Day Thirty-six: Monday, July 27th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 25:31-46
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“When did we see you?”
Moving from one chapter to the next usually signals what might sound obvious, that one chapter in the saga has ended, and a new one has begun. That is not the case in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Early in chapter 24 the disciples approach Jesus with the question of “When?” We spent time exploring the question of “When?” as we did our readings last week. Although the disciples wanted to know “When?”, this past Friday we heard Jesus tell two parables that did not answer the question “When?” Instead these parables told us we must always be ready. We must keep watch. Although the chapter titles change from 24 to 25, Jesus never stops the long speech he began in the early verses of chapter 24. Our Lord told us to keep watch and to be ready and then he gave us the parable of the virgins with their lamps, which concludes with this admonition, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” He then told about settling accounts. The ones who used their “talents” wisely heard the words of their master saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Now we come to the final parable Jesus tells that relates to the question of “When?” Each parable in Matthew 25 serves to magnify the importance of keeping watch and being ready. The third parable is one of the most well known and certainly one of the most frequently quoted parables Jesus told. After welcoming all those who saw him hungry and gave him something to eat, who saw him thirsty and gave him something to drink, who saw him a stranger and invited him in, who saw him needing clothes and gave him clothing, who saw him sick and looked after him, and who saw him in prison and visited, the surprising revelation is that, “Whatever you did for the one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”
If we have not lost sight of the question of “When?” which spurred this whole lengthy speech, we will find ourselves ready to hear an absolutely extraordinary commentary on the life we live here on earth. The disciples “When?” question wanted to know when the end would come. Jesus turns that question on its head by telling us the “When?” question is not limited to the future or the end of the world or to the end times. “When?” has to do with every time…every time we encounter ones whom Jesus terms, “The least of these.” How we respond “when” we meet the least of these right here on planet earth has eternal significance.
The words Jesus uses are full of meaning. Jesus says blessed are those who fed the hungry and gave drink to those who thirst. Those words, hunger and thirst, are words we have heard before in the Gospel of Matthew. Hunger and thirst are words Jesus has said before in the Gospel of Matthew. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” In this parable, a parable that is truly glorious, a parable where the Son of Man comes in glory and sits on his throne in heavenly glory, in this parable Jesus reveals that those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, yes, those whose hunger and thirst for righteousness was so strong that they actually fed the hungry and gave drink to those who thirst, in this parable Jesus reveals that those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness will one day hear these precious words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
When? Now. When? Whenever we see…the least ones. When? In countless acts of kindness, compassion, righteousness, justice, mercy, peacemaking. When? In offering love to the ones who are the least.
We must not overlook the importance of this last parable. Now as chapter 25 ends, we truly do enter a new chapter. Chapter 26 will mark the final move of Jesus to the cross. These last chapters of the gospel will show us what Jesus came to die for. In the final parable of chapter 25, Jesus clearly shows us what to live for. Jesus shows us who to live for. We are called to live for the ones our Lord calls the least. And whatever we do to the least, we do unto Jesus.
“It is easy to read this passage and miss the gospel. As we watch sheep and goats being separated for eternity, we may see and preach little more than a humanitarian call to work on behalf of society’s undervalued members. Subsequently, salvation is understood as that which we achieve. Instead, this Scripture testifies that salvation is something we discover, often when we least expect it…the righteous are surprised to realize they had cared for the King of creation; evidently, they simply shared who they were and what they had freely, without calculation or expectation…the unrighteous are shocked that they missed opportunities to show love to the King; had they known God was in their midst, they have done the right thing. Yet, the King is looking for a natural overflowing of love, not calculated efforts designed to project a certain image. This is the kind of love Jesus has come to demonstrate and to share.” (Lindsay, P. Armstrong, Feasting on the Word, Year A, volume 4, p. 337)