobedience to God.  It’s sin to not forgive.  If I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, it is sin for me not to forgive.  And then you’re thinking, ‘Well that’s easy to say, Steve, heard the Bible study before, yeah, easy, but you just don’t know what I’ve been through, you just don’t know.  You put on my moccasins and give the Bible study, Steve.’  And I’m sure there are things that people have gone through that, man, I can’t even touch it with a hundred-mile stick, because in my life I’ve not been through that kind of pain.  And that’s certainly possible and I’m sure it’s true.  But God says to you, God says to you, ‘No limit on forgiveness, man.  I want to give you the best life, the full life, I want your life to count.’  You know, there’s a story I was listening to recently, a concert pianist at our headquarters church. This gal leads worship there or has in the time past, and this is a little bit of an intense story.  But this gal went through a time, where she was in a parking lot of a mall and as guy actually grabbed her, beat her up, raped her, and slit her throat.  As a result, she was on life-support and she almost died.  But God chose to spare her life, so she pulled through.  They caught the guy, arrested the guy.  Now they go to court, and this is the story.  This was actually in the newspaper.  It was in the Orange County Register, as of course it was news in the area of Orange County.  In court she asked, she chose, told the judge, I don’t want to press charges, but I’d like to talk to the man.  Well, at some point, her and this man met and she talked to him, and then she shared Christ with him and led him to Christ.  The story continues though, because today that man attends church with her.  Now I listen to that, and you may be sitting there with pain in your life, but that gal went through a painful experience.  There are plenty of people that would say that there is a limit to what you forgive, that is beyond the limit.  Now I tell you, that lady’s living a great life today, because she’s experienced Christ in a very special way, she sits in church with this man who actually did that to her.  And that man’s going to make it into the kingdom of heaven.  And because of the way she treated him, he’s going into the kingdom of heaven, and she can be in the kingdom of heaven and see his face there and see the grace of God towards him.  You know, I know there are folks that I’m sure statistically are just sitting here that have got a deep thing in their lives, and they’re  wondering.  You know, the love of God, listen to the love of God, we have to put it in perspective with God, and not look at it horizontally but look at it vertically with God.  And that’s what Jesus does here.  I could go on with story after story, I mean, I’ve heard them, I’ve heard the stories of parents where a drunk driver kills one of their children, and I’ve heard the stories where the parents are wrestling through that, and here’s this drunk driver that took the life of their children, child, but then deciding rather than just to go brutally after that person, to forgive them.  I’ve heard of stories where they’ve gone into prison and shared Christ with the man, led him to Christ.  Later he gets out of jail, and now he’s like a son to that family.  But you talk to the people that did the forgiving, they’re not, they won’t tell you ‘Oh, we’ve done a terrible thing in forgiving.’  They’ll tell you about the joy and the work of God in their life. 


Forgiving is a choice we have to make---Then God empowers us


You know there’s the story of Corrie ten Boom, and I’ve shared it many times.  Somebody was making the point between services that we have to choose, it’s a thing of the mind, it’s a thing of the will, and sometimes our heart isn’t there.  There’s something about obedience, when God’s speaks to me, that when I do what God says, that he works in the heart, and often the heart follows.  There’s the story of Corrie ten Boom and I’ve shared it, where she was at various concentration camps, living in concentration camps there during World War II, and she witnessed her sister brutally treated by prison guards, eventually her sister dies.  Years later, speaking in Germany, this wonderful Christian woman speaking, and after the speaking engagement here comes this man walking up.  She looks at the man, it’s years later, but she recognizes his face, and he’s one of the prison guards, one of the brutal prison guards.  She’s got this deal going on as he’s walking up, and he comes to her and he extends his hand, and here’s this whole battle that she’s going through internally.  She tells the story in one of her books, where she reached out and grabbed his hand.  She choose to grab his hand.  And she says, “The minute I did…I mean when I saw him coming I felt all that stuff, but when I grabbed his hand, she said it was like the love of God just flooded my heart, my mind and my soul, and suddenly this incredible compassion came through me towards this man.”  And I believe that’s what Jesus is saying, to all of us [and not many of us can lay claim to what Corrie ten Boom has been through in those camps].  So maybe you’re here, and you’ve got these things, and God is speaking to you, and wants to do a mighty work in your life and through your life.  You know, to love is to forgive.  And my willingness to forgive, that’s a good way to measure the love of God in me.  Am I willing, do I set a limit in any way?  Or do I just want to forgive people because of what God has done in my life. 


