Jesus’ Fifth Discourse: Kingdom Judgment
I — Text: Matthew 21-25 (focus on 25:14-30)
II — Theme: God’s Kingdom Judgments, whether for man’s eternal glory or eternal condemnation, are Christ-centered, not human works-centered. Miss this & you miss the Gospel
Therefore, we’re going to focus on two particular concerns and their rational conclusion, regarding Jesus’ 5th discourse here in Matthew 21-25, and especially regarding the verses we just read:
1 — Have we read this passage with a false or misguided expectation of what it means to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
2 — Do we really know who God is and how He engages us, both now and in eternity?
- Conclusion: A more thorough, Christ-centered understanding of what it means to hear, “Well done, good and faithful Servant..” delivers us from fear and into abundant living for God’s Kingdom.
III — Unpacking Our Two Concerns In the Text:
A — Have we read this passage with a false or misguided expectation of what it means to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”
1 — Video: (“Does Your Dog Bite?” from The Pink Panther) Before we dive in today, let’s take a look at this short clip of how Inspector Jacques Clouseau illustrates misguided expectations
- Is Clouseau’s question, “Does your dog bite?” a good, reasonable question? Yes.
- The trouble is not with his question. The trouble is that, he thinks he understands everything he needs to in order to move forward (in this case, with petting the dog). But he only knows part of the equation, and therefore, he has a false, or, at the very least, a misguided expectation of how the situation plays out
- What should his next question have been? “Is this particular dog yours?”At that point, his expectations would have been realistic, and he would’ve definitely saved himself a lot of pain!
2 — And so it is with our text today:
- We read the text and we know that Jesus is teaching us about being good stewards with the gifts with which He’s entrusted us. Absolutely right. In other words, we see there’s a dog in the room and we want to interact with it, so we ask the question, “Does your dog bite?” And we find that the answer is “No.” (Yeah, we actually did all that when we read this text!)
- Okay, so now we think we have all the pertinent information with which to proceed to the next step: Following Jesus perfectly—because we think what He’s just taught us is that the difference between entering into our eternal rest with God the Father and being cast out forever lies in what we do with God’s gifts to us.
- And that is not the Gospel at all.
- Now, having discussed something of the misguided and false expectations of the passage, let’s look at some of the important things we should expect the passage to teach us:
a — Our stewardship over God’s gifts to us in this life absolutely matters.
- V. 14 of our text says that the Master (God) “entrusted His possessions to them/us.” There can be no doubt that, what we have in this life—money, homes, jobs, family, etc.—absolutely belongs to God and we are gifted stewards over His possessions. This means we have neither the right to be greedy or selfish in the dispensing of His possessions to others, nor inordinately fearful that we might lose the earthly gifts that are precious to us (in the most extreme case, a loved one being taken from us)…for all that we have actually belongs to God, who gives us the privilege—not the right— of watching over His possessions!
b — We can also expect that the Lord Jesus will come back, and when He does, He will settle every single human being’s accounts with Himself! Contrary to much Post-Enlightenment thought, there really is a heaven where souls will be rewarded by God and a hell where souls will be tormented every second of every day in what Jesus Himself calls in v. 41, “the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels..”
c — Finally and most importantly, we can expect that God will indeed say to everyone who has trusted His Son, Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation, “Well done, good and faithful servant”—regardless of our earthly performance in stewarding over God’s gifts. Here’s where we come to our second concern for today:
B — Do we really know who God is and how He engages us, both now and in eternity?
- Truth: The way in which the servants in Jesus’s story stewarded the Master’s possessions is not the primary reason for His final judgments over them. Just as the good stewards did not merit heaven because they performed well, neither did the bad steward merit hell because he didn’t perform well.
- Unfortunately, this is the way this passage is so often taught, or at least implied—usually when preachers feel they have the full measure of Jesus’s teaching in hand—like Clouseau did with the dog in the room.
- This sort of teaching then leads to misguided and false expectations among many of those who hear such teachings, which, in turn, leads to either an over-realized zeal to perform well for God, or an over-realized fear of God because we know we simply don’t have what it takes to please Him.
- Both over-realizations distort the Gospel and are therefore false gospels
- So, our question for this section is: Do we really know who God is and how He engages us, both now and in eternity?
- When we take up this concern, it utterly justifies the radical truth we said a moment ago: The way in which the servants in Jesus’s story stewarded the Master’s possessions is not the primary reason for His final judgments over them! How?
- Look at how the first two servants respond to the Master’s graciousness: First, they “immediately” go out, with the full intention of spending the Master’s gifts to them on others, because they want to participate in the growth of the Master’s estate.
