Trinity 22 (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
October 20, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 18:28-35

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The context of our Lord’s parable today is St. Peter’s question, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Then the Lord teaches us this parable of the wicked servant that was forgiven an insurmountable debt and sin against his master, but would not forgive a fellow servant just a small, insignificant debt.

The point is clear: since you have been forgiven a debt against God that you could not possibly have hoped to even begin to pay the interest on, you shall have mercy on one another and forgive each other whatever sins that have been committed against you. And if you do not forgive those that sin against you, you will be liable for your debt against God.

But it is obvious that this parable is not about money. It’s about being forgiven our sins by God and how that leads us to forgive the sins of others. Here our Lord gives us a parable that expounds upon the 5th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: And forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.

We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins or deny our prayers because of them. We are neither worthy of the things for which we pray, nor do we deserve them. For we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. But we pray that He would answer our prayer by grace, so we too would sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those that sin against us.

In God’s mercy toward us sinners by the forgiveness of sins in the blood of Jesus, we find our reason and strength to forgive others their sins against us. So after having received the Lord’s life-giving body and blood, we pray: “We give thanks to you, almighty God, that you have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore you that of your mercy you would strengthen us through the same in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another.”

Your relationship to your heavenly Father is created by and sustained by the same thing that creates and sustains your relationship to one another: the life-giving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. For you cannot participate in the cup of demons and in the cup of the Lord. In other words, you can’t hate your brother whom you have seen, and love God whom you have not seen. You cannot receive from God mercy, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation and not have mercy, love, forgiveness, and reconciliation for and toward each other. To receive from God all these things and then to hold a grudge against each other is to call God a liar and to consider yourself more holy that God.

For what does it mean to be sinned against? In truth, it means to have your reputation tarnished or destroyed, not by what you have done but by what others say of you and how the treat you and act towards you. That is truly what it means to be sinned against: to be lied about. That is how we sin against God. We lie about Him when we do not honor Him as God and treat Him as the almighty. When we ignore His clear word and go our own way; when we reject what He gives and consider our own opinions and ways better suited to salvation and righteousness.

Adam and Eve, when they ate of the forbidden fruit, called God a liar. They unjustly tarnished His reputation. So, too, the Israelites when they whored after false gods and did abominations. They called God a liar and before all nations they smeared the reputation – which is to say, the name – of God. That is why God says to them, “Not for your sake, but for my name’s sake I will act and rescue you.” God has to re-establish His reputation. He has to do what He said He’ll do. He has to forgive and reconcile and make friends out of enemies because He has promised to this. He does this through the cross of Christ and His resurrection from the dead. By this act of God He reconciles the world to Himself. He redeems it. He restores mankind to His rightful place as ruler of all things. More than this, though He promises as new heavens and a new earth.

He forgives all your sins and redeems you from sin, death, and the power of the devil for His name’s sake; so that He will be known as the God of mercy and love. When we then do not give mercy and love to one another we sin against God who is love and who desires mercy and not sacrifice.

But truly, who can sin against you or me? Who can tarnish our reputation in ways that we have not already tarnished it? Who can call us names without us deserving of those names? Who can harm our reputation when we are known liars and gossips? Who can hurt our reputation by not giving us some due credit when we have so often ignored others? Who unjustly says we are wicked when we prove it time and again by our words and deeds?

Yet how often we are like the man choking his fellow servant over something they have done to us. What of the apostles’ words that love covers a multitude of sins? What of our Lord’s words that it is better to give than to receive? If you have been sinned against do you deserve to be repaid? No. You don’t. You don’t deserve anything but death and hell. That’s the point.

You don’t deserve anything but death and hell, but by the mercy of your King, you have been given life and salvation. You have been given eternal life and heaven itself. So you, too, give life and salvation to your brothers and sisters, your fellow servants. For the thing that creates and sustains your relationship with your heavenly Father is the same thing that creates and sustains your relationship with one another and in fact, with all people, friend or enemy: it is the blood of Christ.

One final word: notice that the wicked servant sought out the other servant that owed him money. He went looking to collect. That is where the sin began. If we go looking to collect, then we are already in the wrong; we are already lost. For our heavenly Father did not send His only-begotten Son to come to earth looking to collect. But He sent Him to forgive and to rescue us from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Go looking for your fellow servants, for that is the stuff of reconciliation, but go in order to be reconciled. Do not go to show them how sinful they are or how bad they have been. Go in the freedom of Christ to forgive, to restore, to be made whole.

Go in the peace of God.

+ In Nomine Iesu +