During this year’s Lenten services, we have the theme Teach Us to Pray. With that
theme, we are, during this year’s Lenten messages, concentrating our attention on the
Each week a certain phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is being featured, beginning a few weeks
ago with the phrase, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
Then the phrase, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”
Then last week the phrase, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Today, the next phrase in the Lord’s Prayer. “And forgive us our trespasses.”
As we have in the past, let’s consider some of the key words in that phrase. We will then
take a look at how Jesus acted out the phrase.
First, some of the key words in today’s Lord’s Prayer phrase, beginning with the word
and, which follows the phrase we looked at last week, which was, “Give us this day our
daily bread.” Bread. That refers specifically to the physical nourishment we need. But, as
stated last week, it is not just physical bread we need, but spiritual bread as well. That is
what the word “and” represents. We need God’s help physically and spiritually.
Spiritual help that comes from forgiveness. Hence the word forgive.
What does it mean to forgive? Here are a few definitions. To forgive means to stop
feeling angry or resentful toward someone for an offense, a flaw, or a mistake. It means
to not hold a grudge or demand revenge against someone. It means to cancel a debt.
Which leads to the next key word, which is trespasses, which can also be translated
Yes, as the word “bread” in the phrase before indicates, we need physical help. But we
need spiritual help as well. Help in the form of forgiveness so we can avoid receiving
what we deserve because of the debts we owe. Debts that comes from our trespasses.
From our sins.
There are many Greek words that describe sin.
For instance, there is a word that has sin referring to the missing of a mark. As in not
being what we should be and could be.
I read of a young man who was brilliant. At first it was said, “He will do something.”
Later, when he began neglecting his intelligence, it was said, “He could do something, if
he would.” Toward the end of his life, it was said, “He might have been something, if he
Some questions for us being, are we as good as husbands or wives or parents or children
as we could be? Are we as good as neighbors as we could be? Do we work as hard at our
employment or in our school classes as we could work?
And hey, those questions are not for the purpose of insult. It is just that if we happen to
lack in hitting the mark in any aspect of our lives, we need forgiveness, which is the
point of today’s Lord’s Prayer phrase.
Another Greek word for sin refers to stepping across the line between right and wrong.
Some questions for us being, do we ever, either by word or by silence, twist or evade or
distort the truth? Are we always as kind and as courteous as we should be? Do we always
Again, the point of the questions is not insult. It is just that if we ever do twist, evade, or
distort the truth, or if we ever are ever unkind or selfish, we need forgiveness.
And there is a Greek word for sin - actually, there are some others, too - but there is
another Greek word for sin that refers to having a debt. As in sin being a failure to pay
that which is due. And here, as it applies to the Lord’s Prayer, it is not a monetary debt -
a monetary trespass - but personal and spiritual trespasses. The failure to treat other
people as well as they should be treated, as in not being kind, courteous, helpful, or
respectful. That sort of thing.
And this popped into my mind as I worked on this message. How about the duty we
have to share the Christian faith with others so they, too, can be blessed by God now and
have the hope of Heaven later? We owe a debt if we do not do that.
We might fail to treat other people well. It is also possible to not treat God the way He
deserves to be treated, as in worshiping Him and obeying Him.
Have you ever - do you now have - a personal or spiritual debt? Have I trespassed
against someone or against God? And one more time, the purpose is not insult, but
rather to point out that if we are guilty of falling short of what we should do for others
and/or for God, we need forgiveness.
Which Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to pray for. And do you notice what I notice?
It is not worded, “if we ever have trespassed.” The wording indicates we have sinned,
which is certainly the case. As stated elsewhere in the Bible - by Paul, in his letter to the
Romans - “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Do we realize we have sinned? If so, then we know the truth. If so, it is critical that we be
forgiven. So, in addition to the physical nourishment we need, “forgive us our trespasses
against other people and against God.”
That is for what Jesus taught us to pray. But as with all the other phrases in the Lord’s
Prayer, Jesus did not stop at the teaching. He displayed how to act out what He taught.
For today’s phrase, I have three examples to share, one of them happening very late in
His ministry. The time between His resurrection and His return to Heaven. Something
that is recorded in John 21.
We talked last week about part of what happened about a week-and-a-half or so after
Jesus’ resurrection. You may remember at least some of the disciples of Jesus were on a
boat fishing. They had fished all night, but had caught nothing, until, in the morning, a
stranger on the shore shouted out the instruction that they put their net on the other
side of the boat. With that, their net instantly caught so many fish the disciples could not
haul it onto the boat.
As soon as that happened, the disciple John recognized the stranger as being Jesus.
