TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY - 11/16/14
TEXT: MATTHEW 18:21-35; PHIL. 1:3-11; MICAH 6:6-8
FORGIVEN BY CHRIST – FORGIVE FROM THE HEART
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some have termed Matthew 18 Jesus’ sermon on the congregation. In it Jesus calls for serious war against sin among those who follow Him. Immediately preceding our text He taught church discipline – confronting sin – binding unrepentant sin - to the point of excommunication. He then trumpets the truth that when sinners are sorry – when they are repentant - they are to be forgiven!

Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” How often shall I forgive my spouse – my child – my pastor – my fellow members – my college friend or acquaintance? As many as seven times? Jewish tradition taught forgiving up to three times for the same sin – if sorrow and restitution were viewed as sufficient. Seven is twice that plus one. Seven is also the number of perfection. When Peter suggested forgiving up to seven times – it was not an easy proposal - it was not a trivial idea.

However, Peter’s seven is quickly swallowed up! Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. He is not teaching Peter higher math – more complicated calculation. Rather He is teaching His church to forgive without counting! Seventy times seven means without limit! Then Jesus told a parable to help anchor this treasure of the forgiveness of sins.

TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY - 11/16/14
TEXT: MATTHEW 18:21-35; PHIL. 1:3-11; MICAH 6:6-8
FORGIVEN BY CHRIST – FORGIVE FROM THE HEART
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Some have termed Matthew 18 Jesus’ sermon on the congregation. In it Jesus calls for serious war against sin among those who follow Him. Immediately preceding our text He taught church discipline – confronting sin – binding unrepentant sin - to the point of excommunication. He then trumpets the truth that when sinners are sorry – when they are repentant - they are to be forgiven!


Peter came up and said to Jesus, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” How often shall I forgive my spouse – my child – my pastor – my fellow members – my college friend or acquaintance? As many as seven times? Jewish tradition taught forgiving up to three times for the same sin – if sorrow and restitution were viewed as sufficient. Seven is twice that plus one. Seven is also the number of perfection. When Peter suggested forgiving up to seven times – it was not an easy proposal - it was not a trivial idea.


However, Peter’s seven is quickly swallowed up! Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. He is not teaching Peter higher math – more complicated calculation. Rather He is teaching His church to forgive without counting! Seventy times seven means without limit! Then Jesus told a parable to help anchor this treasure of the forgiveness of sins.


When the king began to settle accounts…one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold. His debt was fantastically high – over 15,000 years of work. His debt was not payable by him. Jesus thereby taught that sin is not just something we do wrong. Rather sin is the whole man gone wrong with God. God is holy! We are not! Our debt to God is inescapable and it is entered on the ledger the moment we are conceived in our mother’s womb (Psalm 51:5). Our debt to God is so massive that the mortality rate of the human race is 100% (Gen 3:19; Rom. 5:12). Our debt to God is so deep that it buries us under the illusion that it is not so bad - that we can pay it off by trying harder here or by suffering sufficiently in an imagined place beyond the grave.


So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything. A deluded and dangerous perspective! As he bowed before the king He didn’t need more time. He needed grace! He would have done well to heed the prophet Micah’s warning. With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come …with burnt offerings…Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams…ten thousands of rivers of oil (oil poured on grain offerings)…Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression (like their heathen neighbors did in child sacrifice)? As seen here, pay-offs for sin in human thought go from the common (an offering) to the extravagant (thousands of rams) to the monstrously absurd (child sacrifice – the fruit of one’s body). Make no mistake all of these futile efforts have been attempted in human history. God’s answer, however, is different. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice (what is fair and honest), and to love kindness (to love steadfast love), and to walk humbly (dependent) with your God. Our problem is not a failure of knowing what to do (walking in perfect honesty and justice – with perfect love for God’s steadfast love – in total dependence on Him), but a failure of doing it.


This servant didn’t need more time, He needed pure grace! That’s what he received! Out of pity for him the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. Just like that! His massive, crushing, un-payable debt was gone! Consider the freedom, the joyful relief, he would have known as a gift of the king! What promise and purpose and love for others would surely follow such gracious release! Or not!

But when that 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.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.

It is a shocking reversal! This man refuses to give what he receives. Inhaling the fresh air of forgiven debt he exhales the poisoned air of vengeance – of getting even. In doing so he blocked out the infinite treasure he had been given. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

This is eternal punishment – not temporary! It is a picture of damnation! The profound pity of the master is replaced with his consuming anger! To stubbornly refuse to forgive is wicked! The servant’s hard-hearted treatment of his fellow servant was pure wickedness. He had ignored His master’s gracious generosity. Now – for him - there was hell to pay!

