20 November 2011Matthew 25:31-46
"Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." (v. 45)
In this passage Jesus is speaking to his disciples in private,
on the Mount of the Olives (Matthew
24:3). It follows what is essentially a tirade against missed
opportunities (the parables of the talents (Matthew
25:14-30), and the ten bridesmaids both warn against such a
prospect (Matthew 25:1-13)), foolishness, and letting
Jesus down (the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew
18:23-35)). However, despite all Jesus' threats through these
parables of what may await those who get it wrong, it is only once
we reach verse 31, that we see just how serious these proclamations
are. Jesus is not just an idle preacher with a touch of fire and
brimstone about him, but the one who can fully back up what he is
And the Son of Man deals with those who have got their actions right, and those who have not, in very serious terms. While those who noticed and helped the naked, sick and imprisoned will inherit the kingdom, those who did not "depart from me into the eternal fire" (v. 41).
However the finality of this judgement makes you feel, it is a subject that is well worth considering; how do we feel about a God that we love, but might not like? After all, doesn't this same Jesus when questioned about forgiveness (Matthew 18:22) answer that it should take place at least (depending on your translation) 77 times? Have those addressed in our passage failed to clothe the naked, and thus reached their 77th sin? Has the unchangeable God's patience run out? Perhaps, but what seems clear is in this message from Jesus is:
- you cannot decide how and when God will make judgements about your behaviour, but ...
- you can be sure that God is aware of how you live and treat other people, and where the responsibility lies.
Perhaps it's a product of the litigious society we live
in, or my failure to fully acknowledge our true salvation through
Jesus' actions on the cross, but this portrait of authoritative
judgement is one that makes me afraid. However, in a different
situation to my own, this could be a most welcome picture. Today
(20 November) is Women Against Violence Sunday, and there must be
countless situations all across the world involving women, children
and men where those who are oppressed and abused long for someone
to fight their corner and bring to justice, and make accountable,
those who cause them harm, or deny them that which they need. Jesus
tells us that actions against others are actions against him, and
this passage tells us just how serious Jesus takes these
How far are you standing up for injustice in the same ways that Jesus does?
Just as we expect to be forgiven, to what extent are you forgiving as much as you should be?