November 11, 2018

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Jeremiah 8:4-7

Epistle Lesson; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Sermon Text; Matthew 25:31-46


Let's look at the text from Matthew 25.  It is a text about Judgment Day.  This is in our Savior's name.


When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.  I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was lacking clothes and you clothed me.  I was sick and you took care of me.  I was in prison and you visited me.'

Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or lacking clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

“The King will answer them, 'Amen I tell you:  Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.'

“Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the Devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you did not give me food to eat.  I was thirsty and you did not give me anything to drink.   I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, lacking clothes and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not take care of me.'

“Then they will also answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or lacking clothes, or sick, or in prison and did not serve you?'

“At that time He will answer them, 'Amen I tell you:  Just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.'  And they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


So way back, I think it was 1995, my son, Matthew, would have been 7 years old.  That year, I took the senior youth group from here, at Holy Cross, down to Great America.  Since Matthew was seven years old, I thought, “He can come along, and kind of hang around with me.” 

So, we went down to Great America.  While all of the high school kids went on the big, fun rides, Matt and I went on the appropriate rides for seven year olds.  After awhile, I could tell Matt was starting to get bored.  He would see these huge, roller coasters on these big metal frames, with those curly cues, and the whole works.  He kept saying, “Dad, can we go on one of those?”  

I kept saying, “Matt, those are for big people.  They are too scary.”  Then, off in the distance we saw this huge, kind of retro looking roller coaster.  It was made out of wood framework, and it was really big.   It went way up, and way down.  I mistakenly thought to myself, “That one probably isn't as scary as the rest of them.” 

So, I was ready, when Matt asked, “Dad, can we go on that one?” 

And, for a brief moment I thought, (not WWJD, What would Jesus do? But I thought), “WWST, what would Sherri think?” 

But then I thought, “She doesn't have to know.”  

So, we got in line.  It was a huge line, and we were in line for a long time, waiting, and waiting.  The anticipation was getting bigger, and bigger. 

It just so happened there was a group behind us.  There were about twenty guys.  You could tell they were together, because they were all dressed the same.  They had on big, leather biking boots.  They had bandanas, and leather coats.  Some of them had tattoos, and were wearing chains.  And, they were smoking cigarettes.  They looked like big, tough, motorcycle riding guys. 

As we were waiting in line, we struck up a conversation with them, and were joking around with them.  As we got closer, and closer to actually getting on the roller coaster, I thought, “This is going to be pretty thrilling...for Matt.”

Finally, finally, it was our turn.  We had been line for probably 45 minutes.  As we were just about ready to get on, the ride controller motioned Matt forward to stand by a measuring bar. 

I thought, “Oh no.” 

When he told him to stand up by this bar, I thought, “I didn't know you had to be a certain size to get on this thing.”  Unfortunately, Matt was about one inch too short.  Ohhh.  That is exactly how Matt felt.  His head went down, and I could tell he was really dejected.  I was dejected.  I thought, “Man.  We waited all of this time and it was going to be so thrilling for Matt.”  I dutifully put my arm around him, and was about to leave, as I was thinking in my mind (I didn't say it out loud) “Just let him on”. 

All of a sudden one of those bikers said to the ride controller, “Let him on”.  

The ride controller bravely said, “Sorry, can't do that”. 

The next biker said, “Let him on”. 

The ride controller bravely said, “Sorry, can't do that”. 

All twenty of the bikers started a chant.  “Let him on.  Let him on!” 

Then, the whole line of people, who probably didn't know what they were chanting for, but they were caught up in the spirit, were chanting, “Let him on.  Let him on! 

So, the ride controller had no choice. 

We got on, and Matt had the ride of his life, (which is probably why he owns a Mustang GT, today). 

When we were done, and got off, those bikers got off with us.  I looked at them, and I said, “Guys, thank you very much for sticking up for my son, my little son.  And, I almost felt like you were sticking up for me.” 

In a small way, that is a little picture in a superior way of what is going to happen on Judgment Day.  On The Last Day, Jesus is going to have the whole world, living and dead, gathered before Him.  To those on His right, He is going to say, “For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat.  I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink...I was lacking clothes, and you clothed me....I was in prison, and you visited me.”  

And, they are all going to say, “Lord, when did we do those things?” 

Then, listen to what Jesus is going to say.  He is going to say,

“Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine,

you did it for me.”  

