Parables | How to get Mercy right | Mattew 18:21-35
Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 18:21–18:35
How to get Mercy right.
Story: Missing the point??
- Missing the point of forgiveness (Matt 18:21-22)
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often ywill my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? zAs many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy- seven times.
Well meaning Christians can miss the point easily here. Peter had been with Jesus a while and was starting to understand that Jesus was about forgiveness when he suggested that we forgive 7 times. 7 times was generous. In those days religious people said 3 times was plenty. I mean let’s think about it in our lives. Let’s say someone sins agains you... like steals something from you. According the passage above, you go to that person and say “Hey, you stole that from me.” They say, please forgive me... and you forgive. Then they steal something else from you... Peter’s question is valid. How many times do you forgive? Maybe it’s not stealing. Maybe someone lied to you. Maybe someone gossiped about you.
If we all forgave people 7 times we would probably be considered the most merciful people in he world. We give up on people too quickly. 3 strikes and you are out.
What Jesus is getting at is that Peter is missing the point all together. It isn’t about how many times. It isn’t about making a list. It’s about the heart. We want rules so we can follow Jesus with our mind, but not our heart.
Quick caveat... if someone is stealing from you, don’t give them a key to your house. We can forgive and still have wise boundaries. Let’s say someone has an abusive husband and he occasionally gets mad and hits her or threatens her.
- The husband needs to be confronted with their sin
- Boundaries need to be put in place. Including separation, etc.
- Forgiveness is still on the table.
- Debt is a great analogy for sin. (Matthew 18:23-25)
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished ato settle accounts with his serv ants.7 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him bten thousand ctalents.8 25 dAnd since he could not pay, his master ordered him eto be sold, with his wife and fchildren and all that he had, and payment to be made.
So this guy owes a lot of money. If you were listening last week, Christ talked about how much a talent was worth, right? Like a million dollars... so 10,000 talents is like 10 Billion. So... I’m not sure how someone borrows that much money. It’s safe to say he was taking advantage of the situation. Maybe he had a gambling problem. Have you
ever been in debt? Of course you have. And the stress and pressure that comes from it, right? It’s easy to get into debt and difficult to get out.
- Debt from circumstances. Often times it can be because of curve balls life throws us. You get laid off, you need new tires, medical bills, your kids need braces, your car breaks down and we need to buy a new car. And these are just trying to do our best to react to life. b. Debt from convenience. You ever lose your debit card and then have to throw your
purchase on a credit card. Or the shoes you have been wanting go on sale and it’s not in the budget? Those little purchase can add up quickly. For me we have used it to buy supplies to remodel the house. c. Refusing to look at your debt. There comes a time when you need to look at your credit card statement. I think there is something wrong with us, because we never want to look at it. I mean it’s negative and causes stress. And I try to eliminate negativity and stress so it’s much easier to not look at it. To push it to the far corners of our mind. Let it be tomorrow’s problem. d. The weight of debt. Debt weighs on us. It stresses us out. It looms and makes us fear the future. Some of us have quite a lot of debt. You know there is the $500,000 house debt, two $30,000 car debts, 5 credit card debts - $10,000, the medical debts maybe $6000 ... we add that up and we are looking at a pretty heavy load. Don’t forget the interest. It weighs us down it steals our joy. e. That’s why debt is a great analogy for sin. We react to life poorly and we sin. We get laid
off and get angry and say things we regret. We cut corners or make a mistake and then lie to make ourselves look better. We don’t mean to sin, it’s just that life is hard and we don’t always know how to handle it. And since we are emotionally not healthy we drink too much, overeat, over spend. We selfishly want things for ourselves and so we hurt others to get what we think we deserve. Our sin weighs on us like a heavy load. It looms. It tells us we are not good enough. There is no hope. It heaps on shame.
- God has empathy. (Matthew 18:26-27)
 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. (ESV)
It says in these verses that the king had pity on the man. However the word in greek is Splanch-nis-theis: meaning visceral compassion... an emotional connection and response. This same word is used a few other times in the new testament.
In Matt 20:34 two blind men cried out to Jesus “Son of David, have mercy on us” It says Jesus was moved with compassion and healed them.
As the king looked at the situation of his subject. We was moved emotionally to have compassion. I think the word is empathy. This is super important. Jesus is teaching here that God sees us in our brokenness and sin and the weight of our debts and his reaction is not judgement, not anger... but splanch-nis-theis... Empathy. He feels the weight of our sins, the hopelessness of our situation, and is sad with us.
The dictionary says: Empathy is the psychological identification with or visceral experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
Empathy has no script. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of “You’re not alone” - Brene Brown
As God looks at us, he listens, he withholds judgement, connects with us emotionally, and says “its ok. You are not alone. I am with you.” We need to sit and soak in God’s empathy. We need to let God love on us, shoulder our hurts, our burdens, and our sins. God is so good. Until we do this, we will not have the capacity for empathy with others.