John told Peter, who jumped from the boat into the water and swam to shore. That is
how eager he was to get to Jesus.
Then, when the rest of the disciples got to shore, they were all treated to a meal Jesus
had prepared for them. A meal that consisted of fish and bread. As stated last week, that
was an example of Jesus giving the disciples their daily bread, which acted out the
phrase of the Lord’s Prayer that relates to the physical nourishment we need.
Let’s now continue the report with what happened after the meal.
What happened started with Jesus, in verse 15 of John 21, calling Peter aside, then
saying to him, “Simon...” That, by the way, was the name his parents gave him. Peter is
the name Jesus had given him. But, as will be recounted in a minute, he had not lived up
to that name. So, “Simon [what a subtle reminder of Peter’s recent failure], son of John,
do you love Me more than these?”
What Jesus meant with His question is not, as far as I know, certain. He could have been
asking, “Simon, do you love Me more than you love the things of fishing?” In other
words, “Is serving Me more important than the work you do so well?”
Or “Simon, do you love Me more than you love your fellow disciples? Is serving Me more
important than your friends?”
Or “Simon, do you love Me more than your fellow disciples love Me?”
Whichever way it was, think what Jesus even speaking to Peter means. It means Jesus
For what? Well, remember what happened shortly after Jesus’ arrest, shortly before He
was crucified? While Jesus was on trial - on trial for His life - Peter, who not long before
that had sworn he would stay true to Jesus no matter what, denied Jesus. He denied
even knowing Jesus, let alone having been one of His followers. Peter denied Jesus not
once, not even twice, but three times.
Of course, Jesus was going to be condemned to die anyway. But when Jesus could have
used a friend, Peter had denied Him. Which means Peter had certainly missed the mark.
He had certainly crossed the line between right and wrong. He had certainly failed to
treat Jesus the way He deserved to be treated. Thereby Peter trespassed against Jesus.
How easily Jesus could have snubbed Peter. How easily He could have turned His back
on Peter and ignored him, doing so for all eternity. Instead, Jesus forgave Peter. That
was proved by Him even talking to Peter.
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” That is what Jesus asked.
“Yes, Lord,” was the answer. “You know that I love You.”
Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs,” which must have thrilled Peter because Jesus was
giving him work to do. A ministry to perform. A ministry of teaching. That is what the
word “feed means.” A ministry of teaching other followers of Jesus. That work being
given to Peter despite his earlier failures.
But then Jesus asked another question, the second one very similar to the first. One that
was valid. Because of the denials, the love Peter had claimed earlier - and even with his
first answer - was most certainly suspect. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
“Yes, Lord,” was again the answer. “You know that I love You.”
Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.” Take care of them. Lead them and protect them.
Then a third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Peter was grieved over the third question, perhaps because it might have been a
reminder to Peter that earlier he had failed three times. But Peter answered, “Lord, You
know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” He was challenged to care of the church that was
soon to form.
Earlier, Peter denied Jesus. He did so three times. He thereby sinned. He therefore
Which Jesus granted him, thereby acting out - thereby displaying - what He taught with
the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our trespasses.”
And hey, Peter’s sin applied, not only to what he did against Jesus. It also applied to
sinning against other people. I mean, Peter could have stood up for Jesus. If he had,
maybe some of the people around him while Jesus was on trial would have been swayed
to also believe in Jesus.
Peter sinned. Because of that, he needed forgiveness. And Jesus granted it.
Just as He had done three years earlier, which takes us to Matthew 9, beginning with
verse 9, where Jesus, in the midst of calling His disciples, saw a man named Matthew
and said to him, “Follow Me.”
Why is that an example of Jesus forgiving someone? It is because Matthew was a tax
collector. And far be it from me to falsely accuse anyone, but most tax collectors - those
like Matthew who collected Roman taxes - became quite wealthy because of cheating.
Of course, maybe Matthew was not a cheater. But most others like him were, so it can be
assumed he might have cheated at least a few people at least from time to time.
Meaning, if he had cheated, he had missed the mark of proper behavior. He had done
that whenever he stepped over the line of what was right and did what was wrong,
thereby mistreating other people. Thereby mistreating God by disobeying the honesty
taught by God.
Because of Matthew’s sins, Jesus could have snubbed him. How easily Jesus could have
just passed by Matthew, ignoring Him, doing so for all eternity. Instead, Jesus forgave
him. That was proved by Him calling Matthew to follow Him - to be a disciple.
What a wonderful response when Matthew arose, the sense being that he rose right
away, and followed Jesus. Immediately he became a disciple.
