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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Ninetieth (Debt)

We're going to start the weekend taking a look at debt in scripture. A specific debt, in fact. You may remember 73 weeks ago we talked about forgiveness....or maybe you don't, because that's a long time ago! Well, to jog your memory, we found that opheilema was used by Jesus to talk about forgiveness, and that word means debt, or what is owed (Matthew 6:12).

When we looked at it last time, we focused on the end and beginning of the last parable of Matthew 18. We skipped over the middle, so let's start there this time. This is another "kingdom of heaven," parable, and it gives us the true meaning behind what Jesus did for you, me, and the rest of mankind.

In this parable, Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to a king settling debts from his servants. He came to a servant that owed him 10,000 talents, and of course, when the servant could not pay, the king wanted him, his family, and all the servant had, sold in order to recoup what the king lost (Matthew 18:23-25).

Do you remember what a talent was? We've looked at it before, but let's refresh. A talent was actually a weight measurement, and this particular version is a silver talent weighing approximately 75 pounds. If you had 75 pounds of silver today, you'd have about $22,900 of silver. Ten thousand talents then, would be about $229 million. You can see why the king was so angry he wanted the servant's whole life sold.

But what did the king end up doing? He had compassion for this servant. He forgave the debt, despite its magnitude (Matthew 18:26-27). Do you know who the king is in this parable? Perhaps you recall when we looked at a couple other kingdom of heaven parables and realized the man in them is Jesus. That, of course, is also the case here. The king in this parable is our King: Jesus.

So who is the servant in this parable? Whose debt did Jesus forgive? Ours. Yours, mine, and all of mankind throughout history and until the end of time. But there's a couple key aspects to this parable to understand how this debt is forgiven.

Before we get into that though, we need to recall that the debt we're talking about here is sin. And sin, remember, is transgression of the law; of the commandments (1 John 3:4). But at a higher level, these commandments are not just a set of rules, they are what Yehovah told us to do, or in some cases not do. It started with the first sin, when the only commandment was to not eat of a certain tree in the garden. Then, more commandments were required since man's nature was now altered to the point that all manner of evil would manifest in the mind and commandments were needed to remind us of right and wrong.

In the first key aspect to this parable, we see the king initiate the action of requiring the payment of the debt. This is representative of the process of animal sacrifices as sin offering (Numbers 28:15). This process was required of Yehovah for transgression of His commandments. However, even this process was not sufficient to pay the full debt once and for all, as these offerings were required on a regular basis (Numbers 28:14). This is also shown in the parable in the fact that regardless of if everything the servant had, including his family and himself, the king still would not have recouped the massive amount of debt the servant had accrued. Man alone could not pay the debt of sin because of the magnitude of it.

The next aspect of this parable is the compassion of the king that resulted in the forgiveness. There is a reason this was the motivation given for the act of forgiveness. It's the exact same motivation Jesus had. He looked on the people He was sent to and had compassion because they had no shepherd (Matthew 9:36). He had compassion because they were sick (Matthew 14:14). He had compassion because they didn't have food (Matthew 15:32). He had compassion because they were blind (Matthew 20:34).

At this point, we've covered aspects of this parable that are either not applicable to us, or not within our control. We are no longer required to give sin offerings, and the compassion and forgiveness given to us was within the control of, and could only be accomplished by, Jesus. The final aspect, and the only one in mankind's control, is the last piece required for us to receive the forgiveness of sin already paid for by Jesus' sacrifice.

In the parable, the servant fell on His knees, a sign of submission and begging, and asked for forgiveness....oh wait, that's not what it says! The servant asks for patience from the king so he can have an opportunity to pay the debt back. In order to receive the forgiveness provided to us by Jesus' sacrifice, we need to come to Jesus, and offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). It takes our action of submission to His will for us to receive forgiveness. This action is based on a belief in Him of course (John 3:16), because if we didn't believe in Him we wouldn't believe in the forgiveness He can provide.

That's right, the servant didn't ask for forgiveness, but I'm sure you've heard that's something we need to pray for. However, I think you may be surprised if you search for this requirement in scripture. The closest thing I think you'll find is that we must confess our sins to Him (1 John 1:9).

But, when we discussed the compassion of the king earlier, did you understand why he had the compassion? This servant took $229 million from him, and now the servant asks for patience and the king suddenly has compassion? After just wanting all the things the servant holds dear sold?!

This compassion was driven by how the servant had no concept of the debt he owed. The amount was so great the servant couldn't fathom it. He thought he could just work a little harder, or work a little longer, and be able to make it right between him and the king. In this interaction, only the king knew how insurmountable the debt was, and because he knew, and the servant could never understand, the king had compassion.

I hope this helps provide depth to the sacrifice made for us (if you didn't already have that!), and sheds a little light on this particular kingdom of heaven parable (if you didn't already have that, too!). I pray you have a blessed week!

Shabbat shalom and God bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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