Sermon / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Season of Pentecost / Sunday November 19th 2017 - / Matthew 25:14-30 / "Who is the Good and Faithful Servant?"
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 19th 2017: Season of Pentecost / Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30 "Who is the Good and Faithful Servant?"
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There are 16 ounces in a pound, a talent is a Biblical measure of weight, one talent is 75 pounds, that’s 1,200 ounces and in the case of the parable that St. Matthew records for us Jesus is talking about talents of gold. One ounce of gold today would be worth $2,339.3 Canadian Dollars which means that 1 talent of gold, that is 1200 ounces, would be worth $2,804,968.15 today, two talents of gold would be $5,609,936.30 and 5 talents of gold would be $ 14,024,840.76 so the example Jesus gives in the parable today is no chump change. Likewise then when the Master returned to settle accounts with the servants entrusted with his treasure each according to their ability, again we are not dealing with chump change: The master discovers that the one who received 5 talents of gold could say, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more,’ that’s the equivalent of $28,049,681.52 in today’s Canadian dollars, likewise the servant who had received 2 talents could say, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more,’ that’s the equivalent of $11,219,872.6 in today’s Canadian dollars. To these servants the Master says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ But to the last of the servants the one who had been given the 1 talent when the Master settled accounts with him he still has exactly 1 talent of gold, not one penny more not one penny less. That’s still the equivalent of $2,804,968.15 Canadian and not chump change either; it’s still an exceedingly generous amount of money to have entrusted to anyone. His excuse to his Master was this, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’
Did you hear the key word, the key phrase, in what the servant said? ‘Afraid,’ He said, “I was afraid,” this servant who was known by his Master didn’t actually know his Master. His terror and dread of his Master masked and blinded him from seeing, from knowing, the Masters true generosity. With every turn of the shovel as he hid his Master’s $2.8 million dollars in the ground he essentially buried himself, you might expect that the parable would end with this servant being forgiven … I mean at least the Master still had his initial investment? But that is not the case, no, the Master says to the man, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
How do we make sense of this parable? You may have heard this parable used on stewardship Sundays as the stick end of encouragement – not the carrot end - to give more money at church or to charities or missions. There is a kernel of truth to that. However, the context of Jesus giving this parable is very important. It sheds a lot of light on the text.
You see again we are back in that first Holy Week leading up to Jesus’ Good Friday crucifixion, His death and burial and His Easter morning resurrection. You’ll recall Jesus’ public teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem following His triumphal entry into the city on what we now call Palm Sunday; how Jesus after clearing the Temple of the moneychangers had tangled, in a series of verbal sparring matches, with the chief priests, the Sadducees, Scribes and lawyers and Herodians and Pharisees in the Temple courtyards and how Jesus had expertly met their attacks so much so that they decided to plot together to have him arrested and killed by the end of the week. It’s in the midst of all of this in the middle of the week that St. Matthew the former tax collector records this parable. But this is not a public time of teaching. Jesus is having a time of rest; He had walked about an hour away from the Temple down across the Kidron valley over to the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is where the Garden of Gethsemane is and “as [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The Twelve Disciple had had about an hour to contemplate what Jesus had said to them just as they were leaving the Temple together to walk down into the valley over to the mount of Olives, you see as they left the Temple Jesus’ “disciples came to point out to Him the buildings of the Temple. But He answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Privately then, with only the Twelve Disciples at His side, Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 24 talks about the signs of the close of the age, about fulfilment of the prophecies of Daniel from the Old Testament, about the coming of the Son of Man (that is His return in glory on The Last Day), Jesus reiterates that no one knows the day or the hour of The End; and then in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus comes alongside all of this teaching with parables to further illustrate what He is teaching His Twelve Disciples. He starts with the parable of the ten virgins with their lamps and oil or lack thereof, and then He gives today’s parable of the talents entrusted with their Master’s wealth, which He then follows up with a discussion of the final judgement where Jesus talks about the division of the sheep and the goats. So you have the 5 virgins with no oil, the goats who think they know the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man but don’t, and the terrified servant who hid his Master’s money out of dread. In all three cases the Bridegroom, the Master, the Son of Man each show great generosity to the faithful servants, and to the ones who display that they have no faith they are left out of the wedding feast, cast into the outer darkness, and barred from receiving eternal life.
