Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of End Times -- Last Judgment (November 10, 2019)

LUKE 19:11-27


In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus told this parable because he was about to enter Jerusalem and the crowds were convinced that his kingdom was about to burst forth and establish glory on earth.  He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.” (Luke 19:12)  Jesus taught that he would go away for a while and then return.  But it was true that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to establish a kingdom.  Doing so would not look glorious.  Jesus established his kingdom by suffering and dying.  This is the payment that rescues you from sin, judgment, death, and hell.  Your place in the kingdom of God was purchased with blood.  If the crucifixion seems glorious to you, it is only because you know what was won at the cross, and that it was won for you. 
     But Jesus is a king.  He rules over his kingdom.  And you are in it.  You do not have to wait for the forgiveness of sins.  You are not waiting for a living faith which goes forth to live a godly life.  You are already children of God, and you are already have the benefits of being in his kingdom.  You are not in glory yet.  As long as the king is away and we are awaiting his return, he gives us work to do.  This work is not being done because it will save you; it is to be done by those who are already saved.  The king seeks faithful servants.
      Jesus said, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.  Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’  …  When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.” (Luke 19:12-13,15)  A mina is simply a coin of a certain weight.  It is about 3 month's wages, so it is quite valuable.  Each servant received the same, one mina each.  Whether the mina represents our faith, our service, or our goods, it does not really matter.  They are all intertwined in God's kingdom.  You are a servant of whatever it is God has given you to do.  And our king seeks faithful servants in his kingdom.
     Upon the king's return, there was an assessment of his subjects.  He summoned each to report on their service for the king.  Only three replies are recorded.  The first confessed not, “I earned ten more minas,” but “Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.” (Luke 19:16)  It was not the servant who did the works the king desired, but it was the mina.  In the same way, it is not we who can boast that we are doing the works of the Lord.  For, this is what the Lord says: “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)  The king seeks faithful servants.  First, he grants you a living faith, then he works through you by that living faith, and then he rewards you for the faith he has given you and for the works he has done through you.  The king seeks and rewards faithful servants.
     The third servant serves as a warning for us all.  He, too, received a mina, and he was also given the instruction, “Engage in business until I come.” (Luke 19:13)  But he didn't.  When the king summoned him to give an account, he responded: “Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man.  You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” (Luke 19:20-21)  Even though the king had given this servant the mina, the servant insisted that the king was thief for benefiting from his labors.  So, rather than do anything with his mina, he buried it.
     The king called him a wicked servant; for he did not do what he was given to do.  We agree with the king's assessment in the parable, but we hesitate to make the same judgment in real life.  It is God who has given us all that we have and are.  More than just creating us, God has also redeemed us and brought us into his kingdom of grace.  He has given us a living faith and calls us to serve him according to his word.  No longer are we to engage in sin and to do the works of the devil; we are to be devoted to good works which honor our God and serve our neighbor.  Our service is not to gain God's favor; we already have that.  Rather, we serve because that is what a living faith does.  A faith that does nothing will not be rewarded.
     Jesus promised us: “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit...” (John 15:5)  If we remain in God's word—that is, listening to it, taking it to heart, and being conformed to it—we will bear much fruit.  A living faith will show itself and do the works God seeks.  Even though the wicked servant was given a living faith, he buried it.  He was negligent and lazy and was even offended that the king expected something out of him.  But this is why we need to abide in Jesus and his word.  We all grow weary of doing the work God gives us to do.  Often it is because we don't see the reward.  We wonder, “What's the point?  Why put my faith to work when it doesn't pay?”  We must abide in his word for the mina to produce.  We want to feed our faith for it to remain alive, grow, and produce.  Otherwise we wonder, “Why should I forgive that guy when he sins against me?”  And we remember, “Oh, that's right, because my Savior continually forgives me even though I sin against him.”  “Why should I be patient with that guy when he gets on my nerves?  Oh, that's right, because my Lord is ever patient with me in my weaknesses.”  “Why should I risk confessing my faith to someone who would only mock me for it?  Oh, that's right, because when we were still enemies of Christ, he died for us.”  “Why should I be generous and kind to somebody who will never pay me back?  Oh, yeah, because God is always generous and kind to me and I can never even begin to pay him back.”  Through his word, our Lord continues to strengthen us, to encourage us, and to produce in us both to will and to work according to his good pleasure.  “Apart from me,” Jesus warns, “you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)  But if we remain in Christ, we will bear fruit and be the faithful servants he seeks.  And on the Last Day, the reward will be given.
     The king seeks and rewards faithful servants.  The king grants the mina, and the mina produces what the king looks for.  In other words, the Lord grants you saving faith and works good works in you by that living faith.  And the Lord rewards you for what he has given you.  The Lord grants you faith, and the Lord makes and keeps you faithful as long as you abide in him.  It is all God's doing so that your salvation is by pure grace.
     The king seeks and rewards faithful servants.  The servants did not receive their commendation from the king until he had returned.  In the same way, we continue to serve, but we will not see our reward until Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead.  You may wonder how you are doing with your service.  You may notice some Christians who seem to be accomplishing amazing things, and you may wonder if you are really measuring up.  You may even wonder if you will qualify as faithful.
     Two servants appeared before the king.  The first said, “'Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’  … And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.'” (Luke 19:18-19)  And the king commended both and rewarded them.  He did not criticize or question the servant who came with five fewer minas.  Both had produced good works.  Jesus' promise stands: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit...” (John 15:5)  And Jesus does not add a quota onto that.  You might think of two mothers who prepare meals for their children.  One spends all afternoon preparing a gourmet, seven-course meal for her children, and the other serves them whatever was put into the Happy Meal bag.  While some might say that one mother did better work, the children of each mother would simply say, “Mom fed us dinner tonight.”  Faithful service in the kingdom of God does not need to be world-changing or life-altering.  It simply is doing what God gives you to do.  God seeks this kind of service and rewards his faithful servants.
     Jesus has established a kingdom, and he has brought you into it by giving you a living faith.  He gives us all work to do, and he works in us to will and to work according to his good pleasure.  For, it is not our works or merits which save us.  Jesus is the one who saves.  He is the faithful Savior who has worked in us saving faith.  And his word makes it living and active.  Do not grow weary in doing good.  Your reward and your glory are soon to come.  For your king is coming, and he will bring you into his glorious kingdom to live and reign with him forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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