O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Forgive Us Our Trespasses
Based on Matt. 18:23-35 and Luke 23:32-34
Preached on April 10, 2019
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Remarkable. Truly. He’s innocent. Done nothing wrong. Yet He suffers. Betrayed. Arrested. Denied and abandoned. His friends and companions avoid Him like the plague. Many are His vigorous enemies. Ruthlessly mocked. Brutally beaten. Those who hate Him without any reason are too numerous to count. “Crucify Him!” And Pilate does the unthinkable. He hands Jesus over for capital punishment. Spikes hammered through His flesh. Hoisted to hang. Suspended between heaven and earth. The agony. The anguish. Searing pain. Utterly crushed.
And what does He say? “Just wait ‘till after the resurrection! You’re all a bunch of rotten S.O.B.s! I’ll get all of you back! You’ll all get yours! I’ll see to it myself. I’ll unleash archangel Michael with all his mighty angels and your cities will be dripping with your own blood after I’m through with all of you!”
None of that with Jesus. He speaks the opposite. The unexpected. What many hooked on religion would call a reckless and careless word. A word open for abuse. “You just can’t be absolving everybody under the sun! What about those who won’t believe it or trust it? Don’t do it Jesus! You can’t run a religion on mercy! Everyone will take advantage of you!”
But Jesus doesn’t bother Himself with our concerns no matter how religious. With profound pity he prays for His enemies. For those putting Him to death. For those who hate Him. For those who don’t even believe in Him. “Father, forgive these poor people. They really don’t know what in the world they’re doing.”
His prayer is for you too. You think you know what you’re doing. But you don’t. You too abandoned Him. You too wouldn’t be caught dead with an arrested and humiliated Jesus. You cried out too: “Crucify Him!” You mocked. You jeered. You pounded the nails! You hoisted Him up there! You wagged your heads. Your sin put Him there. And yet Jesus prays for you: “Father, don’t hold their sin against them. I will answer for it. Look, Father! My blood! I am the Passover Lamb! The sacrifice! Do not damn them. Condemn Me! Give me what they deserve. Forgive them! For my sake!”
Your sin. My sin. Pilate’s. The soldier’s. The crowd’s. The criminal’s. The chief priest’s. The world’s. All sin. Jesus bears it in His body. And its weight crushes Him. No sin left out. No sinner excluded. It crushes the life out of Him. Full and complete forgiveness. All debt cancelled. All debtors set free.
Remember how Peter wanted to be so very careful with forgiveness. Seven times and then that’s it. But Jesus taught him and all of us that forgiveness has no limits. “Seventy times seven,” Jesus preached. The King in the parable forgives all. His forgiveness knows no bounds. It’s like a flood! It goes everywhere and gets everybody! Spills out all over the place. His forgiveness gets you wet. Just like in your Baptism. No sin or sinner is outside His mercy. Not even yours or you. “Father, forgive them. Don’t give them what they deserve. Release them from your wrath and eternal judgment.”
And Christ’s prayer is answered. His mercy bears fruit. One of the criminals heard the forgiveness prayer. He heard it! Once a mocker now he’s a believer. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” The Roman centurion who was in charge of Jesus’ crucifixion also heard. And when Jesus died he confessed: “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
“Father, forgive them.” And you hear the answer to His prayer after you confess your sin. Sinners confess. Daily we sin much. We deserve nothing but God’s punishment. And yet the pastor proclaims in Jesus’ Name: “Your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake.” And they are. For Jesus prayed for you. He died for you.
And so we pray with all boldness and confidence to our heavenly Father: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Divine forgiveness matters. Before God -- salvation. And before others -- life. Forgiveness for Christ’s sake shapes our lives in the here and now. We forgive others as God in Christ forgives us. “So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us,” we just said from the Catechsim. That was the point of Jesus’ parable from Matthew 18. No revenge. No grudges. No paybacks.
Be as reckless with your forgiveness as Christ forgives you. Let it flow to others like the water and blood that gushed from Christ’s crucified side. Don’t hoard it. Don’t damn it up. Don’t be stingy. If you won’t forgive, that says something about what you believe about Christ and His death for you and for all. He died for everybody. Who are you to say: “No forgiveness for you Aunt Martha?” Or “I can never forgive you for that brother Earl!” After all, God has forgiven them in Christ. Refuse to forgive and it will not go well with you. You’ll end up in jail. In hell. Imagine that. Forgiven of everything sinners who won’t forgive. Not even a little. Not even a lot.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” As you forgive others you are visible signs of God’s love in Christ for all. You are like a sacrament! God uses you to speak His word of reconciliation to those who sin against you in relationships that have gone awry! Your forgiveness spoken to others is the very comfort of God. It is the very divine assurance that their sin is forgiven for Christ’s sake. When a wife says to her husband, “I forgive you,” or a husband to her wife or a child to his/her parents – whenever any Christian forgives one another – it is God’s forgiveness. “I forgive you,” floods our lives with Christ’s forgiveness. With Christ’s very own kingdom among you. In that word of forgiveness He truly reigns in and among sinners. And you too are strengthened in the truth that God in Christ has forgiven you. “So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.” No wonder He taught us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr