Separation Day | Matthew 25:31-46
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 25:31–25:46
Christopher Rich – July 26, 2015
Rejection of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 4
Wk17: Separation Day | 25:31-46
Introduction | Final Fun Times with the End Times
Good Morning! We are closing our Summer Eschatology series looking at a particularly challenging section in Matthew Ch 24 and 25. These chapters are an extended period of teaching Jesus gives his disciples which falls into the category of Eschatology (Study of the End Times). When Jesus came first is was for salvation, when he returns it will be for Judgement. We will be accountable to King Jesus for our lives. This is true for all, those who currently have no concern for Jesus, and those who profess to know and follow him. The focus for disciples of Jesus is to remain vigilant during this in-between period between Jesus ascension and His return. The church’s call is not merely to keep watch, but goes deeper to include “keep working,” being diligent in good works using the resources we have been given. In this final section Jesus is going to tell them specifically what this looks like and what stakes are involved. Jesus is about to go to the cross and he is giving his last significant teaching to his disciples, he will come back and he will judge.
Matthew 25:31-46 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who 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 drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, 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 no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, 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.”
Verse 31-33 | Judge Jesus
In the previous teachings Jesus has used more vague parables about bridesmaids and servants. Here Jesus is moving from the vague concepts to crystal clear imperatives and implications. There are three main points to this greater section: Jesus will return, there will be a resurrection, and there will be judgement. While people like to debate when Jesus will return, and what the resurrection looks like, seeing these concepts as easy to accept, but we avoid the topic of a final Judgement like the plague. Yet of these three promises, in light of a good Creator God, the first two do not make any worldly sense Jesus will return? Why? When He created He was disobeyed. When he came in the flesh to save he was rejected, why return? A resurrection of the dead? Why? God has given us this life as a gift and we simply squander it, at the end of our days when we have breathed our last it seems fitting because of all we have been given.
But then there is a final judgment. We buckle at this idea and yet it makes perfect sense. We all know we are accountable for what we do. We take test in school, we get evaluations at work, we play games and either win or lose, we treat others well and there is joy and flourishing we treat others poorly and relationships fall apart. We all know there are moments of judgement in our lives. We all know we have been given a life to use and we will be judged for how we have used it. We do not like the idea because each of us knows in our heart of hearts how inadequate we are how often we fail to measure up to our own standards let alone those of a perfect holy God; when faced with the moment of final judgement.
Jesus says I will come back then there will be judgement and at that judgement there will be a great separation. Jesus is a good shepherd. He knows his sheep. He echoes this: Ezekiel 34:17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. In the here and now, Jesus’ people are completely intertwined with those who are not His. There are, and will be, two distinct classes. There are two sides, two classes, and two fates. This is important; there isn’t variety of destinations or distinctions. There are those who are told to come into the kingdom and those who are told to depart. But what defines these two categories? We see Blessed Sheep who get to come into the kingdom, they care for others and have received eternal life. Cursed Goats are told to depart, they neglect others, and receive eternal punishment. “But God is a God of love, He would not judge.”
Verse 34-40 | Justified FOR Good Works
This seems like the most graceless passage in Jesus teaching. We miss the grace because it is so thick it covers all of this. Jesus starts with gracious blessing “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.” When you have been blessed by God, you will be a blessing to others. Let’s not take this section out of the greater context of the whole book of Matthew that says in chapter 1 Jesus came to “save his people from their sins”. But let us also not make the other mistake and act like what Jesus is saying here isn’t significant or worthy of our focused attention. Our justification (right standing) before God is not dependent on our good works. However, good works will flow from our justification. Order matters. One is living seeking and striving to please God. The other is knowing God is pleased with us in the work of Jesus and living and striving because of what he has done and who we now are. What we believe about God, what He has accomplished, and who we are in response will affect how we live. If you know you are purchased by God from sin for good works, you will walk them out. Grace given and received is a grace that motivates. The sheep are not saved because of their works or good lives. They are blessed by the Father first! Then they are blessing. Jesus doesn’t lead with the good works being the reason for entrance but the blessing from God. Because sheep are blessed they were a blessing to others. Their good lives are evidence of the work God has done in saving them. This is what King Jesus tells His people as he lays out specifics.
