Sermon for Pentecost 25 – 11.19.23
+ 25th Sunday after Pentecost – November 19th, 2023 +
Series A: Zephaniah 1:7-16; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30
Beautiful Savior Lutheran
“The Parable of the Generous Master”
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Before you pick up a new book or choose a show to watch, one of the first questions that often comes to mind is, “what’s this story about?”
We ask the same question when it comes to hearing and reading Jesus’ parables. What is this about?
Today as we hear another parable of Jesus from Matthew 25 that question is, no doubt, in our minds once again. If you only read the heading in your bible or skimmed the parable you might think it was about talents or coins. When you look at the other parables and teaching of Jesus in Matthew 24 and 25 you might think this is a parable about the end times, and it certainly is that. But mostly, like almost all of the parables, this story is about the Master. It’s about Jesus. It’s a story that reveals the kind of God he is…not a God we need fear in terror of judgment when he returns in glory, but one who is gracious, giving, trusting, and faithful.
What is this story about? It’s a story that reveals the kind of God you have in Christ Jesus.
Jesus begins the parable this way… There was a rich master who entrusted his wealth to three servants. To one five, to another two, and to a third one. They’re called talents…a word we use for something else (skill, ability, etc.). But in the parable, think of it as a coin or something similar. A talent was about 20 years’ wages. No small amount. But notice how the Master gives, he does so personally…to each according to his ability. And then, the master goes away. The first two servants double the amount given to them. But the third one dug a hole in the ground and hid it.
After a long while, Jesus goes on, the master returns to settle accounts. In Jesus’ parables, this is often the way he speaks about The Last Day. The day when the books are opened and the accounts are settled. The two who turned a profit are praised with a hearty “Well done” and get to share in the joy of their Master. The third is condemned to outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth.
A quick reading of the parable makes it sound like this story is about God’s concern with the servant who has not invested God’s money. The first two servants invested His gifts. They brought Him both His money and a good return. The third servant buried God’s gifts and, therefore, has nothing more to share with God than what God originally gave him. “Here, you have what is yours” (verse 25). At first, we might read this and come away thinking that the parable reveals God to be a hard taskmaster about nothing more than profits and returns.
Yet, upon closer reading, that is not what this story is about. Investments and returns are considered something “little” to God (verses 21 and 23). God graciously gives these servants more and invites them to share in His joy.
In the kingdom of God, the main character of the story isn’t you or me, it’s Christ. And in the kingdom of God, the story rests not on our works but Christ’s. In the kingdom of God, Jesus draws our attention to the kind of God he is.
And that’s the source of conflict in Jesus’ parable. Pay close attention to how the third servant views his master. Why is he judged in the story? It’s not so much about what he did or didn’t do, but about how he saw or thought about his master…about the kind of God he thought the master was.
Listen to what he says, “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.’
This last servant sees the master as many see God: one who is hard, demanding, ungracious, and needs to be placated and feared. This third servant’s issue is that He doesn’t think God is good and the giver of gifts. This is why the third servant is called wicked, because he does not know the master rightly. In other words, he is wicked because he thinks of the master (God) not as good and gracious and giving, but as cruel and demanding. To him, God is not a giver, but a taker, a hard, cruel taskmaster. He makes demands but offers no help.
But this is not what the story is about. This is not the kind of God Jesus reveals, in this parable, or in his life and ministry. When you look at the opening of the parable, what kind of master do you see? Is the master harsh or demanding? Reaping where he did not sow? No.
The parable reveals that God, the master, is just the opposite of that. He is good, gracious, generous and trusting. God gives various gifts to His servants, and He does so because He trusts they are able to use them. Jesus’ parable reveals a loving relationship of a God who gives and trusts us to use what he gives. The Master – Jesus – delights in giving. And the joy of the master is even seen in giving more. That’s his character. That’s who he is.
When we approach this parable wondering – am I the servant he gave 5 talents to, or 2, or 1? Have I buried his gifts and possessions he’s given me? – we’ve approached the parable asking the wrong questions. It’s not a story about who you are as much as it is about who the Master is, and then who you are in relationship to him. This story is about Jesus our Master.
Remember the question that we began with. What is this story about? It’s a story that reveals the kind of God you have in Christ Jesus. In Jesus, you do not have the kind of God the third servant thought of, one who is cruel, hard, demanding. Rather, in Jesus, you have the God who is good and gracious and generous with his gifts to you. He gives you life and salvation in Jesus. He gives you gifts, abilities, the wealth of daily bread and the many and various abilities he gives to each of you, trusting you to use it for your good and the good of those around you.
Do we fail at those callings in life? Yes. Do we always live up to our Father’s trust? No. But your faith rests not on what you have done or left undone, but on what Jesus has done for you. Your faith, like the faith of the first two servants, rests not on your coin and what you’ve done with it, but on the faithfulness of your Master Jesus.
You are, as St. Paul says, not children of the darkness, but children of light. You are children of the day. You are beloved, baptized, redeemed, and forgiven. You belong to Jesus, the good and gracious and merciful Master. You are his servants, each with your own God-given gifts. Your God is Jesus. Your God is good and gracious and kind. You have the God who took a fisherman and made him a disciple. You have the God who took a tax collector and made him a Gospel writer. You have the God who took all our sin and failures and unfaithfulness and all our fears, doubts, worries, and death itself and he made all of that his own, making saints out of sinners. You have the God who was crucified for you, dead and buried for you. You have the God who was judged in your place so that when he comes again to judge the living and the dead, the verdict he gives you is the same he gave to the servants: “come, enter into the joy of your master.” You have the God who has destined you not for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as you live in these last days. As you wait for Christ’s return. As you use the gifts God has given and entrusted to you, this is the kind of God you have…the God who holds you in his goodness and grace in Christ Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.