The Unforgiving Servant + Matthew 18:21-35
Why must my neighbor sin against me, O Lord? How many times, O Lord? Especially my Christian brother, he knows better.
Why doesn’t he fear, love and trust in God above all things? Doesn’t he realize our help is in the name of the Lord: who made heaven and earth?
Why doesn’t he call upon God’s name in prayer, in every time of need and trouble? Doesn’t he realize prayer is a gift from God? Why can’t he give God alone all thanks and praise?
Why doesn’t he hold the Word of God sacred, gladly hearing it and learning? Why doesn’t he come to church regularly to hear the forgiveness of sins spoken to him and eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus?
Why doesn’t he love the Lord his God with all his God, with all his heart, soul and strength?
Why doesn’t my neighbor honor, serve and obey authority? Doesn’t he realize that parents and teachers and law enforcement and pastors have been given to him from God for his every good?
Why does my neighbor hurt and harm me physically? Why can’t he help me in my every physical need? Why doesn’t he protect the unborn and the elderly from an evil death?
Why doesn’t my neighbor lead a sexually pure and descent life, in what he thinks, says and does? Why doesn’t he promote marriage and family? Why doesn’t he want to protect and defend and provide for his spouse? Why does he have sex outside of marriage? Why does he live together before he is married?
Why does my neighbor cheat and steal? Why doesn’t he help to improve and protect his neighbor’s possessions and income? Doesn’t he realize his heavenly Father provides for all people, even if they don’t deserve it?
Why does my neighbor say all kinds of bad things about me? Why does he lie and hurt my reputation? Why doesn’t my neighbor defend me and speak well of me, explaining everything about me in the kindest way?
Why isn’t my neighbor content with everything he has? Why does he always want more? Doesn’t he realize he is richly and daily provided for from the generous hands of God?
Why doesn’t my neighbor love his neighbor as he loves himself, even more than he loves himself? Why doesn’t he loves his neighbor as God loves him?
I don’t like my neighbor. Look at how mean and unloving my neighbor is toward me.
Actually, that is not my neighbor, it is me. I am looking in the mirror. I realize that I am a poor miserable sinner, worthy only of temporal death and eternal damnation. I am unworthy to receive anything from God. And as I stand before God on the Last Day, after I have breathed my last breath, I beg for mercy. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” That is my prayer. That is my plea. I am totally at the mercy of God. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Do not cast me away from your presence.
Forgive me my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me. That is my prayer. I pray that my Father in heaven would not look at my sins, or deny my prayer because of my sins. I am neither worthy of the things for which I pray, nor have I deserved them, but I ask that He would give everything to me by grace, for I daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.
And He does. God the Father forgives me all my sins. He tells me to depart in peace.
And I depart in peace, realizing that Jesus has purchased and won me from sin, from death and from the power of the devil. I know that by His innocent, bitter suffering and death, Jesus has taken the wrath and punishment I deserved and made them His own. I don’t suffer what I deserve to suffer.
I know that because of Jesus and what He has done, God the Father looks at me differently. God the Father sees me as His Son. He sees me as one whom He has set apart in the waters of Holy Baptism. He sees Me as His own. I don’t look to God the way I see myself in a mirror, He sees me as one who is redeemed, restored and forgiven.
And today, when I leave here, having eaten and drunk the very body and blood of Jesus, it will be easy for me to live just the way I always have. It will be easy for me to ignore God and hate my neighbor. It will be easy look at my neighbor’s sins, the speck in his eye, and ignore my sins, the log in my eye.
But by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will remember that I have tasted and see that the Lord is good to me, slow to anger toward me, abounding in steadfast love toward me, and I will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against me. I will forgive as I have been forgiven. I will do good as my heavenly Father has been generous to me.
As I depart from the presence of God this morning, from His holy altar, I will not ask, “How many times must I forgive my neighbor?” In Christ Jesus, that is not a question. I have been forgiven every time, every time I will forgive. I will not say to myself, “My neighbor does not deserve my forgiveness, my love, my compassion.” I have been shown mercy, and I will show mercy. I will not think that my neighbor deserves what is coming to him. I will not think myself better than my neighbor, thinking I deserve good and he deserves bad. I will not think that I deserve God’s forgiveness and forget that my neighbor deserves my forgiveness.
By the power of God, I have received a right spirit, I have received a clean heart, I have not been cast away from God’s presence. And in response, having been changed, having been recreated in God’s image, I will act as Christ toward my neighbor. I will forgive as I have been forgiven. No questions asked. Amen.