The King of Mercy and Compassion: Matthew 18:23-35
““23) For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24) When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25) But since he did not have the means to repay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26) So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27) And the Lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28) But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29) So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30) But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.” Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭23‬-‭35
Jesus used the question of Peter about forgiveness to tell one of the greatest parables in the Bible. It is the story of a king who decided to settle accounts with his slaves. There was brought before him one slave who owed him ten thousand pieces of silver.
By todays standards, that would be millions of dollars of unsecured debt. The king commanded him to be sold, together with his wife, family and all his possessions and the proceeds of the sale to be applied to the debt. His entreaty for patience was foolish because he had a debt he could not pay!
But moved with compassion, the king forgave him the entire debt. You would think that his gratitude would have been life changing. The grace and mercy given to him was totally unmerited.
But as the story goes, he went out and found a fellow slave that owed him a hundred denarii. By contrast, it was a very small debt. It was manageable. The whole debt could have easily been repaid in less than a year.
The fellow slave fell down and begged for patience. The request was more than reasonable. But the text says he was choked, treated with contempt and thrown into the debtors prison until repayment was made. What a tragedy! It would now take him several years to pay back his debt because of greatly reduced wages.
As the story continued, some fellow slaves were watching. They could not reconcile the compassion from the king toward the slave with an insane debt and his irrational treatment of a fellow slave with such a small debt. The rest of the story is profound.
“31) So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their Lord all that had happened. 32) Then summoning him, his Lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33) Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34) And his Lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35) My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew‬ ‭18‬:‭31‬-‭35‬
There are so many lessons in this story. Let me briefly unpack four insights from this amazing parable. I am sure you can find more.
First, the King is pictured as having compassion. This is a description of God and the gospel. John 3:16 says God loves people so much that He sent His own Son to pay for our sin that we might be forgiven our debt and saved. We do not work to earn our salvation. Our debt is too big. We merely believe in Jesus Christ and the gospel.
Second, you will never be asked to forgive anyone more than you need to be forgiven. Why? Because your sin is an eternal debt, but their sin against you is temporal. We all have a debt of sin before God that we cannot pay. But toward each other, we are at best fellow slaves. One day we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ. (See 2 Corinthians 5:10)
Third, those who are forgiven and shown mercy should likewise forgive others and show mercy. It seems that our standard of mercy and forgiveness will be applied to us when we stand before God. It is unimaginable that forgiven sinners have no compassion on others.
Finally, other people are watching! Your testimony is validated or falsified by the way you treat other people. Those who claim to be forgiven have no basis to be critical, condescending or judgmental. They should be the first to display compassion, mercy and grace to people living in bondage to sin. They should point others to the King of mercy and compassion.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global