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According to what they have done–Second Last Sunday of the Church Year, 2014

November 16, 2014 1 comment

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 26)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 25:31-46

November 16, 2014

“According to what they have done”

Iesu iuva


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


This Gospel tells about judgment day.


It tells us that Jesus will come again. And when He comes He will not appear with His glory and splendor hidden. He will come in the fullness of His divine splendor, majesty, and power.


Heaven and earth will flee from His presence (Revelation 20?). All the holy angels will be with Him as His entourage and He will take His seat on the majestic throne of God as the world’s king, ruler, and judge.


All the world, every person, great and small, from every nation to the end of the earth, will rise from their graves and come to stand before Jesus the King. And be judged.


We should remember this when we speak God’s Word. We are often timid, afraid of people’ s reaction if we say something in Christ’s name that offends them. But we should remember that every person on earth will have to give an account to Jesus on His glorious throne. We should not be afraid or ashamed of the words of this great king.


Scripture then says that Jesus, sitting on the throne of God, will separate the people from each other like a shepherd separating sheep from goats.


The world will be divided. On the right hand of Jesus will be those who inherit God’s kingdom and eternal life. At Jesus’ left hand will stand those who are to be cast out from His presence into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.


And how will Jesus make this separation between the righteous and the wicked, the blessed and the cursed?


Will He separate people by age, sex, race, income, political orientation, musical preference?


No. He will divide them according to what they have done.



The more you have been to this church and heard the word here, the stranger this will seem to you.


Because we are always saying that God counts a person righteous by faith in Jesus, without works.


But Jesus clearly says here that He will separate the sheep from the goats according to what they have done.


And this is something the bible teaches repeatedly, not just here.


In the 16th chapter of Matthew, Jesus says, “The Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matt. 16:27)


In John chapter 5, Jesus says: “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”


The apostle Peter says: “If you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” (1 Peter 1:17)


And Paul writes in Romans chapter 2: “God will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, there will be wrath and fury.” (Romans 2:6-8)


On the last day Jesus will judge according to what we have done.


Does this cause you anxiety? It should.


“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’”


And then the goats will say, “Lord, when did we ever see you in need and not help you?” And the great and exalted king will say, “Whatever you didn’t do for the least of these my brothers, you didn’t do for me.”


So how about it? Have there ever been any sick Christians you could have visited, but didn’t? Any hungry or thirsty Christians you could have relieved, but didn’t? Any Christians in prison you could have visited or written a letter, but didn’t?


Who knows how many there have been who were Christians and needed help from us, but we never acquainted ourselves with their needs.


There are plenty of Christians suffering in prisons across the world, but few Christians who make the effort to find them and care for them.


There is no shortage of missionaries, pastors, and teachers to support. But we hardly provide for our own congregation’s needs for pastoral care and Christian education, much less for mission outside of our congregation.


But there are needy Christians who it costs nothing to show mercy. Sick, hospitalized, homebound members who need phone calls, prayers, an occasional visit, a card.


I remember one time a new member was surprised that so few members of the congregation attended the funeral of a certain member who had died. She had grown up in a congregation where everyone came to any member’s funeral. It was a way of showing love and compassion within the body of Christ.


What is the point of bringing these things up? Not to tell you you are not doing enough, but to ask the question: Can it really be that we have always been there for the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, even for the least of them? Or have we lacked compassion at times, neglected our brothers?


But even if it were only an occasional negligence, Jesus the great King says, “Whatever you didn’t do for the least of these my brothers, you didn’t do for me.”


How many times would you like to remember on judgment day that you saw Jesus hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison, and you did nothing for Him?


But surely, if we are to be judged by what we have done, Jesus will have to say that about us.


Surely if we turned away from Jesus only once that would be enough to condemn us.


But it hasn’t been only once. We are self-seeking. Our own happiness is so often our chief concern, not the glory of God and the needs of our neighbor. When we are focused on our own happiness we can’t help but often be ignorant of what our neighbor needs.


And in ignoring the needs of other Christians, Jesus says we ignore Him. We leave Him hungry, naked, alone, sick, or in prison, and do not feed Him, clothe Him, take Him in.



But about those on His right hand, Jesus doesn’t say these things. He doesn’t say they have neglected Him. It is as if the sheep always cared for Him, always ministered to Him when He was in need.


Who are these people, whose works show them to be righteous in the eyes of the judge?