Jesus gives a story to drive the point home about forgiveness


Verses 23-27, “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.  The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”  Well, Jesus then goes on, because this is something we wrestle with.  And we can try to work it out, set all kinds of boundaries, but he says ‘Here’s the deal, here’s the story to kind of drive the point home.  There is a man, a king, had a kingdom.  One day he decides to settle accounts, maybe he needs to pay off taxes or something, pay off some kind of thing.  And he brings a notorious guy before him, a servant, who owes him so much.  The amount that he owes is tremendous.  He owes 10,000 talents.  And he says to this man, ‘It’s time to settle up, you’re going to do it, you’re going to pay off your debt.’  Now, as many of you have studied the story before, and as you can clearly see, the king is a picture of God.  The king in the story represents God.  In fact, the one who is telling the story, it represents him, Jesus, the one telling it, it’s him.  He’s the king.  This servant that now is brought to account, that owes so much, is you or I, it’s anybody in this room, it’s all of us.  So, here’s a good reason to forgive.  This man owes a ton.  Now, he owes 10,000 talents.  People try to convert that.  If I read a commentary that’s twenty years old it’ll tell you it’s worth $100,000,000.  And then you read it today, and it’s another figure.  I can’t give you a dollar figure because it changes.  [A talent is a weight equal to one of two amounts, either 120 or 180 lbs.  If it’s talent of gold it will be 10,000 x say 120 lbs = 1,200,000 lbs times the price of a pound of gold.  Thus as gold fluctuates on the market, so would the dollar figure.  If it’s a talent of silver being used, it’s 1.2 million lbs of silver, plain and simple.]  But the point is, the point that he’s making is this.  And that is that he uses the talent because the talent is the highest known currency of the day.  And 10,000 is the highest Greek numeral.  So the point is, he’s using the biggest of the biggest to make a point.  In our culture today, it would be like saying, we use the number trillions because we have a trillion dollar debt in our country so we use it pretty frequently.  But it would be like saying ‘I owe trillions and trillions of dollars.’  Now I don’t know about you.  On my bank account and my pay, if I owe trillions of dollars, I’d be in trouble.  I mean, if I owed it, if I actually got the bill in the mail going ‘You owe a hundred trillion dollars’, I’d be like ‘Ouch!  What am I going to do?  I owe a hundred trillion dollars.’  That’s the point.  This man, it’s like he owes a hundred trillion dollars, he owes so much.  And it’s impossible then for him to pay it.  It’s impossible for him to reconcile it.  So then Jesus is describing, king, servant, God, me.  I owe a debt, I owe a debt to God, and it’s my sin, I’ve committed sin, I’ve sinned before a perfect and holy God.  There’s such an expanse between God and I then.  I’m unholy, I’ve committed sin, he’s perfect.  He’s a consuming fire.  So there, my debt to him, it’s infinite, it’s so enormous.  It’s immense.  And it’s also something that I cannot pay.  You know there are a lot of people today that deceive themselves, they think that, ‘Well I know I’ve done some bad, but I do a lot of good.  And God knows I do a lot of good, and it makes a difference to God, so therefore I’m alright.’  They’re deceiving themselves because they don’t know what God says and the nature of God---that my sin, I can do nothing about my sin.  I cannot erase it, I cannot do enough good.  If today I left this place, and I moved into a slum in India and decided to just live for these orphans in these slums, and I just gave up all I had and lived every moment to love the sick in India, and I died doing that---but I didn’t reconcile the way God has me reconcile my sin with him, if I tried to do it myself, I couldn’t do it.  I’d come up empty.  It’s a debt I cannot pay.  You’re more apt to pay off a debt of a hundred trillion dollars in your life than ever getting to a point where you can erase your sin by your own good works.  So Jesus says ‘Here’s the deal, here’s the enormity of what you owed God, indebted to him, here is the enormity of your inability to pay.  And then as he goes on, he shows us the heart of God, because the servant then falling before God, he says ‘Oh master, oh master, be patient with me, give me enough time and I’ll pay.’  Now, he’s asking for something he can’t do.  I mean, somebody a few years ago did actually calculate 10,000.  10,000 talents if you convert it to the average day wage of the time, it would work out to you would have to work about 150,000 years.  