SERMON TEXT BELOW
Pentecost 25 2023 Proper 28
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 19, 2023
Zechariah 1:7-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Matthew 25:14-30
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In Pre-kindergarten chapel a couple of weeks ago we were talking about listening to and obeying our parents, and one of the little girls declared, “I listen to my parents so I don’t get into trouble.” That is a good reason to listen to your parents and it is a very natural way to think about obedience. But there is a better way. To see that better way we will look at our Gospel reading today.
Now, the word translated as servant in our reading is really more accurately translated as slave. Slavery has been around since almost the beginning and was common during Jesus’ time. Some slaves were born into slavery, some were captured in warfare, some were sold into slavery to pay a debt, and some sold themselves into slavery because they could have a better standard of living as a slave rather than trying to make it on their own. At least, as a slave, the master would provide food and lodging and clothing.
Your quality of life as a slave 2,000 years ago would largely depend on your master. Is your master a good man who cares for you and treats you fairly? Is he someone you can fear, love and trust, or is he a petty, bitter, angry man who will punish you for any and every reason and make you fear and hate him? Interestingly, depending on attitudes and perspectives, two slaves could have the same master and one slave fears, loves and trusts the master and the other slave fears and hates the master.
The parable in today’s Gospel reading comes directly after the warnings of the parable of the ten virgins which ends, Matthew 25:13 (ESV) 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Jesus then continues to describe what the kingdom of heaven will be like. What is the reign -- the rule -- of heaven like with Jesus as Lord and Master and you living under Him in His Kingdom? What is it like for you to be Jesus’ slave?
Matthew 25:14–15 (ESV) 14 “For [the Kingdom of Heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”
What kind of master are we learning about in this parable? This master is generous and trusting. He gives his slaves 5, 2, and 1 talent. Now, a gold talent is a 75 pound unit of measure and is worth 20 years wages for a laborer. If a laborer makes $50,000 a year in today’s money a talent today would be worth $1 Million. At today’s gold prices it would be over $2 million. So what kind of crazy master is this? This is a master that entrusts his slaves with $5 million, $2 million and $1 million. The first two slaves fear, love and trust their master and use the master’s money to do business and they each double the money entrusted to them. These two servants trust in their master’s mercy so they are willing to take risks with the money.
The third slave does not care if he helps the master and just wants to avoid trouble. The third slave fears the master but does not love the master. His actions show that he hates the master. When entrusted with $1 million of the master’s money he gets passive aggressive and does nothing. “I’ll show him. He probably thinks I will mess up and lose it all and that I cannot be trusted with money. I’ll show him. I’ll keep it nice and safe.” He is so afraid of the master that he is unwilling to take any risk with the money to get it to grow. Instead, he just buries it in the ground for safekeeping. He fears and hates the master.
Two slaves fear, love and trust the master. The third fears and hates the master.
You are a slave of your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Do you obey Jesus out of fear, love and trust, or do you obey out of fear and hatred to just stay out of trouble. The Good News from Jesus today is that you have no need to be afraid of God because you are a slave of a generous and merciful God.
Now, it is true that you are a real, honest-to-goodness, sinner. You got on your knees at the beginning of the service and declared yourself to be, by nature, sinful and unclean. You pled guilty to sinning against God and your neighbor in thought, word and deed by what you have done and by what you have left undone. Why did you say this? You said it because it is true. You really are a sinner but there is a great temptation to minimize your sin so it does not seem so bad -- but it is not true. You are a poor, miserable sinner. You need a savior.
Martin Luther’s friend, Phillip Melanchthon, was struggling with sin, so Luther wrote him a letter. In it Luther wrote, “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (or “Sin boldly”), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”
Rejoice! You are a real sinner who has been really forgiven and you live in the joy of the reign of Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven. As Jesus teaches, Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You live in joyful slavery to Jesus. What could be better than to be a slave of the most high God? You have a generous and trusting master who has given you your body and soul, eyes, ears, and all your members, your reason and all your senses, and still takes care of them.
He also gives you clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all you have. He richly and daily provides you with all that you need to support this body and life. The master trusts you with so much.
Your generous Lord and Master has given you everything that you have, and much more than that, He has taken away all your sins and paid the price for them. He has given you eternal life. He washes you clean in the waters of baptism and feeds you with His Body and Blood in Holy Communion. He forgives you over and over and over in abundance. Out of great love, the master humbled Himself to serve you, His slave. Your master is the most wonderful, generous master of all and you belong to him. Yours is a joyful slavery. You have great joy because Jesus is your Lord and Master and King. We pray for this, “Thy Kingdom come.” We sing about this at Christmas.
It is easy to be confused that we obey in order to avoid punishment, but as a baptized child of God you don’t follow the law in order to avoid punishment. You follow the law out of love for your generous and merciful savior. You live in joyful slavery taking God’s gifts to you and investing them in love for those around you.
Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king. Joy to the world, the savior reigns. He rules the world with truth and grace.
In Psalm 51 David is repenting of his sin and begs God to
Psalm 51:12 (ESV) 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
Live your life as a joyful slave of Jesus knowing that the law’s curse against you has been cancelled. We learn in Galatians 3:13 (ESV) 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
It is easy to be confused that we obey in order to avoid punishment, but as a baptized child of God you don’t follow the law in order to avoid punishment. You follow the law out of love for your generous and merciful savior. You live in joyful slavery taking God’s gifts to you and investing them in love for those around you. As a joyful slave you do what has been given to you to do. You care for your family and those in your care. You love your neighbor, multiplying the love of God. You live in joyful slavery absorbing evil from the world and returning love for evil.
Now, there are a lot of people and churches that are afraid of too much Gospel; too much Good News. They are afraid that if you live in the joy of knowing the curse of the law has been cancelled that you will use that as an excuse to sin more. Paul answers this… Romans 6:1–2 (ESV) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Living a joyful life in the forgiveness and love of Jesus is messy. It is much cleaner and more efficient to control people with the hammer of God’s law. Do this or you are going to get it! Don’t do that or God will punish you! Motivating people through fear is very effective in the short term, but it teaches you to fear and hate God. It teaches you to fear God so much you take His good gifts and bury them in the ground. It teaches you about a different god instead of the true generous and merciful God of the Bible.
Know that you are indeed a real sinner and know that your sins have really been forgiven. Obey God’s commands, not out of fear of punishment but out of love for your savior. And when you give in to temptation, when you get caught up in sin, repent and say with King David Psalm 51:10–12 (ESV)
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
Live each day in the joy of service to your merciful and generous master using all He has given you for His glory and on the last day you will hear these words as you are welcomed into the heavenly city. Matthew 25:23 (ESV) 23 … ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. Amen