They are the heirs of God’s kingdom, the sons of God. And they are heirs because they have always done what is righteous in the eyes of Jesus.


They have done righteousness by faith.


Scripture says, “If the inheritance comes by the law, then it no longer comes by a promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” (Galatians 3:17)


And in Romans 4:13: “The promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”


Those who inherit the kingdom of God inherit it because they believe the promise that God gave to Abraham. God promised him that he would have an offspring in which all the nations on earth would be blessed and saved from the curse of eternal fire.


Abraham believed God, and Scripture says, “God counted it to him for righteousness.” That meant God accounted Abraham as having done good, nothing but good. Why did God count Abraham as having done nothing but good? He counted Abraham’s faith in the coming offspring as righteousness. Abraham believed God that his offspring, Jesus,would accomplish righteousness for all the nations on earth.


And Jesus, the coming King, has done this. He took upon Himself our transgressions against God, our failures to love our neighbor, our failure to love God. Jesus cleared away the record of our transgressions against God when He suffered the wrath of God and was forsaken for us on the cross. In its place He put the record of His righteousness. Jesus’ work ahs made it so that the human race stands before God as having fulfilled His righteous requirements.


By faith this record of righteousness becomes ours. By faith in Christ we are Jesus’ brothers. We are co-heirs with Him of God’s Kingdom; we are sons of God together with Him.


Because of what Christ did in the days of His humility on earth, God says about you and I who have turned our hearts from Him and our neighbor—“You are righteous. You have always done what is right. When I was hungry, you fed me, when I was thirsty, you gave me a drink. When I was naked, you clothed me. I was sick and in prison and you visited me. Always.”


God is not lying. Jesus says that what is done to the least of His brothers is done to Him. That is because Jesus has made Himself one flesh with us. Whoever does not believe in Jesus remains separate from Him and has his own works, his own guilt, his own death, and his own hell.


But whoever believes in Christ is one flesh with Him. He is a member of His body. And so Christ’s righteousness and holiness is yours, you who believe in Christ. His death for your sins is yours. His resurrection and life is yours. And His kingdom is yours. In Christ, all things are yours.


And those things that were ours in the flesh—our failure to show love, our denials of Jesus—those things are Christ’s. And He has put them away forever in the tomb. They have disappeared in His resurrection.


That’s why Jesus doesn’t mention the failures and sins of the sheep on judgment day. There will be no reading of your sins before the universe on the day of judgment. That is because they are gone. You don’t have them anymore. They are not remembered. They no longer exist. All that is remembered is Jesus’ blood. All that is remembered is His righteousness.


The only works that exist for the sheep on the day of judgment is the good works Christ does in them—to show mercy to the needy members of His body.


Now, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you are sorry for your sins and want to be free of them. You believe that Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross. Then you are a member of His body. All His is yours—His righteousness, His kingdom. Whatever mercy someone shows you, they are really showing to Jesus, so closely does Jesus unite Himself to us.




See how highly Jesus esteems Christians? Let us esteem them this way also, as members of Christ’s own holy body.


The world does not regard Christians very highly, and neither even do we when we go by our reason and intellect. We don’t see any great glory attending the congregation of Christ.


What we see is weakness and poverty. Sometimes it is physical sickness and infirmity. But besides this there is often spiritual weakness and sickness in the members of Christ’s body. Sometimes they appear so sick and weak that it’s hard to see how they are united to Christ at all.


But how highly Christ exalts the ones who believe in Him! When He comes in glory, He says, “Whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine you did to me.” He says this as He sits on the throne of His majesty, judging the earth. He says this knowing what weakness and infirmity is. Because He was also covered with weakness, pain, unsightly bruises and wounds in His passion. Spit and blood covered His face. Accusations and mockery smeared His reputation. Agony and spiritual torment engulfed His soul.


By this pain, weakness, and shame, He makes us stand before the judgment throne as those who have done nothing but good.


There is of course no way to pay back such goodness from our Lord. We cannot even begin to pay it.


But Jesus wants you to receive this gift of mercy from Him, and having received it, to be merciful to His weak and sick and suffering members. To look for ways of relieving their suffering as He was so zealous to relieve yours.


Jesus has made you who believe and are baptized members of His own body. He ministers to His body and cares for it. And as members of the body of Christ we minister to one another and mutually build one another up in Him. Joining with Jesus in caring for His body is part of the joy of His kingdom.


The peace of God, that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


Soli Deo Gloria

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