SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:31-46
Today, we celebrate the end of the liturgical year with the feast of Christ, the King.
We will reflect upon what this Gospel reading tells us about Christ, the King, who rules over all. When we understand the King we serve, then we can appreciate the judgments He makes.
We will also grasp why the consequences are so dire for those who choose to disobey Him.
Matthew’s gospel reveals the rules for the Kingdom of God, rules that are very different from the ones in this world. A King reigns over all of His subjects and calls them to allegiance and obedience. The King also has the right to pronounce blessings and judgments according to His wisdom and character.
Our Scripture today relates what will occur on the final Judgment Day when the King separates the sheep (His disciples who served the needy) from the goats (His disciples who have failed to or refused to help the needy).
Often, when we listen to today’s passage, we focus on the King’s judgment. Most of us don’t like the idea of judgment. We don’t like the picture this parable presents of a God who blesses some and condemns others, particularly when the accursed don’t even seem to know why they are being condemned!
In the parable, both groups are surprised by Jesus’ final decision. The people to whom the King extended His blessing thought they were being given credit for things they had never done for the King.
They asked Him, “Master, when have we served you?”
The King responds in verse 40. “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.”
Similarly, the King judges those on the other side for ignoring the needs all around them. They were surprised to hear that they were destined for eternal punishment, while the righteous would enter into eternal life.
This lesson may make us uncomfortable because, on the surface, it sounds like salvation by works. But, we must remember that the parable’s point is that people already have differing relationships with the King, showing up in their actions. Those destined for eternal life paid attention to the needs of others.
Why did they do this? Because they understood that they belonged to their King. The others disregarded the needs of people who were all around them.
Why did they do this? Because they didn’t know their King and what He was about. Our salvation rests in our relationship with King Jesus.
When we do the kinds of things that our King does and care about the people He cares about, then we show others that Jesus is the real ruler and King.
The faithful are the ones who demonstrate to the whole world that Christ rules their lives and help others know Who He is.
This behavior means that whenever we feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. But our service to the needy is more than this. When we serve others, we also help Jesus, our King.
Allow me to share a personal story that relates to this. In August, I felt a spiritual urgency to visit a parishioner that I’ll call Mary (to protect her identity). Because she is seriously ill with 4th-stage cancer, I hadn’t been able to see Mary for a long time. But God brought us together.
As I drove to her home, I asked for God to lead me. Upon my arrival, her sister and brother-in-law welcomed me and showed me to Mary’s room where Mary and I talked.
While Mary shared stories with me, her countenance became peaceful; her eyes shined with new happiness. After I prayed and shared Holy Communion with her, Mary looked at me and said, “Thank you for coming to visit me.”
What Mary didn’t know was that at that time, I was feeling depressed.
When she said, “Thank you for visiting me,” I heard the voice of Jesus in my heart, also saying, “Thank you for coming to visit Me!”
That moment changed my life and brought me new meaning and purpose. It strengthened my pastoral ministry.
Ministry is an invitation to bless and be blessed, not only for a future when we arrive in heaven but also, here and now.
You will find Jesus when you recognize and serve people who are in need. And God will affirm and strengthen your ministerial call when you obey. Our actions proclaim that we know Christ and that He is our King.
So, I want to encourage you to intentionally serve the needy always, but especially whenever you feel low. Be inspired by these wise words from John Wesley:
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Lord, holy God, loving Father, you have given us the task to love one another because You have loved us before we could love You. Give us the ability to recognize Your Son in our brothers and sisters far and near. As we confess You as our Lord and King of our lives, Make us witnesses that this love exists and is alive and vibrant in us, and that You, the God of love, exist and are alive now forever.