“The Forgiveness Imperative” – Matthew 18:21-35
A. Three Things
1. A little boy came to the Washington Monument and noticed a guard standing by it.
2. He looked up at the guard and said, “I want to buy it.”
3. The guard smiled, stooped down and said, “Well, how much do you have?”
4. The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter.
5. The guard said, “Sorry son, that's not enough.”
6. The boy stuck his hand back into his pocket and brought out 9 cents more.
7. The guard said, “You need to understand 3 things.”
a. “First, 34 cents is not enough to buy the Washington Monument. In fact, $34 million is not enough.”
b. “Second, the Washington Monument is not for sale.”
c. “And third, if you’re an American citizen, the Washington Monument already belongs to you.”
8. We need to understand three things about forgiveness.
a. 1st - we can’t earn it.
b. 2nd – it’s not for sale.
c. & 3rd – if we’ve received Christ, we already have it.
B. One More Thing
1. And to that we must add one more thing; one more important truth that was often on the lips of Jesus as He taught the disciples –
2. If we have truly been forgiven by God, we will be forgiving of others.
3. If we have grasped the reality of & stand in God’s grace, then we will be gracious.
4. To receive mercy means we’re merciful.
5. Our study today is centered on a story Jesus told that was meant to make this crystal clear.
A. V. 21
21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
1. As Peter had been following Jesus, he’d begun to start putting the pieces together on the radically new way of living Jesus was calling His followers to.
2. One of the major themes of Jesus’ teaching was on mercy and compassion.
3. Peter could see that Jesus just did not hold a grudge and that there wasn’t one shred of bitterness toward a single soul.
4. So, thinking he’d grasped a central theme of Jesus’ teaching and what it meant to be one of His disciples, he comes with this question about forgiveness.
5. Now, Peter thought he was being very generous here.
a. the rabbis taught that you were to forgive someone who offended you 3 times, but on the 4th time, you could go after them.
b. Peter, knowing how Jesus took the letter of the law and far surpassed it by applying it to the heart --
c. took the rabbis 3 times to forgive, doubled it, and then added one for good measure and came up with 7, the number of perfection.
6. Peter was surely expecting that Jesus would say to him as He had at Peter’s great confession He was the Christ in ch. 16, “At’a boy Peter! Once again you’ve received enlightenment from above!”
7. If that was Peter’s expectation, he was disappointed.
B. V. 22
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
1. It’s clear Jesus does not mean 490 times for who would or could keep such a tally?
2. By taking Peter’s suggested 7 and multiplying it by 10 times 7, He means that forgiveness is not something he’s to measure out offence by offence, hurt by hurt, and insult by insult.
3. Rather, Peter is NOT to count up or measure out forgiveness; he’s to stand in it!
4. His relationship with others is to be characterized by forgiveness.
5. He’s not to walk through life keeping a record of the wrongs done him and then drawing a line when those wrongs have reached some magic number.
6. He’s to keep no record of wrongs, no inventory of hurt, no list of relationship accounts payable.
7. To make this clear, Jesus told a parable.
C. Vs. 23-34
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
1. Before we get deeper in to this, we need to understand something about parables.
a. when Jesus told one, it was always to illustrate a single truth or principle about life in Him.
b. parables are not elaborate stories meant to communicate all kinds of deep theological things.
c. they’re simple, true to life illustrations of one thing, one point Jesus wants to get across to His followers.
d. we err in our study of the parables when we make all the various parts of the story stand for different things and then go running off after them on a rabbit hunt.
e. the parables were told by Jesus in a specific context, and were meant to illustrate a specific lesson – to get across a singular truth.
2. Such is the case here. And that’s why Jesus begins this parable, as He does so many, with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like . . . ”
a. the Kingdom of heaven refers to the reign, the rule of God.