Jesus didn’t think such a possibility was far fetched for He is really asking His disciples if they expected God to say thank you to them. “Will any of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? TEXT: Luke 17:1-10
NO THANKS NEEDED FOR MY THANKS!
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

(Please note: As verses from the Gospel are used in the sermon, the ESV translation “increase our faith” will be read with the literal “add to us faith.” The ESV translation “If you had faith” will be read with the more possible and less pessimistic “If you have faith.”)

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord; …when you have done all that you were commanded say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’

Dear unworthy servants of the Lord; just last week Barbara and Mark and I enjoyed your gift of an entertaining and educational trip to Washington D. C. From the three of us we would like to say, thank you, thank you, thank you. We are grateful for your kind gift.

Suppose, however, after expressing appreciation for your gift our feelings got hurt because you didn’t praise us for thanking you. This example may seem far fetched, but think it through with me. 1. The gift is given. 2. The “thank you” is expressed. 3. No praise from the giver of the gift is given to the one for simply thank you. 4. That someone is upset because his “thank you” isn’t recognized.

Jesus didn’t think such a possibility was far fetched for He is really asking His disciples if they expected God to say thank you to them. “Will any of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?

It is not Jesus’ intent to picture God as a hard-hearted master with no feelings! It is Jesus’ intent to picture what kind of attitude truly serves God. That attitude could be stated in this way, NO THANKS NEEDED FOR MY THANKS! God would have all the actions of those who follow Christ proceed from gratitude for His undeserved gifts. God would have those who gratefully serve Him as apostles and in other vocations do so with no expectation of praise or recognition.

This goes against our sinful human nature. We generally notice what we do. We would like others to notice as well. It is good business to recognize. It is good human relations to take notice. However, this attitude of seeking recognition and desiring to receive credit is problematic before God. Yet, it doesn’t disappear in the Christian. Even where true faith is present, the devil continues to tempt us to seek recognition and claim credit before God and others in the church.

Therefore Jesus here speaks of duty. “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” The word for duty in Greek means, what we owe, what we ought to do. No matter what service is done for God, no matter what gift is returned to God, no matter what hardship is suffered for God, the attitude behind it is simply to be “thank you, Lord”. The controlling thought is to be, “Heavenly Father, I’ve only done my duty.”

What about just the duty Jesus sets forth here? Rather heavy, like a millstone! Temptations are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come. Dear Christian, it is your duty never to tempt anyone to sin by gossip or complaint or worry or laziness or greed or apathy for missions or lack of attention to God’s Word or forsaking weekly worship or in any way. Rather heavy, like a millstone! Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him…. Dear Christian, it is your duty to rebuke sin – sins against you and sins against others and sins against God’s Name and God’s gifts. How weird is that on a college campus or in an office or in our homes and cars? Rather heavy, like a millstone! “And if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Dear Christian, it is your duty to forgive the repentant sinner again and again and again. Without the forgiveness of sins there is no faith. Without the faith, there is no forgiveness of sins. There is to be no score keeping in the light of God’s grace. Gratefulness for the ocean of forgiveness you receive from God is to overflow in forgiveness to others.

The apostles had a problem with that, a big problem. They were utterly inadequate to carry out this command. They knew they couldn’t fulfill this duty. “You must forgive him” Jesus said to all His followers. But notice only the apostles respond to the Lord, saying “add to us faith!” The duty to rebuke sin and to forgive sin in their teaching office was overwhelming. They plead, “add to us faith!”

Notice also that Jesus doesn’t respond by offering them a seven-step plan to acquire faith or to help them forgive seven times. The request “add to us faith” can only be made by those who already have faith. It is like the man whose son Jesus healed who said, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” It is also true that at this point in the ministry of Jesus no one had faith that fully grasped who Jesus is. No one yet understood the release from sin He would accomplish in His bloody death and mighty resurrection. “(A)dd to us faith” they entreat!

Jesus responds to their request for faith with two parables – the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the unworthy servant. The parable of the mustard seed reveals that faith does accomplish the great matter of forgiveness. While this parable is often misused for a multitude of fabricated things about what faith can do, the context anchors it squarely in rebuking sin and forgiving sin. God has not commanded you to uproot a mulberry tree and toss it into the sea. God has commanded you to rebuke sin and to forgive sin. If your brother sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “add to us faith!” And the Lord said, “If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed…

Fellow-Redeemed, do you see it? Even though the apostles don’t realize it, in Christ they have the faith needed to do miraculous things, to forgive seven times and even seventy times seven. Like a mustard seed, the faith God gives them in Christ conceals great power. Through them Christ will absolve sin and do wonders for His kingdom.

They were sent out as workers in His vineyard. They tended His sheep in the field of this world. They were not worthy of this apostolic office to which He called them. But, this was the duty He gave them. They had no sufficiency in themselves, but as stewards of the fruits of His cross, they would do miracles! Through His authority they would absolve sin and throw it into the depths of the sea.

And so do we in our vocations today. Must we not all with the apostles therefore say to Jesus, “Add to us faith”! Add to us faith that appears as small as a mustard seed and yet receives the casting of our sins into the depths of the sea. In our offices add to us faith that rebukes sin and forgives those who repent again and again and again. Add to us faith that You our Master became our Servant. Add to us faith that when you came in from plowing with your Word and tending Your sheep in the field of this world, you did the unexpected. In the upper room, You, the Master, bid the apostles sit down at table. Instead of saying prepare supper for me and serve me while I eat and drink, You hosted the Last Supper for them and bid them to eat and drink. Only then did you go forth to eat (that is to taste death for everyone (Heb 2:9) and swallow it up forever (Is. 25: 8). Only then did you go forth to drink, that is to drink fully the cup of God’s wrath that you prayed might be removed in Gethsemane.

Add to us faith that You our Master still come among us to serve us; that this very day You prepare for us a banquet of Your own body and Your own blood. Instead of saying, “wait on Me” You our Master still serve us and say, “take and eat”, “take and drink”.

Dear unworthy servants, all this Jesus can do and does do because He bore the millstone of our sin around His neck and was submerged under our sentence. He never tempted anyone to sin. He faithfully rebuked sin, never looking the other way. He perfectly forgave those who sinned against Him even to His cry “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” All that stood against you has been hurled into the depths of the sea. He comes to you who repent forgiving you again and again and again, releasing you from all sin. By His sacrificial death and His glorious resurrection He abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel (II Tim. 1)

So rejoice at His Word like one who finds great spoil! So follow the pattern of sound words you have heard from the Jesus and His apostles! So share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God!

The righteous shall live by his faith. By the faith Jesus gives - you will be able to grow in doing what you could not do (avoiding tempting others to sin, rebuking sin and forgiving sin). By the faith Jesus gives - your soul will not be puffed up thinking you have ever gone above and beyond the call of duty. Is it not a sign of our sin-sickness that we seek recognition and credit before God; that we turn inward and feel slighted and grow weary in God’s kingdom? Is it not the supreme sign of our salvation that our Master serves us with healing food and releases us from every single time we miss the mark?

Beloved, that’s solid, joyful reason to serve God without fear. That’s solid, joyful reason to not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, but to bear witness to others of the hope that we have. That’s solid, joyful reason to pray for one another and to thank one another for the help and encouragement we receive in this place and among this congregation of God’s people. Thank you, thank you, thank you! That’s solid, joyful reason to gratefully serve God with the attitude, NO THANKS IS NEEDED FOR MY THANKS! Before God, So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ In the Name of Jesus - Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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