Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World

That's What He Said, The Least of These

November 25, 2020 Pastor Dave Tucker Season 4 Episode 24
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
That's What He Said, The Least of These
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Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
That's What He Said, The Least of These
Nov 25, 2020 Season 4 Episode 24
Pastor Dave Tucker

The theological implications of today’s text are profound. Jesus is saying, That God is more concerned about how we treat each other than anything else.

Based on  Matthew 25:31-46 

Show Notes Transcript

The theological implications of today’s text are profound. Jesus is saying, That God is more concerned about how we treat each other than anything else.

Based on  Matthew 25:31-46 

The Least of These
Matthew 25:31-46

 On this Christ the King Sunday, we end our series, “That’s What He Said.” with another parable of sorts. Appropriately, this is a narrative about the Kingdom, and about judgement, and about how we treat each other. To be honest, this parable… which isn’t really a parable, but more like an allegory, created quite a bit of discomfort for me. This teaching of Jesus goes against our understanding of salvation through grace alone by adding a works-oriented dimension on how we are judged. What is this message saying to us today? How do we reconcile the two concepts of both grace and works? It is almost as if Jesus is saying you are saved by grace… and…works. It IS what He said, so we need to dig deeper into what is going on in this parable. So, let us invite the Holy Spirit to join us this morning to illuminate the passage that we are about to study.

[Prayer for illumination]

Our scripture reading is in Matthew 25:31-46:

Matt. 25:31   “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.”

 This text starts out by setting the stage as to who the Son of Man is… He is Jesus, the Son of God…. God with flesh on. Jesus is talking about his return in clouds of glory with angels and a throne! Jesus is talking about two groups of people. Those who have been identified as sheep and those identified as Goats. Now I like sheep… and I like goats. And in Jesus’ time often shepherds would keep goats along with sheep in their flock. So, I am not so sure this is so much about sheep and goats as it is, where they separated to. Throughout the Bible there is a bit of code going on. If I were to create a decoder ring for the Bible one thing I would put on it would be that the right hand is always the good hand to be on… the left, not so much. In fact, in the Old Testament, one begins to wonder if God even has a left hand… because God keeps talking to God’s people as being favored and at His right hand. 

         Suffice it to say, the theological implications of today’s text are profound. Jesus is saying, That God is more concerned about how we treat each other than anything else.” There are some radical and interesting things going on here that we need to pay attention to as we dig deeper into today’s text. The first is that this is a radical statement about God. “The God of the Bible is not a remote supreme being on a throne up there above the clouds or out there somewhere in the mysterious reaches of the universe.” (John Buchanan, Feasting On the Word) God is here with us. In the faces of the downtrodden and forgotten and the oppressed. “Do you want to see the face of God? Look into the face of one of the least of these, the vulnerable, the weak, the children.” (John Buchanan, Feasting On the Word)

         The second radical statement of this text is about the practice of religion. You cannot read the paper without being concerned about the role religion plays in the world.” (John Buchanan, Feasting On the Word) People are mistreated and oppressed and ‘othered’ all in the name of religion. It saddens me to see people oppressed by Christians because they live differently, act differently, behave differently than what would be considered normal moral Christian behavior. An extreme example would be the shenanigans of Westboro Baptist Church. A subtler example would be how some Christians have elevated a president to the position of Messiah. The Bible says that Jesus ate with the prostitutes, the tax collectors and other sinners. Right now, you are saying, “But Pastor Dave, we need to call people out for their sins!” to which my reply is, do we? What if we, as Christians, demonstrated the beauty of Christ and His love in our lives to the point that people’s lives are forever changed for having known us… That’s what Jesus did!

         The third most important and radical thing about this text, however, is not social, political, economic, or religious. It is personal. Perhaps the most important thing God wants is US… all of us!  God is a God of love who wants to save our souls… to use the language of the old revival meetings. God wants to save our souls and redeem us and give us the gift of life—true, deep, authentic human life. God wants to save us by touching our hearts with love. God wants to save us by persuading us to care and see other human beings who need us (John Buchanan, Feasting On the Word)… I mean really see them… In the messy and the often unlovable. 

         I wonder if perhaps this text is less about the final judgement, and more about how we live our lives in the here and now. As we enter into the Advent season, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Jesus is talking about how to live out the kingdom of God as a result of encountering Jesus by reading through the gospels. Could it be that our lives can be changed forever by becoming red letter Christians and living by “What He Said?” Could it be that we can turn this world upside down by helping others do the same?

         You want to see the face of God?  Are you ready for it? Because seeing the face of God means that we can only see it by looking in the faces of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.

Journal Prompts:

·       Five daily Gratitudes.

·       Is there anything about the Parable of the Sheep and Goats that troubles you?

·       Reread verses 31-33 of Matthew 25. Describe the scene in your own words. Where are you in this story?

·       What do you make of the fact that both the sheep and the goats express surprise about the standard by which they’ve been judged? How do you explain their surprise?