19. "A Wretched Man's Wretched End"

Matthew 18:21–35

This passage on forgiveness is part of Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18 on life in the church. The chapter begins with a discussion of who's the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (vv. 1–9), followed by the parable of the lost sheep (vv. 10–14), then by instructions to the church on how to deal with a brother who's sinned (vv. 15–20). It's in this context that Peter asks how often he must forgive an offending brother (vv. 21–22). In answer, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant (vv. 23–34), followed by his final warning (v. 35).


Matthew 18:21-35

A Wretched Man's Wretched End

How do mercy and justice go together? When Peter posed the question of forgiveness (v. 21), he characteristically offered an answer that would please Jesus. Why not forgive seven times!

How unthinkable for Jesus to counter with the proposition that one must forgive 70 times that! Jesus made it clear that there is no reasonable limit to forgiveness. He drove the lesson home with a parable about two very different kinds of debts.

The first man owed an enormous sum of money — 10,000 talents — trillions in our currency. He who was forgiven such an incredible debt could not, however, bring himself to forgive his neighbor of a very small debt, about a one-hundred-thousandth of his own debt. The contrast could not have been greater!

An offence our neighbor might do to us cannot compare with our debt to God. We've been forgiven a debt that is beyond all paying. To ransom our debt of sin, God gave his only begotten Son.

If God has forgiven each of us our debt, which was very great, we, too, must forgive others the debt they owe us.

Jesus teaches that one must forgive, in order to be forgiven. If we do not forgive our fellow man, we cannot expect God to forgive us.

Do not be spiteful. Have a heart; judgment time is coming. God forgives.

So must we forgive — amen.

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