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Matthew 18:21-35

Following in Forgiveness

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • November 24, 2019

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Following in Forgiveness

Matthew 18:21-35                                                  

 Illus. That’s the way.

            This morning we are going to look as Jesus turns His attention toward one of the most difficult, but important ways in which both the disciples, you and me in our day are to follow the Lord in, that is following in forgiveness.  It pulls on the strings of our emotion, and challenges the core of our devotion. Yet, as Jesus is talking about the defining factors or those who follow Him, Jesus circles forgiveness; which for His disciples, and you and I today is what Jesus has appropriated to us personally, and wants associated with His people universally.

Read: Matthew 18:21-35

            The question that this section centers on is “how many times am I to forgive my brother?” It is a question that comes after Jesus tells His disciples that when another believer sins against them, they are to pursue them with a response of resolution and restoration, to do whatever it takes to restore them, speaking the truth in love, with the ultimate goal of turning them back to Jesus.

Surely the disciples were hearing Jesus’ words, they needed to forgive their brother with a heart of restoration when He asked for forgiveness, but, the question remains, how many times do I need to forgive before I stop that cycle? Much was made of that very debate amongst the Rabbi’s in Jesus’ day, but what about those who were now following Jesus’ way? What would He say?

The same debates come in our day, when is enough, enough? How many times am I to forgive? In light of God’s forgiveness and life in Him, how am I to live? What is unforgivable? 

  1. Leave Behind Your Limitations

Matthew 18:21-22, Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

  • Jesus had spoken to His followers about forgiveness several times:

Matthew 6:12, Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  

Matthew 6:14-15, For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

Mark 11:25, When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

  • Though the disciples had already heard from Jesus regarding forgiveness, the question Peter was asking here had yet to be asked, and they didn’t know the answer, so Peter, in usual form, asks the question on his mind.
  • It is important to understand the platform he was working from that prompted this particular question.
  • The rabbinic teaching (Amos 1:3, 2:6), was that the limit on forgiveness was 3 times. The fourth time, no forgiveness.
  • Jewish law said three strikes you’re out. Peter’s question is following that line of thinking.
  • So, Peter more than doubled the custom which was quite a generous amount in that day. “How many times should I forgive that one who has sinned against me, what is the limit of that forgiveness, seven times?

Matthew 18:22, Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

  • Jesus’ answer would be unexpected, seven times 70, totaling 490. 490 times! how I am to keep track of that?

1 Corinthians 13:5, Love keeps no record of wrongs.

  • There is a way in which we walk according to what we have known to be true in our lives. The way in which we were raised, what has worked for us, and way in which we walk when it comes to forgiveness in the process of restoration.
  • We put particular parameters and limitations on forgiveness, we are even good at categorizing those things that are unforgivable, but here Jesus is telling us to leave behind those limitations.

Illus. Out of bounds.

A. Consider His limitless Compassion

Matthew 18:23-27

  • This parable Jesus gives is a picture of what the disciples might see in their day regarding a great debt owed.
  • The story is of a king who goes to settle accounts with his servants. “Settling accounts” refers to an amount owed to the king. And the particular servant Jesus illustrates, owed 10,000 talents which was an incomprehensible amount.

Illus. Today’s value. 

  • 10,000 talents represent an extreme figure. And while we can speculate as to its modern-day value, the idea is that it was an unpayable debt.
  • Additionally, the specific term used here is murias, which literally meant 10,000, but was the largest numerical term in the Greek language. It represented a vast, unmeasurable amount.
  • Since He did not have the means to repay the debt, the king ordered that the man, his wife, children, and all that he had be sold.
  • The man, realizing the reality of the debt owed, falls to the ground and asks for patience, declaring that He would pay all that he owed.
  • Speaking as if all he needed were patience and time, he tells the king that he would pay him everything.
  • The king knowing he could not pay, had compassion on him, and in his compassion, he released the man, and forgave the debt he owed.
  • In the context of the kingdom, this is what Jesus has done for those who are forgiven in Him.

Psalm 103:8, The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Psalm 103:12, As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

  • And regarding our deepest need, the forgiveness of sin, the debt we owed but could not pay, the Lord is compassionate, the debt paid in full.

Romans 8:1, There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

  • This man was in a hopeless condition. There was only one way out, it was to ask forgiveness…and the debt to be removed.

1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Psalm 130:3, If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand?

Hebrews 8:12, I will forgive their wickedness, and will remember their sins no more.

Illus. Forgive and Forget?

Romans 6:23, The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

B. Be willing to walk His way

Matthew 18:28-30

  • The man who received compassion and mercy went out to find a fellow who owed him 100 denarii.
  • A denarius was one day’s wages, so, as we established, in today’s terms, using the minimum wage in Portland metro, the man owed him $10,000.
  • In light of that debt, the man who had just been forgiven goes and takes hold of the man who owes him, chocking him by the neck, and demands he pay up.
  • The 2nd man fell to his knees and begged for patience, promising to repay what he owed. He did not request a cancellation, just patience with a promise to repay.
  • His plea for patience was nearly identical to the words that led to the leniency and forgiveness of the king. Still, the first servant, who was owed a small amount, refused and threw him in prison.

Illus. Traffic Jam.

Illus. It’s you.

1 John 1:8-9, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

  • The prison the man would go in was debtors’ prison. It was an even more severe punishment than being sold into slavery.
  • A person in debtors’ prison would remain there until their debt was paid. But, they were unable to work and earn money while in prison, it made repaying the debt essentially impossible.
  • Others seeing the scene were in disbelief, the one who had been forgiven an unpayable debt was unwilling to forgive the small debt owed to him.
  • He was unwilling to give what had been given, to extend what had been extended to him.
  • The fellow servants went and told the king what had taken place. They recognized that something was wrong with the picture.

Ephesians 4:32, Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Colossians 3:13, Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Illus. Just like you.

  • We come to God for forgiveness and then we go out into our world, and walk amongst those who find themselves indebted to us. How are you living in light of God’s forgiveness? How are you responding to others with the same need?

Matthew 18:32-33

  • When we ourselves have been given great mercy, we, like the Lord, are to have mercy on others rather than withholding it.
  • C. Hold onto the Helper
  • The hurt, the harm, the debt another owes to you? It is imperative to sincerely ask the question, what would Jesus do?
  • The answer to that question if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus, the proof, is what He did for me and for you.
  • And there are situations and circumstances we face and say, I just can’t do it. I can’t forgive, I can’t give mercy, can’t give grace, I am reminded of the hurt every time I think of, or see that person’s face.
  • The reality to the statement “I just can’t do it,” is that you can’t, but there is one who can.

Matthew 19:26, With God all things are possible.

Psalm 121:1-2, I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

  • The disciples didn’t know how to forgive either, and in hearing the way in which they were to follow the Lord in forgiveness, they said it much better than me.

Luke 17:4-5, Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

Matthew 11:28, Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

1 Peter 5:7, Cast all your anxiety upon Him because He cares for you.

CH Spurgeon Quote.


Matthew 18:21-35 

21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”


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