Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35
(21) Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
(22) Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
(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.
(25) And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.
(26) So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'
(27) And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
(28) But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.'
(29) So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'
(30) He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
(31) When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
(32) Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
(33) And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'
(34) And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
(35) So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Pardon the very long passage this morning, but you can't very well discuss a parable without quoting the parable. Here Jesus is giving a parable as an illustration of a shocking truth He just told Peter. The Jews believed that 3 was the number of times one had to forgive. Peter was trying to impress Jesus by going double plus one. As you can see, Jesus was not impressed. The manuscripts read either (70 x 7) or (77). Either way, the idea is that you don't count it.

What impressed me this morning was the explanation I read of the two debtors' sums. In today's terms, the first man owed roughly $6 Billion. Yes, that's billion with a b. The other owed a fair amount around $15,000, which is significant. However, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $6 Billion.

This is quite a metaphor for us, isn't it? We owe God an incalculable debt. I think the number "ten thousand talents" was meant as a round number to indicate "an unpayable debt," kind of like how Wilt Chamberlain described his exploits with "ten thousand women." The point of this parable is to look into our hearts. If God could forgive us so great a debt, who are we not to forgive any wrong done to us? No matter what someone does it cannot compare to the debt that we owed to God.

As you prepare for Christmas and consider the Incarnation, ponder this parable. Think about what it means to be forgiven. That's what Jesus came to earth to do. It all started one night with a virgin giving birth to a boy.

3 comments:

Joshua Allen said...

A very timely post that speaks to something that's been weighing on my heart a lot lately. Both in terms of my not being heartfelt in forgiveness, and in terms of experiencing what "prison" can mean. One could even relate the story of Jonah to this passage; in the sense that Jonah wasn't heartfelt in his desire to deliver the good news of forgiveness to the king of Nineveh, and found himself imprisoned in the belly of a fish.

It's amazing how scripture can speak so directly and convict a heart. And when a pastor has a good batting average at delivering such passages of scripture, I'm grateful.

Jason said...

Joshua,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I'm glad that this post touched you. I have to tell you that I am not a pastor though. I think that good passages like this are just a natural result of me reading the Gospel of Matthew. It's amazing how much meat is in the gospels.

Joshua Allen said...

Oh, right, I remember now. I guess it's just that you often sound like a pastor :-)