WHAT DID JESUS REALLY SAY

001-jesus-teaching

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Part X

Verses 32-33: Then the king called his subject in and said, “You evil servant. You begged me to forgive your debt, and I said you did not have to pay anything! So you should have given that other man who serves with you the same mercy I gave you.”

We must take note of one factor here that makes what this act of greed even more unacceptable. While the first man was subordinate to the king, the second man was a fellow citizen. Chrysostom shares his thoughts with us on this portion of Jesus’ parable. He writes: Do you see the mercy of the king? Do you see contrasted the lack of mercy of the servant? Listen, all you who do such things for money: one should not act like this because it is a sin. But it is much worse to act like this for money. How then does he plead? ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ But he did not even respect the very words through which he had himself been saved. With these words, he himself had been freed from a debt of ten thousand silver coins! He did not even recognize the harbor by means of which he had escaped shipwreck. Even the man’s pleading did not remind him of his master’s kindness.”1 It is hard to imagine someone so coldhearted and unforgiving. But there must have been such a mindset among the Jews or our Lord would not have taken the time to teach on the value of forgiveness and the torment of unforgiveness.

Chrysostom continues: Casting all these out of his mind in his greed, cruelty and bitterness, he was more brutal than any wild beast in seizing his fellow servant by the throat. What are you doing, O my beloved? Do you not see that you are making such a demand upon yourself? You are deceiving yourself. You are thrusting a sword into yourself! You are revoking both the sentence and the gift. But he considered none of this, nor did he remember his own case, nor did he yield at all. Yet the requests were not on the same level. Compare them. One was for ten thousand coins, the other for a pittance: a hundred denarii. One was merely dealing with his fellow servant. But the other was dealing with his lord. The one received entire forgiveness; the other asked for delay, and not so much as this did he give him, for ‘he cast him into prison.’”2

Verse 34: “The master was very angry, so he put the servant in jail to be punished. And he had to stay in jail until he could pay everything he owed.”

The bishop of Laodicea feels that this punishment was intended more to teach a lesson on how unforgiveness can change a reprimand into permanent punishment. He writes: When they do not tolerate our wrongdoing, our fellow servants are angels who accuse us before God. They do not accuse to God as to one who does not know of our sins but because of their anger at those who break the laws of human love. By ‘jailers’ He means the angels entrusted with our punishment. ‘Till he should pay all his debts’ means in effect that he has handed him over to be punished for all time. For he could never pay it back. For when he corrects a person in the present life, God hands him over to bonds, sickness, and tortures, but in the future, He hands him over to anguish without remission for all time. He did not say, ‘So also will your Father do to you,’ but ‘my Father.’ For such people are unworthy to be called sons of God. So the parable describes, in summary, the indescribable love of God. Anyone who does not imitate this love as far as he can will suffer severe punishment from the just Judge. Even though it has been said, ‘Not to be regretted are God’s blessings,’ yet wickedness is so strong that it blocks out these words. So the story demands two things of us: to remember our own faults and not to bear a grudge on one who stumbles.”3

Verse 35:This king did the same as my heavenly Father will do to you. You must forgive your brother or sister with all your heart.

The principle that Jesus expounds on here was also expressed by Solomon,People think that whatever they do is right, but the Lord judges the reasons for everything they do. Do what is right and fair. The Lord loves that more than sacrifices.4 And there may have also been an effort on our Lord’s part to invoke the message given by Zechariah about anyone who might refuse this message He brought to them:They were very stubborn and would not obey the law. The LORD All-Powerful used His Spirit and sent messages to His people through the prophets. But the people would not listen, so the LORD All-Powerful became very upset.”5

Forgiving each other of wrongs that we or the other has committed is just as much a part of our salvation working in us as singing, praying, reading the Bible, and going to church. As a matter of fact, unless we do forgive our fellow believer, our worship will be in vain. Not all the recipients of God’s wrath will be liars, adulterers, etc. I’m afraid there will be many “brother-haters” among them. Christ here lays down the final strata upon the doctrine of forgiveness. It should not be the pressure of public opinion, nor the fear of retaliation that prompts us to forgive as we have been forgiven. But rather, the forgiveness should come from the heart.

Those who bow to pressure or acquiesce to threats only to make themselves look good, do not stand acquitted of violating this commandment in the eyes of God. For He looks on the heart and the decision of forgiveness must be made there in order for it to have any heavenly value or approval. In other words, forgiveness is not an emotion or a ritual, it is a decision; an act of the will. Some advocate forgiving and forgetting, but there is no such thing. God does not cast our sins into the “Sea of Forgetfulness” because that sea does not exist. Even God does not forget our sins. Rather, He chooses not to bring them up and use them against us.6

Chrysostom comes to this conclusion in his sermon: In anger, his king delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. This means forever since he will never repay it. For since you did not become better by receiving blessings, it remains for you to be corrected by punishment. For since you have not become better by the kindness shown to you, it remains that you will be corrected only by vengeance. Although it is said that the blessings and gifts of God are irrevocable,7 our stubbornness may frustrate even this intention of God. For what, then, can be a more grievous thing than to be vengeful, especially when it appears to overthrow so great a gift of God. The text does not simply say they ‘delivered him’ but ‘in anger delivered him.’ For when he had earlier commanded him to be sold, his were not the words of wrath but, rightly understood a moment of great mercy. He did not in fact show wrath at that point. But in this case, it is a sentence of great anger, punishment, and vengeance. So what does the parable mean? ‘So also my heavenly Father will do to you,’ He says, ‘if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’ Note that he did not say ‘your Father’ but ‘my Father.’ For it is not proper for God to be called the Father of one who is so wicked and malicious.”8

How much more genuine and sweet is someone’s forgiveness when they choose to love us in spite of our wrong doing and the pain we caused them, than someone who simply foregoes any punishment but keeps the hurt and disappointment we caused them as a grievance to bring up when they feel it may make us feel bad or embarrass us? It can all be summed up in what the apostle Paul said so succinctly: “But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us.” That certainly demonstrates the power of love that we all possess, but only if we use it.

Keep this in mind: An unforgiving spirit is a worthless commodity. It buys you nothing but anger and resentment and causes nothing but grief and sorrow. Throw it away as trash. Otherwise, it will become an heirloom that you hold onto for no reason since its value is less than a cheap trinket used only as a grudge. Replace it with the gold of forgiveness. Forgiveness has the power of turning an enemy into a friend, of transforming an opponent into a proponent of your values and ethics. God knew that from the beginning. That’s why John was so excited to tell us:For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him would not be lost forever but have everlasting life.”9 It also caused the apostle Paul to exclaim with amazement:But God showed His love to us this way: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”10 How much more impact these words about forgiveness will have when we add the words of our Savior: I give you a new Law. You are to love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. If you love each other, all men will know you are My followers.”11

1 Chrysostom: Matthew, Homily 61.4

2 Ibid.

3 Apollinaris: Commentary fragment 92

4 Proverbs 21:2-3

5 Zechariah 7:12

6 Isaiah 43:25; See Hebrews 8:12

7 Romans 11:29

8 Chrysostom: Matthew, Homily 61.4

9 John 3:16

10 Romans 5:8

11 John 13:34

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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