The Parables Series  #6




TEXT:         Matt. 18:21-35


INTRO:       Forgiveness is an essential part of any relationship and it is a continual part of all relationships.  It is perhaps the most difficult of all things to do!


As a boy I felt a keen sense of the need for forgiveness -- I would ask for forgiveness constantly from God and from my family.  (I even hit a parked car one day while riding my bike praying for forgiveness … later it helped when I realized the Bible said, “watch and pray!” – kept my eyes open after that while riding and praying!)


Too often our “option” minded society has led us down a path that makes us think that the kingdom of God has options in it.


ILLUS:     Buying a car:  we look for options:  color, make, model, stereo, carpet style, etc.  So when it comes to God's kingdom we begin to think of what Jesus said as things we can think about and consider as options:

a.     Loving

b.     Giving

c.     Forgiving!

d.     Faithfulness

Many Christians “choose” which of these they will obey as they would choose “options” on a vehicle.


PROP. SENT:    There can be no relationship with God without being forgiven and without being a forgiver!  In God's kingdom forgiving is not an option! -- It is a duty!


I.   NEED OF FORGIVENESS    Matt. 18:21-27


A.   Debt!    Matt. 18:21-25

1.   Peter’s original question about how many times should he forgive someone was interesting!  He tries to look good by suggesting to Jesus up to 7 times!

a.   The reason this sounded great was that traditional Rabbinic teaching in Jesus’ day was to forgive someone up to 3 times in one dayand Peter was suggesting they go up to 7 times; more than twice the Rabbi’s commands!

b.   He must have figured Jesus was really going to pat him on the back for his more than spiritual response!!!

c.   Jesus’ response must have taken the wind out of Peter’s prideful response … when Jesus said, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  He did not literally mean 490 times in one day, but was exaggerating to mean “the number should not be counted Peter!”  We can deduce that because no one would likely do the same sin 490 times in a single day against you!  Jesus was using hyperbole to make the point, not a literal new high number.

d.   How often we want to attach “rules” or “limits” to our forgiveness … but Jesus taught otherwise!  And this was the point; forgiveness should have no boundaries in the kingdom of God!

e.   Even Peter’s greater generosity than the Pharisees didn’t come close to what God expects of us!  Peter could take no pride in his “own extra grace” – it still fell far short of God’s grace!

2.   Sin is costly!

3.   Our debt is greater than our ability to pay – as is the man in this parable that Jesus speaks about!

a.   The man owed millions and millions of dollars!  (10,000 talents are equal today to several millions of dollars in our currency – quite possibly over $10,000,000!)

b.   This man couldn't pay his debt even if he wanted to, he was a servant!  Servants in Jesus’ day just didn’t make millions of dollars!


ILLUS:    He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself. – George Herbert – James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 223.


B.   Delivered!    Matt. 18:26

1.   Fallacy!

a.   The idea that this servant said he would “pay back everything” is a complete joke, he was delusional here!  He could no more pay back several millions of dollars than the man in the moon!

b.   He was a poor servant in debt by millions, the idea he would pay it all back was silly!  This is the act of desperation – no doubt caused by the realization that the master was about to take his wife and children and himself as slaves in return for the debt (see 18:25) and literally everything he owned … in other words; he was hopeless and his debt not only destroyed his own life but that of his family!

2.   Canceled the debt!

a.   This desperation act however got an interesting reaction from the master … the master “took pity on him” and totally forgives the debt of millions of dollars owed!!!

b.   An impossible debt is canceled out of pure grace by the master!

3.   This is real forgiveness -- freedom!

a.   The servant couldn’t repay the debt!

b.   The servant didn’t deserve the mercy!

c.   The servant wasn’t owed the grace!

d.   The servant however became the recipient of pure forgiveness and freedom resulted!

4.   How should someone forgiven so much feel toward others who owe so little?


ILLUS:    A young soldier was going off to fight in World War II against the Japanese.  As his father put him on the train and waved good-bye, he turned with bitter tears and said, "If my son is killed, I hope every Jap in the world is killed!"  Yet the fact that the father was a Christian made it difficult to feel that way in reality.  He had a fierce struggle with himself and finally realized that it was not Christian to hate, whether his son lived or died. He declared rather, "I will not hate.  I refuse to be destroyed by hate!"

   A year later the son was killed.  Soon life insurance money arrived.  The father did not really need the ten thousand dollars so he sent it to the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and designated it for missions to the Japanese.

   How could the father do that?  Only by the miracle of Calvary.  Only God can change bitterness and hate into love. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 220-221.




A.   Rare!    Matt. 18:28

1.   Often confused with:

a.   Politeness

b.   Tact

c.   Diplomacy

d.   Forgetting -- the issue is not primarily forgetting, but forgiving.

e.   Not just resolution, but restoration!

