Redeemer Lutheran Church Blog

Trinity XXII, November 12, 2017 - St. Matthew 18:23-35

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Posted: Sunday, November 19th, 2017 by Pastor Westgate

Young Luther felt a heavy burden, a burden of sin Staupitz didn’t think was real. It wasn’t that young Martin hadn’t sinned. It was that he was never sure if he’d confessed everything so he kept coming back ad nauseum. He was boring Staupitz and taking too much of his time. What was worse was that he was never believing what Staupitz told him about God’s love found in Christ.

Staupitz finally broke through to Luther. He did it by forcing him to read the Bible because he made him a theology professor at Wittenberg. It took time for the teacher’s lesson to get through to his pupil, but finally it did. It may not have happened until February 1518, but when it did Luther finally felt his debt to God lift off his shoulders. In a great exchange he put it squarely on Jesus’ shoulders, and Jesus gave him His righteousness right back. In response, Luther preached that righteousness throughout Germany, and that preaching has come down to you today.

Luther had been struggling with Satan. Satan didn’t want him to believe in Jesus’ forgiveness, and he doesn’t want anybody else to believe it either. He had been very successful in silencing the Gospel in Europe during the years before God raised up Luther. This is the devil’s #1 job. His #1 job is not to get you to sin. It just feels that way because that’s what he did to Adam. But he got Adam to sin by getting him to not trust God. That was Adam’s first sin. If Adam hadn’t stopped trusting God, he wouldn’t have eaten what was forbidden him. The devil’s chief work is to get us to stop believing in Jesus’ Cross.

That leads us to today’s Gospel. We hear about a lord, a king, who had many slaves. At least one of those slaves owed him lots of money. If he remained in good behavior and was serving him well, he’d keep serving him. But if things got out of hand, there’d be trouble. His judgment day would come. He owed 10,000 talents. A talent was 16 years’ wages, so he owed 160,000 years of work. By the way, the fellow slave he beat up only owed him 100 days’ work, just over 3 months’ worth. So the lord finally decided to do the only thing he could to get some money. He wanted to sell the slave and his family and possessions to get at least some money back.

The slave hated this idea. Perhaps his family would have been kept together, perhaps not. He certainly didn’t want them to be slaves just like him. And he definitely wanted to keep all his precious possessions. Perhaps they were most important to him – after all he did beat up that other guy. He didn’t want to suffer, so he begged his lord to let him repay. His lord, knowing that could never happen, but feeling sorry for him, forgave him the whole debt. He didn’t free him from his slavery, but he did forgive the debt.

But the slave didn’t believe his debt was forgiven. He wanted to start repaying right away. So off he went to find a guy he’d loaned a few bucks to. With a fierceness his lord never showed his slaves, he attacked him and ordered him to repay him immediately. This slave asked for time, almost using the exact same words slave #1 had said to the king. But he was unmoved. He threw slave #2 into jail.

But slave #1 made a mistake. Slaves #3-10 were around. He did this out in the open. Was he still on the palace grounds? They were offended! They knew what their lord had done, and they knew he would want them to do the same thing. He should have forgiven that small debt. So they did the only thing they could. They reported it to their lord. And he did what he had to do to punish slave #1. He sent him to prison until he could repay all he owed. But you know he owes 160,000 years’ worth of pay and he won’t earn money in prison, so that means the lord sent him to hell.

This story is not about an earthly king. It’s about the kingdom of heaven. It’s about God the Blessed Trinity and how He deals with sinners. It’s about how The Father forgives our sins for the sake of His Son. It’s about how we receive that forgiveness, how we react to it, how we act because of it. It explains our petition: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” After all, Jesus told this parable because Peter was hoping to forgive Andrew only 7 times for sinning against him instead of every time he sinned against him.

How do we receive God’s forgiveness? Our need for it is great. The man’s debt was 10,000 talents. That doesn’t stand for 160,000 years. It stands for a total debt, a complete debt, an eternal debt, a debt you can’t get out of. That’s what we owe God for our sins. Since He created us, it is our duty to keep His Law. That isn’t to get salvation though, that’s just our debt to Him for making us. He doesn’t owe us salvation for doing anything.

But there’s another problem: we can’t keep His Law. His first command is to trust Him. That’s how we worship Him alone: by trusting Him! But we didn’t trust Him when we were conceived or born. We trusted our parents, but we didn’t trust Him, because we didn’t know Him. And that lack of trust earns eternal death. That lack of trust leads us to be impure, full of blame, and without the fruits of righteousness. Even now that we do believe in Christ our flesh still is full of impure desires and loves to produce the fruits of wickedness.

God wants to settle accounts with us. He hates the debt, so He calls us in to settle accounts. His Law declares to us that we deserve eternal death. It makes us realize we can’t do a thing to save ourselves. But then He declares The Gospel. He has had compassion on us. He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. He paid our sin-debt with His Body as He hung on The Cross. He paid the entire debt. The eternal God suffered for an eternity of sins and sinners. He paid the whole debt. He has come forth from His grave to announce to you you are freed from your sin-debt, and not just freed from it, but freed to serve Him forever in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

Do you believe it? Those slaves did, all except slave #1. He went out and beat up somebody that owed him just a little. He wanted that money to start paying back his lord. How do you act with that forgiveness? Do you forgive others when they sin against you? Do you forgive them when they call you names, punch you, and steal from you? Our Lord forgave those who mocked and crucified Him. Do you forgive others? Not forgiving others shows we do not believe in His forgiveness. Forgiving others shows we believe we are forgiven. This will be made plain when He comes to judge the living and the dead. Those who in faith forgive will be forgiven forever. Those who in unbelief do not forgive will be condemned. So we pray with Dr. Luther (TLH 458:6):

Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore, Remove from us their burden sore, As we their trespasses forgive Who by offenses us do grieve. Thus let us dwell in charity And serve our brother willingly.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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