The Sunday of Last Judgment
November 10, 2019
Are You Ready for the King’s Return?
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said,‘ until I come back.’ But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. The first one came and said, ‘Sir, 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, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ Then another 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.’ His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ He replied, ‘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. 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.’” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Just in case you missed the memo— we are now entering into the busy holiday season of the year. Are you ready? Eighteen days from today is Thanksgiving Day. Are you ready? Is the menu set? Have the dinner invitations been sent? Forty-five days from today is Christmas Day. Are you ready? Is the shopping done? Are the presents all wrapped?
Right about now you might be thinking, “I still have plenty of time to get ready!” You watch the calendar. You are very aware of when both Thanksgiving and Christmas will arrive. You know exactly how much time you have left to get ready. But, what if, my friends, what if Thanksgiving was not always on the fourth Thursday in November? What if Christmas was not always on the 25th of December? Would that change your planning process? What if Thanksgiving or Christmas could come at any time and every time you got up in the morning you had to check the news to see if perhaps today was Thanksgiving Day or if perhaps today was Christmas Day? Would that impact how you prepared? It probably would.
Today is the Sunday of Last Judgment. Today is the day when we stop to remember that Judgment Day is most definitely coming— we just don’t know when! Today then is a very good day for us to look at the portion of Scripture that is before us this morning and ask ourselves the question: Are You Ready for the King’s Return? As we contemplate that question let’s consider two more questions. First, what does our King expect from us? Then, what can we expect from our King?
Once again the setting of our text is extremely helpful in giving us a proper understanding of this text. Luke gives us the setting when he says in the opening verse of our text, “While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” Jesus was now making His way to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the sins of the world. Sensing that something “big” was about to take place the people were hoping that Jesus was finally ready to do what they had long wanted Him to do: openly declare Himself to be the King of the Jews and visibly establish His Kingdom right here on this earth with the beloved city of Jerusalem as His capital city. Even Jesus’ own disciples had this false hope in their hearts! (See Matthew 20:20-28; Acts 1:6) Therefore Jesus once again tries to clear up their misunderstanding of what the Kingdom of God was about by teaching them— and us— the Parable of the Ten Minas.
It was very common back in this day and age that a person had to travel to a “distant country” in order to be publicly appointed as a king. Even Herod had to go to Rome to receive official ruling power in Palestine. So the primary premise of this parable was something with which Jesus’ disciples were indeed very familiar. With this parable then Jesus teaches His disciples— including us— that His kingdom will indeed be visibly established for everyone to see, but not until Judgment Day arrives. While Jesus is most certainly the King of kings and the Lord of lords He told His disciples that He is going to “go away” for awhile. (See John 14:1-21) How long will Jesus be gone? He doesn’t say. When will Jesus return? He doesn’t say. What does Jesus say? Look at verse 13 of our text. Jesus says, “So he (the king) called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’”
This one verse reveals to us exactly what our King expects from us while He is “gone away.” Jesus expects us to faithfully “put to work” the “mina” that He Himself has given to each and every one of us. It’s that simple, my friends. The question then becomes— what does the “mina” here in this parable represent? What has our King given to each and every one of us to use, to “put to work,” until He returns— no matter how long that might be? The only answer to that question that “fits” with the rest of Scripture is: the precious Means of Grace, that is, the Gospel as it comes to us in Word and Sacrament.
We cannot lose sight of the fact that the precious message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most precious blessing that our King has personally placed into our hands. As we put God’s holy Word and Sacraments “to work” our own personal faith is strengthened and nourished. As we put God’s holy Word and Sacraments “to work” we are comforted with the assurance that all of our sins are completely forgiven. As we put God’s holy Word and Sacraments “to work” we are able to share with others both the true message of Jesus’ cross as well as the true message of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead. As we put God’s holy Word and Sacraments “to work” we are able to openly reveal our dedication to fulfilling the two greatest Commandments of all— “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). As we put God’s holy Word and Sacraments “to work” we have the confidence of knowing that we are ready for our King’s return— no matter when He comes back. That’s why our King expects that we will take the Means of Grace that He has given to us and “put it to work” both in our own hearts and lives as well as in the hearts and lives of others.
