Matthew 25: 14-20 - “For it 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.
November 19, 2017
Last weekend Pastor Muther ended his sermon with a story about a bridegroom who not only shed a few tears as his beautiful bride walked up the aisle, he cried uncontrollably. He sobbed! The reason he was crying so hard wasn’t only the fact that his bride was so beautiful, it was also because he was missing his mom, who had passed away just a few months before that. Tears of joy combined with tears of sadness turned into quite the meltdown.
In Revelation 21, John sees a vision of the church which he describes as a holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. We can only imagine the tears of joy in our Savior’s eyes as his beautiful bride comes down that aisle. But it’s hard to get out of our minds Jesus looking out over the old Jerusalem full of unrepentant sinners who would not be gathered, as a mother hen gathers her brood. In that picture Jesus is crying tears of sadness, he’s not just tearing up a little bit, he’s bawling like a baby. The more I think about it, the more I think it must be true that our Lord Jesus will be crying both tears of joy and sadness. As you well know, one of the most beautiful metaphors in Scripture is of Jesus as bridegroom loving his bride the church with such a passion that he would lay down his life for her.
Last Sunday, we saw Jesus as Bridegroom, next Sunday Jesus as Judge, and today, Jesus as Master.
As bridegroom, Jesus loves us, and as Master, He (trusts us!)
We’re accustomed to hearing that Jesus Christ loved us enough to be crucified until he was dead and buried for us, but today we hear the surprising truth that Christ is that master who entrusted his servants with all of his possessions and then went off on a long journey.
To the one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. While on the one hand, all of us have received the gift of salvation in equal measure, on the other hand, the talents referred to in this parable are given indifferent measure. One commentator (Albrecht) suggests that the talents Jesus gives include 1) all the intellectual and physical abilities we are born with and those we develop as we mature. Our talents include all the material possessions that rightfully come into our hands. And include the many opportunities God provides us for using our talents to serve him and our neighbor.
Another commentator by the name of France suggests that the talents aren’t so much our natural gifts and aptitudes, but rather the “specific privileges and opportunities of the kingdom of heaven and the responsibilities they entail.” This morning, I invite you to think of our life together as servants, even slaves, whose days are packed full of privileges and opportunities. Think of what it means that on the one hand Jesus has declared us to be no longer servants / slaves but friends, and on the other hand, although we have the status of friends we choose to be His servants. Luther spoke about this paradox in this way, in his discussion of Christian freedom, “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one.
Three lessons we want to learn from this parable of the talents about Jesus as Master. 1) He rewards faithfulness, 2)He expects a return on His investment, and 3)The day is soon coming when he will have no time for excuses.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[e] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Lesson #1 we learn of Jesus as Master - He rewards (faithfulness). Lutherans tend to get a little twitchy when we start talking about Christians getting rewarded for their faithfulness. We have had it hammered into our heads from little on that we are saved by the grace of God alone, that we in no way merit entrance into the joys of heaven.
And so when we see Jesus as master giving the faithful steward even more to manage and even inviting him into his presence, we wonder what kind of a reward this is. Two thoughts come to mind about this master rewarding faithful stewardship of time, talents, and treasure given to us.
Thought #1 is that here on earth it is so very often true that we reap what we sow, as we live out our vocations in faithful fashion. Many Sunday School teachers will tell you that the more they put into it the more they get out of it. Moms and dads who spend their days sowing seeds of kindness and patience into their children’s lives will find that sooner or later, a harvest of kindness and patience will sweep over their life together.
Thought #2 is that Jesus as Master rewards us with gifts that He has Himself earned on our behalf. Jesus is the One who did His father’s bidding in perfect fashion. His father said go, and the son said how far. The father said all the way to the cross and the son said yes. The father said be sure to finish what you start, and on a Friday that turned out to be very good for us, the Son said “It is finished.” On Judgment Day, as your Master looks you in the eyes and declares, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” you will know beyond a shadow of the doubt that it was Christ who did the heavy lifting, you get the prize!
Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
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.
Lesson #2 we learn of Jesus as Master - He expects a return on His (investment). The servant with five talents goes out, he trades, he risks, he realizes 100% profit, he is rewarded with words and even more. The servant with two talents goes out, he trades, he risks, he realizes 100% profit, he also is rewarded. Expectations are met, and all of this is recorded that we might learn what it is the Spirit of God would teach us this morning.
The kingdom of God is like a girl blessed with a mom who insisted that she take piano lessons. The more she practiced, the better she played, and the better she played, the more she wanted to practice. The more she wants to practice, the more opportunities come her way.
The kingdom of God is like a man blessed with a hundred years of life, and still counting. The longer he lives, the more he is blessed with grandchildren and even great grandchildren, and the more he is blessed, the more opportunities come his way to say bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
The kingdom of God is like a couple blessed by God with good childhoods, blessed by God with college educations, blessed by God with good paying jobs, blessed by God with financial peace, and as time goes along, the easier they find it to give, the more they give, the more generous they are, and the more generous they are, the more they understand Jesus as Master promising, “for to everyone who has will more be given.”
Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 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. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Lesson #3 we learn of Jesus as Master On the day of reckoning, He will have no time for (excuses).In these days, we find movie stars and politicians in particular having to answer for sexual misconduct and a host of other faults and failure. Some offer excuses, some go into hiding, and some offer what may or may not be sincere apologies. Some famous folks have a day of reckoning when they may least expect it, some no doubt know it’s coming, and some seem to get away with all kinds of bad behavior.
In our text for today, the third slave gets read the riot act. He tries to pin his own failures on the reputation of his master, and it doesn’t go well. He tries the old “I could have done worse” excuse, and he just made matters worse. He should have listened to George Washington, who said, “It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.” Or to Benjamin Franklin who suggested that “he that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Or to John Wooden, who taught, “Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”
I read a story about a pastor who was excited about taking his two visiting nephews to church. The two boys were ages six and nine and had never been to church. For whatever reason, the two boys were not impressed. In the middle of the children’s sermon, the younger one raised his hand and asked, “How much longer do we have to sit up here.” When the offering was passed he watched as people put money in the plates. When it finally got to him, he looked up at his aunt and said, “You mean we gotta pay for this?”
Dear friends in Christ, there are at least two different attitudes you can take towards Jesus as Master. If your image of this master is like the unfaithful servant in the parable, then you are likely to approach service and giving to others with the attitude of the boy who asked, “you mean we gotta pay for this?” You mean we have to serve others?
But if your image of Jesus as Master is that he is the all compassionate one, He is the one who wills our good, He is the One who wants our best, He is the One who loves each one of us with an unconditional and eternal love, then you are likely to take great risks with your talents, then you will find a great joy bubbling up on the inside of you, a great joy bubbling over with a generosity spilling over into the lives of all kinds of folks near and far.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who have always known how much Jesus loves them. In these days, they are increasingly surprised that Jesus their Master would entrust them with His Kingdom. They enjoy the idea that they will be rewarded for faithfully doing their Father’s business. They wonder what it means that He is expecting a return on His investment. And they are sobered by the reality that the day is soon coming when he will have no time whatsoever for excuses.