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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012



Sermon of the Week #22014 - April 6, 2008

Jesus said, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is as a man traveling unto a FAR COUNTRY called unto him his own servants and divided unto them his goods, and then after a long time returned called them unto him again to see how they fared.” However, there seems to be in the background of the story so many suggestions of Christian doctrine that call for our attention.

Jesus is obviously the man who went to the FAR COUNTRY of Heaven and we may be curious as to how far away is that FAR COUNTRY? For the Christian, the FAR COUNTRY is much closer than you might think when we read Ephesians 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus have ye that were once afar off been made nigh by the blood of Christ.” It appears for the Christian that Heaven is closer than we thought.

Consider now what the Man from the FAR COUNTRY did for His servants. He divided His goods. To one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another He gave one. The Greek word for servants in this case is bondservant, or slave. They were His slaves because He bought them. Paul tells us that we are not our own for we have been bought with a price. Many who are bought with that price like to sing, “Now, I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me, not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.”

Everything we have was given to us by the Lord. Some have been given the gift of thought, the gift of intellect, some the power of the tongue; some have been given the gift of time, and some have been given the power to make wealth. Moses told Israel in Deuteronomy 8:18, “The Lord thy God hath given thee the power to get wealth that He may establish His covenant.” Whatever gift has been given, God expects it to be used for His glory. Paul reminds us in 1st Corinthians 15:41, “One star differs from another in glory.” Paul asks, “What makes you different from anybody else?” and “What do you have that you did not receive from above?” If you received it, there is no need to glory in yourself; everything you have was given to you by the Lord, except one thing, your sin was your own, and the Man from the FAR COUNTRY had nothing to do with that.

So the Man from the FAR COUNTRY gave His servants gifts; everything we have has been given to us. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:8, “Wherefore He saith, when He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”

In this story the Man from the FAR COUNTRY gave the various gifts to his servants; and straightway went on his journey. Straightway seems to indicate the Man from the FAR COUNTRY was in a big hurry to go back to the FAR COUNTRY from whence He came.

After Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and arose from the dead, He did not tarry too long before He ascended back to the FAR COUNTRY He had left at the time when as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-8, “Christ Jesus: who existed in the form of God counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, being obedient even unto death, yes, the death of the cross.”

After His resurrection He remained on earth only forty days instructing the Apostles, giving them the Great Commission, telling them to go into all the world and preach the gospel of His death, burial, and resurrection to every creature; telling them who believed the story to repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins, and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And then He ascended back to Heaven. About a year before this He had asked the Apostles and others in John 6:62, “What then, if ye would behold the Son of Man ascending up where He was before?” What was the “What Then” of the ascension?

According to Mark when the Lord was received up into Heaven, He sat down at the right hand of God, and they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word by the signs that followed. So then, the “What Then” is the fact that Jesus is still working with us today as we preach the gospel everywhere.

And now the “What Then” of Luke, “And He led them out until they were over against Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass while He blessed them He was carried up into heaven.” Just before He ascended He said, “Behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with power from on high.” The power from on high was given ten days later on the Day of Pentecost, and it was on that day the Church was established. And that is the “What Then” of the ascension.

What was the “What Then” of Hebrews 4:14, “Having then a great high priest who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.” The answer quickly follows, “For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and find grace in time of need.” The program of the ascended Christ is to serve as our intercessor before the Father, in providing the grace and mercy that I personally need every hour of the day. And that is the “What Then” of the ascension of Jesus.

What then was the “What Then” when He ascended in Acts 1:10? “And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as He went, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; that said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was received up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into heaven.” But He did not tell them when He would return. Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son of Man, but the Father only.” We will all find out the moment the Lord will return at the same time. In Revelation 1:7 John tell us, “Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they that pierced him.” Until then no one knows, not even the preachers who are always setting dates and making predictions. And that is the “What Then” of the ascension of Jesus.

Someone has supposed this scenario about the arrival of the Lord in Heaven after His ascension. The angels gather around Him and ask where He has been? He tells about the gospel of the death, burial, and the resurrection that will save the world. The angels say, “Lord, how will the world know about this salvation?” Jesus tells them that He has left twelve men to tell the story. The angels say, “But what if those men fail?” Jesus says, “If they fail, I have no other plans.”

Just as soon as the Man from the FAR COUNTRY went back to the FAR COUNTRY the servants who received the talents went out STRAIGHTWAY and traded with them. They did not waste any time getting started. Straightway! If you don’t do it straightway you may never do it. If a Church or an individual Christian has not grown in five years it is a pretty good guess that they will never grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Straightway he went out and traded with them. The talents referred to in this parable were a sum of money, and the man who returned from the FAR COUNTRY mentioned the money the one talent man had buried. He told the one talent man that if nothing else was done at least he could have put the money in the bank and drawn interest.

