Sermon Text: Matthew 25:31-46
November 23, 2014 AD
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN. Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 25th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
A. The Advent of Judgment
There will be an end. With each step the Savior of the World marches towards the passion of His Cross. And there will be an End. Sin’s domain shall be conquered. The Devil’s work shall be undone. The world’s rebellion shall be squelched. No more shall the saints stand in gardens of stone. No more shall a husband grieve for his wife, nor a wife for her husband. No more shall God’s holy innocents suffer the consequences of a mother’s choice. No more shall children dishonor their parents. No more shall households be severed by selfishness. There will be an end. On that day, the tears of children shall be wiped away with a gentle hand. The hearts of the despairing shall receive their eternal hope from the Lamb. The voice of the faithful shall ring throughout the heavens. Angelic choirs shall echo their praises. Palm branches will sway in Eden again! There will be an end to this broken world. There will be an end to suffering! There will be an end to sin! Death will be the Son’s footstool. For on that Day, that great and glorious Day the Son of Man shall come in His glory. No longer the suffering servant, He shall return a victorious King. No longer the man of sorrows, He shall come with all His holy Angels to take His throne.
Yes, beloved, there will be an End to this vale of tears, this valley of sorrow. And on that day He whom we have trusted shall descend with a shout, with the blast of a trumpet. All the dead shall arise and meet Him in the sky. And those living shall be transformed that very hour.
The majesty of His appearing will bring great comfort to His disciples, but unbearable terror shall seize the heart of every unbeliever. For now begins the Day of Judgment. The King ascends His Throne. The heavenly courtroom opens before all creation. The reckoning begins. To the right go His Sheep. To the left go the goats. To the right His faithful. To the left, everyone else. There is no middle group. There are no lukewarm disciples. You are either on His right or you are damned. There will be an end. And you and I do well to be certain of our destiny.
B. Clinging to Works in the Presence of the Judge
No one has been destined for hell. That place has been prepared for the devil and his angels. Heaven is prepared for you through the blood of His Son. The Sheep know this, believe this, trust this. The goats . . . well they reject this.
The sheep live by faith and then put that faith into action. Their eyes are fixed on Christ. Their hearts are moved towards their neighbor, even the least of these. The goats on the other hand, cannot see the least of these. They cannot see Christ. They reject Him and His word. No, the goats want to do it their own way. “Lord, when did we see you and not minister to you?” You see, the goats are fixed on their works. They believe they have done the necessary things to get into heaven. But their works are lacking. All who live by works will find themselves lacking on the Day of Judgment.
Though the disciples of Christ truly do good works, they are not saved by them. And though the goats do not do enough good works, they’re not damned by them. Remember the sheep and the goats were divided to the right and the left prior to judgment of their works. It is only those who lack faith that are sent to the left. Then when it is time to examine their lives is it revealed that they have fallen short. Faith receives everything. Works gain nothing. The sheep have heaven by grace through faith. The goats have hell by blood, sweat, and tears. Are you a sheep or are you a goat? Is your heart Christ centered and cross focused, or are you caught up with yourself?
There will be an end . . . and that end is coming soon. You don’t have to be a goat. You don’t have die forever. You don’t have to remain distant from the LORD your God. The end is coming soon, but the end is not yet. There is still time for repentance.
C. Christ in the Least of These – Hanging amongst sinners
Goats reject the least and the lost. Doing so they reject Christ. Christ is in the least and the Lost. He came for the least and lost of which I am one. For the hungry and for the thirsty, for the stranger and the prisoner, for the naked and the sick, Christ became a man. He humbled Himself to the lowest degree that by His blood He might save all.
Look at the cross beloved. The greatest became the least and was numbered with transgressors. He was numbered with the likes of us, though He was without sin. He joined Himself so intimately with humanity that He took on Humanity’s curse. The wages of sin is death and there the Life of the World suffers death in all its brutality, in all its humiliation, in all its unlceanness. There is no greater love for the least of these than the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. From the cross He feeds the hungry choice meats. He gives drink to the thirsty with holy water. He begs the Father’s heart on our behalf, setting the prisoners free. He welcomes all who come to Him by faith. He clothes the naked with His righteousness, and His wounds bring healing to the sick and distressed. All that He praises His disciples for, He has done in 6 hours from the cross and through out the ages in the preaching of His Word! This He has done for you in your baptism. This He gives into your mouths in His supper. The greatest has become the least. The king takes the form of a servant. The first has become the last so that we who are last may become the first and we who are least may become the greatest in the kingdom of God.
B’. Clinging to the Cross in the Presence of the Lamb
And so His Christians cling to the cross for dear life, His dear life. And doing so they begin to find Jesus in their neighbors, in their fellow man, even the least of these. But, you see, we don’t know it. The sheep don’t know they’re serving Jesus in the least of these, because the sheep are not concerned about their works. The sheep are clinging to the cross and with the cross working its work on their hearts through Word and Sacrament the sheep are driven to love their neighbor as Christ loved them. Serving one another becomes their purpose in life. Husbands serve their wives in body and soul. Wives surrender to their husbands in body and soul. Parents serve their children and children serve their friends. Brothers reconcile with one another. Sisters encourage one another. Neighbors help each other out. Strangers are friendly to one another. Christ’s disciples are quick to offer a piece of bread to the poor, clothing to the naked, forgiveness to the prisoners, and the gospel to those hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We don’t do it perfectly. No one does, but we do it because Christ has done it for us. We do it because Christ is in the least of these. We do it because our hearts are now moved by love and not selfishness. Returning again to our baptismal promises, our selfishness is being crucified with Christ. Our pride is being buried with Christ. And tracing His Sign upon our hearts and foreheads we daily rise up from God’s Word and promises as new men, new women, and new children, as a mighty people ready to bear the cross before the world and in service to the world.
A’. Inheriting Eternal Joy
Beloved in the Lord, there will be an end. The end is coming soon. On that day the Son shall gather the nations before Him and He shall sit in judgment over the world. The sheep shall be on His right and the goats sent to His left. The goats shall depart forever and be cast to the fires prepared for the devil and his angels. The sheep shall receive their inheritance, their eternal joy. And the Son, their Savior shall say, “come, My Father’s blessed ones, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world. Come, you who kept the seal of faith unbroken, who were swift to assemble in the churches, who listened to my Scriptures, longed for my Words, observed my law day and night, and like good soldiers shared in my suffering because you wanted to please me, your Heavenly King. Come inherit the kingdom prepared for you. Look, My kingdom is ready, paradise stands open, my immortality is displayed in all its beauty. Come, now, all of you. Enter into the joy of My Father’s house. I have prepared a place for you. It is a place that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor human heart conceived. It is of the Father’s heart for you. It is your inheritance. It is my gift to you who trust in me.”
Yes, beloved, there will be end. But the end is just the beginning for God’s redeemed sheep. God grant you a place in His fold today and forever more. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!