Summary: Part of our "Sights and Sounds of Judgment Day" series. The what and the why of reward and punishment.
Luke 19:11-27 THE REWARD AND THE PUNISHMENT
This past Tuesday was “judgment day.” Not “Judgment Day,” the end of the world. But a day of judging – the voters of our country “judged” the candidates that were running for office and made some decisions. In the presidential race especially, election day is also a day of punishments and rewards for those who are helping out the candidates. If you were on George Bush’s campaign staff, election day for you is a day of rewards. You’ll be congratulated for all your hard work, and you’ll probably be given a job in the government somewhere – that’s your reward, if you want it, for working on the campaign for the winner. But if you were on John Kerry’s campaign staff, then election day for you is not a good day. All your work didn’t result in what you had hoped. You’re going to have to find a new job, a new life – something else to do. Election day is a day of rewards for the winners and punishments for the losers – it all depends on whose side you were on.
The same thing is true for Judgment Day, the last day, when Jesus returns to this earth and judges the world. Some on that day will be rewarded. And some on that day will be punished. Which one will you be? And what is the punishment, and what is the reward? In our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus tells a story that gives us a picture of Judgment Day. He tells us that there once was a man of noble birth who was going away to a distant country to be appointed king, and then he was going to return.
In this story, Jesus is describing himself. He is the man of noble birth, the Son of God. After his death and resurrection he goes away to a distant country. In other words, he ascends into heaven. There he is appointed as king over all the earth. Sometime after that, Jesus plans to return. That’s Judgment Day. On that day, there will be punishments and rewards, depending on the people he finds.
One group of people that Jesus will find will be the unbelievers. In verse 14, Jesus describes how the man of noble birth had people who opposed him, subjects who “hated him and said, ‘we don’t want this man to be our king.’” This describes people who outright reject Jesus today. I just read an interesting article about Ted Turner, a man who is well known in the cable television industry. This is what he said about Christianity some time ago: “Christianity,” he said, “is a religion of losers.” Talking about Jesus’ death on the cross Ted Turner said, “I don’t want anybody to die for me. I’ve had a few drinks and a few girlfriends, and if that’s gonna put me in hell, so be it.” There are many people like him today, people who say, “I don’t want Jesus to be my king. I’m in charge of my own life, not Jesus.”
When Jesus returns on Judgment Day, for them, there will be punishment. That’s what he describes in this story, verse 27: “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.” Jesus is very clear that on Judgment Day he plans to punish all those who reject him as God and Savior. Many people today say, “That’s not true. God is too loving to punish people.” But the reality is, God is not only a God of love, he is also a God of holiness and justice. And because God is holy and just, by his very nature, he always punishes sin. That’s what a holy and just God always does. Our other reading, from 2 Thessalonians, says the same thing when it talks about how Jesus will punish those who reject his Gospel with everlasting destruction. On Judgment Day, Jesus will shut them out from the presence of God forever. That is the fate of those who outright reject Christ during their lives on this earth.
There’s another group of people that Jesus will punish on Judgment Day. He’ll also find people who “hid away” the Gospel during their lives. In the story that Jesus tells, he describes how the man of noble birth gives a “mina” to each of his servants. A mina was a unit of money, about three months wages. “While I am gone,” he told his servants, “put this mina to work.” Once again, Jesus is describing himself. Before he left this planet, what did Jesus do? He gave to us, his followers, the Gospel, the Word of God. That’s our mina. And Jesus says to us, “While I am gone, put this Gospel to work. Use the Word, until I return.”