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Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 25:14–30

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 23, Proper 28, series A
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Nov 16, 2014 

The Gospel readings for last week, today, and next week are all part of the private instruction that Jesus gave to His disciples on the Mount of Olives just a few days before He died on the cross.  Last week, we heard the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.  Next week, we will hear about the sheep and the goats.  Today, we hear the parable of the talents.  Jesus used each of these readings to help us learn what we need to know about the Last Day the Day of Judgment the day when each of us must appear before the Lord and give an account.

Todays parable tells of a man who left on a long trip and returned at a later time.  While he was away, he entrusted his wealth to three servants.  When he returned, he called these servants before him to give an account of what they had done with his wealth.

The man in the parable represents Jesus who was about to leave on that long trip.  In a few days, He would be hanging from a cross and paying for the sins of all humanity.  After He paid for all our sins, He would rise from the dead and then ascend into heaven.  The parable in the Gospel illustrates our lives during this time of waiting for Him to return.  It also illustrates the judgment that will come to each of us at the end of our time on this earth.

Note that the man entrusts his wealth to servants.  He does not entrust his wealth to two servants and a stranger.  The fact that he entrusts his wealth to servants indicates that Jesus is talking about people who consider themselves members of a congregation.  Even as Judas was still a member of Jesus congregation, so also we need to understand that not all who claim membership are really members.  As Jesus said, [Matthew 7:21] Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Just as not all three servants were faithful, Jesus teaches that not all members are faithful.

Now It would be very easy to get hung up on the amounts the five, two, and one talent that the man gave to each of his servants.  Instead, when we understand that even one talent is a lot of money, we can realize that the man put each of his servants in charge of a fortune even one talent is worth millions of dollars.  The stewardship this man entrusted to his servants was huge.

The first part of this parable illustrates the incredible wealth God gives to us.  He has created us and the entire world.  The different amounts indicate that God gives a unique set of gifts to each person.  He gives these gifts so that each of us can care for himself and for others.  Most importantly, He has given Jesus who earned salvation with His suffering and death on the cross.  That salvation is not just for a few, but the salvation Jesus earned is for the entire world.  It is as Jesus said, [Matthew 5:45b] [Our Father in Heaven] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Gods gifts to us are beyond anything we could measure or even imagine and He gives those gifts to all people.

We need to understand that the wealth in the parable is symbolic.  There are many ways Gods gifts can be a blessing to us.  Just as God gives out different gifts, so also there are different returns when we invest those gifts.  On occasion, the Lord may bless with a financial return.  Most of the time, the return is more valuable than mere earthly wealth.

As the parable continued, two of the servants put their stewardship to work.  They invested and made a return.  The third servant dug a hole and buried the entire talent.  He hid his masters money.

Jesus told this parable along with other parables to illustrate the final judgment on the Last Day.  On the Last Day, some will stand before the Lord and rejoice like the two faithful servants.  They will praise the Lord for the things they were able to do because of the Lords gifts.  Others will stand in terror.  Some of those who stand in terror will have their names on the rolls of the local congregation.

When we entered the world all of us were like the servant who stood before the master in terror.  It is as David says, [Psalm 51:5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. The Apostle Paul writes, [Ephesians 2:1] You were dead in the trespasses and sins, and again, [Romans 8:7] The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to Gods law; indeed, it cannot.

By nature, we, like the unfaithful servant, imagine a master who is not generous, loving, and kind.  Our imagination prevents us from seeing the true master who pours out generous salvation and all the other gifts without calculation or measurement.  We imagine the master to be a hard man, reaping where [he] did not sow, and gathering where [he] scattered no seed. This belief causes fear instead of joy.  It paralyzes us so that the gifts of God terrify us and we despise them.

Fortunately, the Father of all mercy and grace has sent His Son Jesus Christ, who atoned for the sin of the whole world, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  God does NOT desire our terror.  Instead, He loves us with the Holy, precious blood of His Son poured out in innocent suffering and death on a cross.  Jesus brought into this world a love that was priceless, a love that would not balk at the cost of sin, a love that would suffer death and eternal damnation so that the debt of all humanity would be paid and every sin would be forgiven before God.  God offers this love to us with a generosity that Jesus described as [Luke 6:38] good measure, pressed down, shaken together, [and] running over.

When the Holy Spirit creates faith in us, He brings this generous love and forgiveness to us.  The terror is gone.  Instead, we become like the two faithful servants who rejoiced in the presence of their master.  Like the two faithful servants, we will rejoice in the presence of the master as we celebrate the return we will have made with the wealth the master gives to us.  We will hear those wonderful words, 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.

The terrified servant heard different words, You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This parable shows that there are two judgments on the Last Day the joy of the master and the outer darkness.  The other readings for this day also inform us of the terror of the Day of the Lord.  The Old Testament reading speaks of wailing, punishment, plundering, waste, bitterness, ruin, devastation, darkness and gloom.  The epistle speaks of destruction and the labor pains of childbirth.  These readings make it very clear that there will be a very real day of judgment, and that day will terrify many.  It will even terrify some who claim membership in a local congregation.

At the same time, there are some who look forward to that day with joy.  These are the ones whom God has brought into His household of salvation.  By Gods grace they celebrate and confess the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation that God has given to them.

Gods love for us delights in the different gifts He gives to each of us.  He rejoices in the various ways he has created us for service. As Paul writes to the saints in Corinth, [1 Corinthians 12:17] If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

Our service to God does not earn us a place in his kingdom.  God has freely given us that in Christ.  Instead, God gives us a variety of gifts at the same time that He gives us our place in Gods kingdom.  Those who rejoice in the coming Day of the Lord will readily use these gifts to confess their faith to their friends and acquaintances.  Who knows but that the Holy Spirit may use your confession to bring salvation to another so that they too will one day hear, 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

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