Trinity 22 Sermon, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
Ten thousand talents is an absurd debt.
For one person to owe this much is not practically possible. One person, working five days a week at ten dollars an hour, would have to work for 200,000 years to earn that much money. It’s inconceivable that someone could rack up that much debt without being caught or killed first.
But we have such a skewed view of money and debt that absurd but real debts don’t really phase us.
Maybe not as individuals, but certainly as a nation, debt doesn’t really phase us.
For example, the national debt is over twenty trillion dollars. Do you know, off hand, how many zeroes are in a trillion?
It’s a real debt, but we can’t visualize it? If I say “$50,” you think of Five-Zero or a fifty dollar bill. We don’t have an anchor for trillions of dollars; there’s no immediate comparison.
I’ve been conditioned to think that it’s okay to spend more than you have. Everybody does it.
It’s absurd that the servant has this much debt, and it’s absurd that he begs for the opportunity to pay “everything” back. It’s impossible.
But the most grand absurdity of all is that the master, out of pity, forgives the impossible debt.
He knows the servant can’t pay, so he forgives it.
He doesn’t let the servant bargain; he doesn’t let the servant try. Out of pity, when asked, he forgives.
Jesus says this to show you the love and pity of God.
Our Heavenly Father created the world and sustains it.
For all of that, it is your duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him.
So, how’s that going?
Does the mouth that sings praises to its maker ever utter filth? Do the miraculous eyes that God created ever rest upon that which isn’t yours? Are you envious or lustful?
You see, when we consider our Father in heaven—all that He’s done—and when we consider our flesh and all that we’ve done—we should come to a scary conclusion:
We are now, by nature, sinful and unclean.
We have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed.
By what we have done and by what we have left undone.
That’s an absurd debt, one impossible to repay.
But out of pity, the master of the servants released him and forgave him the debt (cf. Mt. 18:27).
The absurd debt we owe is forgiven by the even more absurd mercy and pity of God our Father.
It’s an inconceivable wonder, all that God has done in creating the world and redeeming it.
Imagine the proper response to such mercy…And yet:
“When that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt” (Mt. 18:28-30).
This is, actually, not so absurd.
One-hundred denarii is a significant debt. There’s no comparison between it and ten thousand talents, but we’ve all begrudged someone of an insignificant debt.
What I mean is, can you think of anyone who owes you money? Does it ever bother you when your help goes unrecognized or unpaid? Are you always a good tipper or must they prove themselves first? And if they fail to prove themselves, how long do you wait to return?
Why can’t we forget about stuff like that?
The servant should know that if he’s patient, he’ll be repaid. One-hundred denarii is equivalent to one-hundred days’ wages. It’ll take some time, but there are payment plans for that kind of debt. It’s serious, but it’s manageable. But this servant isn’t patient.
“He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt. 18:30-35).
Jesus says this to shame us and our near perfect recollection of debts owed.
He says this to make a serious theological point: if you refuse to forgive, you are refusing to be forgiven.
You don’t believe in the forgiveness of sins if you refuse to forgive those who sin against you.
We say things like: “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.”
And that’s a lie. You won’t forget, because you won’t forgive. You just want to look like you will and do.
God help us!
We need to know that God didn’t wait until we had an attitude adjustment before sending His only-begotten Son into the world to be our Savior. He didn’t even wait until we were sorry before laying our sin on Jesus, the Lamb of God, who bore them away.
He had compassion on us and the world even when we and all the world were still stuck in our sins, stubbornly clinging to what offended Him.
God forgave sin before we asked, and He delivers that forgiveness to you not because you can pay Him back or even try but because He loves you and has pity on those who repent.
When Jesus died, all sin was forgiven. We receive the forgiveness Jesus earned by faith when we hear God’s Word speak Jesus into our hearts.
He forgave sin before we asked and delivers that forgiveness every time we ask and everywhere His Word is proclaimed.
God won’t run out of mercy. You can’t pay Him back.
But we know many who need from us the forgiveness that we’ve received from God.
To refuse to forgive is to refuse to be forgiven.
So we forgive those who do us wrong, and pray as Jesus teaches: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt. 6:12).
Not up to seven times. We don’t even forgive—literally—seventy-seven times.
We forgive and forgive and forgive until we die, and when we die we die as our Lord died—with forgiveness on our lips.
Having been forgiven, we forgive.
We have the authority, and we have the ability.
We have the authority, because we have the Holy Spirit. Whoever has the Holy Spirit has the authority to forgive. We have the ability, because we have received the forgiveness of sins through faith.
Or, to say it this way, you can give what you have received.
And this, you can give again and again and never lose it, because God promises that there’s an endless supply.
Consider the evil we’re up against. The evil in the world. The evil that can kill children. The cowardice that refuses to face justice.
You need to know that God is no sissy.
He stands firm against this mass of sin, and He loves us through it all and in spite of it all.
His love purges sin from our hearts and lives.
And sin, of course, reappears again and again.
So we, again and again, confess our sin in humble contrition and faith. And with beggar’s hands, we receive the absurd forgiveness of our merciful God for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is absurd, and this is most certainly true.
Now, I could say “Amen!” there, and I normally would.
However, I’d like to share with you what the Scriptures teach regarding specifically evil events in the world.
As I’m sure you know, last Sunday, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, twenty-six people, eight from one family, as I understand it, old and young, were shot and killed.
They were in church at the time.
If you hear people ask “Why?” If you see famous people saying “Prayer doesn’t matter because they were in church and see how much prayer did for them!”
If you hear or see any of that, recall the temptation of Christ who prayed in the midst of temptation. Recall, also, again and again, the words of the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus teaches us to pray for deliverance from evil especially in the midst of temptation.
And, recall that Jesus gives a perfectly clear answer as to why bad things happen—it’s just that we just don’t like what He says.
In Luke chapter thirteen, Jesus says, “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1-5).
Terrible things happen—old and young alike will die— to warn and remind you that you need to be ready to meet your maker.
If you aren’t ready, and you do meet Him, oh, what terror. You will confess that Jesus is Lord and Christ to your condemnation.
But if you are ready, and you do meet Him, oh, what joy. Forever, you will sing with all the saints in glory, sing the resurrection song.
You need to know this:
“We do not need to fear the day of persecution that’s coming to the church, because God said it’s going to come. He warned us over 2,000 years ago [that] the day was coming. And rather than fear it, He said just endure it. Now ‘endure it’ is a hard word. ‘Endure it’ doesn’t mean that they might take your ice cream away today. ‘Endure it’ means it may be a rough day. It may be a rough few years. But the one who endures to the end will be [saved]” (from a sermon by Frank Pomeroy, October 19, 2014).
“Thy will be done…”
“Deliver us from evil…”
These are the things Jesus teaches us to pray so that we are constantly reminded of mercy of God—the victory of Christ over sin and the grave—and the peace we have, through faith, in the forgiveness of sins.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!