October 01, 2017

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Genesis 50:15-21

Epistle Lesson; Romans 14:5-9

Sermon Text; Matthew 18:21-35

The text we will look at for today is taken from Matthew, chapter 18, verses 21-35. Before we read this, I want to let you know there are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, known as the “gospels”. They are all the history of the life of Christ. Matthew is the only Gospel writer who writes the account I am about to read. Interestingly, Matthew was a tax collector, prior to becoming a disciple. If anybody understood what it means to be in debt, and what happens if you can't pay your debts, and had probably seen lots of people go through trying circumstances, when they couldn't pay their debt, it was Matthew. Let's hear this account, that Matthew tells us happened in the life of Christ.

Then Peter came up and asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? As many as seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you as many as seventy-seven times. For this reason the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle them, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Because the man was not able to pay the debt, his master ordered that he be sold, along with his wife, children, and all that he owned to repay the debt Then the servant fell down on his knees in front of him, saying, 'Master, be patient with me, and I will pay you everything!' The master of that servant had pity on him, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began choking him, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' “So his fellow servant fell down and begged him, saying, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!' But he refused. Instead he went off and threw the man into prison until he could pay back what he owed. “When his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were very distressed. They went and reported to their master everything that had taken place. “Then his master called him in and said to him,'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt when you begged me to. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had mercy on you?' His master was angry and handed him over to the jailer until he could pay back everything he owed. “This is what my Heavenly Father will also do to you unless each one of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


The church is a place of forgiveness. The church is all about forgiveness. Forgiveness can be a very, very difficult, challenging thing. I want you to imagine this big, black, blob on my tablet of paper. Imagine that blot is something that somebody did to you in the past. It could have been 20 years ago, or it could have been sometime this week. It was something that really, really injured you very, very seriously. And, it is something that is very, very difficult for you to forgive. It is very difficult for you to get it off of your mind.

Generally, the things that are the most difficult for us to forgive are the injuries that are inflicted on us by the people who are the closest to us. They are somebody we think, “They should have known better. They should have loved me more. Certainly, why in the world would somebody who is so close to me, like my spouse, or my children, or my best friend, why in the world would they ever have done that to me?”

They can be things that are extremely, extremely excruciatingly hurtful.

-I am sure, that some of you have had children that have broken the Fourth Commandment and dishonored you in ways that are so hurtful, and painful, and it weighs on your heart.

-When we go to The Fifth Commandment, it says “You shall not kill”, which means you should do no bodily harm to our neighbor. Some of you have had loved ones who have been physically abusive to you, and you are thinking, “How in the world could they do that to me?” That is very painful.

-I am sure some of you who go to The Sixth Commandment, “You should not commit adultery”, have had loved ones who have sexually sinned against you, and broken your trust in some deep, deep way. That is very, very painful.

-I am sure there are some of you who have had someone very close to you break The Seventh Commandment, “You shall not steal”, and undermine you. It could be family members, or somebody very close to you, who has undermined you financially, and maybe ruined you financially. That is very painful, and hurtful.

-The Eight Commandment, “You should not bear false witness against your neighbor.” I am sure there are some of you who have loved ones who use their mouths in ways that run you down, hurt you, harm you, and emotionally beat you up. It is very difficult, very difficult for us to go through that.

So, Peter asked a really important question to our Savior. The question was,

“Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother,

when he sins against me?

As many as seven times?”

“Lord, how many times, how many times, when my brother sins against me, should I forgive him? Should I forgive him up to seven times?”

Peter thought he was being generous. There was a rabbinical teaching in Jesus' day that if you forgive somebody once, twice, and three times, that is enough. So, Peter asked, “Should we forgive them up to seven times?”

Jesus says, “Not seven times, but I tell you as many as...”

The Greek word here is a little hard to translate. It is either “77 times”, or “70 times 7 times”. Jesus is talking about limitless forgiveness.

Then, in order for us to understand how in the world we could ever begin to forgive someone for the very hurtful and painful things they do to us, Jesus tells the parable of what is known as The Unmerciful Servant, or The Unforgiving Servant.

He changes the people in the situation. Before looking at how someone has sinned against me, Jesus wants me to look at how I have sinned against the Lord, and his willingness to forgive.

How would that go? The Bible tells us the Lord ponders the heart. Have you ever seen somebody ponder something, where they hold it, and look at it? Well, the Lord ponders my heart. He ponders your heart. He looks, peers, and pierces into our hearts. He knows what we have done against Him.

