Summary: This is a sermon based around Matthew 25:31-46 to explain why EMMS International is committed to working with some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world in India, Malawi and Nepal.
“ BE A BIT SHEEPISH”
I want to start by saying at the end of what I have to say I want to make a strange and what might sound an unattractive offer. I want to invite you to be a bit sheepish, hopefully that invitation will make a bit more sense if we read and think about one of Jesus lesser known parables
The Sheep and the Goats: Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
One biblical scholar has said the parable we have just read is the least popular of all of Jesus’ parables. That is probably because it deals with a subject we would rather avoid, judgement and what it teaches is controversial because it seems to connect judgement with “good works” rather than “grace.”
The unpopularity of its main subject and the difficulty in understanding some of what it teaches has meant that Christians have all too often missed what Jesus clearly says about what his expectations for those who claim to be His authentic followers are.
Jesus says that His followers will be known for
• Providing emergency aid to those facing starvation and drought … “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink”
• Providing clothing and shelter for the destitute … “I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me”
• Providing care and treatment to the sick … “I was sick and you looked after me”
• Providing comfort to those facing injustice … “I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Jesus calls these people in such dire need “the least of these” in other words, they are people at the bottom of society, the most vulnerable and marginalised people going through the most difficult of circumstances and he says those who claim Him as their King have a special responsibility to towards such people. There is no way to avoid the fact that Jesus teaches here that our heart and service towards the poor and marginalized reflect our heart and service to Him.
Jesus, in one sense, isn’t saying anything new or novel here, he is just restating and reinforcing the message of the Old Testament, that God’s People had to show a special care and compassion for those in need, the poorest people.
In fact, Isaiah summing up the whole of the OT, like Jesus, said that our claim to be God’s people is proven to be false if we don’t share our God’s special concern for those most in need