THE CLIMAX OF THE AGE
Lord, give me a heart for the needy.
Read MATTHEW 25:31–46
The Sheep and the Goats
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he 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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart” (1 Cor. 4:5).
The climax of Matthew’s eschatological discourse is another parable, picturing all the nations gathered for judgment at Jesus’ glorious return. “All the nations” (32) means the people of every nation. As a shepherd separates animals, the people are divided into two groups. There is no significance in the actual animals, or the left and right; these are simply devices speaking of separation.
Those to his right the King welcomes into the consummated kingdom, the palingenesia of 19:28 (“creation again,” or “the renewal of all things”). They cared for Jesus’ needs as he suffered. The righteous are perplexed: when did this happen? It occurred when they welcomed, clothed, fed, visited and cared for “the least of these [Jesus’] brothers and sisters” (40). Traditionally, the word translated “brothers and sisters” (just “brother” in older translations) is read as “all people.” However, the way Matthew uses the word elsewhere suggests that this refers to fellow Christians. So, while at a secondary level this passage calls Christians to care for the needy and especially suffering believers, final judgment is based on our response to Christ’s message. Have we received the Gospel and responded to the needs of his people? Let us continue to embrace the Gospel while showing compassion to everyone in need.
Think of those who minister in your own church. Consider doing something generous for one or all of them, to encourage them.
Lord, Your people understand the high regard that You have for the poor and oppressed, and we respond in obedience to Your desires.