In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The kingdoms of God and man are different, strikingly so. For the rulers and princes of this world have kingdoms that are to be ruled by vengeance and punishment, as God has commanded. The sword must be administered, that the peace might be kept. But you, O Christian, live also in the kingdom of heaven, where there is no punishment, no vengeance, no violence; only grace and mercy and forgiveness. In this kingdom of Grace there are no demands for rights and dues, there is only pardon and peace. And because this gracious government stands, you can at all times rise again, however deep and often you fall. For even though you stumble and call, this Gospel and mercy-seat remain and stand forever.
That is the beautiful mystery of the seventy-seven times. For in that gracious number all sins of all generations-the entirety of sin from Adam to the end-are symbolized as having been forgiven. For there are seventy-seven generations from Adam, in whom all die, up to Christ, in whom all shall be made alive. And since no generation was omitted, no one is left out of the full gift of divine forgiveness in the cross of Christ.
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owed to his master ten thousand talents, a sum well beyond any amount of money he could ever repay, though he worked a lifetime. And yet this servant had no guilty conscience. He carried on in life as though he owed nothing to anyone. Until the king, settling his accounts one day, commands that this pitiful servant be sold into a lifetime of slavery. Not only he, but his wife and children as well.
This wretched servant, though, desires anything but to be thrown into the pit of hell, into a life of slavery and bondage. So, the servant fell down before the righteous king and begged. He begged-not for forgiveness or release, but for time-that he might, one day, retire the debt, that he might take care of it himself. It is a desperate lie! A wicked untruth. For it is wholly impossible for the servant ever to cover this debt. So the master ignores the servants plea for time. The king simply forgives the debt and dismisses the servant with nothing owed. The servant begged for little, and received much. He sought time, and gained his life.
We are as equally indebted to our King, who created us from nothing, and gives to us everthing to support this body and life. Still, we squander it frivolously. We spend our money on personal entertainment and convenience instead of giving alms to the poor; we waste our time with those who will flatter us rather than helping those in need; we spend our treasure on licentousness, on luxury and drunkeness, instead of assisting the afflicted and distressed. And we walk around as though we owe nobody anything, as though we are each our little self-made successes. We act as if though we are “falsely accused sinners,” confessing ourselves sinful, while never feeling guilty of sin.
Repent, O Man. You are more miserable, rotten, and poor than the servant of the parable. You have nothing to offer in repayment for wicked and sinful lives. “With what shall I come to the Lord? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression.” Fall before the throne of your heavenly King, and beg His mercy. Give up your lying promise to repay your debts. For you have nothing to offer, nothing to give, to the Creator of the universe. Confess your guilt. For the Gospel is a message for the depressed, for people with guilty consciences.
Rejoice, dear Friends. For your heavenly Father and King has pity upon you. He forgives you the entirety of your debt, pronouncing you free from all payments. Though you seek only time and promise to repay, your Father in heaven gives more, much more: forgiveness, peace, life, salvation. For the heavenly King, moved by grace and mercy, sent forth His only Son and Prince of Life, to take up your flesh and your debt. He came as your sin-bearer. Having no debt of His own, the debt of mankind was etched into His flesh with whips and thorns. And He was nailed to the tree of the cross, where the ledger of your transgressions was burned in the fire of God’s holy wrath, being made ashes which have been blown by the Spirit as far as the east from the west. As the Apostle writes:
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us.. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Jesus had no debt of His own, so He took your debt and made it His debt. He took your punishment, your bondage, your suffering, and He made it His punishment, His bondage, His suffering. For it is you that should be punished for your debts. It is you that should be sold into the bondage of Satan in the prison of hell. It is you that should suffer at the hands the wicked prison guard. You, though, will suffer none of this. For the Son of God has anulled the note written against you by the waters of Holy Baptism, by the Blood of His Sacrifice and Supper, by the preaching of His Holy Word.
Now, the forgiven servant refuses to forgive the meager debt of another. He does not struggle between mercy and justice. He is unyielding, unforgiving, unrelenting. His is the condemnation of the untouched heart. So the king recalls his servant and hands him over the torturers. Christ concludes, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
So Jesus gives to you His grace and mercy and forgiveness in abundance, so that you learn forgiveness well. For by the forgiveness of sins, you are righteous before God, acceptable to Him, holy and wise. And having been filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, God’s mercy overflows in your body. His forgiveness flows out of your mouth and into your neighbor’s ears.
Thanks be to God that even our unforgiving hearts are forgiven by the blood of the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world. The absolution and mercy of the heavenly King is complete. It covers all debts.
In the name of + Jesus. Amen
Rev’d Erich Fickel
Member of Redeemer and graduate student at CTS
Fort Wayne, IN