2.   Notice that when this servant who was forgiven so much meets a fellow servant who owes him so little (a few dollars in our currency!) and he “grabbed him and began to choke him.”

a.   This wicked forgiven servant now makes demands on a fellow servant that owes him a few bucks … after treating him to a beating!

b.   Though he had been treated extremely well by his master; he treats poorly his own fellow servant!

c.   What is wrong with this picture?  He who had been forgiven much, can’t forgive a tiny amount from a fellow servant?

d.   Yet, how about us?  Do we ever do this with others?


ILLUS:    On October 17, 1978 Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, was "forgiven" by the government of the United States.  He had been dead since 1889.  Before the Civil War he had been a congressman, a senator, and a cabinet member.  After the war he was imprisoned for two years without trial.  Then he was released from prison, but his citizenship was not restored until 1978, a little too late to do him any good. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


B.   Hard!   Matt. 18:29-30a

1.   Contradicts our idea of fairness!

a.   The fellow servant makes the same request, to be patient and he will repay all … only this time it is a reasonable request, he probably really can repay a few dollars given some time!

b.   There is the possibility of making this right if allowed some time!  This was not an unreasonable request by this fellow servant.

c.   The hard hearted first servant however refuses to allow the request; though he had made the same request, though his own request was foolish pride … he could never have repaid his master millions of dollars!

d.   He just wanted his own satisfaction!

2.   Denies compensation – “But I deserve...”

3.   Real forgiveness accepts hurt and suffering and deals with it!


ILLUS:     When King Henry II was provoked to take up arms against his ungrateful and rebellious son, he besieged him in one of the French towns.  The son, being near to death, desired to see his father and confess his wrongdoing, but the stern old sire refused to look the rebel in the face.  The young man being sorely troubled in his conscience said to those about him, "I am dying, take me from my bed, and let me lie in sackcloth and ashes, in token of my sorrow for my ingratitude to my father."

   Thus he died, and when the tidings came to the old man outside the walls that his boy had died in ashes, repentant for his rebellion, he threw himself upon the earth like another David, and said, "Would God I had died for him."  The thought of his boy's broken heart touched the heart of the father. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)


4.   It denies my rights at getting even!

5.   It means compassion, not compensation!


C.   Costly!   Matt. 18:30b

1.   Costs my pride!

2.   Costs the pleasure of getting even!

a.   He could have gotten the repayment from this guy with a little additional time, but instead chooses to punish him!

b.   Jail will take longer, but the pain inflicted will make him feel superior!

3.   Failed forgiveness costs my time and maybe even pain and hurt!

4.   Costs my rights!


ILLUS:      There is one eternal principle which will be valid as long as the world lasts.  The principle is -- Forgiveness is a costly thing.  Human forgiveness is costly.  A son or a daughter may go wrong; a father or a mother may forgive; but forgiveness has brought tears. ... There was the price of a broken heart to pay.

   Divine forgiveness is costly.  God is love, but God is holiness.  God, least of all, can break the great moral laws on which the universe is built.  Sin must have its punishment or the very structure of life disintegrates.  And God alone can pay the terrible price that is necessary before men can be forgiven.  Forgiveness is never a case of saying: "It's all right; it doesn't matter."  Forgiveness is the most costly thing in the world. -- William Barclay in The Letter to Hebrews.  Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 11.


5.   Yet we are to forgive freely!




A.   Immediate!   Matt. 18:31-32

1.   Unconditional!

a.   Doesn't require proof.

b.   Christ forgave his executioners at the cross not after the cross!

2.   Upon request!

a.   Granted immediately.

b.   Not a “wait and see” attitude.


ILLUS:     Clara Barton was never known to hold resentment against anyone.  One time a friend recalled to her a cruel thing that had happened to her some years previously, but Clara seemed not to remember the incident.  "Don't you remember the wrong that was done you?" the friend asked Clara.  She answered calmly, "No, I distinctly remember forgetting that." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 216.


c.   The other servants who witnessed this mean spirited servant went to the master immediately … they could see the obvious travesty of justice here in forgiveness!

d.   You know, the world is watching those who call themselves “Christians” and all our talk about “forgiveness” and how we treat others too!  It will make little sense to talk about a wonderful God who has forgiven us so much when we can’t even forgive little things about one another!

3.   How do we treat fellow servants?


B.   Continual    Matt. 18:33

1.   Not rehearsed!

a.   By our actions

b.   By our words

2.   Not postponed!

a.   “I'll get even one day for this...”

b.   “Just wait until they want some help from me...”

c.   Rejoicing over their hurt later from something that happens down the road.

3.   Not just a cover up -- a removal or postponement!


ILLUS:    A man lay on his deathbed, harassed by fear because he had harbored hatred against another.  He sent for the individual with whom he had had a disagreement years before; he then made overtures of peace.  The two of them shook hands in friendship.  But as the visitor left the room, the sick man roused himself and said, "Remember, if I get over this, the old quarrel stands." -- G. Ray Jordan -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 216.


4.   The master had let the first servant leave after forgiving his debt of millions … there would be no rehearsal of his debt, no reminders of his debt, he was a free man once forgiven.

a.   The only reason now for bringing him back and reminding him of what he had been forgiven of was because of his failure to forgive a small debt of a fellow servant and the horrible treatment he had given that fellow servant.

b.   Had this not happened there would never have been a reminder of his previous debt.