Jesus said it is like a king who had servants. He was going to settle accounts with his servants, so he calls one of his servants in. It is a servant who owes 10,000 talents. 10,000 talents? What is that worth? The measure of that is 600,000 days' wages. 600,000 days' wages. It would take about 1,700 years to work and pay off that bill. In other words, this is an impossible bill to pay. This man simply could not possibly pay the bill he owed the king.

That is the bill Jesus wants us to look at, as God ponders our heart. He ponders all of our thoughts. I am glad nobody can see my thoughts, but the Lord ponders, pierces, and He sees all of our thoughts. I am glad you can't see what happens off in my heart or in private, here, there, or wherever. But, the Lord does. He ponders. He sees it all, your heart, and everything that happens.

This man, who had sinned against this king, and owed this great debt to the king, by every right should have been sold, and put into prison. The king even said, “You ought to be thrown into prison”.

We should, too. We should be thrown into the prison of Hell for all eternity. That is just the cold, hard fact.

But the Bible tells us that Jesus said, “he fell down on his knees”. He begged. The man begged the king, “Be merciful to me. Have mercy on me, until I can pay back that debt.”

Well, the king was merciful, more than merciful. In fact, the king just forgave the debt. He just forgave it. He said, “You don't owe it, anymore.”

That is what God has done for us, in Christ. Jesus has died on the cross to pay for all of our sin. The Bible is filled with nothing but mercy toward repentant sinners, to those who come to God, and say, “Lord, forgive me”.

The Bible's pictures for forgiveness are so amazing.

-The Bible says forgiveness is like blotting out our sins, so they are covered up.

-The Bible says forgiveness is like having our sins washed away in the blood of Christ, gone and washed away.

-The Bible says forgiveness is like being clothed with the righteousness of Christ, covered up with Christ's holy life. God doesn't see them, anymore.

-The Bible says forgiveness is like our sins being cast away, thrown away, removed.

-The Bible says forgiveness is like our sins being buried into the depths of the sea, never to be brought up again, They are gone. God doesn't see them, anymore.

-The Bible says forgiveness is our sins being removed as far as the east is from the west. That is infinity. God simply removes our sins from us, for Christ's sake. God has done that for the greatest sinner you can imagine.

I am so happy, because as you go through scripture, time and time again, these massive sinners are forgiven all of their debt. It is just gone.

-I think of a guy like Maneth, in The Old Testament. This guy was a bad, bad bad man. He was a king. He should have been a good ruler for God's people. But Maneth set up idols for God's people to worship. He even sacrificed his own sons. He burned up his own child to an idol god. He caused blood to run deep in the city of Jerusalem. This man was a bad man. But then, he was brought to his knees in repentance, and he pleaded with the Lord to forgive him.

Do you know what He did? He forgave him, immediately. They were gone, and he was forgiven. Sins removed.

-Think about David. “A man after God's own heart”, the Bible says. He was king of Israel in a trusted position. He took a man's one and only wife. He violated her, and then he had that man killed, so he could cover up his sin. He came to God, and begged God for forgiveness.

And, what did the Lord do? Complete, immediate, full, total removal of his guilt in God's eyes.

-Think of a man like Peter, who had denied Jesus, his Savior. As Jesus was going to the cross to pay for Peter's sins, Peter said, “I don't know Him.” Later, he went out, and wept bitterly tears of repentance.

He was fully, completely forgiven.

That is the Jesus we have. That is the God we have. He removes our sins. They are gone, and He doesn't see them, anymore. They have been removed as far as the east is from the west. They have been sent away.

Then Jesus said, “Alright, now let's look at you. Now you see how the Lord has dealt with your sins against Him, so what if somebody does hurt you? They sin against you. What do you do?”

Well, Jesus went on with the parable and said the servant who had his great debt forgiven, that massive debt, goes out, and finds another servant, a fellow servant. That servant owed him a denarii. That is one day's wages. What is that? One hundred dollars? One hundred and fifty dollars?

Jesus wants us to see the debt anybody owes you, compared to what we owed God is small. No matter what anybody does to me, it is nothing compared to what I have done to God. God has freely, completely, immediately forgiven all of my sins, no matter what they are. He daily and richly forgives me, and all believers all of our sins.