And that’s a long time, you know.  [laughter]  I mean, you’re thinking 65 years is a long time, wait till you get to 150,000.  That’s a long time.  And the point is, he can’t do it.  But he’s asking, ‘Just give me time and I’ll pay the debt.’  Dude, you can’t do it.  But then we see the master, the master responds, and he responds with compassion.  Maybe you’re here today, and you don’t know joy, you don’t have peace in your life, you don’t have hope in your life.  The truth is, if you would just grab hold of what Christ says here.  Every one of us should leave this place with joy, and be in awe of God.  Because as a sinner, I couldn’t do anything about it.  Here I am, I owe the debt.  There’s the penalty, the wages of sin is death, I can’t undo that.  But then he looked at me with compassion.  He was so moved with compassion and love for me, and he proved it by demonstrating his love for me, he sent his very son, and he came and he died on a cross to pay the penalty for my sin so that I could be forgiven.  Imagine if you owed a hundred trillion dollars, you got in this really bad car accident, man, all these people got hurt, and all the attorneys showed up, and now you’ve got this big lawsuit, hundreds of trillions of dollars is the settlement.  And then you stand in court, and the judge goes, ‘You’re forgiven.’  Imagine how you’d feel.  Imagine.  Maybe you’ve been in those places.  I pray with people at times, ‘Pray with me, I’ve gotta go to court’, and then the judge is gracious.  And the joy.  You and I, man, we understand what God has done for us, the joy should just be there, because I should not doubt the love of God for a moment.  I should not even for a moment, I may think I’m doing bad and questioning God and questioning life, but its just my mind.  The reality is, this is the love of God towards me.  God’s Word just declares that God demonstrated his love for us in this, that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  You know, Jesus is focusing on the enormity of the forgiveness, because he’s making a comparison.  But if he was to show the whole story, I mean, what he would do is, he would show the king saying to the servant you’re forgiven, and then the king going to jail to pay the debt.  Because that’s really what God did.  God is still just, but he’s also incredibly loving.  He’s not like a pushover and just forgot about sin.  No he went and paid the penalty himself, because he is just, and the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (cf. Romans 6:23).  You know, today I hope you’re here, and you know the forgiveness of sin that God gives.  I hope and pray that you know God personally in your life.  It is the greatest thing, it is the most important thing.  If you don’t know it, you can know it today.  You can put your faith in Jesus Christ.  Ask God to forgive you of your sin and give you eternal life, and you will know his forgiveness, and you will know his life.  And it is what you’re all about, what you’re made for is to know God and to walk with God.  But understand, you’re good works won’t do it, salvation is through faith by grace, it is not of works, lest any man boast.  It is simply putting our faith in God and accepting the gift of forgiveness.  [Then after that, God places his Holy Spirit within you, as a new believer, and he then through this indwelling Holy Spirit proceeds to write his laws into your heart and mind.]  I guess this guy could have said, ‘Oh no, I don’t want it, man.’  That would be pretty foolish, but there are people that do that, that don’t want it.  Well, we see the enormity, the immense size of the debt, we see the inability to pay it, then we see the incredible love and compassion of God.  And so, the point is, look at the enormity of the forgiveness of sin you have received, Christian, look at the expanse of it, what it means.  There’s that song that when I grew up in vacation Bible school or whatever it is, I member this song, singing it in church: ‘He paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away.  And now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace, Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.’  And I wish that you guys would have jumped in, but you didn’t [loud laughter, applause] I didn’t know I was going to do a solo, man, thought you were going to be with me.  But he paid a debt, I had a debt I could not pay.  He paid a debt he didn’t owe.  I needed someone, man.  Christ Jesus came and paid my debt.  And that’s the deal.  Amazing Grace…[tape switchover, some text lost]…that God would forgive him of his sin, that is the limitless, the limitlessness of the love of God. 


