Jesus’ parable of forgiveness

Wednesday, April 17, 2013, Part 2

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

IDEA: We can forgive because we have received unlimited forgiveness.

PURPOSE: To help listeners hear this story again for the first time.

Peter and Jesus interact about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you “up to seven times” but up to seventy times seven.’ ”

What was Jesus saying in His answer, “seventy times seven”? What does He mean by that number?

What question must have been in Peter’s mind? (“How can anyone do that?”)

I. Jesus responded to Peter’s question with a story in Matthew 18:23-27:

“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.”1

Why is a story an effective way to teach Peter?

The listener must be drawn into a story and identify with the main character in the story.

When we “identify” with a character, we are saying that the character is “like me,” not necessarily “likeable.”

Why do stories work?

II. This servant owed his king an impossible debt.

How much is 10,000 talents? It’s like ten trillion zillion dollars.

The total tax to Rome from all of Samaria, Galilee, Decapolis, and Idumea amounted to five hundred talents. (Matthew was a former tax collector and knew these things.)

The talent was the highest denomination of currency in the Greco-Roman world. The Greek word translated “ten thousand” was the highest named numeral (it’s the word from which we get our English word myriad).

It would take a lifetime of work for an ordinary worker and his family to earn one talent.

How does the king respond?

He responds in justice. He will get almost nothing compared to what he is owed, but he will take what he can.

The servant pleads for mercy and asks for TIME to repay this impossible debt. Why is this a stupid request?

III. How does the king respond to the servant’s plea?

What is the ‘theology’ behind this story?

Sin is a staggering debt we owe. We don’t have any way to pay it.

The king is astonishingly gracious. This is the central focus of the first act in the parable.

The king bears the burden of the debt owed to him.

Who is that man groveling before the king?

When Peter first asked his question, he thought he was being merciful by forgiving someone seven times. Peter had placed himself in the role of the merciful king.

Jesus’ parable helped Peter identify with the character he couldn’t believe he could ever identify with—the servant.

Who are YOU in the story? Where are you?

1 The rest of the parable: “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 paid 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.”