Summary: Jesus knows us by how we love those in need around us.
Christ the King Sunday Matthew 25:31-46 24 November 2002
Rev. Roger Haugen
“The West Wing” is a popular television program that documents the life in the White House. All of the intrigue and events of the day are reflected in the weekly episode. This past week begins with the president faced with another of many “situations”. He is wisked off to the situation room in the basement of the White House, a room that is entered only after your palm print is read by a plate on the wall.
The Swiss ambassador has brought word from Iraq that the son of the Ayatollah has a congenital heart condition that requires a heart and lung transplant. The U.S. is the only country in the world that has done it successfully and the brother-in-law of the Ayatollah is asking for help.
All the political advisors gathered around the table are debating the political ramifications, how doing the operation or not doing it, will be read by public opinion, how it will be seen by political groups inside and outside of Iraq. What was the cost, how could we make use of this? Even Leo Magary, the president’s top advisor, suggests that they use this incident to stop Iraq’s of missile program. President Bartlett explodes, “This is a 15 year old non-combatant on the way to the hospital. Imagine a big red cross on that airplane, it will not be turned around.”
The next problem is that the only surgeon available is a refugee from Iraq. His father was tortured by Iraq and his family still lived there. President Bartlett turned to his wife, a heart doctor, for advice. She said, “He doesn’t have a choice. He is a doctor, and a doctor will treat the patient right in front of him.” The surgery was done.
For the President, it was not a question of politics – it was just something that decent human beings did for other human beings. You might have thought the writers read today’s text when they wrote this episode. This is Christianity 101. It can and does get more complicated than this, but it never gets more important. For the first and clearly the last question that is asked is, “Who did you help?” [Debra Fortel]
Matthew speaks of the final judgment. “When the Son of man comes in his glory” he will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. He will do it on the basis of how they helped or did not help those around them, those in need. There is surprise for everyone. The sheep are surprised because they did not know they were doing anything special when they helped others and the goats are surprised because they miscalculated what was important and who was not.
The righteous made no calculation as to who to help or not, that was simply what they did. “When was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?” Matthew is not saying, “pretend Jesus is in people and that will help you to love them”. The sheep loved people because of who they were as people. The loving was real, it was not meant to enhance their relationship with Jesus. There were no calculations.
The unrighteous made calculations and did not help those they felt unworthy, and that declared them unrighteous. Of course, if they knew it was Jesus, they would have helped. They asked the same questions, “When did we . . .” The difference was that in their calculations of worthiness or reward, they decided not to act.
The righteous simply act because there are people in need. It is a surprise to them that they are found righteous. Most of us have had similar surprises. Someone comes up and says, “What you said sure helped me a lot.” Or “You’ll never know how much your kind actions mean to me.” We search our memories to remember what we said or did that was so great. It was just the right thing to do or say at the time.
This past week we had many volunteers here taking applications for the Empty Stocking Fund hampers. There have been many phone calls coming into their office with offers of help, money and time. Many people offering themselves simply because there is a need and they want to help. I think most of them would be surprised to know that they are caring for Jesus, that Jesus says, “come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”
An army chaplain was visiting wounded soldiers in the hospital. The chaplain offered to read some Bible passages to one young soldier. But the soldier said, “I’m cold,” so the chaplain wrapped his own coat around the young man. Next, the soldier asked for something to drink. The chaplain propped up the soldier’s head and held his own water canteen to the young man’s lips. Then the chaplain asked again if he could read some passages to the young man. This time, the soldier replied, “If there is anything in that Bible that caused you to do what you’ve done for me, yes. Please read to me that part of the Bible”. Jerry Fuller