Jesus was a master story teller. He often used stories with details that were so far-fetched that his audience could not miss the lesson he was communicating. Two thousand years later we sometimes miss the obvious point of the story either because we don’t understand the elements he was describing or we get fixated on a meaningless element and try to make a doctrine out of it. Some of his tales were parables intended to communicate one simple truth, while others were intricate accounts with numerous elements to illustrate his teaching. Those who listened understood the apparent.
Jesus once told a story about forgiveness in Matthew 18 that will help us understand the condition we find ourselves in and how far God went in extending grace to us. The story revolves around two characters—a king and a servant. It is likely the servant was the chief tax collector who had contracted to do collections for the king and the time had come to settle up on outstanding accounts. In other words—it was payday! The king represents God and this servant is you and me.
The servant owed the king ten thousand talents of silver. In Jesus day, that was a mind-boggling amount of money. The Romans collected only two hundred talents of silver from the whole Galilean region once a year. This servant owed fifty times that. One denarii was a day’s wage and one talent equaled six thousand denarii. It would have taken this servant sixty million days—over one hundred and sixty-four thousand years working seven days a week every day to earn the money he needed to pay back his master. He owed big money—so big, he could never have paid back the debt. Everyone in the crowd recognized point Jesus was making.
We all owe God the same debt. If we were to work our sin debt off it would take an eternity in hell to do so. An eternity is forever and ever and ever—with zeros that never stop coming. The servant was in helpless and hopeless condition and so were we apart from Jesus Christ.
When confronted the servant fell on his face and cried out for mercy. He asked for more time. The king felt compassion. His heart was moved with great affection for the servant and his plight, even though his debt was enormous. The king then did two things—he released him from the debt and forgave him for the debt. This servant no longer had the responsibility of paying back the debt—no strings attached. Then the king pardoned him as though he never had a debt. He walked out of that meeting as though he had never owed the king a cent. This servant received total forgiveness.
That is exactly what God did through Jesus Christ. When we were born again—born from above—our sin debt was canceled—wiped away in one stroke. We were released from the penalty of hell and forgiven so completely that God no longer remembers it against us.
That is what total forgiveness looks like. That’s what you received the moment Christ became your Lord and Savior. One stroke and your slate of debt was wiped clean. The question then begs to be asked—if this is what you received when you did not deserve it, why can you not now find it in your heart to forgive in like manner?