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Pentecost 24 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 14, 15, 2020
Zephaniah 1:7-16, 1 Thess. 5:1-11, Matt. 25:14-30

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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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            The first commandment is “You shall have no other Gods.” What does this mean?  Martin Luther’s explains in the Small Catechism, “You should, fear, love and trust in God above all things.”  Fear, love and trust in God above all things.  The explanation of the other nine commandments all begin, We should fear and love God so that…we obey God’s commands.  Fear, love and trust. 

            The parable of the talents is kind of a confusing story. What is Jesus trying to teach us? A talent here is an amount of money; a large amount of money.  One talent is worth about 20 years wages, so even one talent is a great sum maybe like $1,000,000 in today’s money.  The word talent here refers to money, but in English, talent means ability, which can be confusing.  In this parable there are three servants, but only two types of servants.  There are two “good and faithful” servants and there is one “wicked and slothful” servant. What is the difference?  The master gives each servant a huge sum of money; some more, some less, but still a lot of money to each servant.  Why are two good and faithful, and one wicked and slothful?  The good and faithful servants fear, love and trust their master.  The wicked and slothful servant fears and despises his master. 

What does it mean to fear God?  What kind of fear should we have of God?  Philip Melanchthon, a close associate to Martin Luther during the Reformation, made the distinction of servile fear and filial fear.  Servile fear would be the kind of fear a slave has for his master; filial fear is the kind of fear a child has for his father.  Those who reject Jesus are unforgiven and should be in servile fear of God.  They should be in terror of God’s righteousness and holiness.  If you reject Jesus’ forgiveness, you should be in terror of God’s wrath being poured out on you.

            This is the difference between the two kinds of servants in the parable today.  The first two fear their master with a filial fear; a fear filled with respect, awe, love and trust.  The third servant fears the master with a servile fear; a fear of punishment which causes him to be paralyzed in terror and to have no desire to serve his master.

            As a baptized child of God you do not need to be in terror of God.  Jesus has taken God’s wrath upon Himself and has given you His perfection and His holiness. As a baptized believer in Jesus you are a beloved child of God.  You should still fear God but in the way a child fears a good father.  A fear of respect and awe.  A fear based in love and trust.  A fear that makes you want to please God; want to serve and obey Him. Jesus tells us to look to God as Father and teaches us to pray, “Our Father.”  In the catechism Martin Luther explains, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”

            This is the difference between the two kinds of servants in the parable today.  The first two fear their master with a filial fear; a fear filled with respect, awe, love and trust.  The third servant fears the master with a servile fear; a fear of punishment which causes him to be paralyzed in terror and to have no desire to serve his master.

            It is far too common for people to see God as a harsh, demanding taskmaster who is always threatening punishment and damnation. For these people the law becomes a great burden; a list of impossible demands.  God is viewed as a constant nag who relentlessly tells you that you are messing up and you will never be good enough.  There are so many that see God as a vicious tyrant with a sword on your neck telling you, “Behave, or else.”  God is too often perceived as a vindictive taskmaster, but this is wrong.  Jesus invites everyone…  Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [1] 

            As a monk, Martin Luther was tormented by his sinfulness and fear of God’s judgment and wrath.  The Roman Church taught that you must confess every sin to the priest or it would not be forgiven and so Luther would spend hours in the confessional booth trying to recall and confess every sin.  He lived in constant terror of God’s judgment.  He would starve himself and beat himself with a whip to try to control his sinful impulses.  Churches gain power by presenting God this way.  It is easy to manipulate people who live in terror of God’s judgment.  “Do what I say, or else God is going to get you.”

            By reading the New Testament Luther discovered the sweet, sweet Good News that Jesus’ death and resurrection is full payment for your sins and that, in Christ, you are declared righteous because of what Jesus has done for you.  You are indeed a poor, miserable sinner.  You are indeed, by nature, sinful and unclean, but Jesus died for real sins and real sinners. Jesus died for you because He loves you. He loves you so much He drank the cup of God’s wrath down to the bitter dregs so that you are free from the wrath of God.  You are liberated from the terror of God’s judgment.  You live in fear, love and trust in God above all things because He is your beloved creator, redeemer and sanctifier.  You live to serve and obey God by loving and serving your neighbor. You take the good gifts that God has given you and you generously use them to love and serve your neighbor in your various vocations in life.  You take God’s gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and salvation and you multiply these gifts in the world.

            Now you will never do this perfectly this side of the Judgment Day because you are a natural born sinner and you are sorely tempted by the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh.  You are not perfect, but you are forgiven, and you live in filial fear of God.  You live in love and trust of God and on the day of resurrection Jesus will look at you and say, “Matthew 25:23 (ESV) 23 … ‘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.’[2] 

            The tragic, wretched truth about life in this sinful world is that so many do not know the sweet, sweet Good News of freedom in Jesus. So many are still in bondage to sin and live in servile fear of God.  They live in terror of God.  They take God’s good gift of forgiveness, life and salvation and they bury it because they live in terror of God.  They are so afraid of doing something wrong that they just don’t do anything at all. Instead of fearing, loving and trusting God, they fear and despise God.  They fear and hate God because they see God as a demanding slave master who only wants to punish.  They try to make up ways to negotiate with God and earn His favor by their actions. They give up hope and despair or they rationalize and minimize their sin and become self-righteous.  It is so heartbreaking that so many are missing the truth that God is a God of love who loves you so much He paid the price for your sins. 

            In the Parable of the Talents the master starts off by entrusting his servants with huge sums of money.  The master obviously loves and trusts his servants.  God obviously loves and trusts you.  He entrusts you with forgiveness, eternal life and salvation. Knowing your sins are forgiven in Jesus you fear, love and trust God.  You treasure His commandments.  You use His gifts to love and serve others and you look forward to the day when the veil of this life is lifted and you are raised up to live in the presence of the Lamb of God forever.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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