Summary: Proper 29 (A). Last Sunday of the Church Year. Christ judges the sheep as good and righteous because the sheep live in the Lamb, and His love covers their sin.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Love is blind”
Today we are observing the Last Sunday of the Church year, also called Christ the King Sunday. And so, the readings are focused on the end times and the last things. Perhaps you have noticed that increasing theme, from the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, who killed the King’s son sent to collect the harvest, to the King’s Wedding banquet, where a wedding crasher tried to sneak in without a robe of righteousness, and was cast into the darkness, to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and how when the bridegroom came suddenly, the foolish went to find the oil, and were locked out of the wedding feast.
Now, we turn to the parable concerning the events of that Last Day, of Judgment Day. Christ Himself tells us this story, so we must not trivialize it or overlook it. Nor can we wish it away. It is an inescapable fact that our Lord shall return, and that He shall judge all people.
We would prefer to think only of the baby Jesus, or of the miracle working Jesus. We often consider the crucified Christ, and the risen Savior. And we don’t mind at all thinking about our ascended Lord as ruling and governing the world even now, although in our hearts we might think from time to time that He ought to do a better job of it, one more to our liking. Or at least I have heard that some people feel that way. I shall leave it to you to consider whether such thoughts take the occasional stroll through your own heart.
But that is not the focus of our text today. Today we see Christ as Judge. Have you ever been in a courtroom? Perhaps some of you have. It is a reverential experience. When the judge is there, and you know that he has all authority, it sends the electric through you. Even when you are not the defendant.
So how much more will it be, when on that day, the Lord and King of the entire universe, who created all and is in all, and more than that, simply is all in all – when He sits on the judgment seat, judging all flesh. And more specifically, judging us. Me. You. Each of Us. And not just on how we seem to look and act that day. But that He knows fully and completely every thought, every word, every act, of our entire lives. Nothing is outside His knowledge.
If you are thinking about it at all right now, then you know that it is more than one can comprehend, and it is more than one can even bear to think about. We know, each of us, the sorry set of facts that tell of the story of our lives. And it is not one we want printed in the newspaper (New York Times, USA Today, or name of local paper) for all to see.
So the Lord lines them up. He sorts them out, and puts the sheep on His right and the goats to His left.
He starts with the sheep. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (verses 34-36)
The sheep say, “When did we ever see You?” “When you have done it to the least, you have done it to me.”
Then to the goats He says, “‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’” (verse 41-43)
And they say, “When did we ever see You?” “You did not do to the least, and so you did not do to Me.”
It is surprising isn’t it. Or it ought to be surprising. What is? That in answer to His pronouncements, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil, the sheep and the goat, both say the exact same thing!! “When did we ever see You?” Neither of them saw the Lord in need. It is not that the sheep saw the Lord, and the goats did not. Neither of them did. So what is the difference? What happened? What is going on here?