And think of this. For Peter to accept a ministry meant some sacrifices for him. A
monetary sacrifice of giving up a fishing job, which did not pay especially well, but at
least provided a steady income, and a personal sacrifice of suffering. In his conversation
with Jesus, Jesus predicted Peter’s death by crucifixion, which eventually did happen.
For Matthew, to answer Jesus’ call also meant some sacrifices. Matthew had a good job,
which he left. His was an even greater monetary sacrifice than what Peter faced.
Matthew also had to give up his friends. His tax collector friends.
Interestingly, right after answering Jesus’ call, Matthew had a dinner for his friends. He
also invited Jesus, so his friends could also meet Jesus. I wonder if some others, because
of their time with Jesus, also accepted Him. Not as disciples, but as followers.
But the point once again is that Jesus acted out - He displayed - what He taught with the
words in the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our trespasses.”
Which is something He also did on the day of His crucifixion.
That day, as Jesus hung on the cross - after He had been arrested and lied about and
beaten and whipped and had a crown of thorns smashed onto His head and been forced
to carry His cross through crowds that made fun of Him - after He had been nailed to
the cross and the cross had been placed upright, all the while others continuing to make
fun of Him - on the day of His crucifixion, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”
Forgive them. Forgive them?
Talk about missing the mark. Jesus deserved to be worshiped, yet He had been
humiliated physically and emotionally. He was about to die.
Talk about stepping across the line between right and wrong. Jesus had never broken
any law, Roman or Jewish. He had never done anything wrong to anybody. Yet He had
been humiliated and was about to die a very painful death.
Talk about trespassing. Talk about sinning by not treating the Son of God the way He
should have been treated. The way He deserved to be treated, as in worshiping Him and
All the people who had been involved with the arrest and the trials and the torture and
the crucifixion and the mocking of Jesus had sinned. Because of that, Jesus could have
snubbed each one of them. He could have ignored them, doing so for all eternity.
Instead, Jesus forgave them. That was proved by His words, “Father, forgive them.”
Why? “For they know not what they do.
What understanding. What love. What compassion. What an amazing display of acting
out today’s Lord’s Prayer phrase, “And forgive us our trespasses.”
But wait. What has been highlighted up to this point is not all the phrase, is it? No. Jesus
taught us to pray, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass
Wow. What a spin that gives it.
Does that mean that if I refuse to forgive someone who hurts me, I am asking God to not
forgive me when - if - I ever miss the mark or step over the line between right and wrong
or incur a personal or spiritual debt?
That is exactly what it means, which means part of the Lord’s Prayer is to ask for the
wisdom and the strength needed to forgive.
And you know what? I was thinking about searching for some stories of forgiveness. But
instead, I found something else I want to share, which, as I do, I ask that each of us - me,
too - will think about whether there is someone we need to forgive.
What I found is a list of things that are necessary if we are to forgive. They are
understanding, forgetfulness, and love.
Understanding. Maybe there is a reason someone has done something to hurt you.
Something that may have nothing to do with you. Maybe the person is tired or in pain or
is facing a difficult time in life with work or school or with family or with health or with
the loss of a loved one.
And no, none of those things should give anyone license to mistreat anyone. But
forgiveness might be easier if we try to understand the other person. What they have
experienced or are experiencing.
Forgetfulness. We need to know what that means, which is not necessarily completely
removing something from our minds. Forgetting, in this context, means not allowing a
hurt to negatively affect you. It includes not holding a grudge or a long-time desire for
retaliation. Forgetfulness might make forgiveness easier.
Love. That refers to wanting what is best, even for the one who hurts you.
Is there someone you need to better understand? Is there something you need to forget?
Is there someone who needs more love? And yes, I am asking all that of myself, too.
If so, will you - will I - follow through? That is critical because Jesus taught us to pray,
“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Today’s closing song is a chorus by which we will ask the Lord to change us in whatever
way is needed so we will be able to forgive others and thereby be able to be forgiven. In
fact, as we sing, let’s also ask that through the power of God, there will be fewer and
fewer things in our lives that will need to be forgiven.
The song is Change My Heart, O God.
Change my heart, O God, make it ever true;
Change my heart, O God, may I be like You.
You are the Potter, I am the clay;
Mold me and make me, this is what I pray.
Change my heart, O God, make it ever true;
Change my heart, O God,may I be like You.
Throughout Lent, we are commemorating the suffering of Jesus. Suffering that
eventually led to His death on a cross
As we do that today, may we be determined to show we appreciate what Jesus did for us,
including to pray and live, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy
kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily
bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Amen.