Title: Forgiveness is …for you!
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
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.
In his book, Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.
“That is the mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied Himself of His righteousness that He might clothe us with it, and fill us with it.
And He has taken our evils upon Himself that He might deliver us from them [and] in the same manner as He grieved and suffered in our sins … while we rejoice and glory in His righteousness.”
–Martin Luther, Werke (Weimar, 1883), 5: 608.
Martin Luther understood that:
Forgiveness is …for you!
In the gospel reading for today Peter asks Jesus a probing question.
“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”
And then quickly answers that question himself with what he thinks is a good answer.
“As many as seven times?”
It’s easy to see that Peter believes himself to be quite generous in his view of forgiveness. Maybe even thinking that at some point certainly after seven times, I’ll be able to just whack my brother and end this nonsense.
To this Jesus replies:
“I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
It is not the Lord’s intent to show a definite number of times where forgiveness is to be delivered but that for God’s people who have been forgiven by grace, may understand that the content of their hearts should contain only … God given love and forgiveness.
But for we who are Christians, saved by the mercy and grace of our Lord, we live daily within that tension of being both saint and sinner. Both, brought forth in iniquity, and conceived in sin as Psalm 51:5 reminds us, yet justified by faith, receiving God’s peace through Christ’s work by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 5:1
We have received in essence, the favor of God on account of Christ through this blessed exchange, our sin … for Christ’s righteousness.
“The idea is not simply that we have been forgiven, and therefore ought to forgive [others], but that God Himself, in Christ, has forgiven us, and therefore our debt is truly incalculable. No matter how much has been done against us, it is little compared with the offense we have thrown in the face of our Lord.
Yet God in Christ has forgiven us. If we know anything of [our own] forgiveness, if we have glimpsed anything of the magnitude of [our own sin] and the debt we owe to God … our forgiveness of others will not seem to be such a large leap.”
–D.A. Carson, Love in Hard Places (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002), 80-1.
20 years ago as I wrestled with the aftermath of leaving the church of my birth [Roman Catholic] and I was also confused at the time with some of the doctrines and teaching from the nondenominational church I was then attending [Heart of the Hills Christian church]. I happened upon the radio program, the White Horse Inn. May be you’ve heard of it? The program and its hosts discuss theological issues from a reformed and Lutheran understanding and perspective.
In the episode that I was listening to the hosts had their producer go around the hall of a Christian Booksellers Convention asking people in attendance;
It has been said:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God. … not even one.” Rom.3
To this the respondents replied:
“Gee that’s harsh!”
“You’ve got to be kidding me, I don’t believe it!”
One man even asked, “Who said that, a Neo orthodox theologian?”
To which the reporter replied, “The Apostle Paul in Romans 3.”
The radio went silent. “Oh … ?”
The truth is that as sinners we have a very high view of self and a very low of sin. To that end, the indebtedness that we owe to Christ for our rescue is devalued and you either see your sin as really not all that bad or … even worse … Christ’s forgiveness and rescue as really not all that good or necessary.
But, apart from God’s action and working, every one of us would remain, dead in trespass and sin. And like Lazarus who was unable to free himself from the bonds of sin and death, and the tomb, until the voice of Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!” We too would remain entombed in our own sin, dead to God, forever separated from the love of Christ found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of sin is death. Paul tells us in Romans 6. Rom. 6:23a
And death is real whether it is in Syria or Iraq, or Charlottesville North Carolina; whether it’s by one’s own hand in suicide; or a senseless murder of mother shot in the back in our own Waterford. For all of these … death is real.
23 but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 6:23b
I thought about this when President Matthew C. Harrison was first elected president of the Lutheran Synod. There was quite a bit of tension and a pretty dramatic scene back in 2010. He was elected on the first ballot and this in of itself was a bit out of the ordinary. While Dr. Gerald Keishnick was visably surprised and disappointed he displayed a great amount of grace as he invited President –Elect Harrison to address the assembly. President Harrison said: “You have kept your record intact of electing a sinner to be president of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod. I will sin against you and ask for your forgiveness and if any of you have sinned against me … I forgive you.”
Christ’s mercy for we who deserve death is a pure gift. Even one sin would separate us from the love of God in Christ, not to mention our complete corruption from the fall for we who are born sinful and unclean.
But, because Jesus is the mercy and peace of forgiveness; we who have been given faith in Christ can joy in that forgiveness!
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?”
God has had mercy upon us for the sake of Jesus, who paid the debt of our sin. He has [freed] us from the imprisonment we deserve and He has forgiven the debt. Therefore we have the obligation of gratitude resting upon us that [as you and I who have been forgiven] we gladly forgive our fellow-men what they have sinned against us. Even if such a [sin] great in the sight of men, it cannot come into consideration in comparison with the debt which God has mercifully forgiven [you and me].
Luther – Kretzmann NT pg. 103
May Christ Jesus’ bountiful mercy and peace comfort you, as you joy in the forgiveness won at the cross and given to you freely by faith in Him who was and is and is to come.
While I know all too well that I have sinned against you here at Peace I ask for your forgiveness and if you have sinned against me … I forgive you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!