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Forgiveness Easter Sunday

Jesus the Game Changer  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The story of Easter reminds us that we are forgiven, but it also reminds us that we too should forgive others

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Easter

Easter is one of those times that since our society has become increasingly secular, our society outside the church, just doesn’t quite know what to make of it. Sure there are a number of traditions which we now have.
There’s the hot cross buns - which people always seem to get upset because they start appearing in the supermarkets just days after Christmas.
Of course we have all the Easter eggs - which who can resist all that yummy yummy chocolate.
We also have the tradition of the Easter Hat parade, and last week I had the privilege of watching one of my daughters parade around the school with her beautiful hat that she decorated.
But while we love all of those traditions, I certainly feel that Easter is fast becoming another good excuse for a long weekend - a bit like the Queens birthday or labour day.
I think that part of the problem, is that, for the most part, people know that it’s about Jesus dying and rising again, but so what?
At least with Christmas, we can get our heads around a new little baby and who doesn’t love celebrating a baby - but why celebrate someone who willingly died.

Jesus the game changer

Now, for those of you who have been with us over the last month and a half, you’ll know that we have been doing a series called Jesus the Game Changer. During this series we’ve been looking at some of the aspects of life that Jesus have changed that have infiltrated our way of thinking - things like, equality, care for the vulnerable, the value of humility. While our society is a long way from truly displaying these ideals, what we’ve seen as a result of Jesus is that he has shown us something better, and our society can now see that they are ideals we should work towards.
While these changes that we’ve looked at are important, it is really this last change that makes all the difference, and this change was only made possible by the cross.
And so as we explore this last change that we will look at in the series, I want to offer this as an explanation for why Easter is such a big deal.
The change we’re talking about is forgiveness.

Message plan

So what my plan is in this message, is to first look at how forgiveness was typically understood before Jesus, and then show how the death and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.
I’m then going to look at what that means for us today, looking specifically at the lesson Jesus gave in what we know as the parable of the unmerciful servant.

Context of forgiveness

So firstly to understand how forgiveness had previously been understood, and to be honest, is generally understood today, we need to recognise that the concept of forgiveness has always been around. But this sort of forgiveness is that one with lots of strings attached. What those strings are might depend about what time in history, and what culture you are in - but I suppose generally you would want contrition, and probably some sort of payback, and then we can talk forgiveness.

The difference of Jesus

But this is where Jesus was so radically different, and something that most people today still don’t grasp.
When Jesus came, he didn’t say I’ll forgive you, but only if you jump through a whole number of different hoops. All he said was, if you accept me as your Lord and Saviour, then that’s it, you are forgiven.

Why we struggle with this

It is actually one of the easiest things to do, but it seems too good to be true.
I think I know why people struggle with this so much.
It’s because, from the wisdom of this world, it doesn’t make sense. You see, this wisdom goes - if you forgive someone before they have to go through some sort of punishment, then they are just going to take advantage of you.
We want the people who have done us wrong to go through a fair amount of suffering before we might consider any form of forgiveness.
But Jesus showed us a radically different approach.
He loved us first, and provided a way for us.

The message of the cross

This is the very message of the cross.
If you think about it, the plan of Jesus dying on the cross just seems bizarre.
If Jesus was going to pay such a high price, why not require a much higher requirement for us who are being saved.
But Jesus is changing the way we look at forgiveness.
Forgiveness is about taking the first step.
Now there are two aspects about forgiveness that I want to reflect on this morning.
Firstly, I want to reflect on the forgiveness that God is offering you. And secondly, I want to reflect on the forgiveness that you then should offer to others as a result of God’s forgiveness.

