The Parables of Jesus 6: The Unforgiving Servant

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily Bread,
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom,
The Power and the Glory
For ever and ever Amen.

When Jesus was asked by His friends how to talk to God –How to pray He gave them the words we have just prayed.  This was not the only advice He gave about prayer, but it was certainly His most specific.
In this prayer are contained what God sees as the greatest priorities on God’s Heart for us.
He wants to agree together with us that this is what is important in life and what He will respond to with His favour and blessing.
We will return to this prayer in a while

1.. Peter’s Question

We need to go back to our passage and look at Peter’s question

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

It’s always difficult when we get a Then
at the beginning of our story cos we know we have to go back and look at the bit before.  Now we haven’t got time for a big explore of the verses beforehand in Chapter 18 but this might be be good material for Small Groups.
Let me give you some Headlines

Jesus had been talking to His friends and there were some kids with them and you can imagine him grabbing one and tickling him and he then He talked about the need for us to be childlike in our humility and acceptance of God’s Kingdom Rule in our lives.

He moved on to try and help us understand how to deal with sin.  He is so keen to express God’s Love for us when we wander away from Him using another parable about a lost sheep and then He gets specific and gives advice to us about how we should deal with those who sin.  It’s a useful passage about forgiveness and reconciliation.
But it is this that leads Peter to think to himself.  Ooooh I know how to impress Jesus.
I can almost see the other friends of Jesus wince as ‘motormouth’ the devoted follower who cannot resist opening his mouth and inserting his big left boot steps forward.
Yep Peter steps up and says 

 “how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 

You see Pete’s convinced Jesus will be impressed by such generosity of forgiveness. 

It was both biblical tradition and the teaching of the Jewish Rabbis that when there was an offence you should forgive the person three times.
So Peter thought after Jesus’ talk about The love of God for those that wander.
I know I’ll say not three times I’ll double it add one for luck and say seven times.
You can almost hear the love in Jesus’ voice when He pricks Peter’s balloon
No not seven times but seventy seven times. But let’s be clear here Jesus is not really saying forgive someone who hurts you seventy seven times is He?
You can see all the guys standing around listening to this in shock and especially Peter, Peter wears his heart on his sleeve a bit like some of us  and you can imagine him starting to stomp off in disbelief or at least throwing his hands up in horror and the Jesus takes Pete’s arm and motions to him to sit down and listen to his story about a King.

2. There’s a King who forgives

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

They knew all about Kings Herod and others had wielded authority over them for years. We know about Kings too.

Good kings bad kings Kings.
This King was going over his books and realised there was someone who owed him.
And this is where things get serious.


a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

Ten thousand talents.  Now the problem for us is we have no idea of what that means. And we will see later that we need to have some idea of how much we are talking about.

But what is ten thousand talents.
We can work it out

There was a Jewish coin called the mina mentioned in another parable in Luke 19 this was worth three months wages

One Talent was worth 60 Minas
60 x 3 months = 180 months 
Divided by 12 to get years gives us 15 years wages 
1 Talent = 15 years wages x 10,000 =150,000 years wages
Now I don’t really need to do any more maths but if we simply use the minimum wage £6.19 per hour
Approx. £1.8 Billion

This man owed the King £1.8 Billion!!
Now what Jesus meant by saying 10, 000 talents was not really £1.8 Billion was it?
What Jesus was saying was that the debt was bigger than any of you around me now can possibly imagine
The King understandably decides to call in the debt. You can see Jesus smile and say

Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

What would you have done plead forgiveness. Possibly but would you could you do what this guy does next!

‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’

Was he really asking the king to wait 150,000 years to get his money back.  This is crazy
He was saying
 it will be ok I can do stuff I can make it right if I work hard and earn Yep I can do it
But what happened next was the truly crazy amazing wonderful  thing.

The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

He canceled a debt of 1.8 Billion?

How could he do that?  
If you have ever read this story before or even if it is your first time something that might slip your attention is that the King has not just spared the servant the debt.
But the King has just out of his compassion for his servant lost something very very precious to him a vast wealth beyond imagining, a price that could never be paid has been paid by the King.
It was not hard for the disciples nor is it hard for us to see that Jesus was talking about God as the King  
And each one of us as the servant with a vast debt. What is this vast debt that is canceled?
Let’s have a quick look back in Matthew 6:12 at the prayer we looked at earlier, that summarised what Jesus knew were essential priorities for His Father.