The parable of the talents is part of this teaching being given to the Twelve Disciples. Some of this stuff is more general some of it is more specific to them. Remember what Jesus would later pray in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night in which we was betrayed, in those early hours of Good Friday Morning, when Jesus prays to His heavenly Father for His disciples saying, “While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified [made holy] in truth.” Elsewhere Jesus had taught His disciples saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.”
Keeping all this in mind, let’s think again about the parable of the talents. By the end of the week Jesus is crucified and dead in the tomb, His one servant, the disciple John, had stuck with Him even standing at the foot of the Cross with Jesus’ mother the Virgin Mary; the other servants, His other disciples, like St. Peter had run off but would gather together again following Jesus’ death; and then there is “the son of destruction” the servant Judas, Jesus’ disciple, who was – as St. John records – “a thief, [who] having charge of the moneybag … used to help himself to what was put into it.” This one, Judas, did not truly know his Master, did not know Jesus, even though Judas had been with Him for three years and had witnessed everything that Jesus did, heard everything Jesus said, was taught everything Jesus taught both publicly and privately to His disciples. If pressed by Jesus to give an account of what he accomplished with the portion of the ministry allotted to him Judas might well have said to Jesus, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.”
Now remember how Jesus puts it in the parable, when the Master condemns the wicked and slothful servant who did not truly know his Master who was unfaithful with what was entrusted to him, the Master says, “Take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.” So it is that St. Matthew records in his gospel that Judas, who had betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, when he “saw that Jesus was condemned [and would die], … changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the [equally unfaithful] chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, [Judas] departed, and he went and hanged himself.” Unlike Peter it looks as though Judas didn’t trust Jesus to forgive him for what he had done, Judas again didn’t truly know who Jesus was, and didn’t believe that He would rise from the dead, if Judas had believed would he have done what he did? That is a good question. Following Jesus’ Easter morning Resurrection and His ascension 40 days later what was given to Judas by Christ Jesus was given to another,
In the Acts of the Apostles chapter 1 we hear how, “in those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” … “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“‘Let another take his office.’
So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when He was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two You have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” And again Jesus had His Twelve disciples entrusted with the precious gift, the great treasure of Salvation to share with the world. Remember dear ones that while wealth and money is of value the Twelve disciple, and all the faithful, and you too who are counted in that number, have something exceedingly better than silver or gold, as St. Peter says, “[know] that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” Yes Jesus is your Master, just as He was and is the Master of His disciples, of all His servants, but He Himself is Servant of all, for Jesus, “being found in human form … [as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Who then truly is the good and faithful servant? It is Christ Jesus He was entrusted with God’s Word, the keeping of the Commandments of God, entrusted with a single life, His very own, and He lived that life without fault, in perfection, in true faithfulness to His heavenly Father, and as such in His resurrection and ascension it is as though God that Father says to Christ Jesus, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ His faithfulness spills over to us all, when we fail to accomplish what we are able to with the generosity of God given to us, do not give up and burry your gift in the ground, do not shut up your mouth and keep God’s word for yourself, be generous with it, turn to Jesus the Good and Faithful Servant for forgiveness. And He will forgive you and in Jesus’ righteousness you will hear your heavenly Father likewise say to you ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Therefore dear Christian friends live not in fear but in peace. I leave you with these words from Jesus your Good and Faithful Servant who says to you in the Gospel of John, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Matthew 24:3
 Matthew 24:1–2
 John 17:12–19
 Matthew 10:24–25
 John 12:6
 Matthew 27:3–5
 Acts 1:18,20-26
 1 Peter 1:18–19
 Philippians 2:8–11
 John 14:27