Hunkered Down Devotion

Matthew 25:31-46 (VOICE)
31 When the Son of Man comes in all His majesty accompanied by throngs of heavenly messengers, His throne will be wondrous. 32 All the nations will assemble before Him, and He will judge them, distinguishing them from one another as a shepherd isolates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put some, the sheep, at His right hand and some, the goats, at His left. 34 Then the King will say to those to His right,

King: Come here, you beloved, you people whom My Father has blessed. Claim your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of creation. 35 You shall be richly rewarded, for when I was hungry, you fed Me. And when I was thirsty, you gave Me something to drink. I was alone as a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your homes and into your lives. 36 I was naked, and you gave Me clothes to wear; I was sick, and you tended to My needs; I was in prison, and you comforted Me.

37 Even then the righteous will not have achieved perfect understanding and will not recall these things.

Righteous: Master, when did we find You hungry and give You food? When did we find You thirsty and slake Your thirst? 38 When did we find You a stranger and welcome You in, or find You naked and clothe You? 39 When did we find You sick and nurse You to health? When did we visit You when You were in prison?

King: 40 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother or sister hungry or cold, whatever you did to the least of these, so you did to Me. 41 At that He will turn to those on His left hand.

King: Get away from Me, you despised people whom My Father has cursed. Claim your inheritance—the pits of flaming hell where the devil and his minions suffer. 42 For I was starving, and you left Me with no food. When I was dry and thirsty, you left Me to struggle with nothing to drink. 43 When I was alone as a stranger, you turned away from Me. When I was pitifully naked, you left Me unclothed. When I was sick, you gave Me no care. When I was in prison, you did not comfort Me.

Unrighteous: 44 Master, when did we see You hungry and thirsty? When did we see You friendless or homeless or excluded? When did we see You without clothes? When did we see You sick or in jail? When did we see You in distress and fail to respond?

King: 45 I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.

46 So these, the goats, will go off to everlasting punishment. But the beloved, the sheep (the righteous), will go into everlasting life.
This passage of scripture from Matthew 25 certainly stands on it’s own as having something useful and important to say to us about how to live as followers of Jesus and residents of the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, however, it is also important that we consider the context in which this passage sits. If you have been reading along with our ‘hunkered down’ devotions this week, you will know that this is the 3rd straight passage from Matthew, and that it is the third and final entry of a trilogy of parables that Jesus tells in a row about the kingdom of God.

Taken on it’s own, the meaning of this passage should be fairly obvious to all of us: when the two choices are sheep and goats, you definitely want to be a sheep. This parable is a little unusual because the explanation of the story is woven into the story itself, where it usually comes at some point after the story.

Because of this, the point Jesus is making is clear: the sheep, on the King’s right are the righteous ones, and the goats, on his left, are the unrighteous. That which makes one righteous or not is also straightforward: did you feed the hungry or not; did you give the thirsty something to drink or not; did you welcome the stranger or not; did you clothe those that had none or not; did you tend to the sick or not; did you comfort those in prison or not?

The king says that if you have done that for anyone – even the least or the stranger or the outcast, then you have done those things for him. And doing those things is what makes one righteous or not, according to the king.

As I said, this part, while setting a high bar for what’s expected of us, is pretty clear. Where the context from the previous two parables becomes important is in understanding that their grouping together isn’t coincidental, but intentional and that to fully understand the point that Jesus is making you need to read them together.

In the first story we read about bridesmaids that weren’t ready and those that were; in the second story we read about servants that used (and multiplied) the talents they were given and the one that didn’t. In our third story, which is in itself an interpretation of the first two, we have the righteous sheep and the unrighteous goats.

The first story is about the importance of being prepared, the second about the importance using and not wasting the gifts and talents you have been given. This story, the third story, is a picture, an explanation of what that looks like lived out in the world that we live in.

What does it look like to be prepared for Christ’s call and his coming? Feed the hungry, visit and care for the sick, share water with the thirsty, etc. What does it look like to use the gifts and talents you have been given? Give clothes to those without, welcome the stranger, comfort those in need and in prison.

Jesus doesn’t just call us to be ready and to use the gifts we have been given, but he also shows us what that looks like. Sheep to the right, goats to the left.

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer: God, we don’t always see you when we look at others – especially those that are different than us. Help us to see you and help us to serve you and those around us in need. Amen.

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