Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a king twice. Today’s Gospel is the first, and the second we heard a few weeks ago when a king gave a wedding feast for his son. In both of these parables we see that the Lord is no ordinary king. He is not out to get what is His. He is not out to make things right, because making things right would put us in eternal debt that we could not pay. Instead we see that He is a King who wishes to be merciful, to give to those who in no way deserve it.
Today our lord confronts us with the radical price of forgiveness. To show just the tip of the iceberg of the cost of forgiveness, Jesus tells a Parable about a king settling accounts. A servant is brought to him who owes 10,000 talents. A talent is the equivalent of one month’s wages, so the servant owes 10,000 months’ worth of wages, or, 833 1/3 years. To put this in American terms, the average American’s household income for a year is $51,939. So, this servant owes approximately $42,825,786.90! How could someone incur that much debt?! A house only costs about three years’ wages! The servant lived wastefully, extravagantly, and selfishly, topped off with inexcusable stupidity. Though he begs for more time, he could never repay this kind of debt. Assuming he could repay at the same rate we pay off a mortgage, it would take him just shy of 50,000 years to repay his debt. In other words, this debt is impossible to repay. So the king, in his undeserved, lavish mercy, forgives the debt. He doesn’t give time, he doesn’t even demand a token payment! He wipes the slate clean and acts as if that debt had never been incurred.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.