Believers in Christ, redeemed and forgiven of God,
On this last Sunday after Trinity, we focus on the Last day of the world, when Jesus will come to judge. As we continue to wait for that day, by God’s Grace, may we continue to prepare by hearing God’s Word, repenting of our sins, and by remembering our Baptism wherein God washed all our sin away.
May we see in Jesus’ words today, His forgiving grace, and appreciate that we are still living in the time of His grace. Because soon that time will be over. Jesus is coming to judge. And immediately we see the seriousness of this “trial.” All nations are gathered before Him to be judged. And He is both judge and jury. There are no attorneys. No opening statements, no witnesses, no character witnesses, no evidence, no testimony, no closing arguments, no jury deliberations, not even really a verdict.
He proceeds immediately to the sentence: either everlasting life, or everlasting destruction. One or the other. No do-overs. No appeals, no re-trials. No getting off on a technicality. No declarations of insanity and therefore, no people that are unfit to stand trial.
God will judge all, and He is no unjust judge. Think of all the criminals who got away with what they did, even murderers, and those who stole entire life savings, and ruined lives. Think of all the abortions, and serial killers. What kind of a judge would let such things go unpunished?, without any payment being made for such serious crimes?
We insist on just verdicts and sentencing, especially when we are the ones who got hurt. Imagine if someone took the life of our loved one and we said, “Oh well, no big deal. The accused doesn’t need to stand trial. We’ll just let him go.” By God’s grace, we can and we do forgive, but that doesn’t mean we should ever want the judge to let crime go unpunished.
The problem is that we all have sinned against God, and we all deserve His judgment. In light of God’s commandments, there is not a single person who can say, “I’m innocent.” All have sinned by lying, cursing, lusting, hating, and neglecting God’s Word. So how can anyone be saved?
The good news is that God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. The good news is that Jesus already faced Judgment Day for us when He went to the cross for us, and removed our sin from us forever. Whoever believes in Jesus will be saved. “The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” Salvation is according to God’s mercy in Jesus because He was judged for our sin. We do go free, being freely justified by faith in Jesus.
So Jesus separates His believers, the sheep, from the goats, the unbelievers. What’s so interesting, is that both have the exact same reaction: One of complete surprise. Surprise concerning either their life of good works, or lack thereof.
The sheep will say, When did we do all these works of love for you Lord? When did we see you hungry or thirsty, and gave you food and drink?
Notice how small those things can seem? To quench someone’s thirst, He doesn’t ask that we turn water into wine. To alleviate someone’s hunger, He doesn’t ask that we create enough food for 5000 people, out of a few small fish and a little bread. He doesn’t ask that we solve world hunger, or even that we put on a big concert like the rock star Bono does for such things. He doesn’t ask that we do something so special that we get our name in the paper, or get picked up by the national news. He asks that we simply help our neighbor in his need.
He doesn’t ask that we heal our sick neighbor, or find a cure for Ebola for him. Jesus asks that we visit him, and speak words of comfort to him. To get our friend out of jail He doesn’t ask that we become a private detective or a fancy lawyer, and become the next Perry Mason. He asks that we visit him. He asks that we be there for him in his need. Help and befriend him in his every bodily need.
And so they ask, when did we do all these things for you Jesus? Because surely if Jesus would visit the earth again, millions would flock to Him and do whatever He asked, and would get recognition for doing it. So when did we do these things for you Jesus? “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”
Even those times when no one else was looking, when we didn’t get an award, or our name on a plaque, but we simply helped, comforted, was there for someone in his need, then we did it to Christ.
Scripture says, faith worketh by love. It’s not that we are saved by what we do, it’s that faith worketh by love. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
And to further drive home the point that we are in fact saved by grace alone, through faith, which worketh by love, Jesus says, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Salvation is a completely free gift, not earned, freely given, freely received. By Grace are ye saved, through faith. Especially today we remember how that salvation is a gift because Jesus faced Judgment Day for us already on the cross.
It’s only natural that this list of good works of love, can make us feel uncomfortable at times. Because let’s be honest here, even the most faithful Christians can look back at their life, and see many examples of when they failed to love. But that’s exactly what a Christian should realize. No one measures up to God’s perfect standard. “Be ye holy as I the LORD your God am holy. Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” Jesus says.
But notice how on the Last Day, Jesus mentions not one word about the failures of His believers. How can that be? Jesus cannot mention even one of our sins. Why? Because He took them all away. He removed them from us, by dying for us. Isn’t that what He said on the cross?, “it is finished.” And so on Judgment Day, not one word is mentioned about our sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.
Believers in Christ, Fear not. Jesus already faced judgment Day for you, His sheep, His lambs. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” “He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
Judgment Day is coming when God will separate the sheep from the goats. Yet Jesus is the one who faced judgment for us already when He suffered on the cross for us. And those who believe in Him from the heart cannot help but serve Him and their neighbor in many good works of love. We often don’t notice them because we’re focused on Christ, the only Savior. We still fail daily, yet, through faith our works are “acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:5). In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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