By Mark Witas—
When my wife and I were first married, we only had one car, a little grey Honda Civic. We worked at a boarding academy where the administration/classroom building was about a quarter mile from the dorm. I was at the dorm and needed to get to the ad building, so I called my wife and asked her to come from her classroom to pick me up.
The car rolled into the circle in front of the dorm. I bounced down the stairs, jumped into the front seat, and leaned in hard to give my wife a kiss on the lips. I got inches away from kissing her when I heard a scream and noticed that the person in my car wasn’t my wife—it was a 17-year-old senior student named Koreen. I almost landed in a catastrophe, all because of mistaken identity.
There is a parable in Matthew 25 that has, at the heart of it, a case of mistaken identity. In the parable a rich man leaves on a trip and puts some of his servants in charge of his money. He gives one servant five talents, one servant two talents, and one servant just one talent. Then he leaves.
When he gets back, he discovers that the man to whom he had given five talents had doubled his investment. Same for the man who had been given two talents. The parable takes a turn though with the man who had been given only one talent. Here’s what the text says this man did: “‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you’” (Matt. 25:24-25, NIV).
The master doesn’t react well to this news, and bad things happen to the man who buried the talent.
I’ve got a couple of questions for you: What was the root of the lazy servant’s problem? What made him act the way he did with the Master’s talent?
Look back on verse 25. “ I was afraid, so I . . .”
The Bible says that there will be a bunch of people who are afraid at the end of time. It says in Revelation 6:16 “They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’”
What is a lamb? It’s a baby sheep. The people screaming for the rocks to fall on them at the end of time are terrified of the wrath of the baby sheep! When was the last time you saw a baby sheep and ran for your life? It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?
It was this same kind of fear that caused the servant in the Bible to bury his talent instead of investing it for the Master while he was away. I’ve got a question for you about the servant who received the one talent: What was he afraid of? Maybe I should rephrase that: Who was he afraid of?
He was afraid of the Master wasn’t he? Why? Why is it that people are going to be afraid of God when He comes back to bring them home? How could anyone be afraid of God?
Acts 1:11 poses this question: “Men of Galilee,… why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Jesus the healer, Jesus the merciful, Jesus the gentle, Jesus the one who welcomed children into His arms, Jesus who dined with sinners like you and me and enjoyed Himself in our company—this same Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Why would anyone be afraid of Him?
Evidently, some people will be terrified of the Lamb. Why? I suppose it’s because they don’t know Him. They think He’s someone else. They’ve bought into the lie that the devil has planted in all of our hearts. They are convinced that He has some sort of sinister side to Him that is going to rear its ugly head and keep them out of heaven in the end on some sort of technicality. So, instead of having a church full of people rejoicing with the Lamb, we end up with a church full of people wondering if they’ve been good enough to get to heaven.
Somehow people have gotten a picture of God that would cause them to run away from God in fear instead of running into His open arms. Jesus knew this. He knew the burden of man. And as a response He gave anyone who would listen this invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
When you are in Christ there is no condemnation for you. No wrathful Lamb, no angry God, just rest. Rest from fear. Rest in the assurance that His love is enough.
Mark Witas is lead teaching pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, California.