Now, who are Jesus' brothers?  One day, Jesus was preaching and teaching, and Jesus said to the people there, “These are (the people who were listening to Him, and believing Him) my mother, my brothers, and my sisters.”  So, Jesus' brothers are those who believe in Him.  Jesus said,

“Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine,

you did it for me.” 

Now, being a Christian in this world can be tough.  There can be rejection, not because you are too short, and don't meet the line quite right, but you can be rejected for being a Christian.  You know that.  There can be suffering.  You can be picked on.  You can be looked down on.  You can be mistreated.  You can be misunderstood.  Jesus is going to say to those on His right, “You looked out for my little brothers and sisters.”  It is almost like this, “Thank you.  Thank you for what you did.  You lived a really worthwhile life.  Because, what you did, you did for me.” 

Then, to those on His left, Jesus is going to say, “For I was hungry and you didn't give me food to eat.  I was thirsty and you didn't give me anything to drink.  I was a stranger and you didn't welcome me, lacking clothes and you didn't clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not take care of me.” 

They are going to say, “When did we see you needing all of those things, Jesus?”   and, He is going to say,

“Just as you didn't do this for one of the least of these,

you didn't do it for me.” 

That's as if to say, “You didn't care about my people.  You didn't care about my sheep.  You didn't watch out for them.  You didn't watch over them, when they were in need, and when they were in want.”  

Can you imagine the terror of hearing Jesus saying to you, “Get away from me.  I don't want you to be with me, ever again, ever.  Your life, here on this earth was worthless.  Even though to the world it may have looked great, it was worthless, because you didn't do anything for my people.”

Now, for believers in Christ that is going to be a great day, but, for unbelievers, it is going to be a troubling, terrible day. 

Some people make the natural jump to think, “That means Jesus is telling us we are saved by our good works.  We are saved by what we do.  If you do good things, and kind things for Jesus' people, then you are going to Heaven.  If you do bad things, or don't do good things for Jesus' people, then you are going to Hell.”

Is that what Jesus is teaching?  Is He teaching we are going to be saved by our good works?  You know, that is the natural view of the world. 

There is a song that is based on a true story.  All of us have probably heard this song.  If you are old enough, you may have heard it back in the 60's.  It was sung by Frankie Wilson and the Cavaliers.  Then, it was redone a couple of years ago, by a group by the name Pearl Jam.  It is called Last Kiss.

It is about a girl who was killed in a car accident.  Her boyfriend finds her, dead at the side of the road.  Here is how the first line goes. 

“Oh where, oh where can my baby be? 

The Lord took her away from me. 

She's gone to Heaven,

so I have to be good,

so I can see my baby, when I leave this world.”

That is the world's impression.  I have to be good.  I have to earn my way to Heaven.

There was a guy by the name of John Wesley.  He had studied The Bible, and he had even looked at this passage where Jesus says, “Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me...”  John Wesley thought, “I have to do all of those things in order to hear Jesus tell me on Judgment Day I am going to Heaven.”  And so, he tried really, really hard to live a life where he was just giving, giving, and giving to anybody who was in need.  He even left England, came over here to the United States in the 1700's, and tried to do mission work, and give to all kinds of people in whatever way he could.  The more he tried to do that, he thought, “Am I finally doing enough so that on Judgment Day Jesus is going to tell me, 'You did enough to get to Heaven'?”  However, the more he tried, the more troubled he got.

On his way back home to England, there was a terrible storm at sea.  He was afraid he was going to die.  Then, he was afraid he was going to face God in judgment, and he didn't think he was ready for it, yet.  But, there was a group of people on the ship who were Christians who were really just as calm as could be, during this storm.  So, he asked them, “How can you guys be so calm, when we might be facing God in judgment?”

When he got back home, and was walking down the street one evening, he heard somebody reading in a building.  The words caught his ear.  So, he went into the building.  There was somebody reading out loud from Martin Luther's preface to the book of Romans.  He was reading how we are saved not by what we do, but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  All of a sudden, it became such a comfort to John Wesley to realize, “I am not saved because of what I do.  I am saved because of what Jesus did for me, and trusting in Jesus, as my Savior!”

If you look at the text in today's scripture reading, where Jesus describes Judgment Day, He is not teaching we are saved by our good works.  This is taken from the book of Matthew.  In the book of John what did Jesus say?  We always have to let scripture interpret itself.  Jesus said,

“God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son

that whoever

(what?  It does not say whoever does enough good works)

whoever believes in Him

shall not perish,

but have everlasting life.”  