5.   The canceled debt was good forever … had he extended mercy to others.

6.   We who have been given much, owe much.


C.   Final    Matt. 18:34-35

1.   If it isn't rehearsed it may eventually die in the memory too!

2.   Forgetting is the result of true forgiveness not the process of forgiving!

3.   Healing of relationships demonstrates final forgiveness!

a.   The real proof of true forgiveness comes in the restoration of a relationship!


ILLUS:     On a cold winter evening a man suffered a heart attack and after being admitted to the hospital, asked the nurse to call his daughter.  He explained, "You see, I live alone and she is the only family I have."  The nurse went to phone the daughter.  The daughter was quite upset and shouted, "You must not let him die! You see, Dad and I had a terrible argument almost a year ago.  I haven't seen him since.  All these months I've wanted to go to him for forgiveness.  The last thing I said to him was 'I hate you."'  The daughter cried and then said, "I'm coming now.  I'll be there in thirty minutes."

   The patient went into cardiac arrest, and code 99 was alerted.  The nurse prayed, "O God, his daughter is coming.  Don't let it end this way."  The efforts of the medical team to revive the patient were fruitless.  The nurse observed one of the doctors talking to the daughter outside the room.  She could see the pathetic hurt in her face.  The nurse took the daughter aside and said, "I'm sorry."  The daughter responded, "I never hated him, you know.  I loved him, And now I want to go see him."  The nurse took her to the room, and the daughter went to the bed and buried her face in the sheets as she said good-bye to her deceased father.  The nurse, as she tried not to look at this sad good-bye, noticed a scrap of paper on the bed table.  She picked it up and read: "My dearest Janie, I forgive you.  I pray you will also forgive me.  I know that you love me.  I love you, too Daddy." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 201.


b.   This is what the master originally did for this first servant at first; he restored him to a free man.

c.   This is what Christ did for us; He restores us to relationship with God.

4.   When we forgive someone it becomes real when they are restored to relationship with us.

a.   If we hold them off and ignore them, they are not restored; hence we have not truly forgiven them – and cannot find our own forgiveness.

b.   The wicked servant will not be forgiven because he failed to forgive so little from a fellow servant … and in fact, he will not only go to jail, but be tortured until he dies for his failure to forgive – now he must pay back the millions he owed originally!  Mat 18:34 “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

c.   The debt is cancelled, not ignored or avoided in real forgiveness … it must be final or our own sins will come back unforgiven!




A.   The Offender

1.   Freedom from:

a.   Guilt

b.   Penalty

c.   Consequences   (Although sometime restitution should be made where possible)

d.   Severed relationships.

2.   Freedom to:

a.   Have peace again!

b.   To try a new start.

c.   Have a new relationship.

d.   Experience grace!


ILLUS:     A man in conversation with John Wesley once made the comment, "I never forgive." Wesley wisely replied, "Then, sir, I hope that you never sin." -- Quoted by Ron Klassen in the Christian Leader (Sept. 12, 1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 17.


B.   The Offended

1.   Freedom from:

a.   Bitterness

b.   Revenge

c.   Hurt in the long run.


ILLUS:    Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was abducted when he was 10 years old. His kidnapper, angry with the boy's family, burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, then shot him in the head and left him to die in the Everglades.  Remarkably, the boy survived, though he lost sight in one eye.  No one was ever arrested.

   Recently, a man confessed to the crime.  Carrier, now a youth minister at Granada Presbyterian Church, went to see him.

   He found David McAllister, a 77-year-old ex-convict, frail and blind, living in a North Miami Beach nursing home.  Carrier began visiting often, reading to McAllister from the Bible and praying with him.  His ministry opened the door for McAllister to make a profession of faith.

   No arrest is forthcoming; after 22 years, the statute of limitations on the crime is long past.  In Christian Reader (Jan/Feb 98), Carrier says, "While many people can't understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn't not forgive him.  If I'd chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn't be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be." -- Merv Budd, London, Ontario.  Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2.


d.   Broken relationships.

2.   Freedom to:

a.   Love again.

b.   Peace

c.   To understand others and ourselves.

d.   To have a new relationship.


C.   To Both

1.   To experience something of the Divine!

a.   To know what it is to have God's heart and God's favor.

b.   To sense what God senses!

2.   To taste the glory of grace and mercy.


ILLUS:    Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor on television, Marghanita Laski, one of our best-known secular humanists and novelists, said: "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me." -- John Stott in The Contemporary Christian. Christianity Today, Vol. 38, no. 7.


3.   To have God's forgiveness as well as a better relationship!

a.   With God!

b.   With each other!


CONCLUSION:   In God's kingdom forgiveness is not an option, it is mandatory -- to be forgiven and to forgive!  God has called us to be forgiven forgivers!

"Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you."  Col. 3:13

"Be ready to forgive others as God for Christ sake hath forgiven you."  Eph. 4:32