“So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses”


Verses 28-35, “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid his hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  So his fellow-servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.  So when his fellow-servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.  Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.  Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow-servant, just as I had pity on you?’  And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.  So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”  Well this servant goes out, finds a fellow-servant who owes him a hundred denarii, the comparison is very small is the point.  It’s one sixth-hundred thousandth of what he owed to the king, one sixth hundredth thousandths.  So he finds somebody who owed him a very little, comparatively.  But he lays his hands on him, the Greek literally has it, ‘He chokes him.’  And in Roman law, when you were dragging somebody off to court, you could treat him in an undignified way, that was allowed.  So he grabs him by the throat, and says, ‘You pay me what you owe me!’  So the servant fell down at his feet and begged him saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’  Do you notice anything there about what this servant asks the other servant?  Very interesting, because if you go back from verse 29 to verse 26, it’s the same prayer, it’s the same plea.  That’s the point.  He asks the king, ‘Have patience with me, I’ll pay you all.’  And now somebody else is saying the same thing to him.  Yet this guy can actually pay it off, a hundred denarii, a denarii being a day’s wage, in three months he could actually pay off the debt, it’s possible for this guy to actually do it.  Jesus is showing here the comparativeness of, you know, you have people who have done wrong to you, and maybe they are things that are really brutal, but truly God is showing you, he’s saying what God has forgiven you of, because he is holy, and what he’s giving you in that forgiveness the opportunity for eternal life and to be with him forever, what he is giving you, the way he is extending himself to you, no matter what somebody has done against you, even if it is great in your eyes, it is yet small compared to what God has already extended to you, the forgiveness, the forgiveness.  And so if you were to forgive this person, it would be much smaller in comparison, much, much smaller than what Jesus has done for you.  Sometimes as people we say otherwise.  That’s because we’re not looking at God, we’ve lost sight of God, and our sin, and what it means before God.  Well he has the same plea, the second servant has the same plea.  And yet this man, it says he wouldn’t forgive him, but he threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.  Well as you see in verse 31, the other servants, they’re like, ‘I can’t believe this!  I can’t believe this!  That he treated him that way.’  So they go back to the king, and they’re saying, ‘King, we were there, we saw you, this man owed you a hundred trillion dollars, and you said, ‘Forgiven, go, I’m not going to put you in prison.’  But he left, and he found this guy who hardly owed him anything, and he treated him brutally, and he’s thrown him in jail!’  Of course, Jesus is showing the absurdity of not forgiving, that absurdity of not forgiving.  That’s the point, it’s absurd.  Well the master hears, calls for this man, and he says ‘You wicked servant!’  And notice the wickedness here is not because he owed the hundred trillion dollars before, the wickedness is because he won’t forgive.  ‘I forgave you all, you begged me and I forgave you.  Shouldn’t you also have the same compassion on your fellow-servant, and just have the same pity?  I was that way to you, and you won’t be that way to him?’  Well his master is angry, delivers him to the torturers, not just to prison, but to the torturers until he should pay all that he was due.  And the fact is, he’s not going to ever be able to pay it.  The point is as well, the king was really angry.  But Jesus says this, here’s the point as he’s sharing with his people.  “So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” 


