Vindication (Matthew 25:31-46) 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter 25.

Today we are going to talk about a great word that you don’t hear very much. The word is vindication. Vindication means that you have been publicly cleared of the charges brought against you in a court of law. It means that you have been declared innocent by the judge, and that the whole world now knows this to be true.

We are talking about vindication today because the Last Day is your vindication. That’s what our Gospel is about for today. The Last Day is your day of vindication. When we talk about the end times and the Last Days, there is a lot of confusion, and even a lot of fear on the parts of Christians. Parables like the story of the sheep and the goats don’t help matters. It is very easy as a Christian to look at the Last Day as one final opportunity to screw up. There can be that nagging fear: what if I forgot something? What if God finds out about that one sin? Does this mean I won’t get in? Images of St. Peter at the pearly gates sadly shaking his head may come to mind.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all view the Day or the Last Day with that trepidation and fear. When you hear the term “judgment day” or something like it, the image pops in your head of the “justice is blind” lady holding the old fashioned scales in her hand. Will my good works outweigh my sins? That is what we want to know. And you know the answer.

If we leave it there, Satan wins. Remember first of all that one of the oldest words or terms to describe Satan is that he is the accuser. What he does, and he’s really good at it, is to pull all of your attention away from Christ and His mercy, and onto yourself. There is nothing that Satan loves more than a good unhealthy dose of naval gazing. That’s why he works so hard to dredge up these past sins and failures. That’s why things you did days, weeks, months or even years ago keep coming back. They keep coming back because Satan never wants you to forget that you are a sinner and deserve hell. Or rather, if you know you are a sinner, he wants to make sure that you know you are the worst sinner ever, and that there is no way God could possibly forgive that. So he blinds you to your own sin and weaknesses, until he is ready to pull them up at just the wrong time, at just the worst possible moment. This is how Satan works to drive you from the Gospel. Satan’s tool is the Law, to beat you down, to point the finger at you, and to drive you to despair.

And it is right here that you stand. You stand condemned. You are not worthy to stand before God on the Last Day. In that regard, Satan is absolutely right. Your righteousness is as filthy rags. There is no good thing that dwells within you. No, not even one. You are all together corrupt. You are a sinner, through and through. And so am I. If you are left watching the scales tip between your so-called good works and your sinful works, you are doomed.

Now do you remember what our word for the day is again? Vindication. The Last Day is the day of vindication for you. What this means is this. You are a poor, miserable sinner. We got that. Satan is right. You are nothing more than a beggar before God, with nothing to offer him save your sins.

But what God does is miraculous. God looks at you, standing there in your goat-clothes, scratchy and ugly, and says to you, “Well, done, Good and faithful servant. Come, receive the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world.”

Huh? I’m not a good-works-working sheep! I’m a goat! I don’t deserve this! I should be cast away like the filthy rags that I really am.

But here is the key to your vindication: When God looks at you, He sees Jesus. It’s that simple. God looks at Jesus, the very Son of God made flesh, and sees perfect obedience. He sees the merciful one, the suffering servant of all, the righteous one. He sees every Law fulfilled, every command kept, every work done to its fullest perfection.

Yes, when God looks at you, He sees Jesus. He sees that the Garden of Eden has been remade, that God and man are now reconciled, and that you are perfect and holy, righteous in every way. The scale of justice we talked about before? It isn’t your good works versus your evil works. It’s your sin against Christ’s righteousness. And Christ’s righteousness outweighs your sins, every time. There is no sin too great that you can commit that Jesus didn’t die for on the cross. None. Not one. They are all paid for, every one. As we sing in one of our communion hymns, “blood that but one drop of has the power to win, forgiveness for the world and all its sin.”

So that final Day is the day of vindication. This is the day God takes his revenge out on Satan. “Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” On that Day, Satan and all his evil works shall be cast away forever. But not you.

For you see, there is one more thing that we must keep ever before us as we look to the Last Day. It is another Day. It is the Day of sorrows. It is the day when our Lord took all of your sins to the grave. On that Good Friday so many years ago God’s wrath over sin was poured out. God’s wrath over your sin was poured out upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And because of that Day, the Day of Atonement, your Day of Vindication is secure.

Lift up your hearts to the Lord, fellow redeemed! Every time you eat His body and drink His blood, you show forth His death until He comes again on the Last Day. God’s Word of forgiveness, of absolution, is spoken over you again and again and again. Don’t be afraid. Be comforted and at peace, for your salvation is secure. It is secure in the blood of Christ, shed for you.

On that Day the last enemy, death, will be destroyed. On that Day you will be reunited with the saints in heaven and with all of God’s elect. On that Day everything that is broken will be fixed, every tear wiped clean with joy, and every wound of sin and sorrow will be healed.

It’s kinda crazy, isn’t it? To think that all that will come to pass according to our Lord’s Word and promise. But it is true. You need not fear this day. Rather, long for it. Look to this day. It is the day of vindication for you. It is the Day when everything is settled according to Jesus’ promise: “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost…” (John 17:12).

You are in the Father’s hands. The Lord knows them that are His, and you are one of them. Come, blessed by the Father. Inherit the kingdom. Come, eat of the banquet of salvation. Come, have a fortaste of the feast to come in the Supper of His Son’s body and blood. Come. Come, for the Day of your vindication as at hand.

Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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