Suffering Church Awareness Week Matthew 25:31-46
November 1, 2015 “What Will Judge Jesus Say to You?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
If you were to die today, and appear before God, and He asked you, “Why should I let you, a sinner, into my holy heaven?” what would you say?
I hope that you know the only answer you could give to Him, something like this: “Because you sent your son, my Lord Jesus, to come to earth to die in my place; He took my condemnation on the cross, and You credited His perfect obedience and righteousness to my account, so that I am justified, I am made clean, in your eyes. It’s what you have done for me, not anything I have done, that enables me to enter your perfect dwelling place. It’s all of your grace, and not of my works.”
Is that the answer you would give to God?
So if that is true, and it is, then how does this teaching by Jesus Christ on everyone standing before His judgement seat, and being judged by what they did or didn’t do to help the needy… how does that apply to you and me, when we know we are saved by Christ alone, by grace alone, and by faith in Christ alone? This teaching by Jesus seems to challenge that belief, doesn’t it? We are thinking that our faith in Christ gives us a “heavenly E-Z pass”, enabling us to avoid that congestion of being judged by God!
Jesus is giving us a description of the Day of Judgment, when He will return in all His glory. This is Christ’s account of how all the nations, all people, both the righteous and the wicked, will stand before His judgment seat, and every person who has ever lived will be called to either enter into an eternal inheritance and life of glory and blessedness with God…. or be called to depart from God’s presence forever, into eternal punishment.
There is no middle ground here; no neutrality; no purgatory; no excuses; no shades of gray in the middle. When Christ separates people, everyone is either a sheep or a goat; each one of us will either be called blessed or cursed; and there will be no second chance; no remedial make-up work possible. Are you ready for this judgment? Let’s ask God to help hear Jesus’ words afresh.
Consider four truths from this passage:
1. We will all be judged by Christ the King.
Look at verses 31-34, 41, 46: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory… he will sit on his throne…. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another…. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance……” (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.” (46) “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Each of you will be judged by what you have done, or by what you have failed to do, including whether you helped the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Brothers and Sisters, does that disturb you? Does that shake you up a bit? Each of us in this room will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ when He comes back in all His glory. Do you believe that? Are you ready for that?
2. Christ will judge us based on our care for the needy. (vv. 35-36)
“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, 36 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.”
Notice that Jesus focuses on the three main physical needs of people:
a. Nourishment: Food and drink (hungry and thirsty)
b. Protection: Shelter and clothing (Invited the stranger in, and gave [warm] clothes)
c. Care: for the sick and the imprisoned (looked after me; came to visit me)
We need to understand each of these in light of both the climate and the culture of Jesus’ day. For example, being thirsty in a dry and hot land, yet the need for warm clothing in the cold desert nights; caring for the sick when there were no hospitals and few if any doctors; and prisoners relied on family and friends bringing food to them in jail. In other words, these were the necessities of life that were being cared for.
So the question to ask ourselves is this: Do I care for the needy? How am I helping to supply the necessities of life to people who would suffer and even die without them?
3. Our priority should be caring for needy believers. (v. 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.’
Who are “the least of these brothers of mine”? A comparison with Mt. 18:6 and 14 (“These little ones who believe in me”) shows us that these are people who are identified with Jesus, not all men in general.
Don’t misunderstand me here. We are to do good to all people…. but especially to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:10).
Mt. 10:42 indicates that it is Jesus’ disciples sent out in His name. “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
Now let’s take things a step further. If we go back and look at the look at the previous parables of Matthew 24-25, we see a pattern of an important person who goes away, who is missing for a long time: Mt. 24:45-51- The absentee landlord who puts his servant in charge of the household; Mt. 25:1-13- the bridegroom who was a long time in coming so that the bridesmaids fall asleep; and Mt. 25:14-30- the master who goes away on a long journey and entrusts his servants with his estate.
Now we know that this being away for a long time represents Christ’s “absence” from the earth, from His ascension to His glorious return, nearly 2,000 years so far. But could we also say that it represents the idea that God is missing in action, in the minds of most people? That is, people think “God is dead” or that God has abandoned us, adopting a deist position, so that we are free to do what we like in His absence?
But in this account of Son of Man/King Jesus judging the nations, we see that Jesus has not been missing or absent. No. Rather, Jesus has been taking on a disguise, the most unlikely disguises of the Christian who is a stranger, who is poor, needy, hungry, thirsty, and in prison, especially for the cause of the Gospel.
In other words, Jesus is Pastor Abidini Saeed. He is Asia Bibi. He is the 200 Nigerian girls who were taken by Boko Haram. He is the 250 Syrian Christians who have been abducted by ISIS. He is the Syrian refuge who needs a home to live in. He is the single mom living in poverty who comes to Every Good Gift for help. Christ is the child in foster care, waiting to be adopted. Jesus is the person who will need 24/7 care for the rest of his or her life.
