Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

Matthew 18:23-35


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23  "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.

24  When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents;

25  and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.'

27  And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

28  But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, 'Pay what you owe.'

29  So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.'

30  He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt.

31  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

32  Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me;

33  and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'

34  And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt.

35  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

23 Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ, ὃς ἠθέλησε συνᾶραι λόγον μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ. 24 ἀρξαμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ συναίρειν προσηνέχθη αὐτῷ εἷς ὀφειλέτης μυρίων ταλάντων. 25 μὴ ἔχοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ πραθῆναι καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ πάντα ὅσα εἶχε, καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι. 26 πεσὼν οὖν ὁ δοῦλος προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων· κύριε, μακροθύμησον ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ καὶ πάντα σοι ἀποδώσω. 27 σπλαγχνισθεὶς δὲ ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἀπέλυσεν αὐτὸν καὶ τὸ δάνειον ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ. 28 ἐξελθὼν δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος εὗρεν ἕνα τῶν συνδούλων αὐτοῦ, ὃς ὤφειλεν αὐτῷ ἑκατὸν δηνάρια, καὶ κρατήσας αὐτὸν ἔπνιγε λέγων· ἀπόδος μοι εἴ τι ὀφείλεις. 29 πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ εἰς τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων· μακροθύμησον ἐπ᾿ ἐμοὶ καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι· 30 ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἤθελεν, ἀλλὰ ἀπελθὼν ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν εἰς φυλακὴν ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ τὸ ὀφειλόμενον. 31 ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ σύνδουλοι αὐτοῦ τὰ γενόμενα ἐλυπήθησαν σφόδρα, καὶ ἐλθόντες διεσάφησαν τῷ κυρίῳ ἑαυτῶν πάντα τὰ γενόμενα. 32 τότε προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ λέγει αὐτῷ· δοῦλε πονηρέ, πᾶσαν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἐκείνην ἀφῆκά σοι, ἐπεὶ παρεκάλεσάς με. 33 οὐκ ἔδει καὶ σὲ ἐλεῆσαι τὸν σύνδουλόν σου, ὡς καὶ ἐγώ σε ἠλέησα; 34 καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν τοῖς βασανισταῖς ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ πᾶν τὸ ὀφειλόμενον αὐτῷ. 35 Οὕτω καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ ἐπουράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν τὰ παραπτώματα αὐτῶν.

Larger Thought Unit

The larger unit for today’s reading is 17:24-18:35.  Central to this entire section are the household rules of Christian behavior which are crowned or summarized in today’s reading about forgiveness.  The introduction to the parable shows Peter requesting clarification on the technical matter of the limits or boundaries for forgiveness.  Moses had set the limits at an “eye for an eye”.  Peter suggests 7 times.  Christ responds with unlimited forgiveness based upon the patience, compassion and mercy of God.  The warning, of course, is an “in-house” warning to those in the church; it is they know well the compassion and mercy of God, and thus are both formed and bound by it. 



This parable is an expansion on Luke 17:4. Peter is completing his learning process within the “church”—he is a disciple, not the master. And the master’s teaching concludes with the same comment he made in conjunction with the Lord’s prayer: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt 18:35); “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (6:14-15). This theme of mercy is central to Matthew as can be seen from his repeated reference (9:13; 12:17) to Hosea’s “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” Its centrality in this parable can be detected in the use of the verbs “feel pity for” (σπλαγχνισθεὶς, 18:27) and “have patience” (μακροθύμησον, 18:26, 29). The first is typical of Jesus’ attitude toward the needy (9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). The second refers to the practical outcome—patience—of this feeling of pity; in his patience the servant is to emulate his master (18:26, 29) just as the disciples are to emulate the heavenly Father in the matter of forgiving (6:14-15; 18:35). Finally, that mercy no less than divine (should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? 18:33) is the ultimate basis for the outcome of the divine final judgment.  This is clear from the fact that the phrases “settle accounts” (συνᾶραι λόγον, 18:23)[1] and “wicked servant” (δοῦλε πονηρέ, v.32) occur only once more in the New Testament, in the Matthean parable of the talents (25:19, 26, respectively), part of the chapter dealing with the final judgment.[2]  Furthermore, the master’s “anger, wrath” (18:34) is reminiscent of the divine “wrath to come” (Mt 3:7/Lk 3:7).


One should note that this presentation of the messianic law of love for the neighbor in Matthew 18 follows upon the pericope concerning the freedom of the “sons” from their submission to the Jerusalem temple. This sequence parallels fully that found in Galatians: the stress on love as being the new rule (Gal 5:2-6:10) is the conclusion Paul draws from his comments regarding the status of the Galatians as children of the Jerusalem above (4:21-30).[3]


Further Resource

David E. Garland, Reading Matthew, Crossroads Publishing Company, NY, NY, 1995;

            pp 186ff.


[1] Also as simply synairein (reckon) in v.24.

[2] See also 1 Thess 1:10 (wrath to come) and Rom 2:5, 8: 3:5; 5:9; 9:22; Eph 5:6; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 2:16; 5:9; Jn 3:36.

[3] Notice the conjunctions dio (so, Gal 4:31) and oun (therefore, 5:1).


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