READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l We are forgiven to forgive. Rabbinic law suggests forgiving three times; the apostle Peter asked if it should be seven times, to which Jesus replied not seven times but seventy-seven times. In essence, Jesus was asking Peter to move forgiveness from being countable to being incalculable. Keeping track is not really forgiveness, as we are waiting for our neighbor to cross the line.
Jesus is the Great Jubilee in person – a spiritual jubilee through which God deals with debts of every kind. Forgiveness is not an incidental aspect of God’s kingdom. It is at the very core of the Gospel and defines the kingdom of God. It stems from kingdom values, and not the values of the world.
Receiving forgiveness: Incredibly, the King forgave the servant’s debt. It was costly to generously and graciously release the debt. The servant did not earn or deserve it, but received it purely by grace. Likewise, we are debtors to God because of our sin. We are morally and spiritually bankrupt. While we can promise to pay off our debt, in reality we cannot. We are forgiven only because God assumes the loss, cancels the debt and grants us salvation. Forgiveness is not cheap. It cost God His son. God no longer holds that debt against us. (Heb 10:17) To receive forgiveness is to know that we are truly forgiven by our Lord.
Experiencing forgiveness: The fact that we are forgiven ought to make us forgiving. (Col 3:13) However, the forgiven servant had failed to experience it. To experience forgiveness, we need to recognize the depth of our sin. (Dan 9:9) When we recognize our deep need for God, it does something to our heart. We must never take God’s forgiveness for granted.
Sharing forgiveness: We struggle with sharing forgiveness. The King’s forgiveness exemplified the values of His kingdom. The forgiven servant’s failure to forgive was dishonouring to the King. Our unforgiveness may also be regarded as dishonouring God because He first forgave. The evidence of forgiveness is when we let go of the right to take revenge and get back at the person who had hurt or offended us. (Rom 12:17-21)
Forgiveness is not denying, forgetting or condoning the hurt and offense. Instead, forgiving creates a new way of remembering — a healed memory with a hope for the future. Justice is served through legal means and the consequences that follow but may not lead to closure. Rather, forgiveness is to let go and let God have His way. We can forgive someone, and yet reconciliation might take longer or not happen. Where trust is deeply broken, it ,is a process which takes time.
Forgiveness is a grace-empowered choice. It does not depend on how we feel, but is a decision made in obedience. Forgiveness is an event and also a journey to keep forgiving. The Lord gives us sufficient grace for that journey.
True freedom is found in forgiveness. We are set free from our spiritual and emotional prison when we surrender justice to God and trust that justice will be done in His time and in His way.
Let us glorify God through our forgiveness, for indeed we are forgiven to forgive.
(Sermon notes by Denis Koh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- Read Matthew 18:21-35 slowly. Put yourselves in the shoes of the King, the servant whose enormous debt was released, and the other servant whose much smaller debt was not cancelled. Imagine how they would have felt. Listen to what God is saying to you.
- What is the significance of “seventy seven” times we should forgive as stated by Jesus? What was he trying to illustrate to Peter about forgiveness?
- What impressed you about the king in the parable? How does his generosity remind you of God’s? How do the two servants remind you of yourself?
- What is or is not forgiveness as highlighted during the sermon? What struck you deeply?
- When was the last time you asked for and received forgiveness (from God or someone)? How did the experience transform you?
- Are there persons you would like to forgive? What’s holding you back? Share if you are comfortable. Pray for each other to have the grace and strength to forgive.