So, what if somebody sins against me? What if they do it once, twice, three times, seven times, ten times? It is nothing compared to the sins we have committed.

Jesus said that man, the fellow servant who owed a denarii, a day's wages, one hundred dollars said, “I can't pay you”. He fell down on his knees, and begged the man, “Give me a chance. I will pay you back.”

But, the man who had been forgiven that huge debt was unwilling. He was unwilling to forget the debt, and he had that man thrown into prison. He had his whole family thrown into prison.

It is Jesus telling us, in our heart, “Don't hold a grudge. Don't tell somebody 'I don't forgive you. I am still mad at you. I am going to get even with you. I don't understand how in the world you could do something like that to me. I am going to make sure you pay for this for years, and years to come.'”

Jesus is saying, “That is not the heart of a Christian.”

The heart of a Christian is the heart that says, “I have been forgiven this massive debt by my Savior.” And the heart of a Christian says, “I have been freed. I have been freed from all of my debt, and now I am free to free other people, and be merciful to them for the debt they owe me. I want to treat others the way Christ has treated me.” That is why Jesus teaches us to pray,

“Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

A forgiving heart is a sign of a Christian. I am going to say it, again.

A forgiving heart

is the sign of a Christian.

It is the sign that I understand what it means to be forgiven this massive debt. And, I am so thankful to the Lord Jesus that He daily, and richly forgives me all of my sins! What a merciful Savior I have. He doesn't withhold forgiveness from me, even though I don't deserve to be forgiven. He never withholds it from me. And so, I don't want to withhold it from my brother, or sister, who has sinned against me.

I am going to read something from a pastor who wrote about pastoral counseling. Let me preface this by saying something about Martin Luther (since this is October, 500 years after Martin Luther started the Lutheran Reformation). There were a lot of things that changed in the church, because of the Lutheran Reformation. Luther was brought up, as a young man in a church where he was forced to go to Confession, sometimes maybe even on a daily basis. He had to go to a priest and confess every sin he could possibly think of that he had committed.

Do you know there was one thing that Luther, personally, didn't want to give up? Do you know what it was? He wanted to be able to go to somebody, and confess his sins to them. He had a pastor by the name of John Bugenhagen. Martin Luther, if you watched the movie, Luther, you know he was not a perfect man. He would go to his pastor's office, and he would privately confess to his pastor, the sins he had committed, because it was so comforting for him to hear his pastor announce to him,

“I forgive you in the stead,

and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ,

I forgive you of all of your sins,

in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

It is so comforting to know God forgives me. So, I want to read something about pastoral counseling. This is a pastor who is a very prominent, church man (Rev. Matthew Harrison). He talks about people coming to his office, because of issues they are going through. He said, “During my first years in the parish, I began to comprehend the importance of private confession, and absolution. Like every other pastor, I worked with those experiencing trouble in their marriage, broken families, individuals caught in unspeakable sins, and numerous other challenging situations. I was struggling to provide the needed care, until I overheard an older pastor say that once he began using private confession and absolution, in his pastoral care of married couples, the number of repeat visits diminished markedly. Having the conflict and the sin named, confessed, and forgiven was extremely salutary in distressed lives. It helped the pastor to apply appropriate portions of God's Word as advice and salve in that situation. From that moment on I began learning how to be a carer of souls. Many of us never clearly speak forgiveness in our families, or in our congregations. When I began using private confession and absolution for almost every personal family, or marital difficulty for my parishioners, when they came to ask for my assistance, what blessings I saw unfold. Like every pastor, after a decade in the perish, I had heard it all. Yet, I bear absolutely no burden, because Christ bore everyone's burden on the cross. All is forgiven. Moreover, hearing those saints confess and receive absolution gave me courage to name and confess my own sins. Luther wrote, 'Since private absolution originates in The Office of the Keys, it should not be despised, but greatly and highly esteemed in the Christian Church.'”

So whether you come and confess your sins to a pastor, and he announces to you the forgiveness of sins, or you confess them to your own spouse, or to your own mom and dad, “I am sorry”, then the fellow Christian speaks to you, “You are forgiven. You are forgiven!”

That is the most healing. It has healed our relationship with God, which is the most healing thing that can happen in a relationship.

So, thank God our sins are freely forgiven. The church is a place of forgiveness, a place where we receive Christ's forgiveness, and we dispense His forgiveness.