So Jesus Christ hasn’t been away; He’s been showing up though these needy people!
And Jesus tells us that if you care for these needy believers, you have actually been ministering to Him. When you care for needy Christians, you are caring for Christ!
The bottom line is that any ministry to even one of the least of these people is the same as service to Jesus Himself, which is the same as responding to the gospel.
So the criterion of God’s final judgment is not our philanthropy or good deeds in general, but rather it is our response to Christ… as He is seen in these needy people.
We will be judged not by our works per se, but the criteria of how we are judged will be an indication of whether we really have responded by faith to Jesus.
How we are judged, then, is ultimately a question of our relationship to Jesus Christ Himself. Do you love Him, because He first loved you? Jesus told us, “If you love me, keep my commandments” and His command is that we love one another.
4. We all have opportunities to care for the needy
Look at our passage again, Mt. 25:31-46. What is repeated four times? It’s the six ways to help people that are given FOUR times! God wants to make sure we don’t miss them! He is emphasizing them so that we will DO them. And these six ways of helping the needy can be grouped into the three main physical needs of people:
a. Nourishment: Food and drink.
b. Protection: Shelter and clothing.
c. Care: for the sick and the imprisoned.
So you can use this list to ask yourself what you are doing. You can ask yourself “What have I done? What can I say to Judge Jesus, to give evidence that I really did trust Him and love Him?”
Did I invite the international student, the single mom, and Syrian refuge family into my home? Did I visit my elderly neighbor and the old man in the nursing home? Did I take some chicken soup to my sick neighbor? Did I give money to provide shelter and clothing for the persecuted Christians? Did I speak up on behalf of imprisoned Christians, like Pastor Saeed? Did I share my time and resources with those who needed them?
And if I was physically unable to do those things, did I pray for the needy? Did I write to my representative on their behalf? Did I tell others about these needs?
Remember: love always finds a way to express itself.
By the way, notice the response of the people who did do these things. They did not blush with a false modesty and say, “Why, now that you mention it, I was fairly generous and caring in these areas, and I thought I was doing it as to you, Jesus.” No. They had no idea. They did these acts of mercy because they loved the Lord… because God had given them new hearts in Jesus… because the Holy Spirit was working in them! They didn’t do it to be seen by others or to get their reward on earth. No. It was God’s love compelling them.
So we circle around to our starting point in this sermon: as crucial as these works of mercy are, they can’t make anyone righteous before Jesus the Judge. No. Only faith in Christ and His work of redemption can save us. Eph. 2:8-9 tells us “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Clearly, we are saved by Christ’s work of atonement.
That’s true… but what does the next verse say? “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” v. 10
So while works play no part at all in securing our salvation, the Christian will prove his or her faith by works. We are saved not by good works… but we are saved for good works. Our saving faith must demonstrate itself in works of righteousness, and caring for needy believers is one clear way of doing that. The hidden root of faith must bring forth the visible fruit of good works, and that means caring for needy believers.
Jesus tells us that in our daily behavior, in the little things of life, you will give proof whether you are His disciple or not. What will Jesus say to you on that judgement day?
Will He say to you: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father”? Or will He say to you:
“Depart from me, you who are cursed”?
What will He say to you?
Question for Further Study, Related to Matthew 25:31-46
Read James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
What is God saying about the kind of faith He is looking for?
Read Deut. 10:12-13, 17-20“And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’S commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?….17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.19 And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.”
What is the source of the concern for the needy that God calls us to? Who is it rooted in?
Read Isaiah 58:6-9 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
How does this passage from an OT prophet tie in with Matthew 25:31-46?
What are some of the outward evidences of a genuine righteousness?
(Also see Job 29:12-16, 31:17-20; Ezek. 18:7, 16)
Look at Matthew 25:31-46 again. What do you notice about the six types of good works that Jesus calls us to do? (Think how you would go about implementing them: where would you start? What do you have to be willing to do, and willing to let go of? What sacrifices might you need to make? What joys and rewards might you discover?)
What does the response of the “goats” in v. 44 tell you about their motivation, given Jesus’ reply in v. 45? When are they motivated to show mercy? (Hint: see Matthew 6:1-8 and 23)
Read all of Matthew 25. What do the five foolish virgins, the man with one talent, and the “goats” at Jesus’ left hand all have in common? What did they all do or not do? Is this how you usually think of people who are condemned by God?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. How should this description of ourselves motivate you to show mercy on the needy today? What will be your first step of faith in action?