Summary: We might think Christ will judge us based on our correct doctrine, faithful church attendance, or moral behavior. But in our text Jesus offers a different standard: our response to the needy people of this world - the least of these.
Surprise Endings: WHEN? Matthew 25:31-46
We are at the end of our four-part sermon series called Surprise Endings. This parable is different in some ways. It does not begin with “the Kingdom of heaven is like” - leading some to believe it is not specifically a parable. It is the conclusion of a long teaching by Jesus usually called the Olivet Discourse (because it is delivered to his disciples on the Mount of Olives). It begins in MT 24:1 and concludes here. This is the closing of Jesus’ 3-year teaching ministry. (Matthew 26:1-4) The next two chapters race through the last supper, betrayal, garden prayer, trials, crucifixion, resurrection, and commission. This text gives us a glimpse of the return of Jesus. This text contains TWO Surprise Endings (Read Text) There are two surprise endings here, and the first one relates to the sheep who wondered…
1. WHEN DID WE SEE YOU? (MT 25:37-40)
It caught them by surprise that they had done anything for Jesus. In their wonder, they asked him When? He gives 6 examples of times they had ministered to Him. They served him ….
In the Hungry. (“Last year, almost 124 million people across 51 countries faced crisis levels of hunger, driven by conflicts and climate disasters, the U.N. said.” (Reuters)
In the Thirsty. (Everyone here has used water today. In our world 748 million, more than 2X the population of the US, 1 in 9 people, lack access to safe water. 80% of all illness in the developing world is water related. Lack of access to clean water the #1 global risk based on impact to society.)
In the Stranger. The UN estimates 68.5 million people are forcibly displaced, more than live in the UK. Others who may be considered ‘strangers’ in our community could include runaways, castoffs, exploited, abused, addicts, mentally ill, somehow not acceptable to most people, strangers.
In the Unclothed. (Clothing is protection. We take it for granted.)
In the Sick. A friend suffering from cancer said recently that she felt all alone in her struggle…but knowing others were praying for her made a difference. There are people in ICU wards, Chemo wards, Emergency Rooms, and waiting rooms. Hurting. Lonely. Scared.
In the Incarcerated (2.3 million people are imprisoned in our country. Organizations like Prison Fellowship sponsor Angel Tree to minister to these families.)
When did we see you, Jesus?
2. WHEN DID WE REFUSE? (MT 25:41-45)
This is the second surprise. We can imagine their shock! The group on the king’s left is completely identified with God’s enemies and so will suffer the consequence of having opposed him. Jesus is the one who gave his life for all, meeting deepest needs with an act of generosity that none deserve. They have not honored his gift. They have not followed his example. The answer to both of these groups was the same: What you did for the ‘least of these’, you’ve done for me.
3. WATCHING FOR JESUS
Look for Simple Ways to Help Hurting People. Doesn’t have to be a complicated/big ministry. Give a hungry person a meal / Give thirsty a drink. Brother Sean taught me to make sack lunches of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and find the homeless. Aaron Redding bought an old van and collected water and supplies in it and drove the streets of Little Rock.
Look for Ways to Extend Mercy. Our goal is mercy, not prosperity. The goal is to relieve suffering. If our eyes are open we will not have to look far.
Look for God to be at Work in our Efforts. Psalm 68:10 “….with a bountiful harvest, O God, you provided for your needy people..” When we help others, it is God’s work.
Look for Ways Your Family Can be Involved. Mercy is something that everyone can offer. Proverbs 14:31 “…Whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (NIV)
Look for ways to love. The sheep were not expecting rewards for their behavior. It was the natural, instinctive, reaction of loving heart.
Look for ways to overcome your objections. We cannot know the genuineness of those we help, nor can we predict the results. We do want to be wise with our resources. When we help, we do our best, we hope and pray for the conversion of those we help.
We might think Christ will judge us based on our correct doctrine, faithful church attendance, or moral behavior.
But in our text Jesus offers a different standard: our response to the needy people of this world - the least of these.Today we are encouraged to continue to love the least of these, and to grow in our awareness and intention to love them more. When we serve them, we serve Jesus.
-The child who is trafficked and cannot escape.
-The handicapped and elderly who is lonely.