However although the talent was a sum of money, the Man from the FAR COUNTRY in the parable gave the various amounts according to their several abilities. So in that sense we need to think of our gifts not as money, but also as the various talents that have been given unto us. Peter speaks of our gifts of talent when he says, “Each hath received a gift, ministering it among you as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

After a long time the Man from the FAR COUNTRY returned and called His servants and made a reckoning with them. The first came before Him with the news that his five talents had gained other five talents. The man with the two also reported he also had doubled his gift. Both were commended, “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things; I will set thee over many things.”

One man facing the end of his life on earth looked back over his life, and said that he had not done much for the Lord. I was trying to encourage him, and recited some of the great things he had done. His reply to me was, “That's what you say, but I’m wondering what will the Lord say?”

Many of us may feel the same way, and feel as though we have done very little, and in such case we need to remember Isaiah 49:4, “Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with God.” It may be that the Lord may point out on that day that we did more than we thought.

What the Lord will say outweighs everything else. In 1st Peter 1:7 the Apostle says, “The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes though it be tried by fire, may be found unto praise, and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is good to receive compliments from our fellow creatures, but this is nothing compared to the praise, honor, and glory, given us when Jesus comes.

Well done thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful. He did not say, “Well done thou fantastic servant,” but faithful servant. Paul said in 1st Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover in a steward it is required that a man be faithful. Think about what the Man from the FAR COUNTRY said about their work. He said, “Thou hast been faithful over a few things.”

Regarding God’s plan of redemption Paul said that eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard neither hath it entered into the mind of man what God hath prepared for us.

That principle can be applied to Heaven. We have no idea of the glory that shall be revealed on that day. Then He told them, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Just what would it be like to share in the glory of the Lord? Paul said in Hebrews, “Seeing that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us and run with patience the race that is set before us looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross despising the shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus could look beyond the cross because He knew after all the suffering what lay beyond. He endured for the joy of sitting down beside the right hand of the throne of God. That same Jesus has told us if we overcome we too shall sit down on His throne even as He overcame and sat down on His Father’s throne. So learn to despise all the problems that come to you for doing God’s will. Heaven will be worth it all when you hear the Man from the FAR COUNTRY say, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

But it says the man with the one talent dug in the earth and hid his Lord’s money. This man dug a hole not only for the money, but a great big hole for himself. In 2nd Peter 2:4 the Apostle reminds us that God spared not the angels that fell, but committed them to pits of darkness. The man with one talent dug a pit for himself, and was cast out into darkness.

He told the Man from the FAR COUNTRY that he was afraid and that was why he hid his Lord’s money. Fear paralyzes his tongue especially in the matter of preaching any scripture people do not want to hear. In 1st Samuel 15:24-26, “And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “The Lord hath rejected thee from being king.” King Saul lost his crown because he feared the people, and then there is that reminder in Revelation 3:11 where the Lord warned the Church at Philadelphia, “Let no man take thy crown.” Many a servant will explain their disobedience to the Man from the FAR COUNTRY by those same words as the man who dug that great big hole, “I was afraid.”

The Man from the FAR COUNTRY asks, “Why did you not put my money to the bankers and I would have received back mine own with interest?” The money that was hidden in the hole draws no interest. That is the crux of the problem. The person who dug the hole had no interest in the business of the Man from the FAR COUNTRY in the first place. We see in many areas, the reason most people in many congregations never read the Word of God with any regularity is because they have no interest. What about regularity at the Lord’s Table? The same reason, no interest.

Evidently the Man from the FAR COUNTRY judges us as individuals, not as a corporate organization. In Romans 12:4-5 Paul reminds us, “For even as we have many members in one body and all have not the same office, so we being who are many are one body in Christ and severally members one with another.” When one member of the Church does nothing, it is like a withered hand on the human body. Sometimes the body of Christ is paraplegic.

The Man from the FAR COUNTRY could have told how a man who had five talents dug a hole and hid his Lord’s money. We are left wondering if the man with the one talent received such drastic punishment, what must it be like for a five-talent person to make the same mistake.

He made no mistakes he took no wrong road,

He never fumbled the ball.

He never went down neath the weight of a load

He simply did nothing at all.

He lost no hard fight in defense of the right,

Never bled with his back to the wall;

He never felt faint in his climb to the light;

He simply did nothing at all.

So death came nigh for life slipped by,

And he feared for the judgment hall.

When they asked him why, he said with a sigh;

“I simply did nothing at all.”

So God will pardon your blunder my friend

And regard with pity your fall

But the thing that will tell and send you to Hell

Is to simply do nothing at all.