November 15, 2020 A+D
St. Matthew 25:31-46
2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christ will judge all men on the Last Day. This is taught so clearly in the New Testament and is confessed so boldly in all three of our Creeds, that we have no need to prove that it is real or that it is coming. All Christians expect it. We can, however, learn to respond better to its threats and promises.
In the first place we should fear the Last Day. We should not do so as slaves, but as sons. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are forgiven and confident in God’s grace.
Part of what we fear is disappointing Our Father. We want to please Him. We are confident in His mercy. We know that the Father has judged the Son as guilty in order to declare us righteous. We are not ashamed of the horror of the cross but we love it. We preach Christ crucified. For that is how God loved the world and made Himself manifest to us. Therefore we know, based on that offering and sacrifice, that we will receive the inheritance that we have not earned, but into which we have been baptized and named. That promise endures. It does not lie. This moves us to act and to take pains to avoid sin, to curb our flesh. We tremble at the thought of Christ’s coming in glory and finding us in the midst of sin.
So it is that we pray: “Kyrie Eleison! Dear heavenly Father, let us not be drunk or engaged in sexual immorality or gossiping when Your return for judgment! Dpare us from our wickedness and the weakness of our flesh! Keep us, by Your Word and Sacrament in the Faith.”
While we fear the Last Day and wish to avoid its terrors, we also lift up our heads in eager expectation. None who believe in Christ shall be lost. Though we have often failed our God and have disappointed Him, we do not waver in our confidence that He loves us as a Father loves His children. He is patient and merciful to us.
We take comfort in the promises in Scripture and also in the many examples of His mercy in the Bible. We are comforted by the example of the woman caught in adultery upon whom Christ would not cast a stone and who was forgiven. We are encouraged by the example of the woman at the well. Christ spoke harshly to her but by those words He reconciled her to Himself and showed His mercy. We are consoled also by the example of the penitent thief who, after a lifetime of sin, was welcomed into paradise. No one shall snatch us out of our Shepherd’s hand.
What He has won for us on the cross, He bestows for free. Our sins, though they were like scarlet, are white as snow. We see in the sheep in the parable of the sheep and goats that they marvel when their good works are praised. None of their sins are mentioned or judged. The faithful are not judged by their works. Christ has already been judged in their place.
Our goal then is to be ever mindful of the Last Day. Forgetfulness of this reality is the mother of false security. The Lord warns us: “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” (Luke 21:34–35, NKJV)
Remembrance of the Last Day is the mother of true piety. Jesus says: “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28, NKJV). St. Paul writes that we “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23, NKJV). He also refers to the day of judgment as the day of redemption, writing in Ephesians 4 that we must not“grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30, NKJV).
The final judgment is driven by God’s justice. Though He is merciful and long-suffering, and though He has reconciled the world to Himself and His Father by His self-sacrifice on the cross, not all have believed in Him. God is not mocked. Those who do not believe in Him, whether they are openly unbelievers or are hypocrites, are condemned already. They will be judged by their works and God’s justice will be public. His saints, you, will be vindicated. The sons of God be revealed. You are children by grace. You will be praised for your good works which show your faith as by a doting Father.
But the wicked, the scoffers, those who walk according to their own lusts shall be put to shame. The day of judgment is the day of perdition for the ungodly even as it is, at the same time, the day of redemption and refreshment for believers. On that day, at last, and as promised, we shall be relieved of temptation and persecution. We will be freed from our sins. The old Adam in us will be put down once and for all.
What a glorious and wonderful day it will be! Let us never lose sight of it, but remain ever mindful of it that our flesh would be curbed and our faith encouraged, that we would learn patience in suffering and find comfort in God’s promises, and lift up our heads in eager anticipation.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.