Friday 15 September 2023

Matthew 18 v21/35


The Gospel message for Sunday, is the parable of the unforgiving servant.

 The Apostle Peter features often in the Gospels, and gives the impression of being of an impetuous man.  Here he has a quick tongue, rushing into speaking, so moving Jesus to teach.

 Peter thought he was being considerate, even generous, in forgiving a sinning brother, and sought the opinion of Jesus, as to how often he should do so, and suggested seven times.  It was the custom of Rabbis, that three times was sufficient and not four.  This procedure was based on the prophet Amos.  who had declared three times God would not punish, but after that God would punish the sinner, and  man could not be more generous than God.  Peter thought he had done well in doubling three and adding one on for good measure.

 Jesus told him the story of a servant, who had incurred a huge debt to his master, amounting to hundreds of dollars, and  when asked to pay back, was unable to do so . The master ordered him to

Pay or he and his wife and children would be sold until he did pay.(This was a practice common in the ancient world). The servant pleaded with his master to have patience and he would pay everything owing.  The master took pity for the man, released him, and forgave him the debt.  

 The servant went out and met a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of a hundred denarii, and without any mercy, seized the man and tried to choke him. He was told to pay, the man plead he couldn’t and asked for mercy, promising to pay back, but he was refused and was sent to  prison until he could pay.

 When the other servants saw what had happened they went and told the master what had happened.  The master reminded the man how he was set free, only to penalize someone else, the master sent the cruel servant to prison until he paid the debt that  he had been forgiven of.

 This parable, is to teach lessons which Jesus often taught, and is repeated in the New bring people to forgive in order to be forgiven, and if forgiveness is not offered, God will not forgive the man for failing to do so.  This is the message of the Beatitude, blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy.  Forgiveness is a Christian virtue; it is not an optionable part of Christian life.

 No sooner had Jesus taught this man his own prayer, He went on to say ‘if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you, and He will have judgment without mercy to those that hath not shown mercy.’  Divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand.

 One of the great points of this parable, is the contrasts between the two debtors.  The first servant owed his master the equivalent of ten thousand pounds, and his own debt was less than five pounds.  The contrast is vast, but the point is, nothing men can do, can compare in what has been to God, and if God is ready to forgive us the debt we owe to Him, we must forgive our fellow men the debt they owe us. 

 Remembering the debts  that Jesus gave His life for on the Cross, for all the sins of people whom He never met, we see the enormity of real forgiveness, which should be a help for all others to  be generous. The crowds who were present at the last Passover, and following events mocked Jesus and call for His crucifixion, and His reply was, ‘Father forgive them. When God forgives it should make it easier for you to forgive.

.I have noticed a version of the Lord’s  Prayer in the English Standard Version of the Bible, has become recognized as the version most used in churches, especially in the United States, replacing the traditional verses of ‘forgive us our trespasses’ to ‘ forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’

 We live in an evil world, so we can  depend on problems arising, however we may try to avoid. Peter was told to forgive more times than he felt necessary.  Jesus did not mean to allow people immunity easily, He meant to show a spirit of mercy and forgiveness.  We are to put up with much rather than quarrel. We are to lay aside malice, strife and retaliation. However, I think it is necessary to let these aggressive and often arrogant people to know in a firm but quiet manner that their rudeness will not be tolerated.

 I was once in a Welsh village and in a shop window there was a small item with words on, which said, ’don’t get even, smile at your adversary, it will make him more annoyed.

 What a happier world it would be, if mercy was displayed rather than ill-feeling.  Think of the law suits avoidable, the bitterness, the trivial personal rights of so many, which could be changed if forgiveness and a desire for peace shown. Jesus is calling for good as opposed to bad, blessing not cursing, friends not foes.

 In the Christian way of living, there is need to fulfil certain duties, and one which is not recognized as it should be, is forgiveness.  There is no point in thinking all is moonlight and roses in all our churches.  I have seen what is more like open warfare, too often by people with enlarged opinion of themselves.  Indeed, I have been personally attacked by men with liberal minds, who have expected me to accept verbal abuse and tender an act of penance. Fortunately I have led a full and varied life, so have become immune to such bad manners, but I have seen the misery they caused to pastors of lesser experience. There are people who think they can exercise whatever feelings they have, and let loose their opinions on clergymen. This has to be stopped.

 There people who are trouble makers by choice, and seem to get some weird pleasure at ,making other people upset, and this is cruel and causes misery, especially when those who are victims of such abuse are normally of gentle nature. If you are abused in any way, think of the abuser as a lesser person than yourself.  Don’t let it upset or annoy you, especially of older age, as it could cause your blood pressure to rise unnecessarily, which could be dangerous.  

 It is sad to see such bitterness and unkindness, even to see the satisfaction displayed when they have upset someone. Yet the Bible tells clearly how we should live our lives. A problem is such people have never known much from the Bible, and have not been taught it properly.

 May this parable give us the means to act with peace to God, strengthened by the spirit of Christ, and as by adoption, children of a heavenly Father by grace. If we feel injured, may we have the strength to influence others, and cause them to see the benefits of a true Christian.

 Remember this passage and grow in grace and become holy in all your ways.

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