Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn Messiah Lutheran Church Kenosha, Wisconsin 2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year/Trinity 26 November 16, 2008 Matthew 25:31-46 For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Surprise”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel lesson just read, Christ’s judgment over the sheep and the goats.
Everybody loves gifts. There is something that is just good about receiving from others. You can buy things for yourself all you want, but at the end of the day, it just isn’t the same as receiving a gift from another person. Every child knows this. Every adult knows this. It’s why, for most of us at least, we always loves our birthday, even if it is secretly. It’s one of those few times in your life when you expect presents, and you aren’t being selfish by expecting them.
If possible, the only thing better than receiving presents is that granddaddy of great presents, the surprise present. What could possibly be cooler than that! A present that you didn’t expect! Imagine, for example, going to college and at the end of the semester, getting credit for 30 hours worth of classes instead of twelve. Imagine a half-year birthday present, totally out of the blue. What could be better! What could be more wonderful than that!
That is what is going on in our text for this morning. On the Last Day there will be a lot of surprises, some good and some bad. The bad, those unbelievers who refused God’s gift of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, the evil will receive what they wanted. They didn’t want God’s grace, and so they won’t get it. On the Last Day, they will stand before the judgment seat of Christ all by themselves. They will stand alone, and God will judge them for all of the things they did, and all of the things they refused to do. If you live by the Law, if you stubbornly want to do it your way all by yourself, then God will let you. You can stand before Him and He will judge you according to your deeds. But you won’t like the results. For you by nature are evil, full of lust and desire for wrongdoing. If that’s what you want, that’s what you will get.
But it is not so with you, O Baptized. For are sons and daughters of the King. You never stand alone, for the Son of Man stands with you, right by your side, every step of the way. On the Last Day when you stand before God’s throne, you will get a surprise. Don’t worry, I’m not giving it away. No matter how many times you hear of this surprise, you still won’t be prepared. It is so great, so wonderful and glorious, that words can hardly contain it for the glory of it.
On that Last Day, you will stand before the judgment seat of God with the Son of Man as both your judge and your brother. And on that day, you will get the greatest surprise. What is it, you may ask? The surprise will be that God credits you with everything that Jesus’ did. Everything. His birth, His perfect life, His passion, His suffering, His death, it’s all yours. Every act of mercy Jesus ever did. Every touch of compassion, every cup of cold water given to the parched, it’s all yours. The prisoners visited, the hungry fed, poor clothed and given shelter, it’s all in your credit box.
All this is yours, the King says. Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Did you catch that great word? Inherit. That means it’s a gift, a present. Someone had to die in order for you to receive this inheritance. It was the King Himself. Because the King died for you, you receive the kingdom, and all of His works become yours.
What this means for you, dearly beloved, is that your life here on earth today is nothing more than learning how to act like who you really are. You are generous, sacrificing, giving, suffering for others, and above all, loving. That is who you are by holy baptism. That is your inheritance. That is the gift that God gives to you, as a part of your identity as His beloved child.
But of course, you don’t always act like who you are. You sin, you are selfish and greedy, lusty and covetous, gossipy and rebellious. But like the patient Father that He is, God disciplines you in His love. He chides you so that He might forgive you. He teaches you by showing you His saints to emulate. He gives of Himself over and over again, so that you might learn to be who you really are. Remember those words that St. Peter wrote to us years ago:
“According to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:13-14 ESV)
So since you are waiting for Him, since He has given all things into your hand and you have eternity as a result of His great gift, learn of Him. Learn from our Lord what it means to live not for yourself, but for those around you. Martin Luther put it this way:
We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor.”
Come then, dearly beloved, and learn from our Lord about the life that is yours by faith. It is a life that is free from want and need, that trusts in the mercy of God above all. It doesn’t come to you by nature, but it comes to you by faith. That faith is yours in your baptism, and it is yours through His Holy Word and Sacraments. The gifts of God never end for you. Trust that He will give you all things. Trust in Him, and live as God would have you live. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.