What can we expect from our King when He returns to this earth in all of His power, majesty and glory? Look at verse 15. Jesus says, “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.” When Jesus our King returns to this earth we can expect that we will summoned before Him and we will be required to give an account to Him for how we have used His Means of Grace while He was gone. Those who have faithfully used His Means of Grace can expect to receive the King’s “reward” of grace. Those who have neglected to use Jesus’ Means of Grace can expect to receive the King’s judgment.
How does this apply to you as an individual child of God? Look at verses 16-18. Jesus says, “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, 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, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’”
There are two important points that we want to highlight here. First, note very carefully that neither of these servants takes any credit for themselves whatsoever. They openly acknowledge that the credit for any “increase” that was gained while the king was gone goes completely to the “mina” which their king gave to them. That’s exactly how it is to be with us, my friends. As we faithfully use the Means of Grace which our King has given to us we consciously strive to make sure that we never claim any credit for the “increase” that only God’s holy Word and Sacraments have the power to achieve— whether that is the “increase” in our own personal faith, or the “increase” in our ability to live a God-pleasing life, or the “increase” in the number of people who come to know Jesus as their Savior and their King! We are only instruments through which God’s powerful Means of Grace work. As the apostle Paul himself confessed, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (I Corinthians 3:6-7).
Secondly, while all of God’s people who faithfully use the Means of Grace given to them by their King will inherit the eternal glory and perfection of heaven this portion of Scripture suggests that there are “degrees of glory” in our heavenly Father’s home. The Christian who has faithfully used God’s precious Means of Grace in all the various aspects of their life— at home, at church, at work, at school— will be granted greater glory in heaven. Here I think of people such as the apostle Paul, the parent and the grandparent who humbly strives to teach and to model God’s Truth to their children and their grandchildren, or the child of God who faithfully and generously supports God’s Kingdom work here on this earth. These are the people who rightfully receive greater glory in heaven.
At the same time look at verses 20-24 of our text. Jesus also makes it powerfully clear that the servant who does not put God’s Means of Grace “to work,” that is, those who are “too busy” to use the King’s Means of Grace or those who do not support God’s Kingdom work here on this earth because they think that there is “nothing in it for them”— they can expect that when the King returns to this earth on the day of Last Judgment He may indeed take away from them the precious blessing that was once theirs.
This reality will lead each of us to examine our own heart and our own life to see how faithfully we are using the precious Means of Grace that our King has given to us. Do we join with great King David and say, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD’” (Psalm 122:1), or do we consider our church attendance a chore? Do we eagerly open up our Bible and study it— both here at church and at home— or is Bible study something that rarely crosses our radar? Do we cheerfully share with others the full and free forgiveness that our King won for us on the cross (Pointing to the cross), or do we withhold forgiveness from people until they meet our requirements and fulfill our expectations. When our King returns to this earth will we give Him reason to say to us, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40), or will the lack of the fruits of faith in our life cause our King to be angry with us?
Most of us do not need a memo to remind us that Thanksgiving and Christmas are indeed coming. We know exactly when those events are going to take place and therefore we know exactly how much time we have left to get ready for those events in our lives. As you and I, my friends, draw near to the end of yet another church year this is indeed a very good time for us to remember that our King has promised to return to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead — we just don’t know when that event will take place. A very good question for each of us to contemplate then is our main question for this morning: Are You Ready for the King’s Return? You know what your King expects of you. He expects that you will faithfully use and faithfully share His precious Means of Grace while He is gone. You also know what you can expect from your King when He returns. You can expect that He will “reward” you according to how you used His Means of Grace while He was gone. May God grant that we will all be numbered among those to whom the King will say, “Well done, my good servant!”
To God be the glory!