Mt 6:12
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Well Jesus uses the same word in Matthew 6 when He prays forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors the same word is used for sin or trespass.
Jesus is saying to Peter and to us-  You can never pay this debt
God has forgiven you for all you have ever done wrong.

3. My story

In 1964 My parents moved from Skegness where my father was working as a journalist to a promotion in Guildford.  They were young I think she was 27 He was just 33 and they had four young kids age 1, 5, 6 & 8 They bought a house for the vast sum of £3000 on a mortgage of say about £2,000.  To help you compare the value of that house today would be around £300,000.

In spite of the promotion the finance was tight and they a mada a decision a few months in to the move. To stop paying the life insurance to the prudential. They were young and fit and it would be ok for a year maybe two then they would take out a new policy.
My dad worked very hard but in journalism you had to network make friends in pubs and he started to drink and smoke and put on a lot of weight.  You can probably guess the next bit. In february of 1965 a few days before my 7th birthday in the middle of the night my dad had a massive heart attack and died.
Yes it was a tragedy to lose my dad and it scarred all of us dreadfully.
But now there was no life insurance cover and my Mum knew this and in her mind in addition to the horror of her loss was the shadow of repossession of our home.

There was a huge debt and no way to pay it

The day came and the man from the Pru came and knocked on the door and handed my Mum a letter.  In the letter was a cheque to cover the mortgage.

You can imagine my Mum’s shock and she never found out why it was paid but it was and the terrible debt that she thought would ruin us was wiped away.
She experienced the same relief and joy that the servant in the story must have felt.

4. Forgive from your heart as you have been forgiven

But we have not finished our parable from today yet and I am running out of time. Jesus continues to answer Peter’s question about how many times should we forgive.  The servant has been forgiven and skips out of the throne room with spring in his step.... hmm not quite.

Mt 18:28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
Ok so we know that the Roman Denarius was what was paid to a soldier for one day’s work.
So just to get our heads round this it was 100 days’ pay so let’s say using the same rate as before that comes to about £5000
Now let’s be honest that is no small amount of debt
It’s not like someone lending you the money to buy a cup of coffee.  Jesus wants us to realise that the offences of others in our lives HE KNOWS are not small things they hurt us cost us and cause deep sacrifices to be made.
Look at what happens next
Mt 18:29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
I cannot go on without asking you to compare verse 26 with verse 29.  They are exactly the same except the second debtor is more honest than the first the first guy says I will pay back everything I owe know full well it is impossible.  The second guy just says I will pay you back without any commitment of time or amount.
Mt 18:30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
But let’s look back at the story and remind ourselves about what we and everybody else in the story knew.
Mt 18:31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
Those servants were distressed because they knew the level of forgiveness shown to the first guy
Mt 18:32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.
Mt 18:33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
Mt 18:34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

5. The Challenge

The parable turns on this question In a way as so often Jesus answers a question with a question. In answer to Peter’s question and to ours How many times should I forgive?
Jesus uses the King in the story to ask the servant to ask Peter and to ask us too?
Mt 18:33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
Jesus has ended with the warning that should not confuse us into thinking we can in some way lose our salvation by being unforgiving rather that we need to see that we are called to understand and accept our forgiveness in a way that changes everything that changes how we see others how we see ourselves how we see our world.
You have been completely forgiven How can you not forgive?
I know that for some of you there are issues of forgiveness issues that I believe God wants you to move beyond.
It is likely that you will not know true peace in your heart until you are prepared to restore peace to a broken relationship. 
Jesus is calling you to forgive and I am challenging you to this week forgive that person you need to forgive and then to come and tell me about it.
Your testimony can also be part of that journey of forgiveness.
If you need help with that, do please talk to someone you trust here.
Forgiveness is the lifestyle choice of a transformed heart.
Its not about just doing the right thing, Its about understanding What Jesus did for us on the Cross His death paid the price of our forgiveness.
That was the price the Father paid to set us free.
Let’s close by looking at John’s words in his first letter chapter 2
1 John Chapter 2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:
Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
TJB Oct 2012

Tim Blake, 12/12/2012