Sermon for Second Sunday of End Time
Luke 19:11-27 + Jeremiah 26:1-6 + 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Even as our thoughts turn today to the Last Judgment – the visible coming of the kingdom of our God and the visible reign of his Christ, so the thoughts of Jesus’ followers turned to the same thing as our Gospel from Luke 19 begins. They were in the little city of Jericho, in the house of Zacchaeus, only a six hour walk away from Jerusalem – Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem, right before Palm Sunday. Everything in his ministry had been building up to this moment, and the people who had been following him on and off for three years were just sure that Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem would usher in the kingdom of God, right then and there. They were just sure that Jesus was going to set up his throne in Jerusalem, and they, his followers, would get to sit down on thrones next to him. And they were ready – ready to see the spectacular show, to sit back, relax, and watch it all unfold.
No, no, Jesus told them. It’s not like that. He told them a story, a parable, to help them understand the way it would be. The Parable of the Ten Minas. He told them this parable so that they would understand that the king had to go away for awhile and then return before the kingdom of God would be established on earth, before the Last Judgment would come. Until then, there was work to do.
In that parable there are three groups of people who will meet the king when he returns. The question Jesus wanted his followers to consider, the question he lays before you today, is this: When the King returns, which of those three will you be?
Jesus doesn’t explain the parable of the mina for us like he does with some of his parables, but the connections are pretty obvious to us who know how the story ends. The parable begins with a man of noble birth who has to go away to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then return. That’s Jesus, of course. And he had to go away to a distant country – he had to return to his Father’s side in heaven where he would be crowned as King and take his seat at the right hand of God and rule over history from there until it’s time to return for judgment.
In the meantime, he called ten of his servants and gave each one the same amount of money, a mina – that’s about $5,000 in today’s money – and told them to put it to work until he came back. The servants of Jesus are his followers, Christians. Ten is the number of completeness (usually) in the Bible, so to all Christians, to each one in the same amount, Jesus has given a mina with which to “do business” in the world until he returns – that’s the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament.
But then there were the rest of his subjects who hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ Doesn’t that sound just like what the Jewish leaders would say in one week’s time when Pilate would ask them, “Shall I crucify your king?” and they would answer, “We have no king but Caesar!” These rebellious subjects who hated Jesus were the unbelieving Jews who called for Jesus’ crucifixion – and later, all unbelievers in the world who don’t want Jesus to be their Savior, their King.
But he was made king anyway. And the king will return.
THE REBELLIOUS SUBJECTS
When he does, he’ll find three groups of people, and I’d like to work backwards now from the end of the parable and deal first of all with the last group mentioned – those rebellious subjects who hated Jesus and didn’t want him to be king.
There’s only one word to describe those people: Fools! The Jews who would call for Jesus’ crucifixion were fools. People today who don’t want Jesus as their king are fools. First, because he’s king, whether they like it or not. Their not wanting him to be God’s anointed and the judge of mankind – that won’t stop it from happening. To rebel against your Creator, to rebel against the one who will be your judge on the Last Day – that’s foolish!
But they’re also foolish, because this king, this judge, has come in love. He came to be crucified at the hands of sinful men so that he could be the Savior of sinful men – so that his blood could cover all sins, so that his righteousness could cover all unrighteousness. He came to die so that mankind would have an Advocate before the Father – God’s own Son, Jesus the Christ. He came to hand out innocent verdicts in God’s courtroom to the world. And the world said, “We don’t want it.”
It was bad enough that the Jews rejected Jesus when he came. That was foolish. But far more foolish are those who reject him still. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the Apostle Peter preached to Jerusalem, “You crucified the Lord of life! But I know you did it in ignorance. Now, now – understand that God has raised him from the dead and made him king. Don’t be foolish! Repent and believe in him that your sins may be wiped away!”
Now is the time for repentance and faith in God’s Son, before it’s too late. God has given the world time before the King’s return, so that the foolish subjects who at one time rejected him as king can repent and believe and be saved before the King returns. Because when he returns, it will not be pretty for those who are found to be rebellious subjects.
What will Jesus do at the Last Judgment with these unbelievers? In the words of the parable, But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ This is serious business. The merciful Jesus who gave his life for us will be a merciless judge at the Last Judgment. And it won’t just be against the serial killers and drug dealers. It will be against everyone who, in this life, refused to submit to the authority of Jesus – everyone who wanted to be saved in some other way than by faith alone in God’s Son. When the king returns, you don’t want to be found in that group.
