God’s intended work is not punishment. It is not retribution. It is mercy. God wishes to show mercy to all. He created mankind to serve him. To worship and praise him. It was man who strayed from that intended purpose. Man who rejected God. Man who bound themselves, in sin, to the yoke of the law, to the accuser Satan. It was our work that earned us death. It was not God’s work. His work is mercy and love. And he created the world to be perfect, he created humanity to dwell in harmony in creation with the creatures of creation. It was our choice to sin. It is our fault that creation is corrupted that sin and death have entered the world. This we can not lay at the feet of God. We can not say “why have you done this.” This was our chosen path. The parable of Jesus illustrates this. The king was merciful. It was the unmerciful servant who brought on himself the wrath of the king. He can not blame the king for his plight. He incurred the debt. When offered mercy, he despised the gift.
Everyone wants to have total fairness when it works in their own favor. They expect mercy when fairness turns against them. It can not be both ways. We can either live in a fair world, or a merciful one. God would have us show mercy, as he himself is merciful. By our sin we have deserved eternal wrath. Yes, God judges. He condemns sin. But he would show mercy to all, if only they would hear the word and believe the promise. Judgment – the work of the Law – exists in this world to drive us to despair. To make us recognize and confess our sins. God gave the written Law so we would know what it is to sin. So that we would know how truly desperate our situation is. So that we would receive the Gospel with thanksgiving.
Because we can not pay the debt we owe. In Micah, the prophet asks “shall I give the firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” We can not, even with the sacrifice of our selves or our children, pay the debt that is owed. Even that is not enough. Even if God commanded child sacrifice it would be insufficient. And God not only does not command child sacrifice – he abhors it. It is an abomination. We are to protect the helpless among us, not kill them. That is why God gives fathers and mothers – so that children would be nurtured and protected, brought up in the fear and knowledge of God. Not so that parents can dispose of children as inconvenient and economically unfeasible. There is to be no human sacrifice. It could not save us anyway. The blood of others is just as tainted by sin as our blood is. It can offer no redemption for our sin. Our own blood can not save us either. So what hope is there? On our own, none at all. Only the blood of Jesus himself can cleanse us from sin. It is his sacrifice that is acceptable before our heavenly Father. The only acceptable sacrifice was the Father’s own son, given into death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins. It was sufficient. Nothing more required. The more you try, the more you push away his sacrifice, and the grace and mercy which he has gained. Your works gain you nothing.
In the parable the man owed ten thousand talents, it would take about 150,000 years to earn that. Jesus intentionally picked an insane number. A servant could never pay it back, not in a thousand lifetimes. So, even if he were sold, and all he had, and his wife and children, it would make no dent at all in the debt. That’s where you stand. Anything you offer would be so pitifully small that it would make the king laugh in mockery. There is literally no chance of paying it back. The only hope is forgiveness. The man’s plea, “I will pay what I owe” is foolish. Of course he won’t. And yet, the king does not mock. The king offers mercy. The man disregards the mercy of the king, and instead imposes sentence on his fellow servant who owes him about three months wages. He still does not grasp the nature of the debt he owed, nor the nature of the forgiveness he has been given. He offers no thanks to the king. No acknowledgement that he owes more than he could ever pay, and that he must rely solely on the mercy of the king. There is no merit of his own that can be claimed in any of this.
And the king can not be blamed for his final punishment of the man. You can’t say “Wow what a jerk, expecting the man to pay what he owed.” The man was shown mercy. He wanted fair instead. He got fair. He wanted retribution. He got retribution. With the measure you measure, so it will be measured unto you. For the merciful, there is mercy. For those who demand retribution, who demand justice, there is justice. But remember, the greatest debt is owed first to God. All sin is sin against God. Even the murder of a neighbor is a sin against God. It is rejecting the person God has created. Cutting short the life that God gave them. Taking into your own hands a power that belongs only to God –the power to give and take life. That is why David – after committing adultery and murder – says, “Against you, you only have I sinned and done this evil in your sight.” It was God who created marriage, and David’s sin against the sixth commandment despises God’s gift of marriage. Your sin is against God. And it is grievous. Your debt is owed to God, and it is real. If you insist on paying it yourself, you will never be out of prison. If you wish to live under the law, under the rule of sin, you may. God allows you your own destruction.