If we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. - Brene Brown
Reflecting on the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10, he is not a Christian and doesn’t become a Christian as far as we know. But he comes to Jesus and says what must I do to inherit the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus knowing that his wealth was the most important thing in his life tells him to sell his stuff and follow him... if you know the story the guy ends up going away sad because following Jesus was not worth it for him.
But somehow I missed this before when I read this story... but it says Jesus looked at him and loved him. He saw his sin and loved him. Some of us this morning need let Jesus to look at us as we are, broken and covered with sin and love us anyway. God can empathize because he has walked this earth. He has experienced the death of loved ones, he know what it is like to be hungry, sad, hurt, he was tempted, and although he never sinned he understands the weight of sin as he bore our sin as he went to the cross. As it says in
Hebrews 4:15 (ESV): 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
If God has empathy for us. Shouldn’t we have empathy for others?
- God is rich in mercy (Matthew 18:27)
the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
A couple things we learn about God here. First of all notice that the king did not give him what he asked. He asked for more time. More time wasn’t going to help him any. He wasn’t going to come up with 10 Billion anytime soon. God is just like the king. In his mercy, He doesn’t give us what we ask for. He gives us what we need. It’s like my kids 30 min before dinner feel very hungry and beg for gummy bears. Gummy bears are not what they need, they need real food. The early church fathers said that God listens to our heart, not our words. We may think all we need is a raise, you know a little more money, but our heart is crying out to be fully satisfied. That is what God hears and he gives us much more than we ask for.
We learn something about ourselves here. We somehow think we can fix things ourselves. We realize we blew it and then we tell God we will make it up to Him. You know this idea of Christian Karma. For a while we try to be really good.. you know to prove we are sorry to maybe to earn God’s approval by our good works. This is not the
gospel, this is not what the Bible teaches. We don’t need more time, we don’t need more good works, we need God’s mercy.
Luckily for us God is rich in mercy...Like $10Billion worth of sin rich... According to Ephesians 2:4–5
 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (ESV)
God is so rich in Mercy. We desperately need his mercy because without it we have no chance of paying for our sins. There will be a day where God will settle his accounts. He will take out the balance sheet and start crunching numbers and we will realize how much debt we have. That heavy feeling, that lump in our throat, that stress. We need to let Jesus pay for our sin now. According to
Colossians 2:13–14  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,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (ESV)
Jesus, moved by empathy, responded in kindness as he allowed the nails to pierce his skin, nailing our sin to the cross. Our $10Billion sin was expensive. Paid for by the mercy of God.
Let me say this right now, Jesus offers his forgiveness for your $10 Billion debt. He sees you. All of you, and he has empathy. He know what has happened to you. He knows the ways you are broken. He know the things you have done. He loves all of you.You don’t have to carry the weight anymore. You can be free of the guilt. Give it Jesus. Let no one leave here without knowing that their debts have been paid. God is rich in mercy, come get some.
- Mercy comes from the heart. (Matthew 18:28–35)
 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.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  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.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (ESV)
There servant owned 100 denari.. A denarii is one days pay... do about 3 months of work... $15,000 How could this servant do this? It’s shocking. I don’t know why he would do this. It makes no sense. Did he not realize how much he had been forgiven? Did he not believe the king had forgiven him? Was he so self deceived that he still
thought he could pay the king back? Did he refuse to forgive himself? What he do know is that his heart was hard. The kindness of the king had not affected his heart. A heart that has received the lavish mercy of Jesus, it cannot help but be moved. We are like the prodigal son weeping in our fathers arms and then enjoying a lavish feast, knowing we deserve none of itI
Psalm 116:1–2  I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.  Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. (ESV)
I love this: Peter is worried about the repeat sinner. Jesus is concerned about the merciless servant.
If you find yourself being judgmental, this passage is saying you should check your heart. If you have been a Christian a while, maybe you have forgotten how much you have been forgiven. The early church fathers would take inventory on the different ways they have sinned. No one likes to think about their sin, just like no one likes to look at their credit card statement. I used to think you were supposed to make yourself feel bad about your sin before you take communion. But now I see it differently. Don’t think about your sin to feel the shame. Let’s not forget how rich the fathers love is. How much mercy we have received. Our bank accounts are full. Take the rest of your life and try to spend that $10Billion in mercy toward others.
As a church we have changed our identity to Mercy Fellowship. Let us be defined by mercy. Let is forgive everybody. Let us look for ways to bless everyone. Let’s be more concerned about the merciless servant than the repeat sinner. Guess what? If you have received mercy and forgiveness then you now are rich in mercy.
But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?" (1 John 3:17)
I’ll leave you with this... two weeks ago my wife was driving to work and she saw an old lady 97 years old laying face down beside the road. She didn’t have shoes on and her nose was bleeding. She stopped, making her late for work. She had empathy. She called 911. She waited for the paramedics. The paramedics thanked her for stopping and caring. They said you’d be surprised how few people stop to help. Let’s stop counting sins and start spending our wealth of mercy!
Let’s let mercy be what defines this church.
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