End Times 2: Last Judgment

Preached: November 11, 2007

Work the Word
Luke 19:11-27

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who pours out his Holy Spirit on us through his Word and Sacraments. That word today is from Luke 19

After they heard these things, Jesus also told a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear right away. So he said, “A nobleman traveled to a far country to receive a kingdom for himself and to return. After he called his own ten servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business until I come.’
“His citizens kept on hating him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this one to reign as king over us.’”
“And it came to pass when he returned having received the kingdom, he had those servants to whom he had given the money called to him, to know what they had gained. The first came saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten more minas!’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you were faithful in a very small thing, have authority over ten cities.’ The second servant came saying, ‘Your mina, lord, has made five minas.’ He said to him also, ‘And you be over five cities.’
“Another came saying, ‘Lord, here's the mina that I had hidden in a handkerchief. For I was afraid of you, because you are a stern man. You gather in what you didn't put out, and you harvest what you did not sow.’
“He said to him, ‘From your mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant! You knew that I am a stern man, taking in what I did not put out and harvesting what I didn't sow? And then why didn't you put my money in the bank? Then when I came I would at least have it with interest!’
“He said to those near him, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to the one who has ten.’ They said to him, ‘Lord, he [already] has ten minas.’
“‘I say to you that it will be given to the one who has, and from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. But bring my enemies here, those who did not want me to reign over them as king, and slaughter them before me.’”

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints of God:

What would you do if you knew that the world would end real soon? Or to make it more personal, what would do if you knew you only had one month to live?

Some movies and shows portray mass hysteria when people know the end is coming: riots in the streets, cries of despair and terror, people trying to live it up one last time. What would you do? Would you live out one last dream you've always had? Would your spend your time with family? Would you try to get closer to God?

That question, “What would I do if the end was immanent?” gets us to think about what is most important. And if it's the most important, why wait until the end is immanent? If it's most important, shouldn't we be doing it every month and not just our last month?

Jesus parable helps us gain perspective. Jesus followers were thinking that the end of the world as they knew it was coming. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He had pointed to this trip as fulfillment of prophecy. Soon, they thought, a messianic kingdom on earth would begin even as the Passover drew near, and they would be his lieutenants on his right and on his left. It would be a whole new world for them. Thoughts of glory and power tugged at their hearts.

But this parable would make them pause and think. Were their hearts and minds set in the right place, no matter when the kingdom was coming? So this parable helps us to think of what is most important for our hearts and minds. What do we as servants of our king want to be busy with today and every day until he returns?

1) When should we expect glory for following Jesus?

“A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return” (Luke 19:12 NIV). This man of noble birth is certainly Jesus, born from David's royal line. But even more so, Jesus is God, the noble, glorious Son of the Father. And although he was going to Jerusalem to purchase his kingdom, he would not display the glory of a king there. Rather, he would suffer and die to ransom his people with his blood. The glory of his kingship would not appear for all to see. He would rise from the dead on the third day and forty days later ascend into heaven. But the glory of his kingship would not be seen by all until after he went to that far country, heaven, and then returned in glory on the Last Day as the King of kings and Lord of lords.

And that brings us to the first lesson for us to learn: Don't expect glory now as you follow Jesus. Jesus' followers at that time thought their would be glory on earth when they reached Jerusalem. But the parable says, “No, not until Jesus returns. He must go back to heaven, first.”

So as you serve Jesus in your life, don't expect praise and glory and trophies. In fact, be prepared for the opposite. For often those who serve Jesus most faithful, like the Apostles would serve, suffer ridicule, hatred, and even persecution from the world. But even though the glory or success isn't there in this life, don't let that discourage your service. The glory is yet to come, when Jesus returns.

2) What does the mina represent and what are we to do with it?

That takes us to the next part in the parable. This man of noble birth calls his servants. The number ten represent fullness. He calls all who serve him and entrusts each one with a mina and tells them to put it to work. A mina would be about two or three months wages, so it's not an overly large some of money.

What does the mina represent? Notice how the same amount is given to each one of the servants. The mina cannot represent natural abilities or spiritual gifts that God gives in different amounts to different believers. A different parable, the parable of the talents, deals more directly with these.

So what is it that Jesus gives each one of us equally? It must be the Gospel, the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus, the Gospel that he gives us through the word in Scripture and in the Sacraments. That same Gospel comes to each one of us.

The servants were to do business with that mina, to put it to work. This answers the questions we started with it. What's most important that deserves our attention if the end is immanent? What's most important not only for our last month but for every month? To take that Gospel Jesus has entrusted to us and do business with it. Or to put it briefly: to work the Word.

