Sunday of Christ the Judge
November 18, 2018
The Surprise Comes at the End
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This time of year the Church, which is us and many more, ponder the end of time. Last Sunday we considered the signs of the coming of our King. Today we think about the final judgment of our King. Think of these two Sundays like this: last week we looked up; today we look around.
When Jesus comes back—the day is surely drawing near—He'll start doing His last job here on earth. He'll sit down on His throne and He'll judge every last human being, from Adam, the first man, who never knew a womb down to the littlest baby in the very last womb. And everybody is going to be really, really surprised.
Some will be surprised because they know that works can't save; others will be surprised because they think that they can.
For us believers, the sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we're surprised at the final judgment because Jesus goes on and on about all these good works we did for Him. And we're surprised because we're pretty sure that we never did any of that. And we're right. We never took care of Jesus.
But Jesus takes care of that for us. With His death and resurrection 2,000 years ago and Your death and resurrection in baptism a bit more recently, He made you alive and your works good.
Your work for your neighbor is good. Wiping a little kid's runny nose—this work delights Jesus. Shoveling the bumpy sidewalk so that dog walkers can get out and walk—that's good work. Hugging a good friend whose mom died two months earlier and it's hitting them now—that's good work, too. Taking the time to listen to the same old story your uncle has told you eight times before—this patience fills Jesus with joy.
And He judges us according to our good works, because He judges them perfect for His sake.
This is why all the rest will be equally surprised at the final judgment. They are convinced that their good works are good all by themselves. They will be surprised, shocked even, when Jesus casts out all their wiping, shoveling, hugging, and listening, and all their other big good works.
Trust in the living God who saves us with His cross is the difference between the sheep and the goats. These unbelievers trusted in themselves and were expecting to be rewarded at least for their sincere efforts. But the letter to the Hebrews explains: And without faith it is impossible to please God. Indeed, it is necessary for the one who approaches God to believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Truth be told, before God we are much more the homeless opiod addicts who are served a Thanksgiving meal than the perfumed volunteers who serve the meal. We are saved by being feed and being served. Jesus made this clear: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) He serves you by dying for you and then telling you that He died for you and feeding you in His supper.
At the end of every day, shepherds would round up their flock of mixed animals, sheep and goats, and lead them to the corral. The shepherd separated the sheep and the goats because they eat differently and behave and fight differently. For example, sheep follow and goats go their own way. My favorite part of this difference is that shepherds note that goats are smarter than sheep.
What does the world value? Independence and intelligence will get you far in this broken world; following is the way of the weak, who don't have the courage to go their own way.
How appropriate it is then when Jesus calls His people, us, sheep! He leads us to Himself because He is the Way. His sheep Thomas asked: “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.” (John 14:5-6)
Even though we know we are His sheep because He has declared us to be His own, we still will be surprised at the final judgment, precisely because we deserve nothing but hell from the Judge.
When the Day is no longer drawing near and is actually here—let us faithfully assume that today is that day—we look up and anticipate the judgment of the enthroned Jesus who has declared perfect and alive. Until then let us keep looking around for how we might serve our neighbors, for this is good and helps our neighbor and pleases our Savior Jesus. Wiping those noses, shovel those sidewalks, hug the sad, listen to the stories, read stories to the young, read the news to the blind, pay your taxes, feed the hungry, and visit prisoners. And come and be fed with Jesus' living body and blood for you.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Thanks be to God!