Everyone in the End
Grand, even grandiose statements, contain the words "everyone" and "end." "Everyone in the end will be rich, poor, sick." "In the end, everyone will agree with me." "Everyone who thinks like you do in the end will be disappointed." Our text for this Last Sunday in the Church Year puts before us three big, broad, grand, grandiose statements that apply to everyone in the end.
Everyone has much in the end. When you boil the last two sentences of our text down this is what Jesus says. He ends up with two groups of people in the end. One group "has been given much," and the other group "has been entrusted much." So in the end we're all in one or the other group.
Look at this from the First Article of the Apostles' Creed and you'll agree. "God has made me and all creatures." O I admit that there are differences in the amount of clothing and shoes, house, home, land and animals that people have, but in the end, God has given everyone body and soul, eyes, ears and all their members. The gift of life itself, being versus nonbeing, is a great gift. This doesn't happen by accident, by chance, and certainly not by anything a person does. God purposely, willfully, without any merit or worthiness in anyone, gives the gift of physical life. Isn't that "much" to be given? Isn't that "much" to be entrusted with?
If you look at things from the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed, you'll see everyone has been given and entrusted with even more in the end. The Father gives His own dear Son, and He didn't just give Him to you, you and me. He didn't just give Him to the Church or to believers. The Father gave the Son to the whole world. During World War I a church was shelled so that the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of it leaned over. It looked like Mary was pitching the infant Jesus into the battle going on below. Yes, to men at war, to mankind in their fallenness and sinfulness, to men in their squalor, wickedness, and unbelief God gave His only beloved Son. To be given not just the food of the gods, the riches of the gods, but God Himself surely is to be given much, is to be entrusted with much.
You know how ignorance of the law is no excuse? You get stopped by a cop in a 30 mile per hour zone doing 45 and you say you didn't know the speed limit had changed and he will keep writing your ticket. Likewise the real atheist and the atheist in practice who doesn't acknowledge the gift of a beating heart and certainly not the gift of God the Son is still held accountable for the great gift they've been given.
Isn't that how it works with you? Though the tomato you plant doesn't know that apart from you it would not be, you still expect it to produce. You've given that plant much you expect much. The same goes for the pet you save from the pound. You expect much from a pet that lives by your grace. You don't tolerate a pet that bites the hand that feeds it. Most of us won't tolerate one who ignores us. We've entrusted that animal with our home, our families, our love in the end we expect much in return, don't we?
Everyone in the end will be shown to have been given much, entrusted with much. And what else does this parable show? It shows us that in the end everyone gets punished. Isn't that what Jesus says? In the end the master punishes every one of the servants. One servant was cut in two; the other servants were either beaten with many blows or beaten with a few. Isn't this a corollary, an axiom, a principle of the first part? If indeed everyone has been given much, entrusted with much, then from everyone much will be demanded, much more will be asked.
We already said that ignorance of the gift given or the return expected is no excuse. No one at any place or at anytime has an excuse. Everyone has been given life by God's power; in the end everyone is expected to have lived their life to His glory. Everyone has been given the gift of God's Son; in the end everyone is expected to love and worship Him.
If a person doesn't return much to God, whether it's because they despair of God's promises, are totally ignorant of God's will, or disobedient to that will, in the end everyone gets punished. Now it appears that everyone gets away with flaunting the will of God. Now it appears no one is judged for anything or very few are judged for some things. Now it appears there is no point to doing the task our Lord left us to do. Now it appears He is never coming for us.
Jesus assures He is coming and no one in the end gets away with anything. Every broken jot or tittle of the Law will be answered for. Everyone whether by ignorance or willfulness who spurned the will of God is going to have to answer for that. Everyone who abused any of God's good gifts of life, of riches, of sexuality, of family, of ability, of time; everyone who was given much and returned little or was entrusted with much and failed to be faithful will be judged and punished.
