Judgment

 

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:31-46

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations [Ethnos] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his 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 creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ 44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ 46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

Introduction

This is not a parable, it is a prophecy. Jesus is talking about a universal judgment that includes all nations [ethnos]. I don’t generally disagree with W.W. Wiersbe but his commentary on this scripture is weak. He states that Paul uses the word ethnos to describe all nations other than Jews but Jesus never used the word in this way and this is Jesus talking. I must admit there is a lot of mystery here as in chapter 24 but I think we can make some general comments and be on solid ground.

[1] THERE IS GOING TO BE A JUDGMENT AND ALL ACCOUNTABLE HUMAN BEING ARE GOING TO HAVE TO STAND BEFORE CHRIST.

The story about the talents is about accountability. All of us who are beyond the state of innocence must give an account for the life we have lived and the choices we have made. This day of reckoning is coming. I don’t know when and I admit I don’t know details but we will all stand before Christ. We will all be judged. There are millions who do not seem to be aware of our accountability but aware or not, we are accountable. Whereas we are free to makes choices, we are not free of the consequences of those choices.

I went on my first Mission Trip, if you can call it a mission trip [not questioning the trip but my ability as a missionary], back in 1986. I was 36 years old which was much younger than I realized at the time. We went to Nigeria in Africa. When we got into the country, every member of the team except myself went to the bank and transferred some America dollars into Naira [Nigerian dollars]. I decided I would wait. Then I discovered that the Nigerians loved American dollars. One American dollar would buy three cokes [cold]. Several people told me not to do it but I used dollars all week. At the souvenir shops, I was getting 20 to one over what the others were getting because I used dollars. There money was worthless, I knew it and they knew it. All went well until we began doing our paper work to get out of the country. They brought me a balance sheet. I had to account for all the money I had brought into the country. I had forgotten that I filled out a similar sheet when I came into the country and obviously my money did not balance out. I had spent one hundred American dollars and there was no way I could balance my funds.

The older guys were having a ball with this. I was the most home sick cat in the bunch and they were saying, “You aren’t going home. You are staying in Nigeria because you broke their law and you can’t reconcile your balance sheet.” In truth, they were praying for me and one of them came up with a solution. He had lacked $100 declaring enough when he came in to Nigeria so he allowed me to carry the $100 out. The moral of the story was: I was accountable but did not fully realize how much. I was accountable all along but I just didn’t realize the consequences. I was saved by grace and grace is the only way any of us will be saved from God’s judgment.

Make no mistake; we are all accountable and we will stand before Christ someday.

[2] THERE ARE GOING TO BE SOME SURPRIZES.

In this story, the wicked [goats] don’t remember being wicked. They do not see themselves as deserving of judgment. The presume innocence but there is not argument once the sentence is pronounced. The righteous [sheep] don’t remember being righteous. They are not even aware of their good deeds. The wicked did not remember their sin: they assumed they were all right.  I think 1 Corinthians 10:12 would be in order today, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” The second admonition that comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.” I am not trying to get you to doubt your faith: I just want to remind you that your faith must be in the atoning work of Christ. A goat is not going to slip by the Shepherd. You are going to have to be a sheep to get in and your were born a goat. You have to be born again to become a sheep. The primary difference between the two animals is their nature: Goats are self-willed. They are exceedingly rebellious. Sheep are smelly and ignorant but they do  not have the rebellious nature of the goat.

[3] WE ARE SAVED BY GRACE BUT THIS SAVING GRACE IS POWERFUL AND IT TRANSFORMS OUR NATURE. OUR NATURE IS REVEALED NOT BY WHAT WE SAY BUT HOW WE RESPOND.

If you punch at a worm, it curls up or rolls over. If you punch at a snake, it strikes back immediately. The snake does not have to think to respond. Snakes react, they don’t think about it our pray about. You threaten them, they strike at you.

There is an old proverb: put a rat in front of a cat and you’ll find out if you have a cat. Put a needy person in front of a Christian and you will find out if you have a real Christian. In this story, the righteous are their brothers keepers. They feed the hungry. They give water to the thirsty. They help strangers, people they don’t even know. They invite people in to their homes and show hospitality. They give clothes to those who need them. They visit the sick. They visit those in prison. They remember the persecuted. What stands out about these things? Nothing, they are all simple things. Do I need to be gifted to visit a nursing home or a hospital? Must I be wealthy to give away a coat, a pair of jeans, a pint of blood? Do I have to have a special gift to help a stranger. NO! This is the beauty of it: we don’t have to be gifted or rich but we must have a compassionate heart and only Christ can give us this heart that cares for others.

You are, we are being judged every day by the way we treat others. The great judgment is simply going to reveal the truth to us.

The verse in this passage that challenges me is verse 40, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Then look at verse 45 to see the mirror opposite…. ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ We have to see Jesus in others.

I want to tell you a story about a man named Francesco [which means the Frenchman] or at least that is the nickname given to him by his father. Being the son of a wealthy textile merchant, Francesco had the best of everything but early in life he revealed his unhappiness with this world. His father left him to sale his merchandize but Francesco would give away more then he would sale to the displeasure of his father. Francesco served in the military twice and was a POW for over a year. It was during these times that he did a lot of meditating. When he finished his second stint in the army, he renounced his wealth and took a vow to poverty. He spent the rest of his life helping others and preaching the gospel. According to his testimony, the defining moment was when he got off his horse and went over to a leper and hugged him. His face was scarred and wretched but after hugging him, Francesco saw the face of Christ. He was never the same from that moment. Francesco became known as St. Francis of Assisi.

Martin of Tours was a Roman Soldier and a Christian. Late one winter day, he was entering the city where he served and a beggar was pleading for alms. Martin did not have a cent. He took off his cloak and pulled out his sword and cut the garment in half giving one half to the beggar who was shivering in the cold. That night Martin had a dream. In the dream he saw Jesus wearing half of a Roman Soldier’s cloak. It was a defining moment for Martin.

Many years ago, on a Friday, I was returning from the abortion clinic in Huntsville. I was discouraged because few preachers would take a stand on the issue and quite a few looked down on me for my involvement in the pro-life movement. This passage came to my mind. I cried out to Jesus, “We are still killing You aren’t we, surely these little unborn babies represent the least of these. Folks we cannot be mean and unloving to our neighbor without it hurting our Savior.

 

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