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Sermon for Matthew 18:21-35   -   Forgive Us Our Debts
Proper 19
           

As with so many of the stories of Jesus, the parable of the debtors arose out of a question that was posed to Jesus. Simon Peter said to him: "Master, if my brother sins against me, how many times should I forgive him? Seven times? Even as he asks that question my mind cannot help but think about children and how they will sometimes confess something they do wrong expecting to get praise from a teacher or a parent because they were so honest.

In the same sense, Simon Peter by asking this question is not expecting rebuke but praise. He is expecting Jesus to say: "Excellent Peter. You go to the head of the class. You get A+." According to Jewish law, Peter had the right to think that he had done something good. Scribal law clearly read: "If a man transgresses one time, forgive him. If a man transgresses two times, forgive him. If a man transgresses three times, forgive him. If a man transgresses four times, do not forgive him." What Peter has done is to take this law of limited forgiveness, multiply it by two and add one, and then sit back with a smile on his face and say: Now how is that for being a great guy? And he surely must have been taken aback when Jesus said you must forgive seventy times seven.

Then Jesus proceeded to tell a story. There was a certain king who had a day of reckoning for his servants. He found one who owed him 10,000 talents and, because he could not pay, he was about to have him thrown into jail and his wife and children sold into slavery. In response to the man's pathetic pleadings, however, he forgave him the entire debt.

Whereupon that forgiven servant went to a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii, a very small sum of money, and demanded payment. He pleaded for extra time, an extension, but the man would not hear of it and he had him thrown into jail. This story got back to the king who went into a rage. He called in the forgiven servant and said that because of his conduct, he was now to be thrown into jail. His original debt was reinstated.

Now the question is, what was Jesus attempting to say to Simon Peter?

1. First, forgiveness carries a heavy price.
2. Second, a forgiven soul should be a forgiving soul.

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