Doesn't look so good for anyone in the end, does it? Could it be any different? I mean honestly you should be able to extrapolate from your sinful, fallen hearts to that of others. If you and I who confess each Sunday how much God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has given to us sin against those gifts and the Giver as we do, how must it be outside the Church? What can the Master do when He returns and find going on what we see all around us? What can the Master do but start slicing and beating everyone? We masters of plants think nothing at all of pulling up the plant that fails to use the great gifts we've given it. We masters of animals think nothing of swatting the dog that bites our hand while we're in the midst of entrusting food to it.
Now here comes the most grandiose statement: In the end, everyone can have a Lord rather than a master. Our text begins with "The Lord answered." Lord is kyrios. This same word the insert goes on to translate always as "master." It is true; the word kyrios can mean "master," but there are other Greek words meaning that too. So the Holy Spirit begins with, "The Lord answered," referring to Jesus and then records Jesus saying, "Who then is the faithful and wise manger whom the Lord puts in charge." And Jesus, the Lord, goes on to say, "It will be good for that servant whom the Lord finds." "My Lord is taking a long time in coming." "The Lord of that servant." And finally the Lord Jesus says, "The servant who knows the will of the Lord of him." Furthermore, every time the word Lord comes up after the first, it has the definite article in Greek. That's an article of previous reference meaning it refers to the Lord who speaks the parable.
See how the parable takes on different color and tone if you remember it's talking about your Lord Jesus? In the parable, the Lord leaves behind all the food and drink necessary for His servants to live and thrive till He returns. God the Master gives food and drink to all. The Lord Jesus, on the other hand, gives His Body and Blood for food and drink to empower His servants to live forever. He leaves baptismal waters to cloth sinners for judgment day. He leaves Words to put into their ears to clean their hearts. He leaves these treasures in the hands of a servant who is to distribute them to the other servants. That servant is a pastor. That servant is judged so harshly, cut in two, if he fails to preach, teach, baptize, and celebrate Communion because the Lord's servants can't live apart from these.
But you servants of the Lord Jesus do have these, so you are prepared to meet your Lord. When He returns for you, you won't offer to Him what you did but what He did in your place. You won't point to how faithful you have been at not sinning but to how faithful He has been at forgiving your sins. You won't offer Him your words but His Words to you. You won't claim to deserve justice from your Lord but mercy because mercy is what your Lord bought and paid for.
The Lord's servant who distributes His Body and Blood, His life renewing Water, and His Words of life doesn't own them. They are his Lord's property, and that Lord purchased and won the right for you to use them. Jesus purchased the right for you to use the gifts He left behind by being a faithful servant of His heavenly Father, and by suffering as the most faithless one of all. No master would do such a thing for his servants, but the Lord Jesus did for His.
Jesus gave thanks for all God's gifts and used the life He got from them to God's glory. He was a faithful manger to God's household. He was a faithful servant of God. He knew the will of God and He did the will of God. But He took the place of despairing pastors, of disobedient believers, and even of out and out unbelievers. At the end of the Lord's life, everyone's sins were on Him. You can't name one person whose sins were not there. You can't think of one sin, regardless of how heinous it be, that wasn't on Jesus. Especially don't you dare think your sin or sins were not paid for by the dying Lord Jesus.
If you are waiting for a master to return for you, then expect to be cut in two and beaten with blows whether few or many because that's what a master owes everyone in the end. But if you're waiting for your Lord Jesus, you're waiting for something else. You're waiting for the One who has reborn you to be new Creation. You're waiting for the One who bodied and blooded you to Himself. You're waiting for the Lord who doesn't raise His voice but speaks words of love and acceptance. In the end, if you're in the Church waiting for your Lord, you're as a bride waiting for a groom who promises, "Behold, I am coming soon!" Servants waiting for their master could only respond, "Oh no!" Servants waiting for their Lord respond, "Come Lord Jesus!" Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, TX
Last Sunday in the Church Year (20101121); Luke 12: 42-48