An Unpayable Debt Meets Unfathomable Grace
How many times? How many times have we said how many times? How many times do I need to tell you? You say you are sorry but here we are right back where we started. Well fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. Fool me three times; well I am not sure who to blame for that that one but all that I know is I am done.
Perhaps the reason no one knows what happens the third time is because we are not good at forgiving. Forgiving is hard. If you were a good Jew, like Peter, you were told if someone sins against you one time forgive him. If someone sins against you two times forgive him. Three times forgive him. Four times do not forgive him. How many times? Three times was enough if you were a Jew. How many times has been enough for you? Maybe one time was one too many.
Peter had just been told by his Savior if someone sins against you, go and show him his fault and forgive him if he repents. This led Peter to ask Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother?” Peter, being a Jew, probably thought he was in the free and clear when he told Jesus up to seven times. How happy Jesus must be with seven times when at the most a respectable Jew would not forgive no more than three times. How surprised and confused Peter must have been when Jesus said, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus point was clear. Seven times is not enough. There is to be no limit to forgiveness. To emphasize this point, Jesus spoke in a parable speaking about a king who was looking to settle debts owed to him. He came across a man who owed him 10,000 talents or in today’s currency a debt of over 150,000 years wages or 7,500,000,000. An unpayable debt. There was absolutely no way for this person to pay it back. The king was going to have his entire family be sold to repay the debt. He begged. I will repay you. Instead of the king saying, “How many times I have heard that before”, he forgave this massive debt.
150,000 year’s wages of debt. What an absolutely unpayable debt. Who could ever possibly repay that huge amount? What a picture of the debt we owe our God even more so. With all of the additional mandates and laws the past several months sin is just being heaped upon sin. We are burdened by our thoughts of how we feel toward those in authority over us. We struggle to faithfully follow new laws and mandates that seem to be so confusing and contradictory. Our reaction to people based on what they are wearing or not wearing or sharing a particular only adds to the heap of sin. It is a mountain that seems too impossible to overcome. Thank your God he did not limit his forgiveness to two, three, seven or even 1000 or a billion times or he took the attitude and said this is too much. I cannot keep on forgiving you. If he did, we would have used up our allocated forgiveness long ago. But in one fell swoop this unpayable mountain of debt is swept away in the unfathomable grace of our God. Unfathomable because who of us can comprehend God would forgive us so much? What we hear in Psalm 103 is true, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. “ God’s forgiveness to you has no limits. It knows no bounds.
150,000 year’s wages worth of debt was forgiven. The servant and his family were spared from being sold into slavery. The kings unfathomable grace had made his life free and clear of all debt. Peter had asked the question how many times do I forgive my brother? Seven times would have been more than satisfactory for Peter. Jesus tells Peter the Lord answer is not 7 times but an amount that is unfathomable.
For the servant who had been forgiven this unpayable debt it was clear seven times, no one time, to forgive was too much. When this servant went out, he found a servant of his own who owed him 100 denarii, a few dollars. Grabbing and choking him, he demanded he get paid what he is owed. His servant begged for mercy. He pleaded for more time. How many more times do I have to hear this? Enough with the sob story. Throw him in jail. Don’t let him see the light of day until he pays back everything owed.
Forgiveness is hard to come by nowadays. I am not necessarily talking about others forgiving us but we forgiving others. It is only too natural for us to want to grab and choke a person, I am going to see you pay for what you did me. Much harder it is to forgive especially when this may have been the 2,3,4 time you have already forgiven them for the same thing. How many more times? I am done. Make them pay.
There is no room in the kingdom of heaven for unforgiveness. When the king heard about what this servant had done, he was thrown in prison until he could payback all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. Forgiving our brother not just 7 times but 77 times is one of the things we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer. Father, forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. This is impossible without Christ. We do not have the capability of forgiving anywhere near the debt we owe our God. One act of forgiveness is one act too much for us. Just our unforgiving nature is enough rack up a debt that is unpayable. But then our Savior displayed unfathomable grace. What did he cry on the cross? “Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” Father forgive those who are mocking me. Forgive those who lied about me. Forgive those who drove the spikes into my hands and feet. Forgive those who betrayed me. Forgive those who failed to forgive their brother. Forgive those who only want is owed them. Forgiven we are of any all and sin because of unfathomable grace. God’s unfathomable grace is what moves us to forgive one another. How right it is. How much we need to pray, Lord forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lord, “How many times am I to forgive my brother? Up to seven times?” No, not seven times but seventy-seven times. How quickly and easy it is in this world to rack up a massive amount of debt and lose all hope of ever being able to get out of debt. How desirable it is to look someone square in the eyes and say, “I am going to make you pay what you owe me.” No matter how many times we have not forgiven, we cannot use up God’s grace. Forgiveness is not a one time or seven time event with our God. His grace is unfathomable leading us to forgive our brother from the heart not just one time or seventy - seven times but as often as we are called upon. Amen.