- Second, each of them, upon seeing the Master return, eagerly comes to Him saying in vv. 20 & 22: “Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained…”
- The point here is that each of these servants actually knew their Master. They really did know His character, His attributes, His passions, His loves and hates. Therefore, when He gave them stewardship over His personal possessions, they were overwhelmed with thanks and joy, knowing that they were completely unworthy of such favor from so perfect a Master! What they knew was that, in the “entrusting” of His possessions to them, the Master had shown, unquestionably, that He was the most gracious and merciful of all beings—and for that mercy that had just been spent on them, they wanted to please their Master with whom they had fallen even deeper in love. They knew Him…really!
- The Master responds to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” not because they performed to the best of their ability—they had not!
- Could they not have worked harder and made even more than they did for the Master? Of course!
- Therefore, the Master does not praise them based on the level of their performance, but instead praises them on the heart behind the performance
- Likewise, the third servant is condemned by the Master, not because he performs poorly, but because he proves that, while he did live and work among the other servants who really did know their Master, he unfortunately did not know the Master.
- He claims to know Him though: (v. 24) “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed.”
- What does he miss in his assessment of the Master? He misses the very kindness of the fact that the Master entrusted him with something of His to begin with! (note that this servant was given the least over which to steward—God knows beforehand who He can trust and not trust, and with how much or little)
- In other words, the Master is by no means a “hard man!” He is instead gracious and merciful.
- The unrighteous servant thereby proves that he never knew the Master to begin with, and this is why he was cast out of the Master’s Presence.
- Again, Do we really know who God is and how He engages us, both now and in eternity? Our answer to this is the difference between heaven and hell.
- God only ever engages the human race through the “One Mediator between Himself and man,” Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5), and all of His merits He has earned on behalf of those who put their faith in Him. That said, we’re prepared to draw a rational conclusion to the two concerns we’ve just discussed:
C — Conclusion: A more thorough, Christ-centered understanding of what it means to hear, “Well done, good and faithful Servant..” delivers us from fear and into abundant living for God’s Kingdom
- Our theme today is: God’s Kingdom Judgments, whether for man’s eternal glory or eternal condemnation, are Christ-centered, not human works-centered. Miss this & you miss the Gospel
- With this in mind, we’ve seen how knowing or not knowing God through Jesus Christ is the difference between heaven and hell for human beings…
- And it is this very truth that brings us to the conclusion that, a Christ-centered understanding of what it means to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” will absolutely deliver us from under-and- over-realized expectations of how God engages us!
- What if we could live today with the theological and practical knowledge that God is, (2 Corinthians 5:19) “Reconciling us to Himself, yet not holding any of our personal sins against us all the while?” and that He absolutely will—because of our faith in Jesus Christ—welcome us into heaven at the end of these lives?
- What would our lives look like? How would that change the way in which we engage our personal selves (with all of our inner conflicts), and the world around us? Well ,what it should do—according to God’s economy—is deliver us from fear, greed, and over-realized zeal….
….all of which are the leading contributors to every single problem the human race faces, every single day.
- I want to capitalize on an illustration Pastor Dan used last week, since what he spoke about is the cultural tendency when it comes to thinking about what our experience will be like when we first encounter God on His Throne.
This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote a few years ago on this subject. I draw heavily from the scene in Zechariah 3, where the devil stands next to us as the “Prosecuting Attorney” as we face God for judgment:
Many have said that, when you die and face God, it’s as if He plays a film of your life, right before your eyes; and He judges you based on what He sees in that film. The implications here are quite clear. Do wrong, and you will be judged for it. Do right and you will be rewarded.
A bit like Scrooge on his journey of “what-ifs,” you peek in to the Throne Room to see that you have died and are now standing before the Lord, dressed in the filthy rags of your so-called “righteousness”. Satan takes his rightful place, as “prosecutor,” on your right (Zec 3:1).
This will be among the rare moments when the father of lies will not have to lie about you to prove your guilt of being far less than righteous in your earthly life. You are perhaps afraid, knowing you’ve fallen so very short of God’s perfect standard.
There is a great tension in the air, as God will judge what He sees weighed in the balances. Satan has moved to the back of the court, and is busy loading his side of the scales with more than you remembered, and thus far, there is nothing, whatsoever, loaded upon the righteous side.
It’s then that the Lord shakes the place with His mighty voice as He rebukes the devil for his enthusiasm in seeking to ensure your eternal demise (Zechariah 3:2). Satan, trembling, stops loading the scales, and then the Lord gives the command for your life to be played on heaven’s “big-screen monitor.”