You were among those who rejected him, too. You would still be among those who rejected him. But God has called you by the Gospel. “Repent and believe the good news!” And you do claim Jesus as your God-given Representative, as your divinely chosen King, don’t you? You’re not part of the world that openly rejects Jesus as King. You call yourselves his servants. You call yourselves Christians.
THE CHR.I.N.O.’S (Christians In Name Only) – THE FAITHLESS SERVANTS
But the Parable of the Minas reveals that Jesus will find two groups of Christians, two groups of servants when the king returns. Some will be found faithful. Some will be found faithless. If you pay attention to the political scene, you may have heard the slur, “R.I.N.O.” “Republican In Name Only.” The faithless servants of the king we might call CHR.I.N.O.’s: “Christians In Name Only.”
That was the last servant in Jesus’ parable, the one who refused to put the mina to work, who took it from his Master and then wrapped it up in a cloth, kept safe and sound until the king returned. That servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
There are plenty of people around the world who call themselves Christians. Some are born into Christian families and baptized – and then rarely, if ever, set foot in a church again. They don’t use the Means of Grace. They don’t live in daily contrition and repentance. They aren’t captivated by Jesus’ teaching and don’t care if they’re living contrary to it. They aren’t committed to putting the Means of Grace to work for themselves, for their families, or for anyone else in the world. But if you ask them, they won’t call themselves pagans or atheists. They’ll say, “I’m catholic. I’m Christian. I’m Lutheran.” Whatever. But they show by their attitude toward the Means of Grace that they don’t know the love of Christ. They think of Jesus as a harsh king with harsh rules, or maybe, as an irrelevant king. They think of hearing his gospel, learning his Word, sharing his Word – as a burden. Baptism? All but forgotten. The Sacrament of the Altar? Take it or leave it. They’re faithless servants. Christians in name only.
What will be the fate of the people in that group when the king returns? His master will call him a “wicked servant.” And his unused mina – the gospel of grace – will be taken away from him forever. ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.
Is that the verdict you want to hear when the king returns, “You wicked servant!”? It’s the verdict that countless thousands will hear at the Last Judgment. Bearing the name “Christian” won’t save you on that day of destruction. Only faith that has been fed and nourished with the Means of Grace will be worth anything on that day, because faith clings to Christ, the sinner’s only shelter from condemnation – Christ who covers our wickedness, Christ whose perfect record of service is credited to those who believe in him.
When the king returns, you don’t want to be found in that group of servants who wrapped up the Means of Grace in a piece of cloth and failed to put it to use.
THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS
But when the king returns, there is that other group of servants who will be blessed. One of them greets his Master, “Lord, your mina has earned ten more!” “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Lord, your mina has earned five more.’ “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’
Even though these two servants had different returns on their use of the mina, they’re both given extremely great rewards by the returning king – to join him in his rule over his kingdom, one as the governor of ten cities, one as the governor of five.
Notice the difference between these two servants and that other faithless servant. The amount of gain on the mina wasn’t the big difference. The difference was that these two put it to use out of faithful love for their master, while the other hid it away out of spite and indifference toward his “harsh master.”
The mina with which we have been entrusted by the king until he returns does the work of producing results. The Means of Grace, when put to use, strengthens your own faith, guards your own faith against the attacks of the devil, and also goes to work to bring others to faith and service in Christ’s kingdom. All of that is seen by God as faithful service. All of that is seen by God as an increase in the mina he’s given you, no matter what external increase you might see.
This is the business Christ’s servants are to be about until he returns for the Last Judgment. Not sitting around, waiting for the spectacular show on that Day. Not busying ourselves with the affairs of this world that will all be meaningless when the king returns. No, this is the business of Christ’s holy people, his faithful servants: to hear and believe the gospel, to live each day in baptismal faith, to seek comfort and strength in Holy Communion, to support and proclaim the gospel of the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ Jesus for all, distributed freely to all who believe in him.
This is the business that Christ has left for his Church until he returns. The king may return at any time. But until then, there’s work to do. Let us be about his work, that we may be found in that group of faithful servants who, by faith in Christ, hear the king’s proclamation, “Well done, my good servant!” Amen.