Jesus Disciplines Jesus Forgives | Matthew 18:15-35
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 18:15–18:35
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 14-20 has been titled the Revelation of the King. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people; he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. Jesus has revealed and displayed his identity as King, he has continued on his mission of establishing his kingdom, and now he is declaring the values of his kingdom. Kingdoms are defined by their king. Kings determine what their kingdoms will value. Jesus is constantly teaching his followers what it means to be in his kingdom. Last week we saw Jesus places great value in those in his flock who have lost their way and have been caught in sin. Jesus is a good shepherd who pursues his lost sheep and brings them back to the fold. Jesus then shifts to training disciples how we are to engage with our brothers and sisters when we have found them in sin, especially when they have sinned against us. A gospel community will be defined by how they handle those in sin, while those in sin will be defined by how they respond. The hope is always forgiveness and restoration.
Matthew 18:15-3515 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” 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.24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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 servant 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, 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, 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.”
Verse 15-17 | Gospel Accountability
Jesus knows the people he has called and brought together will sin and sin against each other. He doesn’t desire it, but he does want his disciples to be prepared for it. The question is not necessarily if your bother sins or sins against you, it is how will it be dealt with. Specifically how do individual disciples and church collectively address the issue of sin in others. He has made provision for failure with-in the church. Jesus knows our tendency for legalism “you’re in until sin” and license “There is no sin to be dealt with.” Because of this, Jesus knows we need to be trained how to process situations of sin so we don’t default into our two ditches. The people of God are called to be a gospel community of grace, where sin is taken seriously, not ignored, but it’s always engaged with a goal or repentance and a desire for restoration.
Process should start One on One. Sin always separates. As disciples we’re called to be agents of reconciliation. If you find your brother in sin, even against you, if you love them be proactive and call them on it, directly but privately. Goal is repentance not shame. If they listen to you, and repent brotherhood is restored. This is a hope but doesn’t always happen. We’re slow to acknowledge sin in ourselves even when others bring it to us. If not repented it’s time to get a few others involved. Bring a group – Intervention. This is not a posse of sin hunters and brother destroyers. Sometime we need a few people, a community to show us where we are at fault. “We’re seeing something in you that needs to be addressed, this isn’t this one guys opinion we’ve all seen it. This for and because of love for the sinner.
This should be sufficient but man we can be stubborn sometime. If there is a refusal to repent it’s time to “run it up the flag pole” to the church, this is the elders first, and ultimately to the gathering. The purpose is not public shame but purity of the body. Treat them like Tax collectors/gentiles, no longer part of the body, we can’t call them brothers any more, but the desire is to be brought back or in, like the prodigal. The stakes were high, with church discipline there was THE church in town, this was your community, not a buffet of other options where people could hop from place to place. In the short history of our church we have had a few instances of church discipline. By God’s grace they have followed Jesus prescription, buy God’s grace there has ultimately, after a season of excommunication, repentance and restoration. How does this go badly? Don’t go to the person, go to everyone else, don’t bring it up at all and bury it while unaddressed the sin continues, the bitterness grows killing relationships and kills community.
Verse 18-20 | Leaders Burden
Jesus goes on about the responsibly of the disciple to carry this out in the life of the church and for the health of the church. This is a charge for and to the leaders to willingly submit to God’s will in these situations. God’s will is based on God’s word. God is clear sin need to be addressed. The authority for “bounding and loosening” is given assuming there is submission to God’s word. The roll of the church is to bring God’s word and will to bear on a situation. This first section is often missed entirely; this section is always misquoted and misapplied. This verse is used by those with a low view of the local church, when in fact it teaches the opposite. Jesus is talking about church discipline and the role of the church and leaders in carrying out discipline. Church discipline is never easy or welcome, but it is essential for health of the church. Imagine a place where sin was never addressed and its affects and consequence on self and others was never checked. It wouldn’t be the kingdom of heaven, it would be hell.
Verse 21-22 | Discipline to Forgive
Now that Jesus has lays out how discipline works, how much forgiveness and grace should be shown? How many times do we forgive our brothers? Most of us are ok with second chances for people, we all understand none of us are perfect. One mistake or sin should not a life condemn, but what do we do if someone needs to be forgiven more than once? Standard procedure in first century Judaism was literally 3 strikes and you’re out. Hey that’s a pretty good deal. Peter says “ok I get it we’re supposed to be gracious and forgive so how about twice as much as standard plus one for good measure.” Jesus says, “You’re on the right track but you think way too little about the greatness of the kingdom.” It can either be 77 or 420 times, either way is to show our capacity for forgiveness should be in exhaustible. We are to be defined as disciples of Jesus by our forgiveness both what we’ve been given and what we give.
