Summary: This looks at the story of the Unforgiving Servant and why it is so scary for the forgiven.
Do you like scary stories? I have never really been into scary movies, although I went to a couple as a teenager just to prove a point. And if you have to ask what that point is then you’ve never been a teenaged boy.
And when Carrie’s hand came out of the grave at the end of the original movie, well let me tell you. . . I didn’t sleep for a week.
I used to enjoy horror novels, from authors like John Saul, Graham Masterton and Stephen King, but even they have lost their appeal over the years. Although I will usually try to plug my way through one Stephen King epic on vacation. I keep meaning to re-read “The Stand” and maybe this year I will. Now if I want a good supernatural thrill I tend to drift to Dean Koontz, a good Catholic boy he knows how to keep it clean.
But Jesus tells one of the scariest stories that I’ve ever heard, and Ben read it for you earlier.
This is week five of our “Stories told by Jesus” series. Through the summer we’ve been looking at some of the stories, or parables that Jesus told. And so far, it seems that most of them have had a bit of an agricultural feel. There was the man working in the field who found the treasure, the owner of the vineyard who hired the workers. The story of the seed that was planted and flourished and last week we looked at the parable of the weeds that were sown in the wheat by the farmer’s enemy.
This week we are going in a very different direction. This is one of those occasions where Jesus was asked a question and he responds by telling a story. The parable of the Good Samaritan is another example of this.
It begins with a question that was asked by Peter, a question that could have been asked by any one of us. Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
And that is a valid question, as a matter of fact, it’s a question that if you haven’t asked out loud you have asked it in your heart. “how many times must I be hurt?” “How can I ever let it go?” “How can I ever trust them again?” “How often should I forgive someone who sins against me?” And I think Peter was being generous with the offer of forgiving someone multiple times for the same offence.
Most people struggle with this concept. This isn’t simply forgiving someone who has hurt you multiple times. This is forgiving someone whom you have already forgiven and forgiven and forgiven.
And they keep doing “it”, whatever “it” is over and over again.
I don’t know if Peter had someone or something specific in mind, if he was asking for a “friend” or if it was just hypothetical. But he was probably blown away by Jesus reply because I certainly would have been. Because instead of commending Peter on the grace that he was willing to show, we read in the very next verse: Matthew 18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
You can almost hear Peter’s mind at work, “Seventy times seven? Why that’s almost five hundred times, that’s insane.”
And so Jesus does what Jesus does so well, he tells a story, a really scary story.
Matthew 18:23-25 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
The story begins simply as A Story of Justice To us this seems a little excessive, but the servant was simply getting what he deserved, within the social context of the day.
Today we find it so easy to judge history based on what we know is right today. My Daddy called that “20-20 hindsight”
But the story wasn’t told in Halifax in 2018, it was told in Israel 2000 years ago and if you owed a debt that you couldn’t pay then you and yours belonged to your creditors. It was just that simple.
And in this story, there was no way the man could pay the debt. None at all.
Now remember this is a story, Jesus is prone to exaggerate in his stories, that’s fine. He is trying to make a point. So, while the NLT says the man owed millions of dollars that doesn’t even begin to do Jesus’ words justice.