Hey, guys! So, you know that speech I gave at school today? I decided to post it here for the blog fam to enjoy as well as the school fam. I hope you do enjoy it!
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35
Then 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?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 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.’ 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. 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. 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. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
In this parable, Jesus teaches that we cannot expect to receive forgiveness ourselves if we’re unwilling to give it. We’ve got a servant who owes a ton of money – ten thousand talents – to his master. For some historical context: One talent in itself was actually an enormous amount of money in Jesus’ day. King Herod, who ruled Judea during this time, had a revenue of nine hundred talents in his entire kingdom. So the servant in this parable owed his master more than ten times the worth of Herod’s kingdom. To say the least, this was a huge debt for the master to forgive. And although the servant only asks for more time to pay this debt, the master goes ahead and cancels the entire thing. That entire huge debt. (Source: Patton Shinall, Faithlife Sermons)
At first, the master is about to sell this servant and his family so he can pay all the debt. But, because the servant pleads with the master, the master decides not to go through with this plan. However, the servant then turns around and throws another servant in prison who owes a debt to him. How unfair is this? No wonder everyone else was upset – with righteous anger – and reported this to the master. When the master faces his servant again, he’s got some strong words. And this time he has no mercy.
I think we would all agree this parable is one of Jesus’ most intense. We’ve got quite a serious moment from Jesus here – a serious warning. This, in fact, goes hand-in-hand with everything else he taught about forgiveness during his ministry.
For example, there’s the beatitude in Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Then we have the Golden Rule in Luke 6:31, “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” With the Golden Rule, Jesus is making this point: The way we treat others shows how we want to be treated ourselves. So if we treat someone else unmercifully, like the servant in the parable, we are telling God that we want to be treated unmercifully as well. And God never forces anything on us. He will give us what we choose. If we choose not to receive mercy, he allows us to stick with that choice.
And we can’t put a limit on forgiveness. It’s either all or nothing. Peter’s question at the beginning of this Scripture passage has become pretty famous. “Teacher,” he says to Jesus, “I should forgive my brother up to seven times, right?” And Peter thought he was being really generous by saying, “I’ll forgive seven times before I call it quits.” During Jesus’ time, the religious leaders taught that three times was enough to forgive someone before stopping. So in Peter’s mind, seven times was extremely generous! But then Jesus is like, “Actually, no.” The correct number is seventy-seven. I’m using the English Standard Version here, but some translations say seventy times seven, which is 490. The point is that no one is going to keep track of all those times! Well, unless you kept a chart. But that’s a lot of work. So no one’s going to do that. (Source: Patton Shinall, Faithlife Sermons)
Another thing Jesus is saying with the unmerciful servant parable is something that may not immediately come to our minds when we think of this parable. While teaching in parables, Jesus knew that the world has a false view of him. The world doesn’t understand that God wants us to be happy. That realization is a major game-changer, really. When we are honest with ourselves, the main reason humans have such a hard time with forgiveness is because we think it will make us feel better to hold on to our resentment. We naturally want to be happy, and we think forgiveness will make us unhappy.
All God’s commandments, including those in the parables, are meant to make us happy. John 15 verse 11 says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
That’s why he chose to tell this parable of the unforgiving servant. His point was simply that a refusal to forgive will only bring suffering to us, while a forgiving heart will bring us indescribable joy. When the servant begged his master to have mercy on him, he received that mercy. But he did not pass it along, and as a result he suffered. The parable tells us that because he didn’t pass it along, he suffered in prison. With this part of the story, Jesus was using a brilliant analogy. He was teaching that a refusal to forgive is indeed imprisonment – imprisonment to ourselves. It’s like being chained to a wall, held captive by your own anger and grief and guilt. It’s the worst kind of unhappiness because we are the ones who have chosen it.
Think about the time the apostle Paul and his friend Silas were severely beaten and thrown into a literal prison. After they were beaten half-dead with rods, the jailer then forced their feet into another instrument of torture – the stocks. The disciples were left in a very painful position. But later, when this same jailer asks them what he can do to be saved, they readily share this information with him. Because of the mercy shown to him, he takes them out of jail into his own home and gives them a meal. Because of Paul and Silas’ forgiveness, they were brought out of their prison. On the contrary, a refusal to forgive keeps you locked inside your prison.
