Week 15: Day 1 - Sunday (April 7, 2019)
Lent - Week 5
Judgment Of The Nations
Matthew 25: 31-46
31 “Now when the Human One comes in his majesty and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his majestic throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right side. But the goats he will put on his left.
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’
37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me, you who will receive terrible things. Go into the unending fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 I was hungry and you didn’t give me food to eat. I was thirsty and you didn’t give me anything to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you didn’t welcome me. I was naked and you didn’t give me clothes to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 ”Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and didn’t do anything to help you?’ 45 Then he will answer, ‘I assure you that when you haven’t done it for one of the least of these, you haven’t done it for me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment. But the righteous ones will go into eternal life.”
Have you given much thought to Judgement Day? What exactly do you think will happen?
I chose this passage from Matthew because it has always been a favorite of mine. I have loved the idea of seeing Jesus’ face in others, but that is only one piece of the powerful passage.
After really delving into the wording, I realized that I missed the significance of Jesus’ words. It is wonderful to see Jesus in others, but there is much, much more to be learned from reading Matthew 25:31-46. There is prophesy fulfillment, redemption, judgment, and love.
The first sentence speaks to the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14. Daniel spoke of the “Son of Man” coming in his glory to be given authority over all peoples and nations. Matthew 25:31-32 begins with the “Son of Man” coming in his glory to sit on his throne before all the nations to separate the “sheep from the goats” which is a metaphor for the Judgement.
Jesus’ audience would have been very familiar with the Daniel prophecy and the idea of separating sheep from goats. At that time, sheep and goats would graze together during the day. At night, the shepherd would separate them because they were so different in temperament.
Goats are very independent and will eat everything in front and around them. The mother goat is known to eat the food meant for her babies. Goats tend to do exactly as they please. They are also quite capable of taking care of themselves.
Sheep require a lot of help to survive. For example, if they roll on their backs, they have no idea how to get up. The shepherd must help. When stressed, sheep will run around in circles until the shepherd can calm them. Sheep hear their shepherd’s voice and know it from any other shepherd which allows them to follow their shepherd anywhere he might go.
The passage further tells us that the King separated the sheep by putting them on his right and the goats to his left. The sheep were told to take their inheritance which had been prepared for them because the King indicated that these righteous ones had fed him, clothed him, given him drink, taken care of him when he was sick and visited him when imprisoned. This seemed to have the righteous “sheep” baffled. Perhaps their confusion was due to knowing only that they were following their shepherd. They were not aware that they had ever done any of the acts for the King that he mentioned. The King’s answer was “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Are good works the path to heavenly eternity? On the surface, this passage seems to say exactly that. This seems to contradict the words of the New Testament that clearly indicate salvation is through faith and not good works. We know this by reading Ephesians 2:8-10 which states unequivocally that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” In Romans 3:22-24, we again read, “ This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Jesus taught in Matthew 22:37-40, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” If we follow this commandment, we begin to see that the good works in this parable are the “effect” of salvation and not the “cause”.
Loving others and wanting to help our fellow man because of our relationship with Jesus is at the heart of this parable. Becoming a follower of Jesus changes lives. We have been redeemed through the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. Our faith demands every aspect of our lives. It demands that we live so that Jesus can be seen by others through our actions and interactions with those in need or “the least of these.”
Some “sheep” might be called to help those in other countries through missionary efforts in foreign lands. Not all God’s people are called to world-wide ministries. Believers are called to love others in any way needed, including the simplest of deeds. The smallest needs are sometimes the hardest to see.
Showing love is helping the young mother down the street that needs someone to entertain her children while she takes a break. Love is the small gesture of offering water to a workman that has been sweating in the heat putting in a new air conditioning unit. Love is a dinner made for a family dealing with illness. Love is a congregation working together to package meals for the hungry. Love is a team of friends gathered with paint brushes and power washers to help a friend in need of help getting a house ready for sale.
There are so many ways followers of Jesus can live out the words of His commandments. We, as Christ’s followers, act in His name because we have been saved through His blood and we try to love as He loved us. Rewards are not the motivation for the acts of the “sheep”. The love of Jesus and the grace that God gives freely is the selfless motivation of a true follower of Christ.
Back to the goats, they argue that they had never seen the King in need of any help from them. It was not that the “goats” were incapable of helping. Some might even have helped, but for the wrong reasons. Helping “the least of these” for accolades or reaching for a way to climb the ladder of success is not conveying the love of Jesus.
Admitting that if they had known it was Jesus they would have helped, the “goats” indicate their calculating way of operating. In other words, they would have willingly helped Jesus but passed by the needy homeless man on the corner.
In a sermon on this passage, John Wesley said, “One great reason why the rich, in general, have so little sympathy for the poor, is because they so seldom visit them. Hence it is, that, according to the common observation, one part of the world does not know what the other suffers. Many of them do not know, because they do not care to know: they keep out of the way of knowing it, and then plead their voluntary ignorance an excuse for their hardness of heart.”
This is not to say that the rich are all “goats” or incapable of understanding the poor. It merely brings to light the idea that as Christians we are not to wear blinders and stay in the comfortable worlds of our making. Christians are to always be tuned into God’s children who are suffering no matter what their walks of life might be.
This passage is fulfilling the Daniel prophesy of the “Son of Man” coming in this glory to reign over the nations. There will be judgment. The good and the bad will be separated. Accepting Christ as your savior is a changing experience in your life. Seeing the world through the eyes of love makes us very aware of the needs of mankind. Jesus does not ask us to do mighty works in this parable. He asks us to help in simple things such as giving the hungry food, or a thirsty man a drink, clothing those that have nothing, cheering the sick, and welcoming a stranger. He asks us to simply help people we meet every day. This help is for Jesus. Jesus is there in each person we encounter. Hopefully, they will see Jesus in us as we “sheep” follow the Shepherd.
Engaging The World:
1. What does this passage tell us about Jesus’ authority?
2. How has reading this passage made you feel differently about Judgement?
3. What kinds of acts does Jesus ask of us?
4. What does this passage teach about Christian responsibility?
5. How do you take helping others into today’s atmosphere of “caution” and “suspicion”?
6. Who besides the ones mentioned in the passage might be considered “the least of these”?
1. When have you reached out to people in need?
2. Have you missed Jesus’ calling to you?
3. Are you a “goat” or a “sheep”?
4. How can you Follow Jesus and Change the World?
As you go into this next week of Lent, think of everyone around you, at work, at home, at school, etc, like Jesus. See if your perception of these people is different. Check your words to see if they would be words you would use in speaking with Jesus.
Dear Lord, thank you for our blessings. Let us see Jesus in those that need our help. We pray that our lives reflect the love that Jesus gives to us freely. Help us to follow the Shepherd in all that we do. Amen.
2) Respond to a question above.