Summary: Part five focuses on the parable that Jesus gave about forgiveness.
A Slave For Christ Part 5
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35
This morning we will begin reading some of the parables and other teachings Jesus gave as it related to slaves and their relationship with their masters. As we read through these different scriptures, please keep in mind that the messages that Jesus is delivering is really about our relationship with Him and His Father. If we learn to become slaves to Christ mentally then it will become evident physically as we live our lives here on earth. Let’s begin with Matthew 18:21-35.
I. A Message About Forgiveness
In this first parable Jesus uses the relationship between a slave and his master to teach the disciples about forgiveness. In verse twenty-one, Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive his brother when he sinned against him and he asked if it was seven times. The reason Peter asked if it was seven times is because that is what the current teachings were at the time. Seven was the number of completeness and plurality and some rabbis had fixed this limit on forgiveness based on their interpretation of Amos 1:3. The Jews during this time were very fond of defining and limiting moral obligations, as if they could be accurately prescribed by number. When Jesus gave him his answer, it was not what Peter was expecting to hear. Jesus basically told the disciples they are to forgive a brother as often as they sinned against them. Christ demolishes the attempt to define by law the measure of grace. To make His point, Jesus told the following story. Let’s begin reading at verse 22.
(22) “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (23) For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. (24) When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. (25) But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. (26) So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ (27) And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. (28) But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ (29) So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ (30) But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. (31) So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. (32) Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ (34) And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. (35) My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
We have all read this Scripture and we understand God’s view of forgiveness. Forgiving someone is the hardest thing that we are commanded to do in this life. So many times we place conditions on the forgiveness and yet when we go before God for forgiveness, we want it without any type of conditions whatsoever. Even though we understand God’s position on this subject, this morning I want to examine this Scripture from a slave’s viewpoint. Now you may be considering what is the different between our current viewpoint and the viewpoint of a slave and it is about relationship. Currently we view forgiveness as something we “ought” to do or something we have been “asked” to do. A slave would view forgiveness in these verses as something they “had” to do; without having the option of not doing it. This is the difference between our mentality and that of a slave. Let’s begin with Peter’s initial question.
Peter asked this question out of a true curiosity. He knew what the rabbis taught and he had been with Jesus long enough to know that Jesus’ thoughts on the subject might be totally different. When he asked the question and threw in the option of forgiving someone seven times, that was based on the current teaching at the time as I’ve already mentioned. In asking about the seven times, Peter was confirming what he thought was the correct answer. In verse twenty-two, Jesus told him he was wrong and in his statement told Peter that you forgive whenever there is an offense. Even though Jesus used the statement “up to seventy times seven” what He was saying was that there is no limit. No one would keep track of having to forgive one person 490 times so the actual number is irrelevant. After Jesus said this, He told Peter “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.” (23) For what reason? For the very reason that Peter asked the question; people did not feel obligated to forgive freely and without condition. Again, if you’re thinking like we do today, forgiveness is an “option” based on our choice to do it and the person’s deserving it. Because of this, Jesus wanted Peter and everyone else to know that in God’s eyes, there was no limit or “option”. To fully convey this thought Jesus turned to the relationship between a king and his slave. In this relationship the slave has no choice. Jesus said that this mentality can be compared to the Kingdom of God because if we are slaves of Christ and therefore of God, we have no choice. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s go back to the story Jesus told His disciples.