Summary: To note that we as Christians are to forgive others because we have been greatly forgiven by God.

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The Unmerciful Servant

Text: Matthew 18.21-35

Thesis: To note that we as Christians are to forgive others because we have been

greatly forgiven by God.


(1) “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5.7).

(2) The Background:

“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt 18.21-23).

(a) At this time, Jewish rabbis taught that one should only forgive another up to 3 times.

(b) Peter must have thought that he was doing well because he doubled what the rabbis taught and added one for good measure.

“He was trying to reduce forgiveness from mercy down to mathematics” (Stough 230).

(c) In response to this, “Jesus confronts Peter with the truth that the spirit of forgiveness really knows no boundaries” (Believer’s Study Bible).

1) There is some confusion in translating “seventy times seven” because some suggest that it should be rendered as 77 times.

2) The phrase “is a typically graphic Jewish way of saying ‘Never hold grudges’” (Keener).

3) Nevertheless, “It is not a problem of counting, but a problem of conduct” (Lightfoot 1:47).

(3) In order to illustrate this point, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant.


I. The Servant’s Debt (Matt. 18.23-25):

A. The king decided to settle all of his debts.

B. The servant owed the king 10,000 talents.

1. One talent equaled 6000 denarii (i.e., a day’s wages); therefore, the sum of the debt was 60 million denarii.

a. Different figures are given as to how much this would equal today, but the most common estimate is around $10 million dollars.

b. Another possibility is to think in terms of today:

(1) Average day’s wages today: $50

(2) $50 * 6000 = $300,000 * 10,000 = $3 Billion Dollars

2. The debt is unimaginable.

a. If the servant were to use all of his earned income to pay on the debt, then he would have to pay on it for 200,000 years.

b. In other words, he could not possibly pay the debt.

C. Song: He Paid a Debt He did not Owe, We Owe a Debt we could not pay

1. Rom. 3.23 – We have sinned

2. Rom. 6.23 – Sin’s wages is death

II. The King’s Mercy (Matt. 18.26-27):

A. Justice demanded that the debt be paid and therefore all that the servant had including his family was to be sold to pay toward the debt.

B. Yet, the servant pleaded for mercy.

C. Hence, the king was moved with compassion.

1. This “suggests being inwardly pained at the suffering of another”

(Jackson 64).

2. This is representative of what God has done for us.

III. The Servant’s Ingratitude (Matt. 18.28-34):

A. Immediately after receiving mercy for his debt, the servant goes out to settle his accounts with those who owe him.

1. He finds one who owed him 100 denarii (about $17-20 dollars then,

today - $5000).

2. He was unwilling to show mercy to this one who was in debt to him.

B. Word gets back to the king and the king casts the servant into prison until all of his debt be paid.

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