Matthew’s image of Judgment Day comes at the close of Jesus’ public ministry. It is also Jesus’ last primary teaching before his death. Such placement must punctuate importance. This last message is a real moment of truth when history ends…When the Son of Man comes in his glory.
Predicting the end of the world has been a past time of many over the centuries and here in Matthew, in about 400 words, Jesus provides a glimpse of truth that one day will be fully revealed. A glimpse of truth that there is an eternity of difference in people now and throughout history.
But you already know that…right? Look around, listen and watch. All the name calling and gossip. People talking about hating other people in one breath and claiming God is love in another breath. Judging others on outward appearances. Today’s text tells us that this kind of judging is none of our business. It is God’s alone.
Today’s text resurrects one question about this eternity of difference in people. Jesus is teaching his disciples prior to his death and preparing them for responding to this eternity of difference when he is no longer physically present with them. Teaching them lessons of life that began with the Sermon on the Mount. Teaching them…Only those who do the will of my Father in heaven will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matt 7:21) Therefore, everyone who hears these words and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built his house on the rock. (Matt 7:24 ) And, for small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. (Matt 7:14 ) Maybe no greater reinforcement comes when Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. (John 14:6)
Judgment is an ugly word today in our world and to be judged is offensive to so many. Many just can’t stomach a day of judgment in the Bible. But, if you read and study this passage – the whole Bible for that matter – I hope you will realize that judgment is about truth. Bringing truth to light about human behavior and the relationships of life.
Friends, we know that it is by grace we are saved and it is by grace that we are called to faith. How we live out this faith, has been the teaching of Jesus throughout Matthew. The eternity of difference in people comes down to a clear standard of measurement. One question. The one question today and on that day of judgment deals with how our faith has been lived out. The one question Jesus will ask is this: How did you respond to the need of others?
Devotional Thought: In our text today, both the sheep and the goats respond in the same way. Both were unaware of their words and actions in life. Kindness, hospitality, compassion and generosity are not things done for a calculated response – they are a natural and unmotivated response to the need of others out of real faith in Jesus.