Verse 23-27 | Jesus Forgives
Jesus, in training his disciples, shows what the kingdom is going to look like. It’s going to be a kingdom where the king leads with mercy and grace AND expects his servants to do the same. This is a lavish grace. Jesus lays out what the gospel looks like here. There is s a king, over all, including servants. Each servant is accountable for their life they have been given. We are before the king and found lacking. Some we might be aware of and some we may have no idea about, until the full scope of our sin is brought before us. In this case Jesus uses an amazing amount of money to show us the depth of our sin. The amount is actually quiet obscene. It works out to something like 10+ billion dollars or 200,000 years of wages. We need to understand we are not off God’s standards by a little bit (you’re a pretty good person just a little tweaking) but our sin is a massive crushing debt that can never be paid in full even by the sale (forfeit) of your whole life. The consequences for the debt have been laid out and the sentence has been ordered. The servants response is in part what ours should be, a desperate plea for mercy to the king who has to power to sentence us or release us. I say in part because in his desperation the servant either by fear or misunderstanding his debt promises something that is quite simply impossible, no amount of overtime is covering for this. In the same way the karma idea that we can pay or debt of sin to God is equally ludicrous as the idea this servant could pay the king back by getting back to work.
But there is good news. The king reveals his character, he hates debt, but he had mercy, compassion, grace for the fallen indebted that is bigger. He gives the servant mercy (he releases him from the sentence of prison he deserves). More than simple mercy he gives him amazing grace. Your debt is forgiven. The amount of debt might have been even more that the king’s tax income for a year. To forgive the debt could possibly cost him a major portion of his kingdom. To forgive is never cheap it costs something. So the gospel is not your release from prison, so now go spend the rest of your life working off you impossible debt and we will settle later. The gospel is you’ve been release from the consequences of your debt (prison) AND your debt is forgiven so now you get to live a life of freedom joyfully serving a king who had shown you His amazing character. While you don’t work to earn your forgiveness, your forgiveness should absolutely change the way you work/live. There is an incompleteness to the gospel if the implications of God’s grace in your life stops with your position before the king and doesn’t affect how you live with others in the kingdom. Jesus shows us what it looks like when the gospel stops with us.
Verse 28-30| Worldly Justice
We love being forgiven. When we know/feel a burden of our sin and how it’s affected others there is a release, an exhale, and freedom that comes with being forgiven. Jesus cares about how we interact with others when they have sinned against us. We have been forgiven much we are called to at least forgive little. Jesus warns of what it looks like when we experience mercy but then demand justice from others. The forgiven servant, who owed much, has also been sinned/wronged, by his fellow servant. He see him and demands payment of what amounts to roughly 3 months’ salary. It’s not completely insignificant but it is literally NOTHING compared to the mercy he just received from the king. Remember the king had forgiven the debt not release him to go scrounge up as much as possible. The guy started the day down billions and by grace is now made whole and how does he respond when given an opportunity to show mercy to someone else? He goes all Soprano on the guy and starts choking the guy who owes him a few grand. In short order he has gone from “Please have mercy on me.” to “Pay up!!” We take our new status and rather than it leading to greater humility if we misapply God’s grace we’ll have more pride. “What I am I owed?” The truth is yes, the other servant does owe the forgiven something. But we are not to seek mercy for ourselves and then turn to apply justice to others. Grace is supposed to be efficacious, meaning it does change every part of our lives from how/why we obey the king to how we handle being wronged, even by fellow servants/brothers. See the guy the forgiven servant is choking is also a servant of the same king. They have the same authority over them, they’re citizens of the same place with the same mission, but one guy has applied justice so strictly it has put the servant who owed little in prison. When one of the king’s servant is put in a debtors jail they are no longer able to serve the king and his purposes for them and the whole function, mission, wholeness of the kingdom is hurt. Jesus is telling them and us, when we don’t forgive others we are putting them in a prison. Who do you have in a prison?
Verse 31-33 | Gospel Community
The stakes for forgiving, or not, are high. Kingdoms are defined buy their king but outsiders can often define them by the behavior of their subjects. The forgiven servant’s action towards the other servant was not done in isolation, it was known by his fellow servants. The community sees what’s going and says, this is not the way it’s supposed to be. They bring the matter to the attention of the king. Disciples are servants of the king. If we are to be forgiven servants of the king we are to regularly walk in forgiveness.
Eph 4:30-3130 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. The king has strong words to his servants who don’t take the mercy they’ve been given and apply it to others, the servant goes from being “forgiven” to being called “wicked”, you don’t want that.
When people talk about you, or about Damascus Road Church, when they talk about King Jesus they should be saying “wow! They are quick to forgive!” They forgive in a way that is out of this world.
Verse 34-35 | Prison or Paradise
Our relationship with forgiveness will either lead us to paradise with the King or a torturous prison. It says “in anger” his master delivered him to “jailers” (really torturers), until he has payed all his debt. Jesus has already said this is a debt too big to be paid. This is a forever judgment and sentence with torturers, actively inflicting deserved wrath. The King takes forgiveness seriously, and uses judgment when the forgiveness is denied. We’ve got to actually wrestle with this. I am sure it doesn’t really mean that’s how God is? Jesus leaves no doubt. “So also my heavenly father will do to EVERYONE of you if you don’t forgive your brother, from your heart.” This is not lip service, this is a deep soul level forgiveness that doesn’t go back to choke out what is owed. You want Justice?! You get justice. You want mercy, give mercy. Where is your hope? Hope in the king of mercy and grace who covers your debts. Hope in Jesus.
Colossians 2:13-14 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. Our debt has been cancelled by Jesus on the cross. As Jesus was released from the grave so we’ve been release from a debtor’s prison to go joyfully serve our King, giving grace and mercy to our fellow servants. Trust Jesus.