Sermon – Last Sunday – "He Will Separate" – Matthew 25:31-46 – 11/20/11

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'When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.'

We have just confessed what the Scriptures say. 'I believe that He [Jesus] will come again with GLORY.' There's a word that we use a lot around here. I wonder if we know what we're saying. The word in the Hebrew is 'kavod.' 'Kavod' literally means 'weight,' or 'weightiness.'

In the book of Exodus, the Lord tells Moses to lead the people of Israel through the Red Sea. He says, 'I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will GET GLORY over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord." (Ex.14:4). Pharaoh thinks he's the heavyweight and all the Egyptians and even the Israelites think that Pharaoh is the heavyweight. But the Lord will show them all that Pharaoh is the lightweight, in fact, he is nothing. Pharaoh and the Egyptians and especially the Israelites will know that it is the Lord, their God, who is the heavyweight.

He is the 'heavy' one against whom, all the rulers of this world put together are like a feather in the wind, and all of the so-called gods are nothing but a breath. But the Lord fills heaven and earth. He is all in all. That's heavy. That's substantial. That's glory.

'I believe that He will come again with weight.' It's certainly not that the Lord needed to put on some weight or that He had to become heavy. He is who He is and He is the weighty One. But when He appeared to us the first time, we didn't see His glory. We saw a little baby, a mere man, a weakling, 'he was despised, and we esteemed him not.' (Isaiah 53:3) When He comes again, we will see just how heavy He is. 'He will come again with glory.'

So what is unbelief? What is 'idolatry?' It is to ascribe to something more weight than it actually has and to ascribe to God less weight that He actually has. Adam and Eve were guilty of idolatry. They gave more weight to the word of the serpent than the word of God, and glorified Satan over God. What about you? Is the Word of the Lord the heaviest thing in your life or is there another word that bears more weight in the decisions you make, and the direction you're heading, and the actions you're taking?

But just as God got glory over Pharaoh, He will get glory over Satan. And the whole creation, every man, woman and child, will 'ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.'

'When the Son of Man comes in His GLORY, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.'

Here is a lesson from the Teacher about what will happen when the 'Son of Man comes in His glory.' We talk about it as a time of 'judgment.' 'He come again to judge between the living and the dead.'

But in place of the word 'judgment,' Jesus here uses the word 'separation.' 'He will separate people one from another" Jesus had spoken about the final judgment to his disciples like this before. The chafe will be separated from the grain, the weeds separated from the wheat, the good fish separated from the bad fish. Here, it's the sheep that are separated from the goats.

Until the Last Day comes, the sheep and the goats are all mixed and mingled together. Both receive the same sunshine and rain. Both get the same colds and flues and diseases. Both have the same family problems, car problems and money problems. Both die. And both rise in the resurrection of all flesh on the last day. And both are gathered together before the Lord in His glory who sits on His glorious throne.

And then the separation will take place. Just as He 'separated' the light from the darkness and the water from the from the dry land, 'He will separate people, one from another.' 'Separating' is what the Lord does, and He does it well. He does it right.

Separating is something that we do very poorly. We 'separate people, one from another' according to race and income level and education level, and political affiliation, religious denomination. We 'separate' what God has joined together. Every time Christians have either tried to separate themselves from the world of unbelief and sin or separate unbelievers and sinners from the congregation, they create a terrible mess.

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, seated on His glorious throne, He will separate people one from another based on one criteria and one criteria only. Those who are 'blessed by my Father,' and those who are not.

Those who are 'blessed by my Father' are separated out from 'all the nations' and placed on His right. The 'right hand' of the King is always the position of favor. Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the 'right hand' of the Father almighty.

And just how does the Son of Man know who is 'blessed by my Father'? By their works. 'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me.' Faith and works go hand in hand.

They weren't blessed by my Father BECAUSE of their good works. They did good works BECAUSE they were blessed by my Father. In fact, the thought that they were actually serving Jesus never crossed their mind. 'When did we see you'? They were so confident that their salvation was by grace alone based on the Word and Promise of God, that they were completely free to focus their attention entirely on their neighbor.

On the other hand, that is the 'left hand,' are those who are 'cursed.' The 'left hand' is the place of dishonor and shame, or as Jesus describes it, 'the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' It was 'prepared' for the devil and his angels, not for man. 'God desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.' (1 Timothy 2:4). But there are those who refuse the grace of God and will not 'ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.' 'And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'

This is the 'separation' that will take place when the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.'

And after the separation is complete, the good and the evil will no longer be mingled together. The Lord will look on everything that He has made, and once again, it will be 'very good.'

So, which one are you? Are you a sheep or a goat? Are you 'blessed by my Father,' or are you 'cursed'? Are you a saint or a sinner? Isn't that the way that we usually try to apply this lesson to ourselves? Which one am I?

And isn't it right here that we realize just how incapable of separating the blessed from the cursed we really are? Which one of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can say that we are either one or the other?

In Holy Baptism, we were given the Holy Spirit. We were 'born again,' not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit and the Spirit of God lives in us and we are children of God. And there are times when we act like the children of God that we are. The Word of God carries its proper weight in our hearts and minds, and we live holy lives accordingly. We are sheep.

But are there not other times when we give other words and other gods more weight than the Lord and His Word? Aren't there times when that description of these goats fits us to a tee? And if anyone were actually keeping score, the makeup of our life would look something like 99 parts goat and 1 part sheep.

And as hard as we try, we cannot separate the goat in us so that we may be the sheep that we want to be. We want to do the good and resist the evil, but it's a constant battle that never seems to get easier. We want to be more loving, but only if the price is too steep. We want to heal the wounds that we have inflicted in others, but we cannot swallow our pride and say 'I'm sorry.'
We forgive the one who has sinned against us, but we can't separate ourselves from the memories of what was done to us, and the pain that we suffered. And what turmoil within us those memories create within us.

We are a terribly tangled and mingled mess of sinner and saint. And it makes us want to scream. How we wish we could do the separating right here and now. And we try. But it never works, at least not for long.

St. Paul explains why this is saying, 'The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to do.' (Gal.5:17). The old, sinful flesh, the goat, is always working to keep us from doing the things that the child of God wants to do. And the Spirit of Christ who lives in us is always at work to keep us from doing the things that our old sinful nature wants us to do. And it's a battle that rages within us. Paul describes the battle like this, 'For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.' (Rom.7:19)

This is why the believer longs for 'the Son of Man to come in His glory, with His angels and sit on His glorious throne.' When He comes, He will do His work of separating, as only He can do. He will separate the sinner from the saint. And for His Christians, that is an internal separation. Our old, sinful nature, the 'spirit of the flesh,' that is always working to separate us from Christ, will be separated from us and 'thrown into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'

And the struggle will be over. And we will have that peace that Jesus was talking about when He said, 'Peace I give to you. My peace I give to you.'

On that day, we will know, for the very first time, the transcendent joy of loving the Lord our God with ALL of our heart and soul and mind. What a glorious day it will be.

In the meantime, until that last day comes, we live with the internal tension between the saint and the sinner that we are. But we do not live without hope as some men do. This is not a battle between two equal powers. Jesus Christ is the heavy One, He is the 'glorious One.' By His death and resurrection, He has already won the war and triumphed over everything that wants to separate you from Him. No matter how desperate the internal struggle between saint and sinner gets, no matter how feebly we resist the spirit of the flesh and act like goats, 'nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.'

'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, and receive the inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'

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