Sunday, September 6, 2020

Proper 19 Series A

Proper 19 Series A
Genesis 50:15–21
Romans 14:1–12
Matthew 18:21–35

Forgiving as the Lord Forgives Us

In settling His accounts with us, our Lord acts not with anger, but with compassion. He does not imprison us as we deserve, but He forgives all our debts and releases us (Matthew 18:23–27). Therefore, our Lord bids each of us to have “mercy on your fellow servant” and “forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:33,35). By the Lord’s forgiveness of our sins, we are free to forgive those who sin against us, because He has been handed over to the jailers in our stead, and He has paid our entire debt with His lifeblood. Whether we live or die, we “are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). Since we all will “stand before the judgment seat of God,” we are not to despise our brother (Romans 14:10), but gladly forgive him. By the grace of God, our brother also “will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). Though we daily sin against each other, the Lord intends “to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20). Jesus speaks kindly by His Gospel and promises: “I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Genesis 50:21).

O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of Your Church, especially in times of persecution, and grant that what we ask in faith we may obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Where Is the Cross?
Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

Rev. Dr. Daniel J. Brege       

(Matthew 18:27, NKJ)

Everywhere true forgiveness is found, the cross of Christ is behind it.

Hundreds of times the Old Testament speaks of God forgiving His people.  After God instituted the sacrificial system such forgiveness was uniquely linked to the sin and guilt offerings, and thus the second chapter of Leviticus repeats the refrain …and it shall be forgiven him (vv 20, 26, 31, 35).  Frequently God’s forgiveness is voiced in the Psalms.  In Psalm 32, a foundational liturgical Psalm, the Psalmist cries out, I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (v 5).

In Sunday’s Gospel the King—obviously God—forgives the apparently penitent servant his massive debt.  The debt is so huge that such amounts of money were associated with tributes owed by one nation to another.  The illustration is clear.  God forgives our massive sin-debt.

Why would God forgive the sins of His people in Old Testament times, and why would God speak of His bountiful forgiveness in Sunday’s parable?  Was it because of contrition over sin?  Certainly this was essential, but sorrow over sin is not what makes God forgiving.  Was it because of God’s compassionate mercy?  Certainly this is also an essential part of the movement that climaxes in God’s forgiveness.

If we imagine each sin to be a check mark on a chalkboard, does the combination of our repentance and God’s mercy move Him to pick up the eraser and simply wipe the board clean?  No!  Let’s consider a parallel parable in the present.  Suppose I loaned you $25,000 to buy a new car.  Then suppose both because of your “repentance” over failure to repay me, and because of my mercy I forgave that debt; is that the end of the matter?  Not at all! My willingness to forgive the debt indicates that I will pay it off. In my mercy I will take your debt and pay it.  Such forgiveness ultimately means I pay what you owe.

In an infinitely greater way, God mercifully took the entire sin-debt of humanity, and he paid it off!  This is where the cross of Christ comes in.  God does not forgive us because we are penitent (though this is necessary), nor does God forgive us simply because His is merciful (though He is).  Our merciful God forgives us because in His mercy He sent His Son to pay our sin-debt by dying on the cross.  In both the Old and New Testaments such a payment of sin-debt is spoken of as making atonement.  In the Old Testament it appeared as though the sacrificial creatures created this atonement.  They did not.  These unwilling sacrifices both pictured and conveyed atonement.  What did they picture?  Christ on the cross. Saint John wrote of this atoning payment in his first epistle:  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (NIV 2:22).  There you have it.  Christ’s sacrifice paid the sin-debt for the entire world, and this means for all humanity from Adam to the end of time.  This is why at any point in history God can speak of His merciful forgiveness.

Now, as conveyed in Sunday’s parable, God’s forgiveness of us establishes our forgiveness of one another.  If God forgives our billions of dollars-worth of personal debt, how can we presume not to forgive the twenty dollars of debt owed to us!  If Christ paid our entire sin-debt, how can we then even consider not forgiving those who sin against us?  Empowered and motivated by Christ’s atoning sacrifice, we forgive one another. Everywhere true forgiveness is found, the cross of Christ is behind it.