I was>you did. Hungry>Food, Thirsty>Drink, Stranger>Welcomed, Naked>Clothed, Sick, Imprisoned > Visited. This list gets repeated four times in this section, I am guessing it is a little important. It is a primer of what it means to be an active disciple of Jesus. Jesus ministry has been overwhelmingly pointed at the poor, marginalized, even children. His disciples will be those who take up the same ministry of service. James 2:14-17 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Dead faith doesn’t save anyone. James Boyce says “We are not justified by works. But if we do not have works, we are not justified. We are not Christians.” It is hard giving a plain reading of this text not to agree. God has forgiven us of much and served us greatly; if we are born again (regenerate) we will do what has been done to us. Jesus came to serve and if we are to be followers of Jesus we will need to serve. Jesus mission was other focused so we are others focused. We will be accountable for how we used or didn’t use our opportunities to serve others. That should be sobering “You did to one of the least of these.” Who are the least of these? Anyone who others do not see as valuable. How do you respond when you’re confronted with the issues, and injustices of the world? What is your first reaction? We can easily look at the problems of the world and become overwhelmed. So we throw our hands up, vote for politicians who will tell us they’ll take care of the “least” people with other people’s money (so we don’t have to get our hands dirty), like statues on Facebook that call attention to issues we think we should care about, and otherwise turn the channel, scroll to the next post and hope to forget the problems that are too big for us to deal with. The truth is the problems are too big for us to solve, yet we each have an individual responsibility. Jesus doesn’t say only those who run big nonprofits or have thousands of volunteer hours have fulfilled this requirement for salvation. He says if you’ve done this to “one” of the least of these. (Cool, I’ll help one person once and I’m all clear.) No it is a lifelong disposition towards the needs of others over yourself. Why do we struggle with this? Why does this not come naturally to us? Because we don’t see value in the least.
Verse 41-45 | Graceless Goats
The second group will not inherit; it will be condemned. But condemned to what? Jesus is remarkably clear about this. You are cursed, not blessed, you will go to a place not prepared for you for joy but prepare for the devil and his angels (demons) as a place of separation and punishment, with eternal fire and punishment. What does that place sound like? Hell. Its real, real people will go there, and the will be there for eternity. This is why the gospel is so offensive because if Jesus takes the wrath your sin deserves on the cross and you are spared from wrath to eternal life if you trust in Him, then it implies quite simply there are eternal consequence for sin we have to be spared from. Most of us believe in what RC Sproul calls a doctrine of “Justification by Death” You die and you go to heaven, that’s it. Our Hell, if it’s real, has a population of three types people, Hitler, racists, and dentists who shoot popular lions. Yet here we see Jesus says hell is real and the demographic is much broader then we think. Other Times in parables Jesus says wicked will be punished for actively opposing God, attacking His servants, and killing His Son. Here judgement and condemnation comes merely to those who fail to engage and care for the “least of these” when given the opportunity. Goats have no concept of grace (receiving something you don’t deserve) so they are unable to extend it to others. Goats see the least and find them without value. Jesus tells them you didn’t serve me and they come with an excuse. But Jesus, if we had seen you we definitely would have helped you; you are worthy of help.
