Sermon for Pentecost 16 – 9.17.23

+16th Sunday after Pentecost – September 17th, 2023 +

Series A: Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

Milton, WA

“Sin and Forgiveness”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Sometimes when Jesus tells a parable it can take a while to understand what it’s about. Not so with today’s Gospel reading. Jesus’ story is clear. It’s about sin and forgiveness.

Peter heard the same teaching on forgiveness from Jesus’ teaching that we heard last week. If your brother sins against you, go to him that there would be reconciliation.

“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 

Peter remembered what the rabbis had taught him: three times you were obligated to forgive. And no more. Seven, seemed generous. It’s a biblical number. Surely that’s enough. 

Jesus replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (or 70×7 depending on your translation). It’s not about the number. The point is this, if you’re counting and keeping book, you’re not forgiving. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Forgiveness, Jesus tells Peter, is not like a battery or a gas tank. It does not drain or run out. Forgiveness has no end. No cutoff line. No threshold. No limit. Jesus’ forgiveness is inexhaustible. 

To drive his point home, Jesus tells a parable about sin and forgiveness. The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wants to settle accounts with his servants. There was a servant who owed an outrageous amount of money to the king. Ten thousand talents. 200,000 years’ worth of day’s wages. Today it would be billions of dollars of debt. The man owed a debt he could never possibly repay. 

The servant pleas for mercy, and the king is merciful. He wipes way the entire debt. Clears the books. The master wanted bring him into a new kind of kingdom. Not a kingdom where you pay your debts but a kingdom where your debts are paid. The master forgives the servant his debt and, the servant was to live in the kingdom ruled by mercy, where debts are paid by the deepfelt compassion of the master. 

He finds a fellow servant who owed him a couple hundred bucks, wraps his fingers around the man’s neck, and demands payment in full. When word gets back to the king, he’s not happy. And he summons the forgiven servant and condemns him to prison until his debt is paid in full. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

If Jesus’ parable here is about sin and forgiveness what does that mean for us his disciples? Several things.

We’re meant to see ourselves in this servant’s sandals. Our sin is an unpayable debt. We’ve no chance of ever repaying it ever. You can never earn your freedom. All we can do, like the servant in the first part of the parable, is fall on our knees and beg the mercy of the King. And the King is merciful. He covers your debt by covering you in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died for you. Debt paid in full. Sin cancelled by the cross and blood of Jesus. Every day, hour, and second we live in the abundant mercy and endless forgiveness in Jesus.

Think about it this way. If we were to take Peter’s question and ask it directly to Jesus, how would he answer? “Lord, how often will I sin against you and you forgive me, seven times? No. Not merely 7x, or 77x, or 490x. 

And out of mercy, the Master releases you and forgives your debt. Endless. Limitless. Abundant forgiveness.

Another thing Jesus teaches us in this parable is that we, his servants, are to be like him, the Master. To live in his unending forgiveness, and to forgive others as Christ forgives us. The way Jesus tells this parable is intentionally absurd. The unpayable debt vs. the smaller debt. Again, we’re meant to see ourselves in the servant of the parable. Although the sins against us by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are painful, hurtful, and real, what are they when compared to our own sinful debt before God? A fraction. A few denarius 

I don’t know about you, but that question always brings me back to the first part of the parable…to the Master’s mercy, to Jesus’ forgiveness. We know we should forgive. That it’s right. That Jesus commands us to forgive. The hard part usually is, how can I possibly do that? What do I do when forgiveness is hard, feels impossible even? The answer to that is in Jesus’ parable. Don’t look to the servant (don’t look at yourself), but the merciful, forgiving master. Jesus’ parable is meant to draw us back to him and his forgiveness, time and time again. To confess that we are poor, miserable sinners. To receive his forgiveness again and again and again. 

Whenever we’re dealing with sin and forgiveness…go back to the merciful, forgiving master, Jesus. When you’re struggling to forgive someone, go back to Jesus’ abundant, limitless forgiveness. When you don’t know how to forgive don’t look at the person’s sin, but look at your sin and see it forgiven and your debt paid in the blood of Jesus. 

This is what Jesus is getting at in verse 35

“…if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” It’s about the heart, which is not the seat of emotions, it’s not about your feelings but about your will. Forgiveness is an intentional act. From the heart. The heart is the place where Sin has had its way. From the Sin-infected heart proceed all sorts of sins – murder, theft, adultery, gossip, slander, you name it. If we are going to forgive from the heart, then our hearts must be changed, and we can’t do that. God does.

Forgiveness begins not in our hearts but in the merciful heart of God. In the heart that seeks and saves the sinner. In the heart that beats with compassion for the least and the lost, the heart that reaches out to the ungodly and the enemy. The heart of God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish in Sin, desiring everyone to turn and live. It’s the heart of Jesus who prays, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing,” as Roman soldiers drive nails through His hands and feet to crucify Him. “You mean this for evil, but God meant it for good.” 

The source of forgiveness is the cross of Jesus, pouring out forgiveness on the entire world. As St. Paul writes in Ephesians 4, Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 

Our forgiveness is nothing else than His forgiveness, the overflow flowing over to the neighbor. The King has wiped away your debt. More than you could ever repay. The Law with all of demands and threats and punishments has been fulfilled, paid in full by Jesus your brother. You are forgiven. 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

Contact

Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977