Matthew 18:21–35
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matthew 18.21 
Τότε προσελθὼν αὐτῷ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν• Κύριε, ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ; ἕως ἑπτάκις;
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?” 

Matthew 18.22 
λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς• Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

70 x 7 = 490

490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to “complete,” “perfect,” or “finished.” A person who can’t forgive will always live an imperfect, and incomplete life that’s lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross. 490 is also the value of the Hebrew phrase “Let your heart be perfect” (1 Kings 8:61). Forgiving helps to make us complete and is key to perfecting our heart.

But there are some even deeper connections. The word nativity and Bethlehem, the city where Messiah was born, both individually add up to 490. This makes perfect sense since Jesus was born so that we might be forgiven.

And forgiveness is associated with bread in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespass as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt). We celebrate this forgiveness by partaking of the broken bread of Communion concerning which Jesus said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Just like a person can’t live without their daily bread, an individual can’t survive spiritually and relationally without forgiveness.

All of us need to learn to forgive and to be forgiven.


Matthew 18.23 
Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ ὃς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ• 
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 

Matthew 18.24 
ἀρξαμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ συναίρειν προσηνέχθη αὐτῷ εἷς ὀφειλέτης μυρίων ταλάντων.
When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b

Matthew 18.25 
μὴ ἔχοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος πραθῆναι καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ πάντα ὅσα  ἔχει καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι.
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. 

Matthew 18.26 
πεσὼν οὖν ὁ δοῦλος προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων• Μακροθύμησον ἐπ’ἐμοί, καὶ πάντα ἀποδώσω σοι.
So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 

Matthew 18.27 
σπλαγχνισθεὶς δὲ ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἀπέλυσεν αὐτόν, καὶ τὸ δάνειον ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ.
And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 

Matthew 18.28 
ἐξελθὼν δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος εὗρεν ἕνα τῶν συνδούλων αὐτοῦ ὃς ὤφειλεν αὐτῷ ἑκατὸν δηνάρια, καὶ κρατήσας αὐτὸν ἔπνιγεν λέγων• Ἀπόδος εἴ τι ὀφείλεις.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 

Matthew 18.29 
πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων• Μακροθύμησον ἐπ’ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι
So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 

Matthew 18.30 
ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἤθελεν, ἀλλὰ ἀπελθὼν ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν εἰς φυλακὴν ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ τὸ ὀφειλόμενον.
He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 

Matthew 18.31 
ἰδόντες οὖν οἱ σύνδουλοι αὐτοῦ τὰ γενόμενα ἐλυπήθησαν σφόδρα, καὶ ἐλθόντες διεσάφησαν τῷ κυρίῳ ἑαυτῶν πάντα τὰ γενόμενα
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. 

Matthew 18.32 
τότε προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ λέγει αὐτῷ• Δοῦλε πονηρέ, πᾶσαν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἐκείνην ἀφῆκά σοι, ἐπεὶ παρεκάλεσάς με• 
Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 

Matthew 18.33 
οὐκ ἔδει καὶ σὲ ἐλεῆσαι τὸν σύνδουλόν σου, ὡς κἀγὼ σὲ ἠλέησα
And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 

Matthew 18.34 
καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν τοῖς βασανισταῖς ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ πᾶν τὸ ὀφειλόμενον.
And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[e] until he should pay all his debt. 

Matthew 18.35 
Οὕτως καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν.
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:23 Or bondservants; also verses 28, 31
Matthew 18:24 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years' wages for a laborer
Matthew 18:26 Or bondservant; also verses 27, 28, 29, 32, 33
Matthew 18:28 A denarius was a day's wage for a laborer
Matthew 18:34 Greek torturers

ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software

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