Summary: In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us His only picture of the final judgment. In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats those who are the "blessed" ones are those who loved the least of these in society.
The Parable of The Participants and The Spectators
Years ago, a Missouri congregation listened to a young preacher who had walked twenty miles to deliver the sermon. Tired and hungry, this young man faltered, floundered, and failed. The people were unresponsive; they did not know he had walked the weary miles. When the service was over no one offered him food or a place to rest, but as he started down the long road with a broken heart, the black janitor of an all white church asked him to share his humble meal in a nearby shed.
Years passed. The young exhorter became Bishop Marvin of world-wide reputation. After many years, the man once more stood in the same spot to dedicate a great country church. The whole community was assembled. It was a tremendous event in the life of the community. When the service ended, many crowded around offering compliment after compliment, but the Bishop waved them all aside and called the old black janitor to himself. He said, "When I was here years ago I was dejected and depressed and you offered me your friendship. I have never forgotten that moment and today I want to spend my time with you."
This story, which is true, gives us a modern-day picture of the Scripture we will study for today. It was not what the congregation did that crushed the young man’s heart, but rather, it was the simple fact that they didn’t even take time to respond with sympathy, encouragement, or disgust. I am sure that the people of the congregation had good intentions in mind when they withheld some of the comments they were thinking - I mean really, they could have just blasted the young preacher because he knew as well as they did how badly he had stunk up the place on that Sunday morning. The good intentions of the people left a young preacher broken-hearted, feeling rejected, and somewhat angry with the people for the way in which they failed to respond. I am sure on the day in which Bishop Marvin returned to the site of that place many years later the old janitor probably did not even remember that memorable day so long ago. The surprise that the janitor must have felt, we also see evident in the parable Jesus told when He gathered the sheep on His right hand and they responded by saying, "But Lord when did we see You hungry or thirsty or ...?"
Let’s read together the parable I have just mentioned which is found in Matthew 25:31-46.
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All 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. 33He 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. 35For 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, 36I 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? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40"The King will reply, ’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers 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. 2For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I 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, ’I tell you the truth, 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." (Matthew 25:31-46 NIV)