Faith in Christ saves.

In the book of Ephesians, chapter two, verses eight and nine says,

“It is by grace you have been saved,

through faith. 

It is not from yourselves. 

It is a gift of God

not by works,

so that no one can boast.” 

If it was our works that save us, we could stand before God, and boast, “I have done enough.”  But, that passage says we are saved by grace. 

-In fact, if you really look at today’s passage, who are the people who are gathered in front of Jesus?  They are His sheep. 

-In the Bible, who are the sheep?  They are believers in Jesus.  

-What is the first thing Jesus says to them? 

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. 

Receive (what?)

 Receive the inheritance prepared for you.” 

An inheritance isn't something you earn, or deserve.  It is a gift that has been given to you.  These people are believers in Jesus.  They are receiving the gift of eternal life.  In fact, when He lists all of these kind things they did, they even say what?  They ask, “When did we do those things?”  They are not even focusing on their works.  These are people who are trusting, “Jesus died for me.  He forgives me.  I am saved, because of what Jesus did for me.” 

Faith in Christ saves. 

And yet, the Bible teaches this.  If you have saving faith in Jesus, there is going to be evidence in your life.  The evidence doesn't save you.  Christ saves.  Faith saves.  But, if you believe in Jesus, there will be evidence.  That is what Jesus points to on Judgment Day.  It is the evidence.  These people were believers.  Look at the evidence.  What did they do?  How did they show their fruits of faith?  These are people who, in this life, look at their own lives and say, “Jesus I know I have messed up.  I know there is so much wrong with me.  I know there is no way I deserve to ever go to Heaven.  But, Jesus, I know what The Bible says.  The Bible promises you died for my sins.  My sins are forgiven.  And, you promised, Jesus you promised they are all washed away, and by grace I am going to get to be in Heaven with you some day.” 

That changes hearts.  It changes hearts that say, “Jesus I am so thankful.  If you were here, and I could help you somehow, I would do it.  If I saw you out in the wilderness being tempted for forty days and forty nights, and you were hungry, if I could have brought you some food, I would have brought you food.  If you were hanging on the cross, and I was there, and I heard you say, 'I thirst', and you were thirsty, I would have brought you something to drink, if I could have.  Jesus, I am so thankful.  If I saw you hanging on the cross, and they had stripped your clothes off of you, if I could have clothed you, I would have done it.” 

That is the heart a Christian has.  It is a changed heart that wants to live for Jesus.  And, since we can't do that for Jesus, the heart of a Christian then overflows and says, “I want to do that.  I want to take care of Jesus' people.  I want to do that for my children.  When I pack a lunch for my child, it is like serving Jesus.  When I change diapers, it is like serving Jesus.”  

Jesus sees this evidence of faith.  It flows from a heart of faith.  It is not the evidence that saves us.  But, what He is going to do on Judgment Day is vindicate you before the whole world.  It is going to become public to the whole world.  The world may look at you, as Christian, and say, “You are kind of living a worthless life.  What are you accomplishing?” 

But, on Judgment Day you are going to be vindicated.  Jesus is going to say, “Come, and be with me forever, and ever.  While you lived on this earth, I saw your life as really worthwhile, really worthwhile.  You bore fruits of faith.  They don't save you, but thank you.  Thank you!”  That is going to be an awesome day! 

So, in closing, Jesus is so serious about you being ready for Judgment Day, and me being ready for Judgment Day.  In the book of Matthew, two entire chapters (that is a huge chunk of Matthew) two entire chapters are Jesus spending time talking about being ready for Judgment Day.  This is for anybody who may not be a believer yet, or people you know who may not be believers.  He uses this picture.  He says the coming of the Son of Man on Judgment Day will be like it was in the days of Noah.  People were eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage right up until the day Noah went into the Ark.  And then, the flood came, and swept them all away.  They missed their chance.  They missed their chance. 

Now is your chance.  We get one shot at it, in this life.  Now, is our chance.  When we see troubles, when we see the rain and the storm coming in our life, now is our chance, and our loved ones' chance to get on that 'ark, that boat'. 

The world may laugh and say, “What in the world are you doing 'getting on that boat', and being a Christian?” 

But, the day will come, when we will be totally vindicated, totally vindicated.  And, the world will see, “They believed in Jesus.  They are going to Heaven.  Their life on this earth was so worthwhile, because they lived for Jesus.”  

Grant that, Lord, grant that to all of us, for Jesus' sake.



Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.