Getting sent to the principal’s office was always a scary thought for my friends and me when we were kids, especially because our principal seemed to be so good at seeing what was going on in his classroom, even when he wasn’t in the classroom. His office was connected to our classroom by a door, which we didn’t figure out until a long time afterward had a window in it, from which – when the door was at a certain angle – he could see almost everything that was going on in the room – spitballs and all. I will never forget my friend Randy getting called into that office and then having to write on the board one hundred times the classic “I will not shoot spitballs again,” all the while casting a glance back at the kid with the crewcut sitting in the back corner, who must have been just outside the angle of that window. I always felt I owed Randy for him being the only one who ended up in the principal’s office that day!
Our Lutheran Elementary School has been doing that for fifty years – sending people to the principal’s office. Only the sending that I’m going to be talking about from Gods’ Word this morning is a totally wonderfully good thing for everyone who has been taught to know why it is a totally wonderfully good thing. Today on this special anniversary observance let’s think about Jesus’ words about Judgment Day from Matthew 25 and thank God for Fifty Years of Sending People to the Principal’s Office.
For us to know that it is a totally great thing to get sent spiritually to the principal’s office, we need to know what a totally great person the principal is. Obviously the principal in our lesson from God’s Word is not directing a school, but he is directing Judgment Day – and he is giving out final grades. All the preparation that has been given in our school and in all the Christian Education agencies of our congregation for children and adults – all the preparation and all the teaching is meant to get us ready for our final grade on Judgment Day.
And what will Jesus the principal – what will Jesus the Judge – give as a final grade to everyone who believes in him as their Savior — those who are pictured as being dearly loved sheep standing on his right? Verse 34 tells us: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come you are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’” All the headaches of life, all the heartaches of life, all the sad sins that I have committed, all the sad sins that I have endured – all will be “no more” in that instant when Jesus says, “Come on in, everybody. I have been preparing this inheritance for you since before the world began. Many years ago I came into your world when my Father sent me to be punished for your sins, and now it’s time for you to live in my world – to live forever in the place where no sin you have ever committed in your life will ever be remembered again and no problem by which you have ever been troubled in your life will ever be thought about again.” That’s what God promises you is going to happen to you, because, as verse 37 tells us, he says that you are “righteous.” He says that you are totally and perfectly right and holy, even though you are not totally perfectly right and holy, because when God looks at you, he sees the perfectly right and holy Jesus – the same Jesus who will judge you on that day to be just as he says you already are on this day — by believing in what he did for you to make that so.
That is why during these days we live on earth we just want to “be Jesus” to people as best we can – doing the things that Jesus talks about here: helping people with food, drink, clothes, companionship – simple, everyday things that are just normal things for God’s people to do without even thinking about it.
Maybe just a quick thought about that, since this wording can admittedly be confusing. At first it might sound like Jesus is saying, “Because you did such good things, I will take you to heaven.” That, however, would not be what the Bible teaches. Instead, what Jesus is saying is that the good things you did were the evidence on the outside that on the inside – in your hearts — you believed in me as your Savior. It might be something like we might say tomorrow morning if it snows tonight, “It must have snowed last night, for the ground is covered with snow.” The snow on the ground didn’t cause the snow. The snow on the ground is the evidence that it snowed… That’s the whole point of what Jesus says we will say when he talks to us like that on Judgment Day. We will say, as they did in our lesson, “Lord, when did we do all those things – and, especially, when did we do those things to you? You weren’t even on earth when I lived.” We don’t keep track of our good things, like stars on a report card. We just want to help people, knowing, as Jesus says, that when we do the simplest things for what may seem like the least of people by age or by importance, we are doing them for Jesus Christ himself. What a blessing and what a joy to be able to see firsthand in our Lutheran Elementary School the simple acts of love which our children show each other and enjoy with each other without even thinking about it. They just live as God’s children.
Now, of course, that is a very humbling thought for all of us, because we know that there are many times when that kind of living in our lives doesn’t happen in the way I just said. As adults, teens and children, as pastors, teachers and parents, we so often fail each other because we so often fail our Lord who has promised us the best final grade possible. That is why we also need to hear the warning which Jesus firmly but lovingly gives in our lesson — just as we thank God that it has been firmly but lovingly given for the past fifty years here in our school. In other words, what we don’t want to have happen is what Jesus talks about to those who will be standing on his left, even though we deserve that very same thing.
Verse 41 tells us what Jesus the Principal – Jesus the Judge – will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Those who will be on the left of Jesus on Judgment Day are those who did not believe that Jesus lived and died for them. And even though many of them will try to say, “What are you talking about Jesus? When didn’t we do give you clothes or food or comfort? You weren’t even around when we were on the earth…” — Jesus will say, “When you didn’t do those simple things for the least of people, you didn’t do them for me.” In other words, you may have even done the same kinds of things as the people who believed in me, but you weren’t doing them because you believed in me – and that is why your final grade will be eternal punishment.
That is a very important reminder to all of us not to make this anniversary day a pompous day – “Look at what all of our efforts and prayers and money and volunteering have done to make our school and our church a wonderful place.” It is a wonderful place, and we thank God for all the efforts and prayers and money and volunteering that come from God’s people here, but we always want to remember not to think about all those things all that much. Just do them because of who we are – people who God says are “righteous” right now – people who God says will hear him someday say, “Come into heaven and receive your inheritance that I have been preparing for you for centuries” – people who God says have the privilege to think about others – and to treat others – in the same exact way we would think about – and treat – Jesus, if he were standing right here in front of us, because through those people Jesus is standing right here in front of us — just as we will someday have the honor of standing in front of him – absolutely thrilled to be in the principal’s office and listening to his sweet, sweet words about our final grade.
I first met my principal right after first grade. Thirty years later I became his pastor in a different church in a different state. I have to tell you it was almost overwhelming for me to see how honored and thankful he was to hear me preach and teach God’s Word to him, and in some small way to help prepare him for where he now is — in heaven with his Lord. Who knows? Maybe some of you boys sitting here today will be a pastor to one of us some day, or maybe some of you boys and girls will someday teach the children and grandchildren of people who are sitting here today in one of our schools. It’s happened before. That would be an honor for us.
But what would most make us thankful to God and to you would be that you and all of us always show that we remember the reason we have to celebrate fifty years of sending people to the principal’s office by continuing to do that in every way possible – letting people know that Jesus is waiting for them in heaven because of what he did for them on earth, and then showing people with simple acts of kindness how thankful you are that God put them on earth with you at the very same time, because that allows you to “be Jesus” to people in whom you “see Jesus.” It will be a totally wonderfully good thing to get sent to the principal’s office for that. Amen.