Jesus is speaking (through a messenger). Our Saviour promises to be here soon.
He will arrive bringing along rewards and repayments according to everyone's work.
It's enough to make any works-phobic Lutheran faint. :)
Does this passage mean that salvation is a transactional matter requiring a certain quantity and quality of good works on our part in order to "earn" God's favour?
The promise is to "repay according to everyone's work." In Jesus Christ, God - our Creator and Heavenly Father - chooses to stand among us as one of us. As such, Jesus' work is counted among our work; and, the rewards of Jesus' atoning work overflow to all who would but hold open their hands and hearts to receive them. Note the invitation for all to wash in the waters of baptism (verse 14). Hear Christ's yearning that anyone and everyone might join the Spirit and the Church in crying out, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Does this passage mean that our works, good or bad, do not matter?
Verse 15 makes plain that there are actions that are themselves the manifestations of hands and hearts clenched willfully shut. Such actions offend instead of honouring God while they truly love neither the self nor the neighbour. I do not like this. It offends some of my post-modern sensibilities and makes me uncomfortable. I want all to be saved regardless of merit or will. It seems God desires that too, but is unwilling or unable to force the mutual love and respect of right-relations upon those who stand resolutely resistant.
I am tempted to focus here upon how my hands and heart are still closed at times. Surely, I have come no where close to perfection in this walk of faith. However, I have been blessed and nurtured by my time inside the imperfect yet healing arms of the church. I have faith in the promise that the rewards of Jesus' work to reconnect us to the heart of Parent God overflow to me whether I earn them on a given day or not.
Standing in this faith, to entertain the accuser's assessment of my shortcomings unduly is to become complacent with respect to the real work Revelation 22 calls me - and I will be so bold as to say "you" and "us" - to. We are to join in the call we have heard from the Spirit: "Come!"
It is a prayer of invocation: "Come, Lord Jesus, Come!"
It is invitational proclamation: "Come! Let everyone - be they dog, sorcerer, fornicator, idolator - let everyone who thirsts for love that is true and mutual come!"
The fruitful challenge for me today in this text is not, "why do you resist receiving God's grace?"
Rather, the Spirit stirs in me saying, "why are you so reticent to share the grace you have received?"
Come, Lord Jesus, Come! Do not let us fail to see and hear you present and at work amidst those of little worth according to the kingdoms of this world. Rather, let us join your saving work of extending grace to all who would receive it. Forgive us where we fail and deliver us from obsession with faults to a true faith in your unconditional love for us, that we may be increasingly bold in our service to You and our neighbours as disciples. Amen.