7/21/2019 – Matthew 18:21-35

by admin on July 21, 2019

7/21/2019 – Wrap-up Message Audio


I Wish Jesus Wouldn’t Have Said That—3.

Matthew 18:21-35

21 July 2019   


Forgiveness.  Great word. Great concept.  We believe in it.  We love it.  We live it.  Right?  Say Amen and raise a hand.  Then why is it so hard? 


Forgiveness is great—except maybe in this particular situation.  Come to think of it, there’s a couple of particular situations.  No—maybe several dozen.  Get right down to it—living and giving forgiveness is probably the exception to the general rule of life.


OK, how many times do I have to do it until my personal quota is filled?  A rather practical question.  Gospel:  Peter makes the right connection that forgiveness—process of letting go of life’s painful places—is important.  But he makes a misguided application in thinking it can be quantified and regulated.


Jesus’ reply is a story, a parable.

1st scene:  CEO calls the VPs to the annual summit meeting.  Board room, table, overhead, PowerPoint.

Discovery is made that one of them has embezzled the accounts receivable.  He’s taken out a personal loan with the only collateral this guy’s premise: “hey I deserve this.”  (He didn’t get a raise so he took a bonus instead.)


The loan is a myriad of money; largest sum imaginable.

Restitution is impossible.  Deep weeds.

A degrading and protracted punishment is served up.  The press loves public spectacles.


There’s a legal plea and a desperate illusory proposal. 

The boss “filled with compassion” wipes out the whole thing and forgets it altogether.  The guy doesn’t have to pay it back.


2nd scene:  filled with irony.  The debtor becomes the creditor and goes for his buddy who owes him $100 from the March Madness bracket.  He goes for the jugular.

Hundred buck debtor makes a plea (sounds familiar).  It’s a credible and possible promise to repay.  He is refused.  This VP stands on his rights and doesn’t tolerate any breach of contract.  He sues him.


3rd scene:  like the first.  Day of reckoning in the boardroom. Not only is this cruel guy fired but forever banned from executive privilege.  He’s called “evil”—envious, grudging, miserly.


What’s up? 

  1. Forgiveness closely related to money. Beaux coup bucks.  Precious, costly.  Something we want to hang onto.  Invest in.  Get dividends and interest from.

It’s got something to do with people, organizations. Life owing us big time.  Myriad of money.  Forgive us our debts….


  1. Forgiveness is closely related to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Debtors’ prison.  In for a long time.  Locked up.  Reality of hard heartedness runs deep and runs permanent.

When we stand on our rights to bear a grudge, or plan revenge, or quit talking to someone we are building an identity that will last a lifetime.  It’s that identity that gives us the permission to act the way we do.


One of the gut reactions we have toward the villain in Jesus’ story is:  “What’s with that guy’s soul?”

Soul—that’s the inner fabric of life, our identity.  It is something also that has to do with God.


  1. the third point. Peter asks a practical question about people.  Jesus makes it an issue about God. 


Central line:  “As I had mercy on you, so it’s necessary for you to do the same.   Necessary.


Jesus said that the action in this story is life in the kingdom of the heavens.  God.  This is how God works in our lives right now.   While Peter is asking for information to stay on the up and up, Jesus presents a plan for transformation. 


That transformation begins here:  What do we think about when we think of God?


Faith percolates in us when God troubles us.  It should trouble us to see that “forgiveness” is the way God’s life is lived in us.


Generosity.  Graciousness.  Expansive acceptance.  Extravagant love.  When pushed to the limits…it’s all downright unfair.

Without God in our lives—the kind of God Jesus proclaimed, reveled and embodied—our attention span only bridges over two letters:  M/E.


“Forgive from your heart”—that means our being so saturated with the reckless love of God, the grace of God, that there is a behavioral and psychological difference in being a Christian.


The things I have held onto in painful memory have kept me locked in jail for a long time.  Do you want to act out the rest of your life like that?  Now that kind of power is mighty strong.  It’ll take another power greater to break it.


Fundamentally Gospel today is about Jesus.  Can he be trusted to effect this kind of behavior in us? 

Stephen Neill:  To be Xn is to be like Jesus Christ.


How to do this?  The crafting of a soul.  Our gut feeling is right on the mark.

Look at some of the marks of discipleship.   Prayer, worship, Bible, Serving, giving so that WHAT can happen?  God’s forgiveness is not for decoration but for use. 


 Not a one sermon and get it all approach.

But if you never come back, get this one thing:  God is the ground of life.  And Jesus Christ is able to fill us with an invisible, yet profound power above all others…..the forgiving grace of God.


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