Summary: Proper 19 (A) The unforgiving servant's heart was cold and shallow. But God's grace and mercy to us is deep and wide. Therefore, it not only changes our hearts, but overflows through us to others.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Deep and Wide”
Last week in the Gospel, Jesus had taught his disciples about being the greatest and least, and to seek unity, being One Flock, One Shepherd. To do so, it meant that the flock would have to receive back the sheep who had strayed, to receive the brother or sister who had wandered off to its own way.
Today the lesson continues. Jesus teaches us that in receiving one another we must receive not only the one who wandered off, but also the one who sinned against us, the one who hurt us. To receive one another, so the flock may be one, takes forgiveness. Jesus teaches His disciples, and He teaches us, about forgiveness. About God’s forgiveness and about our forgiveness.
Here comes Peter again. We can always depend on Peter to ask the question that we would like to ask, that we want to ask, but haven’t the boldness to ask. Peter asks, “How often must I forgive my brother, up to seven times?” There are several theories how Peter got to seven. But it doesn’t much matter, other than Peter thought that seven times was more than generous, and ought to be enough. You know how we say, “Enough is enough.” And we don’t really mean that it’s exactly enough, as is “good enough.” We mean that it’s more than enough. Patience is not only wearing thin, it done has a hole in it. And forgiveness is the last thought on our minds, if it can even make its way into our thoughts.
Seven would be a lot. But at least it was a rule. It was measurable. It was something Peter could do. Or thought or hoped or believed he could do.
What is Jesus’ reply to Peter generous proposal? Not seven times. But seventy times seven. Four Hundred and Ninety! Patience would not have a hole in it, because there would not be any patience left to form the hole. Who can keep this rule?
And that’s the point. Jesus was not giving us another, or new, or different rule to keep. He was telling Peter, and telling us, about the nature of forgiveness.
There is no time for Peter to object. Jesus continues, and explains about forgiveness in a parable. The King has a servant who owes 10,000 talents. The servant could not pay. The King is going to sell him off, and his wife, and his children. He begs for mercy, saying, give me time, and I will pay. Well, a talent was equal to 6,000 denarii, and one denarius was a day’s wage. 10,000 talents would be 60 million days’ wages. That is more than 164,000 years, 7 days a week. It’s like you or me saying we can pay off the national debt, just give us time.
More time would not make a bit of difference. The King saw the miserable state of the servant. Not only his enormous debt, but his utter foolishness to think that he could pay it. So the King forgives. He forgives the debt.
Now this servant leaves the throne room. As he is going out of the front gate of the castle he sees another servant who owed him 100 denarii, or three months wages. He says, Pay up. The servant doesn’t have it, and says, I will make it good. I will pay you, just give me some time. Now, here, the request for some time is a reasonable one. Three months wages is not nothing, but it is a debt that could be paid.
But the first servant will not hear it. And sends his fellow servant to debtor’s prison. The King, when this is reported to him, is justly furious. And He locks the evil servant up until his enormous debt is paid off in full.
Here Jesus shows us that God’s forgiveness is deep. 60 million days’ wages! That is an enormous price. Tennessee Ernie Ford sang, “Sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.” You and I may have seen some deep debt, but nothing as deep as this servant. Yet, like Tennessee, we owed our soul to the company store. Our sin debt with God was deep. Really deep. So deep we could never pay. We owed our soul and more.
God’s forgiveness is deeper still. It cost Him more than 60 million days wages. It cost the price of His only Son. Like the servant, we don’t often grasp the size and depth of our sin. “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” We have no sin, so great or so deep, that His forgiveness does not cover it. God’s forgiveness is deep.