Dear Christians, Jesus here teaches us the defining gift of the church. It is the blessing of the forgiveness of sins! The servant who was eternally lost did not fear the king’s judgment for his sin. Therefore he did not see that the king’s extravagant forgiveness as his life! You see, God forms His church – His holy ones – through the forgiveness of sins for the sake of Jesus Christ. All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ Jesus – especially the promise that we are justified by grace for Christ’s sake through faith. Therefore our trust is not in our clay pot of a pastor, nor in the changeable behavior of Church members, but only in the promises of God in Christ. The wonder is that He freely forgives us everything – the whole mountain of our debt!

To then refuse to forgive others is one of the clearest evidences of an imaginary faith. Such a grudge-filled, intentionally vengeful heart is not receiving in faith God’s extravagant, forgiving love. The damning results of that omission last forever. So also my heavenly Father will do to everyone one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from the heart.

Jesus calls you to forgive the repentant sinner without hesitation and without condition – real people who really offend you. He doesn’t forgive you and then expect you to manufacture your own forgiveness for the guilty ones. Rather it is the Lord’s forgiveness which flows into and out of you toward your erring brother or sister. You are a conduit for God’s mercy. The default setting of that spigot is not the “off” position to be turned on only if someone acknowledges every sin (which is impossible) and grovels sufficiently. The spigot on this conduit is to be in the “on” position because you will be sinned against every day. Jesus is constantly working to help you see this. He who teaches you and prays with you every day – “Give us this day our daily bread also teaches you and prays with you Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

In this relationship, another’s sin against you is never greater than your sin against God. While we are masters at seeing fault in others – no one can discern all of their own faults – including you (Psalm 19:12). The biggest load of debt on our mind as we come for worship each week – that which overshadows and outweighs everything else - is to be our own sin – not that of someone else. Apart from the blood of Christ our debt to the Holy Trinity is enormous. When we imagine that someone else’s debt to us outweighs our debt to God – we actually idolize that person. Viewing our perceived hurt more weighty than our relationship with God makes an idol – a false god - of the one we refuse to forgive. That is a weighty problem!

Yet it is not the primary problem. Failure to fully forgive is a persistent, pestering problem. It is a problem that leaves us with hell to pay if we do not forgive our brother from the heart. But underneath that terrible problem lies the root problem – one of receiving God’s forgiveness. Beloved of God – recall what comes first – rejoice in what comes first – receive what keeps coming from Him who puts you first – sinner that you are – reluctant, imperfect forgiver that you are! The Greek word for forgiveness means to release – to cancel – to send away. The forgiveness Christ purchased for you and washed over you at the font is and does all of that! It releases you from all your debt. If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared (Psalm 130:3-4). The forgiveness Christ won for you and bestows upon you cancels all that stands against you. God made (you) alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col 2:13-14). The forgiveness Christ brings to you sends your sin away from you. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Ps 103:12).

Beloved, God’s forgiveness for you is boundless because your need for it is boundless. God does not first make the condition that you change your life to be forgiven. God does not pick and choose and forgive you grudgingly or sparingly! No! His forgiveness of you this moment is total forgiveness – cast into the depths of the sea forgiveness (Micah 7:19) – as far as the east is from the west forgiveness (Ps 103:12) – His blood cleanses you from all sin forgiveness (1 John 1:7) – joy among the angels in heaven forgiveness (Lk 15:10) – whether you live or whether you die you are the Lord’s forgiveness (Rom 14:8)! The opening at which forgiveness flows from your heart to others is the same size as the opening at which His forgiveness flows into your heart in faith. It is only as He continually creates in us new hearts that we forgive from the heart and give from the heart and love from the heart.

That is why He put His name on you in particular in your baptism. That is why He speaks His absolution into your ears in particular – in order to lodge in your heart. That is why He says to you in particular – take and drink this is my blood that is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

The servant who was eternally lost did not fear the king’s judgment. The one speaking this parable to Peter did fear that judgment. In a Garden called Gethsemane His bloody sweat and His agonized cries were for the cup of God’s wrath to be taken from Him. The Holy Son of God understood perfectly the mountain of human debt that He was baptized into by John in the Jordan – the mountain of your debt and mine and what it merited before God.

Nevertheless, not as I will but as you will. It was the loving will of the Father that the Good Shepherd be struck down for sinful sheep. In the center of human history God settled accounts with us – His rebellious creatures. One was brought to Him covered with the sin of the world! The gracious wonder is that this One could pay! And pay He did – in full – with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He comes among you today with God’s spigot wide open – with forgiveness flowing as freely to you - as the blood and water flowed from His side on Calvary

It was impossible that death should keep its hold on Him. As fully as Peter’s seven times proposal was swallowed up by Jesus’ response – so the risen Christ comes now to swallow up any question you may have about your sins begin too great for Him to deal with. He who did pay it all gives to you forgiveness that is seventy times seven.

In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a