You’re petrified by now, realizing that your every evil will be made known! You are sick with fear as you look at the scales so out of balance, and now, your very darkest moments about to be displayed for all to see, and by which, the Lord will render His awful judgment.
All you wanted to hear, all your life, was “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and yet, now there’s no hope for that. Though he’s been silenced, Satan glares at you with a confident grin. You wonder, as you look back at the line of souls waiting to be judged after you, “Who among us will get to hear those wonderful words we had hoped all our lives were to be spoken in our ears?”
But there’s suddenly a great peripety—an unexpected turn of events—as the moment of truth finally comes: Yet as the film begins, you’re confused. You don’t understand why you see an infant in a feeding trough, surrounded by animals and shepherds. For a moment you think, “Was that me when I was born?”
Then you see a boy of about twelve years of age engaging in some deep conversation about Scripture with the elders of a grand temple. As the movie progresses, that boy is now a grown man, and is being baptized by a man of the wilderness. You watch the Spirit of God descend upon him and you marvel as you start to remember the story.
What is that, you wonder? It’s Satan, now tempting the man in the desert, but to no avail! (He’s pretty embarrassed watching this part of the film, by the way!)
You rejoice in your soul, as you watch the devil flee in rejection, not only from the man in the film who has rebuked him; but he has now also left the courtroom altogether, which is met with a mighty shout of mocking laughter from all the holy ones in the court!
Back to the film—the man is healing everyone brought before him; some are even brought back to life! There he is again, entering a great city on a donkey, with so many singing his praises for all He’s done for them. They’re singing, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” It’s just about now that you wonder, why have I seen nothing of myself in this film yet? This is supposed to be a film of my life, right? Is this not my judgment?
But that thought is shattered, when, so contrary to his entrance into the city, you now see that the man is being brutally nailed to a cross, and with him a hostile decree….
….the very one which Satan carried when he earlier entered the courtroom—a decree of guilt (the perfect Law of God) which was written against you (Colossians 2:14). You’re speechless in that moment, but you see, that as the man upon the Cross is dying, the terrible decree against you is withering and fading away to nothing, as well. You’re now choked with emotion, as you watch and hear him cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” And yet a strange peace returns to you when you hear him say to God, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Then you watch, as He breathes His last, and it’s then, that the film unexpectedly stops. “Still nothing of myself in this film,” you think to yourself.
At that moment, the entire heavenly court falls on its knees—a corporate reverence like you’ve never known—and you see the man from the film coming towards you; and you realize it’s Jesus Christ! He is the man in the film—of course!
He presents Himself before God the Father as your court-appointed Defense Attorney (1 John 2:1)….
….and as He steps up beside you to stand and face the Holy God with you—indeed for you—you finally hear those wonderful words, as God looks at Jesus and says, “My Son, on behalf of this little one who stands before Me, well done, good and faithful Servant! His life’s identity is in You, and not in himself—though often he did not realize that to be true in his own heart. You have kept him, even through his many rebellions against Me. He has loved Me perfectly, because of his ultimate trust in You—though he often felt he did not love Me well. And now, what sweet rejoicing we’ll have, because You, Jesus—My Son—are presenting him before Me, as one who is utterly clean and spotless!”
Overcome with tears of inexpressible gratitude and relief, you remember something that moved you in life, from the pen of Charles Spurgeon, who said:
“…the sum and substance of the gospel lies in that word ‘Substitution’—-Christ standing in the stead of man. If I understand the gospel, it is this: I deserve to be lost forever; the only reason why I should not be damned is, that Christ was punished in my stead, and there is no need to execute a sentence twice for sin.
On the other hand, I know I cannot enter Heaven unless I have a perfect righteousness; I am absolutely certain I shall never have one of my own, for I find I sin every day; but then Christ had a perfect righteousness, and He said…..”
But then Jesus leans into your ear, and finishes Spurgeon’s quote personally. He says, “Come, poor sinner, take My garment and put it on; you shall stand now before God as if you were Christ, and I will stand before God as if I had been the sinner. I have suffered in your stead, and you—-you shall be rewarded for works which you did not do, but which I did for you! I am the ‘good and faithful servant in your stead! Enter into your Master’s rest!”
IV — Take It Home Forever:
Imagine what our lives would look like if we knew that this is how God will engage us in judgment because of our faith in Jesus Christ! Imagine how it would change the way in which we engage ourselves, and the world around us! Leave your fear behind and begin to live in the abundance of Christ!