The purpose of caring in the community: Matt 25:31 – 46 (NRSV)
The Judgment of the Nations
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Do you know why dogs and cats are so different? A dog looks at you with those big brown eyes, cocks its head to one side and says to itself, “You love me, you feed me, you care for me, you take me for walks... you must be God”. A cat looks at you with those piercing green eyes and thinks to itself “You love me, you feed me, you care for me, you stroke me ... I must be God”.
There are cat people and there are dog people.
Some people like to sleep with the windows open and some people prefer to sleep with the windows closed - and they are usually married to each other.
There are breakfast people and there are people who don’t remember what breakfast is.
There are Tigger people and there are Eyore people.
And do we know who we are?
Jesus says that - ultimately - there are only two kinds of people - the sheep people and the goat people. Are we sheep or are we goats?
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. All 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” (Matthew 25:31-33)
I’d like to look at how Jesus distinguishes one from the other and how we know which we are and which we want to be.
How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny
“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…“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.” (Matthew 25:34 & 41)
We know we are not saved by good works - but our behaviour does show to whom we belong.
‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Jesus has told us ahead of time because he wants us to choose wisely.
There is the story of the professor who - on the first day of the new academic year - gave out the exam paper he would set at the end of the year. Then during the year he taught his students how to answer the questions. If they wanted to pass - they attended - and took careful notes. He wanted every student to reach their full potential and get straight A’s.
Jesus feels the same about us. He wants us to win. He wants us to succeed.
And how we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny.
Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus
“For 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, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’…For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I 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.’ (Matthew 25:35-36 & 42-43)
So we should ask ourselves - when have we seen another person in need – and would we treat them as if they were Jesus?
Earlier Jesus had insisted that only those who did the Father’s will were his brothers and sisters - so is Jesus limiting our responsibility to only Christians perhaps?
What was the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan? Jesus expects us to show compassion toward whoever we encounter in need. That person becomes our neighbour.
How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus.
Because how we treat others reveals our heart condition
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ (Matthew 25:37-39 & 44)
When we are in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ - filled with his Spirit - serving his cause - we will be unaware that our goodness - our kindness - our faithfulness - or gentleness toward others is anything other than natural.
Showing compassion and mercy toward the stranger - toward the sick - toward the prisoner - is a supernatural act. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus. Because how we treat others reveals our heart condition.
Because how we treat others is how we treat Jesus
In verse 45 Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matthew 25:40 & 45)
Do we consciously treat people the same way we would treat Jesus? And if not - why not?
Jesus goes further, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).
How we treat others therefore will reveal our eternal destiny. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus. Because how we treat others reveals our heart condition.
Ultimately, how we treat others is the way Jesus will treat us
This maybe sounds somewhat dramatic - but surely this could be our greatest incentive - our greatest motivation.
Jesus has told us beforehand what is going to happen when he returns. He is going to separate the world into two groups – the sheep people and the goat people. Jesus has told us because he loves us. He has told us because wants us to choose wisely.
Jesus wants us to follow him and him alone. On another occasion Jesus said,
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:14, 27-28)
That is his promise - God never intended us to live alone.
Sheep cannot survive alone. Goats can - but sheep can’t. Sheep need the constant attention and protection of the shepherd.
They need the company of the flock to grow to maturity as God intends. That is why God created the church - the flock of Jesus Christ. Here he meets our five most deepest needs - a purpose to live for - people to live with - principles to live by - a profession to live out - and power to live on.
There is no other place on earth where we can find all five benefits in one place at the same time. Worship helps us focus on God - fellowship helps us face life’s problems - discipleship helps fortify our faith - ministry helps exercise our talents - and evangelism helps fulfil our mission. That is why our church exists – that is why we are here – we are a flock.
We cannot grow to maturity in splendid isolation - we need each other’s gifts and talents - we need each other’s service – we need each other’s fellowship and prayers.
Please look at your hands - when we were just an infant - we came out with our hands closed - and every time somebody put their little finger in ours - we would wrap our hand around it - hold on tight - and not let go.
As a toddler - we started grabbing rattles and little toys. When another child came in our direction and wanted to take one away from us – we said, "Mine," and held on tight.
As we grew up we hung on tightly to bicycle handlebars and pencils and other things - we hung on to the hand of our best friend - when we started a career we grabbed the lowest rung on the ladder and hung on.
Since then we have been climbing ladders - clutching rungs. By nature - you and I are clutchers.
We try to hold on - we have a reflexive response when it comes to giving up something that's dear to us - clutching is like breathing. It just comes naturally.
Looking at our hands one more time. Are they closed or open? God's generous expressions of love confront us everywhere we turn. The question is: Do we see them? Do you see the opportunities all around us to share the love of God with others?
Do we see the houses being built across the road from us? Do we see the young people living on the island here with us? Do we know there maybe be an older person living alone who can’t get out? Do we know there is someone in pain – or trouble – or someone who is friendless? Do we even look at each and care for each other as we should?
Looking at our hands one last time. What is the truth about them? One thing is certain - if think deeply enough and remind ourselves of the depth of God's love and generosity - our hands will start looking more like his - they will open up – and they will start opening up more frequently.
They will start opening up to a wider range of needs - they will start staying open for longer and longer - and we will become a visible expression of God’s hands - become hands God uses to do his will - and we will demonstrate more and more that we are a sheep people and not a goat people.
Carolyn's Sermon - 29/1/2017