Apparently you can believe some big and great things about Jesus, even believe He is worth serving and following, but if it doesn’t lead to an active life of seeing the needs in front of you and responding it is not saving belief. Anyone can serve the great, the inspiring, the magnificent, but disciples will be defined by serving the least. Serving greatness is easy, serving the least is unrewarding. They couldn’t see the face of Jesus in the face of the needy. Faith and belief that only focus on yourself (avoiding wrath) and doesn’t turn to others (giving grace) is not Christ-like because Jesus came for others. He didn’t have to come at all. When you are only wrapped up in your concerns and what is happening in your life you do not have eyes to see or ears to hear the plight of others. The sin of graceless goats is a sin of omission. It wasn’t that they were active in evil but they were inactive in doing good. In the Band of Brothers episode “Why we Fight” you see the villagers of Landsberg are seen as complacent in what happened in the concentration camp through their inaction to stop what was happening. They didn’t actively sin against the Jews in the camp; they were the least in their society and did not see them as valuable enough to help. They were sentenced to bury the dead of the camp to their shame. Everyone in need is valuable enough to be the object of a disciple’s benevolence. No one is so “least” they are not worthy of our care and concern. That is the key principal Jesus wants his disciples to see. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He didn’t have a form that we should regard him positively. We love Jesus because of who he is (God’s Son) What he’s done (Died for us), not what he looks like. In the same way we are to look at others as they are “image bearers of God”, see the face of Jesus in theirs, feel the heart Jesus has for them, and act in the way modeled by our savior.
This is a call to open our eyes…..There is no such thing as an ambivalent Christian. There are simply things going on we don’t want to know about. We are called to be aware of the pain and difficulties in the world. When we see something that is disturbing we should not recoil and pretend it’s not happening or doesn’t affect us. When we see something difficult we tend to turn away. We need to take a good look, find where the face of Jesus is and press in! Who are the least God has put right in front of us?
The past several winters numerous homeless people died of exposure. Over 400 households in Snohomish County who lack adequate shelter/housing – eg they’re sleeping outdoors, in camp grounds, in their cars or “couch surfing” on friends/neighbors/relatives couches. In 2013 there were 1,800 children aborted in Snohomish County in the last decade there were 24k children aborted (City of Lake Stevens pop 28,000) Liberty Elementary - 84% on Free or reduced school lunch (up 20% in the last 10 years) ranks 6percentile. According to Snohomish County Sheriff Detective over 100,000+ juveniles are trafficked here each year.
This isn’t a drive by guilting for us to care for a few moments or grab one extra backpack, it is a radical call to simply open your eyes and care. Not a worldly care that makes you feel a little bad until the next distraction. Care in a way that leads to actions. I fail at this all the time. I think I know what people’s issues are when I first meet them. I can grow callous, yet that is not how Jesus responds to me, to us. If you’ve received the grace of God you can and will show it to others.
This is a call to action… What does this look like at Damascus Road?
Poverty/Homeless: Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, Everett Gospel Mission, Housing Hope
Children (Unborn, Uncared for, Unequipped): Pregnancy Resource Center, Foster the Gospel(Adoption), Liberty Elementary, Compassion International - Russel Moore, “it is time for the reborn to stand up for the unborn.”
Clothing the Naked (REST, Peoria House) Sex and human trafficking is happening in our region, our county and even in our cities. We need to care, to stand up and say not here, not now. There are young women and girls who are nightly being exposed to great shame, violence. We as the church can be there with open arms with the garment of grace covering the shame and scars and offer a new identity in Jesus who restores.
Verse 46 | Decision time
Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. There will be the time when we will have no more to say. God will close our mouths and open his. In the eternal punishment is full of people who see the pain and plight of others, care little, and do nothing. It is an eternity of selfishness. The alternative is the eternal Kingdom where the blessed of God seek to bless others. This is pretty simple, which one would you want to be in? All of us are the least! Jesus saw our need and saves us. Jesus is the bread of Life who satisfies our hunger Jesus is the cup whoever drinks will not be thirsty. Jesus is our adopted brother who even though we are estranged from God welcomes us into his Family. Jesus is our shelter who takes our rages of sin and clothes us in His righteousness. Jesus knowing our spiritual terminal sickness and sentence to death row comes, makes us whole and sets us free. Trust Jesus!