What does it mean to work the word? Do we all need to become pastors and teachers in the church? No. To work the word means to use it in your daily life. As a parent use it to teach your children and to guide your discipline. As a worker out in the world use the word to shape your character and attitude, to guide your choices and decisions, to salt your conversation and speech. Yes also, as you spend time with friends, as you relax, let that word be working in your heart and mind. Let it shine out in your attitude, choices, and words. Let it fill your prayers.

There is a story told of a young man who went off to college. His parents shared their concern that he might face ridicule because of his Christian faith. When he came back for Thanksgiving break, they asked him whether their fears had proved true. He said them, “You don't have to worry about it. No one made fun me. I never let them know that I was a Christian.”

Could that be said about you? Or instead are you working the word in your daily life and not just on the occasional Sunday morning? Can others tell that the Gospel is the most important thing for you, the treasure entrusted to you by your King? Or would they come up with a list of other hobbies, past times, and people that seem more important to you?

You see, as we work the word in our daily life, as you live with the Gospel as your first priority, then Jesus opens opportunities for you to give the reason for the hope that you have in him, to share the Gospel. That's what happened right before this parable. Jesus had shared the Gospel with a man, named Zacchaeus. You might remember him as the short man that climbed a tree to see Jesus. Jesus shared with him the Good News of forgiveness. This is why Jesus came, even as he said at that time, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV). That's working the Gospel.

So to summarize the second lesson we learn: Jesus has entrusted each of us with the Gospel. Our most important job is to put it to work. Learn it. Live it. Share it. Work the Word.

3) What gives us the energy and motivation to work the word?

But what's going to give us the energy and motivation to carry out this great responsibility and work the word? Let's return to the parable and first of all see what is not and should never be the motivation.

One of the servants described his master with these words: “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” (Luke 19:21 NIV). This was said by a servant, not one of the enemies. How tragic that so many in churches today, even in our church, consider Jesus a hard master, demanding what is unfair. “I have to go to church! I'm suppose to give my money! I'm told to help out!” Such attitudes may come from church members, but such attitudes hide the Gospel, rejecting Jesus and losing heaven.

Each of us struggles with these thoughts to one degree or another. For our sinful self is selfish to the core and works to convince us that what God wants is a burden, an unfair burden. Do we always hear and learn his Word gladly at church and at home, or do we sometimes think his Word is a bit stale? Do we always willingly make the decision that place God's Word and command first, or sometimes even when we do the right thing, we do it reluctantly as if a hard master we're driving us? Are we always eager to live out the word and share it in our lives? All too often our sinful self hinders these things by raising doubts in our mind that paint Jesus as expecting too much.

But Jesus doesn't ask for anything more than what he hasn't already given us. In fact he gives us so much more than we could ever return to him. That's what the other servants understood. And that's our motivation and energy as well.

Notice how the faithful servants said, “Your mina has earned” (Luke 19:16, 18 NIV). They give the credit to the master. Even as we work the word, it's really Jesus at work in that word. Through the word he works in your heart, in your life, and in the people you share that word with. The burden for results isn't on you, but on Jesus and his Word.

And the first dividends that Word brings is comfort and peace to your heart. Though we have often failed, God's Word of promise does not fail. Jesus died for you. That's what the Word says. Jesus rose to bring you life. That's what the Word says. And that brings peace and comfort so that we can work the Word, living it and sharing it.

For you are working for a most generous and good King. When the servants give him what his mina has earned, notice how he rewards them. The master owes them nothing. They were his slaves only doing their duty. But he rewards them freely, in his grace, undeserved by the servants. He rewards them generously, greatly, beyond expectation. “Well done, my good servant . . . Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities” (Luke 19:17 NIV). What a gift of grace! And what exactly Jesus will bestow on you, his faithful servants, when he returns, we cannot begin to comprehend. But what a great and generous gift it will be, pictured by these ten cities.

And maybe of even greater comfort for us is that even the servant who had only five more minas to give back, he too was generously rewarded. So also, even though we are no Apostle Pauls or Luthers as we work the word; nevertheless, you can work it with the confidence that your King and Master is gracious and generous.

And this is the third lesson we want to take home today. Work the Word with the energy and motivation that knows that Jesus, your King, is gracious and generous. He will return for you.

And finally, as the opposition from the world seeks to discourage you as you work the word, note what will happen to all who have fought against our king. “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” (Luke 19:27 NIV). Though they may rage against us now, in the end our King, Jesus Christ, will reign supreme.

So live your life in a way so that if anyone asks you what you would do if you had only a month lift -- live in such a way that you could say, “I would keep on doing what I am doing. I would keep on working the word so that others who are lost come to know my gracious King, Jesus Christ, and serve him.” Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313