To not forgive is to put yourself into a psychological torture chamber


You know, I look at the picture, this man now being thrown to the torturers.  He was released, he was forgiven of this huge debt and was released before.  But now because he will not forgive, he is in the torture chamber in prison.  And I tell you there’s a picture there, because to not forgive is a prison.  To not forgive is the worst life.  I say that so often, but it’s true, to not forgive is the worst life.  If you are sitting here, and you honestly can look in your heart and say “I know I have not forgiven that person of that” or “those people of that.”  You are hurting your own life.  You are torturing yourself.  It’s like you’re locked up in jail right now, and you don’t have to be.  You can be released by forgiving that person.  You can experience grace and healing.  It is the worst life.  You know, I thought it was interesting last week, I don’t know if Chuck Allers shared it at this service, but he shared about his family and his two sisters.  I think it was this service too.  His two sisters I think haven’t talked since the 1970s I think he said.  It’s something like that, twenty-five years.  They went to town, got angry at each other years ago.  For that reason his family has not been under the same roof in years and years, decades.  And he made the point, he said “If I was to ask one sister today ‘Why are you so angry at her’, she probably doesn’t ever remember why.  And if I was to ask the other, she probably doesn’t remember why.”  But look at the pain, look at the pain, there’s bitterness.  And a bitter life is an ugly life, it’s a life of poison.  If you’re bitter, you’ve got like this volcano in you, that’s just raw and eating you, and other people are being affected by it.  I was watching on Friday night the TV, Channel 2 [PBS station], maybe you saw this program, I like nature kind of things.  There was this thing on a volcano in Africa.  It’s very interesting.  It’s a large volcano next to a large lake.  And this volcano is rumbling, and there’s lava inside, and they’re concerned.  It blew up a number of years ago and people got killed.  But they’re really concerned that it’s going to really let go.  And there are two million people living around the base of this volcano.  And before, when it blew, a lot of people died.  But they’re worried it’s going to be a lot more.  It was interesting, they talk about it’s not just the lava that’s the concern, but it’s the gases that come out of it.  And there’s these fissures that run underneath the ground, and they’re running underneath this city and out into the fields, and these fissures are channeling these gases up through the ground.  One of the gases is carbon dioxide, which when it is in the form it is in, is deadly.  So these French scientists are trying to determine when this thing is going to go.  And as they’re there, don’t you know, a couple kids die while they’re there in the field.  And all these people gather because these young children just died.  And they have a name in African for what happens in those areas, and they know they’re to stay away from them.  But he shows them, the reason why they died is the fissure underground, it’s letting out this carbon dioxide gas.  And so what he did is he took a flare, and he lit the flare, all these people are gathered around, he took this flare and he tossed it into the field.  And the smoke from the flare rose up, but then when it went to settle it didn’t settle on the ground, but settled like on a table, you just watched it, it just settled, perfectly flat three or four feet off the ground.  And he showed them, below this smoke is carbon dioxide, that’s why the smoke won’t settle.  And this stuff is deadly, and you can’t even see it.  They shared in the video that a volcano in Africa a number of years ago had this similar kind of thing going on, these fissures actually went under a small lake that was nearby, and carbon dioxide gas was going into this lake.  And when it mixed with the water, it made the water heavier, so it stays at the bottom of the lake, a very deep lake.  Well there was a rockslide one day on this lake, and when it happened it created this chain reaction and suddenly this carbon dioxide gas came out of this lake, created this cloud, and it went over a community of people.  And just like that [in a snap of the fingers] everybody died, every animal, every bit of life died.  Well when the people came, the scientists, they were like ‘What happened here?’  Everything just suddenly died.  And they determined how it happened, it was this carbon dioxide gas that came out of the lake.  Well they’re concerned, there’s a bigger lake next to this volcano, and it’s just filled with that gas, and they’re just concerned that a lot of people are at risk.  My point in saying that is this, bitterness is a volcano in your heart.  It really is.  And once in a while you know it, because once in a while you just blow, you know what I mean.  And there’s just lava coming flying out of you, and people get hurt.  But even at other times, maybe there isn’t the lava, but man there’s stuff, poison working out of you.  And it’s also even defiling other people, the Scripture says.  That’s what bitterness does, it defiles.  Somebody in the family can defile others.  Bitter people in the church can defile people in the church, worst life you could live.  And Jesus even says that he holds people accountable that are bitter.  He says ‘My heavenly Father, if you will not forgive, he’s going to do the same to you.’   He’s going to do the same to you, he’s going to deal with you, as it says there in verse 35,  “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”  You know, you look at that, and you may wonder, if I don’t forgive, here I am as a Christian, does that mean I’m not going to enter into the kingdom of heaven?  And that’s not really the point he’s making.  The point he’s making is, man, to be forgiven by God and to experience that.  So confess your fault and Jesus will hear and cleanse.  And if you’re here and you have bitterness, there is an area of your life where you’re not experiencing that cleansing and that healing and that forgiveness.  And the reason why is you’ve actually got this bitterness, and that’s sin, and you’re not willing to turn and make it right, so you’re not being forgiven.  It’s a broken and contrite heart that God will forgive.  Johnson said “A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows the true value of time and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.”  I ain’t wasting my life away.  Herbert said, “He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass, if he would ever reach the kingdom of heaven, for everyone has need to be forgiven.”  Well, pretty simple teaching.  We don’t just want to be hearers, we want to be doers…let’s close in prayer…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Matthew 18:21-35, given somewhere in New England.]


Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”  Let’s analyze this Psalm by what we have learned in this sermon.  Believers are they who love God’s Law.  We see in this Psalm God gives believers the power to forgive, once they make the choice to forgive, so that they never end up in a state of being “permanently offended.”