Posted on Mon, Nov 24, 2014
Matthew 25:31-46 "Christ the King Sunday"
Nov. 23, 2014
Christ the King Sunday
Gospel Text: Matthew 25:31-46
“WE were hungry, thirsty, naked, alone, strangers and YOU BLESSED US!!”
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45 Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
Remember last week when I concluded the sermon by saying, “The Gospel of the Lord?” in the tone of a question? We finished reading the words of Jesus with this uncomfortable feeling in our guts wondering, “Is this the ‘Good News?’”
I remember the first time I really “heard” this text in my youth group, and knowing I wasn’t always one of those ‘righteous looking pure as a soft Hallmark card sheep,’ I was in trouble… “Am I goat or a sheep, goat or a sheep, goat or a sheep, goat or a sheep, goat or a sheep, … I was terrified; face it, according to the standards of this text, I am toast! Roasting on a spit with an apple in my mouth, surely cast into eternal punishment! Surely this was not good news, just an early announcement of my eternal demise…
So many people look at this text literally as how Jesus will act when he returns “in all His glory,” and they attribute the meaning of Jesus’ teaching to ‘end times,’ or the days of the ‘tribulation.’
Other than putting terrifying and faith challenging questions/images into the minds of his readers, what is Matthew’s purpose for putting these particular words of Jesus into His Gospel? Who is Jesus speaking to? And how do the people few Jesus with such a serious message… what the meaning for us?
Time to put on your NCIS, Theological Forensics badges and engage our minds.
It is true that all through Matthew 25, Jesus is finishing up his teaching before he leads in them in their last meal and the Passion begins, but why is he teaching us “to be ready” to receive him all these different metaphors and warning of us of the implications of not receiving Him when he comes to us IN ALL HIS GLORY?
Jesus says to the people, “31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” He is not teaching them AS the Messiah he is referring to in his message. The only people, at this point, that realize that suspect that Jesus IS the Messiah are Peter, Mary, John, Peter and maybe a few others. But when Jesus reveals this to his disciples in quiet teaching times, he always reminds them to, “not tell anyone (that He is indeed) the Messiah, this would be considered blasphemy and could get them killed. Jesus will soon prove to the people, or those who have ears to hear, eyes that can really see and hearts that can really believe, that he is indeed the Messiah of the Jews and the Savior to the Gentiles through his death and resurrection.
When will be the first time the people will see Jesus IN ALL HIS GLORY? Is it the “end times?” No, it will be when he has fulfilled the promise of our forgiveness by going to the cross and raising from the dead. The first people to see Jesus IN ALL HIS GLORY, will be the women on Easter Sunday. The next group will be the disciples… will they recognize Jesus IN ALL HIS GLORY? Even among Jesus’ troupe, there will be some goats!
But at this time, Jesus is teaching as a normal rabbi to the people.
When we listen to Jesus preaching like a faithful rabbi, the message makes perfect sense. What the prophets of old preach to the People of Israel to do, IN ORDER FOR THEM TO PROCLAIM TO THE WORLD THAT THEY ARE INDEED THE “CHOSEN PEOPLE OF GOD?” it wasn't in all those sacrifices they made on altars, those were personal expressions of piety and faith. It was how the people of Israel treated the widow, orphan and the stranger? Our God is an awesome God, but more than that, our God is a God of love and for us to tap into the power of our faith, we must approach God with humble hearts. As people of faith, walking in the words of the Torah, being aware and being active in caring for those who are the weakest in our society, the love and mercy of God is made known in the world. It is like the popular expression racing through the ELCA right now, “God’s Work, Our Hands.”
Jesus is preaching like a faithful rabbi reminding them who they are, who they ought to be, and this is a serious message for a people “chosen” by God… When we live by faith, our eyes are open to the needs of our neighbors, our hearts become sensitive to the pain or longings of others, our hearts are guided by the teachings of God in that we are to: Love God, and then our neighbor; in so doing our words and actions proclaim the love and mercy of God. Jesus’ message is straight from the Old Testament, and are essential for the soon to be ‘birth’ of a new “People of God.”
Jesus is talking about the neediest of society, the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned etc. Jesus is telling us those who live by faith, immediately feel compassion for these “little ones,” and the people of God are to ACT on what they see and feel without thinking. They act without thinking about personal gain; it is just what the People of God DO! And they do this because that is just how God thinks. The least and possibly the most needy are in God’s eyes at all times. God always hears their prayers loud and clear.
For example, in the minds of the people of Israel, who is the greatest king of all time? David! When the prophet came to choose the new kind of Israel, where was David? He wasn't even invited to face the prophet Samuel! Because his six (or so) other brothers were big and strong, it was ‘assumed’ Samuel would sure pick one of them, but certainly not young, ruddy, David… God chose David.
Why in blazes did God choose Moses? You think you have problems? Moses is guilty of murder, ran from living a life of luxury in the palaces of Cairo, and was now watching sheep for his father-in-law somewhere in no-mans land. But in God’s wisdom, Moses is the man to lead Israel out of slavery! He wasn’t even good at speaking, but God seemed to overlook that as well.
Back to the sheep and goats. If the goats are to be condemned, and I have no idea why the goats are being labeled the “bad guys,” sheep provided wool for blankets and clothing, but goats provided milk for their coffee (just kidding!), yogurt and maybe even cheese like foodstuffs!
I am sorry, but if you are arrogant to lump yourself into the fluffy white sheep, without thinking about the purpose of the Cross of Jesus, then you need to reexamine your heart and come to me for personal confession…
At this time in history, we are all goats because we have all “Fallen short of the Glory of God.” Amongst our church family we confess that, “we have sinned against God and each other in thought, word and dead… by what we have done, and left undone.”
So, according to Jesus’ teaching, what category do we all fall into??? Yup, we all be goats!! But it is the goats that Jesus came to forgive, heal, and open our eyes to faith. Jesus knew what category we would all fall into, so therefore, as he continued on his ministry into Jerusalem, Jesus was thinking about each and every one of us as he gave His life for our forgiveness. Then, so that we would now be able to use our hands to do God’s work, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to stir us up to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the strangers and VISIT the prisoners. Think of all the meanings the word, “prisoner” could have for all us in our world today?
We all know the song, “I just want to be a Sheep,” but before I can be called a sheep, Jesus will have to come to me, forgive me, and make me/us anew… Good to know, because that is what Jesus is all about! Amen.
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