Our forgiveness

So firstly and foremost, the fact that Jesus died and rose again, means that you are no longer stuck in your sins!
Now, for much of our society, this doesn’t mean much because they don’t understand sin. In fact, I think the great trick that the devil has played on all of us is to downgrade our understanding of sin.
Unfortunately, we make sin about the really bad stuff. We’re happy to put the rapists, the murderers and theives into this category, but that’s fine because I know that I’ve never raped anyone or murdered anyone. Sure I might have nicked a few pens from my various workplaces in the past, but that hardly counts as theft does it?
But sin is turning our back on God. It is not living up to the holy standard based on his character.
This is a problem because it places a barrier between us and God. That barrier becomes becomes too great for us, but we hardly see it because we’ve downplayed sin so much.
But Jesus died to pay that price for the sins we’ve committed. But the greatest part is that he didn’t stay dead. We celebrate Easter Sunday because death could not hold Jesus down, and because he rose again we too can have a new life!
If you feel stuck in your sins, then I would urge you today to first recognise that this sin has held you down. Repent of this then ask Jesus to come into your life.
There are no magic words you need to say, just a simple prayer, accepting Jesus for what he has already done for you.
This forgiveness is real. It has changed countless lives before, and it can change your life now.

Forgiving others

I now want to turn to that other aspect of forgiveness, the one that should result from the forgiveness that God has shown us. I’m talking about the forgiveness that we now need to show others.
The bottom line, is that while our forgiveness is not contingent on anything other than accepting Christ, if we’ve truly accepted this forgiveness, then it should affect how we treat others.

The unmerciful servant

Jesus often spoke about forgiveness, but there is a particular parable that makes the point about how we should forgive others rather poignantly.
The parable is found in , which is towards the end of the ministry of Jesus.
This parable comes after Peter approaches Jesus asking him the appropriate number in which we should forgive others.
Now to understand the context, the Jews used to teach that it was appropriate to forgive someone 3 times. Peter, therefore, must have thought he was being rather generous in his questioning when he not only doubled that 3 times, but also added one, to wonder if 7 times was more appropriate.
Jesus however famously answered, not seven times, but seventy times seven, or as sometimes translated, seventy-seven times.
The actual number is essentially irrelevant. Jesus isn’t trying to suggest that you keep this log, and when you get to that number you stop. Instead, he is given a number which is absurdly larger than what has previously been taught, to suggest that you should just keep on forgiving.
But then Jesus launches into the parable.
I read the parable earlier, so I’m going to give just a very brief recap.
So basically, we have a king whose servant owes him a large amount. The servant can’t pay it back so begs the king, who finally relents and cancels the debt.
The servant then turns to a lower servant, one who owed him money, but of a much smaller amount than he had owed the king. Because this servant wasn’t able to pay back this smaller amount, he had him thrown to prison.
When the king heard about this, he rebuked the original servant, because he misunderstood forgiveness.
There is a clear message here for us.
If we accept the forgiveness that God has shown us when paying the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, then we need to forgive others.
This doesn’t mean, just forgiving them after they’ve suffered enough, it means making the first move and showing them the sort of love God has shown you.
This will not be easy. When someone has hurt us, we want them to hurt as well.
But we need to open our eyes to the wisdom of God. A wisdom that is so much greater than what the world knows.
You see the problem with the wisdom of the world, is that there understanding of forgiven just exacerbates a situation. You need revenge before forgiveness, but then the other person sees your revenge, and they need to one-up you, and so you get this spiral that goes out of control.
By contrast, God’s wisdom cuts this off. He recognises that we are in a cycle we can’t get out of, and until he holds his hand out to us, we have no hope. He has done this, and we to need to recognise that we should do to other in a similar way.

Conclusion

There is obviously a lot more that could be said about forgiveness. But I just want to leave you with those thoughts.
Firstly, know that Easter is the most significant event in the Christian calendar because it is at this point that we remember that Jesus has forgiven us.
You can know this forgiveness and it can be the biggest game changer in your whole entire life.
But the story of Easter also reminds us those of us who have experienced this forgiveness, also have a responsibility to forgive others who have wronged us.
It is not easy, but then again, the price Jesus paid was not easy.
This is now the sixth and final week in the Jesus the game changer series. But know that the biggest change we can ever know, is to know that we can now be right before God - and that is the story of Easter.
Let’s pray...
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