Summary: A look at separating sheep and goats
Preached at Christ Church, Billericay on 26 November 2017
Title: Sins of Omission
Reading: Matt 25:31-46
Christ the King
Today we are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. As this is the last Sunday of the church year it is fitting that we remember Jesus has taken his seat in heaven and is king of the universe, and king for eternity. Next week is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of a new year, when we will begin again looking at the promises of that a Messiah would come.
The feast of Christ the King is a relatively new addition to the church calendar. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and has been adopted by many Protestant churches.
I imagine that most of us don’t think about Jesus as king very often. That’s probably because we no longer really understand the power that a king or queen has. Perhaps our only understanding of that power is from Alice in Wonderland where the queen of hearts shouts ‘off with his head’ a number of times. This gives the idea of the king and queen a pantomime feel, and takes away the seriousness with which kings and queens used to be treated.
In medieval times, if the king had arrived in your village and needed to stay the night, his entourage would simply have commandeered the best house in the village and chucked the occupants out. Anyone who protested would end up on the gallows. So as the king arrived there would have been a lot of justifiable fear, but also a lot of work to make him feel as at home as possible. Of course, as easily as the king could ruin your life, he could also improve it, by giving you land, or riches, or a position in society – but that didn’t happen very often.
King = Justice
The king was also the final arbiter in any argument - his say was final. In that respect he defined justice. His approach to justice shaped everyone in his kingdom’s approach to justice. If a dispute was heard before the king it was judgement day for the people concerned.
In Matthew 24 & 25 Jesus is talking about the final judgement that will happen at the end of the age. He warns the disciples that they must be ready and watchful and to continue to do Gods business as they wait for His return.
Each of the stories makes a point about the coming judgement. The wicked servant at the end of chapter 24 who mistreats the servants in his charge will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The story of the ten virgins at the start of chapter 25, reminds the disciples to be adequately prepared in case the wait for Jesus’ return is longer than they expect. The ones who failed to be prepared are not allowed into the wedding feast, which represents the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says to them “I do not know you”
The parable of the talents, which we heard Margaret talk about last week reminds us to keep our faith, and do the work that God has given us gifts for. And not to bury Gods truths.
Then there is the illustration of the sheep and the goats, which we heard this morning. It’s not really a parable, although many of the commentaries treat it as one. It provides an end to this discourse, and should be seen in that light.
Here Jesus had returned and Judgement is in progress. The view here is similar to the “Great White Throne” judgement in Revelation 20.
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Here is a picture of some of my family in front of a great white throne. This is the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC. The words above the sculpture say “in this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever”. We are facing the wrong way, of course, if this were the actual great white throne we would be facing it, not a camera man. I hope it helps give an impression of just how incredible this scene is. Billions of people in front for God, being separated into two halves – one half being welcomed to their inheritance (stood on the right), and the other half condemned to eternal punishment.