But if you would receive the grace and mercy of God, Jesus is the only savior you are offered. In him the grace and mercy of God is found. Your iniquity stands in opposition to the grace and mercy of God. And God’s grace and mercy is greater than your iniquity. The forgiveness given by Jesus is greater than your sin. Jesus sacrifice is greater than your sin. That is why we look to him for salvation, not to our own works.
Then what of this parable, where it seems that the man’s salvation depended on his own work? It did not. Rejecting the mercy of God is possible. And that is on the man who rejects it. The man was saved according to the grace and mercy of the king. He was condemned according to his own unmercifullness. It was not that the forgiveness was given with conditions. If you do , then the king will… No. The forgiveness was given freely, without condition. The man rejected the forgiveness of the king. He despised it by his actions.
Yes, this parable is a frightening warning to all – the forgiveness God gives can be lost if we continue to dwell in our sin. If we despise the Gospel, if we blaspheme the Holy Spirit who brings us faith in the promise and makes us holy, then we can go back to our bondage under the Law of sin and death. It is possible. And that thought should scare us. It is possible to sing praise to God with a pure heart, and then turn away from God and his Word, return to sin, once again place yourself under the command of Satan. That is why it is so important that God gave to us the means to be forgiven again and again, to return to hear the word of promise, to be fed – strengthened with the supper of our Lord. Because Satan is prowling around trying to devour you. He tempted Jesus after his baptism. And when he was defeated he went away for a more opportune time. He doesn’t just say, “Well, that kid was baptized there are Trinity in Wheatland. Nothing I can do now.” He keeps plotting to get back what he stole. He wants you and your soul. And bitterness and anger over the grace and mercy of God are wonderful targets for him. He wants to keep you focused on what is right, what is fair, what is owed. But beware – what is owed is first and foremost what you owe to God.
That is why Jesus came and suffered your penalty for sin. It is why he took your iniquity on himself. Why he offers forgiveness for your iniquity. And why it is so important that we look to Jesus for our salvation. Because there is no other way. The debt is too large. And with that too-large insurmountable debt paid, there is no place any more for revenge or retribution. There is only the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. And, once you have received that mercy, then it is mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace. No longer living under slavery to the law. But now, rejoicing in the forgiveness received, and the forgiveness given to others. That is the way of Jesus. The way of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not easy when there are real debts owed. Make no mistake – it was a real debt that the fellow servant owed. A hundred Denarii is not just a couple bucks. It’s five figures. It’s a real debt. Others commit real sins against you. You have been hurt. You are owed. You have a right to demand payment. But in Christ, we yield that right in favor of the grace and mercy which we ourselves have received. To live according to retribution leads only to a life of counting sins against. Bitterness gives birth to more bitterness. Until finally, you are so consumed by bitterness, that you no longer even want to hear about the forgiveness which Jesus offers. Your faith has been destroyed – rotted out from the inside, leaving only a bitter empty shell. May God deliver us from such an end!
To live according to mercy and forgiveness leads to a blessed life filled with more mercy and more forgiveness.
The world wants nothing to do with this sort of life. Forgiveness? Mercy? Weakness. But once again we see the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. For it is this very weakness – this very forgiveness and mercy – that can finally break through our hardened hearts when we hear the word. It is what finally crushes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. A new heart created in us, a right spirit renewed. That is what the Holy Spirit gives you through Jesus sacrifice for you. And it changes everything. Because you are no longer under the yoke of sin. You no longer live under the curse of the law, the curse of retribution. You live in the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus, received from God, and given even to your brother who sins against you.
In Jesus name and for His sake.
If you liked this, you might also like Life of Luther, because it is also filled with good theology. Only $5 at Lulu press!