The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Sermon Notes

Key Question:

How seriously should I take forgiveness?

What are Parables?

Parables are made-up stories that contain a spiritual truth that is often easily missed.

Context

  • Matthew’s Gospel is arranged by themes (as opposed to chronology)
  • Jesus’ use of hyperbole is always to make a point
  • The First Century Jewish community operated on the bases of the Honor/Shame Code of Culture.

In this particular section of Matthew, the Gospel writer indicates what community life inside the Kingdom of God should look like. Jesus does this by answering a question about greatness. Jesus’ vision of greatness inside this community, however, is at odds with the Honor/Shame culture of 1st Century Judaism. Contrary to the popular ideas of the day surrounding greatness, the themes that Jesus discusses just prior to the parable are:

  • Humility (18:1-5)
  • Caring for new people or people that wander off  (18:6-14)
  • Tending to relationships inside the church with accountability (18:15-20)

And after this series of teaching Jesus drops a bombshell on his disciples about how seriously they should take personal forgiveness (18:21-35).  

Three Main Characters of the Parable

  • The King (God)
  • The first servant (you and me)
  • The second servant (also, you and me)
  1. In the Kingdom of God, greatness is illustrated as forgiveness.
    • Matt. 18:21-23, Eph 4:32-5:2
    • If Jesus Christ is not at the center of your Christianity you have opened yourself up to idolatry or legalism
  2. In the Kingdom of God, we keep on forgiving.
    • We keep on forgiving because God keeps on forgiving us.
    • Romans 5:20
  3. In the Kingdom of God, unforgiveness is attached to torture.
    • According to Jesus, the most torturous thing you can do to yourself is withhold forgiveness from others.

Jesus answered Peter’s question. It should be little wonder that Peter would later write:

“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Ponder:

What would happen if the world knew we were forgiven people and thus we forgive people?

Application:

You are invited to Come to the Altar

From my heart, I agree that:

  • God, as King, is able to forgive my sin debt
  • As God has forgiven me much, I will forgive others

Additional Material: (9 Keys to Better Understanding Parables) Available in the Atrium or for download.

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Discussion Questions

TALK IT OUT:

  1. In this parable Jesus was answering a question about greatness in God’s kingdom which was at odds with the Honor/Shame culture of 1st century Judaism. How can we guard against Concord Church falling into the Honor/Shame trap Jesus battled?
  2. Pastor Rusty points out that in contrast to what the Jewish leaders thought it took to be great Jesus discussed 3 areas fundamental to genuine greatness before telling this parable: 1) Humility, (18:1-5). 2) Caring for new people or those who wander away, (18:6-14). 3) Tending to relationships inside and outside the church with accountability, (18:15-20). Which of these 3 areas is most challenging for you?
  3. Pastor Rusty explains that in this parable: 1) God is the King, 2) You and I are the first servant, and 3) You and I are also the second servant. Interpreting the parable this way demonstrates that forgiveness is hard. How have you struggled to forgive?
  4. In the kingdom of God, greatness is illustrated as forgiveness. According to this definition of greatness would Jesus classify you as great?
  5. In the kingdom of God we are to keep on forgiving because God has forgiven us. Why is that so significant for each of us?
  6. In Matthew 18:34 the first servant was turned over to the jailers to be tortured until he had paid back all he owed. Pastor Rusty makes the point that, “the most torturous thing you can do to yourself is to withhold forgiveness from others.” Think back to times in your life when you refused to forgive. Have you ever been truly happy when you were bitterly nursing a lack of forgiveness?
  7. How would it change us as individuals and as a church if we took seriously Jesus’ challenge to accept God’s forgiveness and to also give personal forgiveness?

LIVE IT OUT

  • Make a list of 25 things God has forgiven you of in your past. Thank God for his generous forgiveness of your sins.
  • Make a list of people you have not forgiven. Beside each name write down a list of their offences against you.
  • Come to the altar either at church or in private prayer:
    • Take that list of individuals and their offences and ask God to help you offer full forgiveness to them in the same way He has forgiven you.
    • Acknowledge to God that you need His help to forgive those who have sinned against you as completely as He has already forgiven you.