INI + AMEN.
Jesus is the king of parables. No one can tell story quite like He can. He’s the author of Life. Writing, weaving, tying all stories into His one salvation story. Jesus, the master story teller, can always tell a story that makes heads turn. Certainly our Gospel text, today, does that. Jesus told his parable, and said a few more things about money, and Luke tells us, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.” In fact, Jesus told all His parables to make people scratch their heads. He tells a parable about a Sower, and we get hung up on the soils. He tells a parable about Him saving 100% and not works, and we get hung up on being the Samaritan. And today, He tells a parable that involves a manager forgiving debs, and we get hung up on the money.
The manager was accused of wrong doing, and was he guilty? He acts like it. But the master was a hard man. Even an accusation ends with no mercy. The manager knows his master. He knows his end—out on the streets. So even if he wasn’t guilty, he certainly becomes guilty. In his haste to secure a means of living after being kicked out, the former manager steals his master’s stuff. He treats his master’s livelihood as nothing. He slashes the debts of His master’s debtors. “How much do you owe?” “A hundred measures of oil.” “Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.” “How much do you owe?” “A hundred measures of wheat.” “Take your bill, and write eighty.”
Then the master praises—praises!—his unrighteous manager for his use of unrighteous wealth. This wouldn’t work in the real world. This isn’t what would happen in the real world! You’d move from just being out of a job to being in prison. That’s not just today. That’s what would’ve happened in Jesus’ day, too. Not just prison back then either. Maybe worse!
We don’t slash our neighbor’s debts. We count them. We keep a ledger, keep score, keep a tally. Every failed act of kindness, every misspoken word, every forgetfulness, every slip up, mix up, mess up all counted. What sort of interest do we exact from them? We’re in the right after all! And we tend to treat apologies like bounced checks. Finding a way to say that it didn’t count, instead of saying the three most loving words a Christian can say to another human being. The three most loving words are: “I forgive you.” It’s as David sings of our Lord Jesus Christ in our Old Testament lesson: “With the merciful You show yourself merciful…You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.” We all know what that means. What four lettered place that leads to…
Jesus got accused of all sorts of things: being a drunk, breaking the Sabbath, hanging out with sinners. Finally, He gets numbered with the transgressors. He gets brought up on charges. He’s guilty. They charged Him with breaking the 1st Commandment, claiming to be God. He said as much on the stand. He’s condemned by His own people for being their God. But in God’s court, He was guilty of so much more. It wasn’t what He did. It’s what you’ve done. Your lack of love. Your holding on to the debts, the sins, the grudges, the slights and missteps of the people in your life. What’s worse: you probably don’t even care that you do it. Lord, have mercy!
And He does. Jesus isn’t you, isn’t me. He slashes your debts, and He doesn’t slash them to bargain basement prices. No 50% or 20% off with Him. Not even 90% off. 100% taken away. He doesn’t leave something else for you to do. Debt cancelled! On the tree of the cross He not only bore in His body your sins, He bore your list and ledger of your neighbor’s wrongs. Not only that, His blood was also shed for your neighbor’s sins. He wiped those out, too.
Now, you could act as if Jesus hasn’t wiped out all sins and all ledgers by His blood and death. You could act and treat others as if Jesus is still dead in His tomb by hanging on to your list and ledger. You could live your life as if baptism doesn’t wipe the slate clean—yours and your fellow Christian’s—daily and much. You’re “free” to live that way, I guess, but that doesn’t sound like a very free way to live. He who lives by the ledger, will die by the ledger in hell.
You see, JESUS DOESN’T JUST CANCEL SOME BUT CANCELS ALL DEBTS. He cancels your debts—all of them. All your sins are paid for by Jesus. You are reconciled to His Father. He cancels your neighbor’s debts—all of them. They, too, are reconciled to the Father. We’re called to not only slash the debts, the sins of our neighbors, we’re called to wipe them out, cancel them. No ledger. No list. Jesus crossed them all out, after all. Name a sin of theirs that Jesus’ blood didn’t cover. Why uncover the sin, then?
JESUS DOESN’T JUST CANCEL SOME BUT CANCELS ALL DEBTS. Here His oil and wine, His body and blood. There the canceling and forgiving of debts, all debts, all sins delivered, eaten, drunk. The forgiveness of sins, and love for the neighbor poured out for you, for those next to you, all those here—bodied and blooded together in Jesus, in forgiveness, in the cancelling of each other’s debts.
Debt free. Every last one of us. Jesus does that. Thanks be to God!
INI + AMEN.