Let me tell the following true story about a prisoner and his wife. This man, whom we’ll call David, was in prison for murder and attempted murder. His wife, whom we’ll call Sarah, was heartbroken. But despite her heartbreak, she could not abandon David. She visited his jail cell each day, praying that he would repent.
Sarah’s loved ones told her that she was doing wrong by forgiving David. She deserved much better than him, they said, and she would be much happier without him. Still, Sarah kept visiting his cell. And one day she brought her husband a Bible. The first few weeks he refused to touch it, but she continued to pray for him. One day when she visited, she found him reading that Bible. Eventually he came to believe in Jesus and was baptized. Today, Sarah and David are missionaries in Europe and have two children together.
It turned out that Sarah’s friends were wrong. Abandoning her husband and refusing to forgive him would not have brought her more happiness. Because she forgave, she earned a missionary partner and best friend for life, and was given children with him. Not only that, but she was given the incredible honor of being God’s instrument to bring her husband to Christ. Sarah and David both say that their marriage, their missionary work, and their son and daughter have brought them more joy than they ever thought possible.
None of this would have happened if this wife had not forgiven her husband. Instead, cherishing bitterness toward him would have left her miserable. She would have been a prisoner to her anger as he was a prisoner behind bars. Sarah and David would never have known the extent of the forgiveness that God has for us.
Several months ago I read another incredible true story about a man named Namuri, who had once been a cannibal, but then became a Christian and devoted his life to ministry. He taught among the cannibals of the island of Tanna, in the mid-1800s. He continued speaking to the natives about Jesus, even after a pagan priest nearly succeeded in spearing him to death. One morning, Namuri knelt praying for the natives when this same priest sprang upon him once again and clubbed him unconscious. When he recovered a little, he attempted to make it home, and a friend ran to him and tried to nurse his wounds. However, Namuri was too severely injured to survive. He died praying for his murderer, as well as for the rest of the natives, in these exact words: “Lord Jesus, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing. Bring them to love and follow you.” (Source: The Autobiography of John G. Paton, pages 118-120).
Jesus himself spoke those very same words on the cross. He was dying – dying for our sins – and he prayed for those who were beating and mocking him and nailing him to the cross. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That prayer was also not only for the Roman soldiers, but it was very much for us as well. It’s for our sins that Jesus had to die, and still he forgave us. He asks that we do that for others who have wronged us.
I have one more story for you guys this morning, before we close. This one is about another master and servant – Philemon and Onesimus.
Onesimus belonged to a wealthy Christian named Philemon. For no reason at all, Onesimus ran away from his master, stealing money from Philemon in the process. This was a horrible offense, and masters during this time were given the right to severely punish, or even kill, their servants if such an offense was committed. And Philemon was infuriated by the actions of Onesimus.
After running away, Onesimus met the apostle Paul, who was a prisoner in Rome. Paul brought Onesimus to Jesus and taught the servant to repent for what he had done. In fact, Paul loved Onesimus so much that he called Onesimus his child and his heart. So Paul wrote to Philemon and pleaded with the fellow Christian to forgive his servant. This is our New Testament letter to Philemon.
One of the most powerful things Paul writes to Philemon is this, in verses 15-16: “Take your servant back forever, no longer as a servant but more than a servant, as a beloved brother.” Paul was asking Philemon to treat Onesimus as his brother in Christ, not as a slave. This is exactly what Jesus means when he tells us, “Forgive your brother from your heart.”
When we consider how much Jesus has forgiven us, it’s impossible to refuse to show that kind of forgiveness to others. There is a quote that says: “The act of forgiveness is almost selfish because of all the benefits that the person forgiving has in return.”
Even as Christians, we do sometimes find ourselves clinging to resentment. Maybe we’ve been angry with someone else for a long time. I know I have certainly struggled with this – holding onto bitterness when it only makes me feel worse in the end. It’s worth it to forgive. The more we forgive, the more we become like Jesus, who forgave a debt larger than any we can ever imagine. If there is something we know we need to forgive, let’s not waste any more time. Be the first to speak up and heal the relationship. It’s the only way to move on. It’s the only way to be free. It’s the only way to be joyful.
May we always find our greatest joy in giving and receiving mercy. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, you have truly forgiven a debt beyond anything any of us can ever imagine. You paid the largest debt on the cross. Help us to show our love for you and our desire to become more like you, by forgiving our brothers and sisters from the heart. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Message by Joy Caroline