Jesus’ Forgiveness Is Without Limit. What About Yours?

Text: Matthew 18:21-35 Speaker: Festival: Tags: / / Passages: Matthew 18:21-35

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Matthew 18:21-35

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Listen)

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.1 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.2 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant3 fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,4 and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 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. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,5 until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”


[1] 18:23 Or bondservants; also verses 28, 31
[2] 18:24 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer
[3] 18:26 Or bondservant; also verses 27, 28, 29, 32, 33
[4] 18:28 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer
[5] 18:34 Greek torturers




Whoever does not truly from his heart forgive his brother will not receive forgiveness from the Father.

This parable out to terrify us, because it ends on a really dark note. Other parables end this way, but because a man loved money more than the word of God, or didn’t have the white robe on, etc. Here it is because he didn’t forgive.

Whenever I give private communion I ask the person “is this your sincere confession that you heartily repent of your sins.”  Have you sincerely from your heart forgiven everyone around you. To forgive means to let it go completely. You are never going to bring up again, when your spouse annoys you. You are not going to go around telling everyone what a terrible thing so and so have done. You are not going to hold it against him/her until he/she makes up for it.

Have you sincerely from your heart let it go? Because if not you have no place in the kingdom of God.


Peter’s Question

A little background, peter isn’t coming out of nowhere to ask this question.

The verses before this one show us a Savior who has prescribed a level of love and understanding for our brothers that is beyond anything the disciples have ever considered before.

Jesus shows us a God who is so eager and ready to forgive that not only does announce forgiveness freely to all. But he in fact gives the keys to the entire church, so that every believer is able to go around throwing away this forgiveness to anyone who asks.

Imagine if a very rich man starts to give away his money to the poor. But not only gives away his money but gives away even ATM cards, saying if you need more go get, or if you know someone who needs more give them some as well.

The Liberality of Jesus forgiveness is so great it makes Peter stop to realize how petty he is being, and instead of confessing his pettiness instead he looks for vindication.

He looks for an excuse, ok, if my brother bumps into me by mistake I’ll forgive him. But if he keeps doing it like seven times, surely, you can’t mean I should forgive him. Sound familiar?

It’s this desire for self justification that prompts Peter’s question. What’s the limit? Seven times?

Peter actually thinks that he is being generous here. The Rabbis said 3 or 4, Peter is doubling that.

But Jesus answer is unequivocal, and squashes Peter’s and our, self justification. 70 x 7, 490, without limit even as your Father has forgiven you without limit. There is nothing that any fellow human can do to you that can come anywhere near the severity and debt which you owe to God and He has forgiven you, therefore forgive and let it go.

Jesus tells a parable to explain


What is owed to the Debtor

It is important to note in the parable that the amount the second servant owes to the first is not insignificant. We are talking about 3 months wages. Today at minimum wage that would be about $5,000. Imagine if someone owed you more than $5,000, would you be likely to just let that go?

Equally than the sins against us which Jesus is talking about here are not small ones.  He is not saying, “Hey your husband forgets your birthday you should forgive him.” Rather he is saying, “Your husband cheats on you, you should forgive him.” Someone murders your child, you should forgive him. Someone blows up the towers killing hundreds of people, we should forgive them.

This on the surface sounds ridiculous. We usually follow Peter’s thinking; surely I cannot forgive this sin.

And yet Jesus reminds us that even such sins, even such great debt as this might be, which is not insignificant on its own, nevertheless is insignificant compared to the debt we owe him.

The debt of the second servant is around $20 million. There might some who can imagine making that much money, but to a poor farmer in Jesus day, no way. This is an amount beyond anything we could ever even pay the interest on.  And if God has freely forgiven such a massive amount to us, what can anyone do to us that would ever even begin to compare.


The Father’s Forgiveness

The Father takes the first step, The Father forgives us first. “In this we know love, not that we first loved him but that He first loved us.”

We began the service with the Father’s forgiveness. Freely without hesitation and without making us “pay a little” first. We reminded of it in our text. And I tell you know again, as one who speaks in the name of Christ, “You sins which are great, are forgiven.”  Go therefore and forgive the sins of other which are little.

It is this forgiveness that will allow you to live together as a family. It is this forgiveness that you will allow us to grow together as a church.