It Always Gets Personal

Matthew 25:33 “He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”

Observation: Jesus was telling us why some are blessed. They had fed the hungry, invited strangers in, clothed the naked, visited prisoners—all generous things that were viewed by Christ as having been done for Him personally.   Then, not wanting to leave our understanding to chance, He gives the opposite spin. He addresses those who had seen the hungry but had not served them, who had shut out strangers, who had seen the naked but not clothed them. It was, Jesus said, as though He had personally been the hungry and naked one, as though He had been the stranger whom they failed to help. While the first group, those who responded generously, was invited to inherit the kingdom of God, the second group was cursed, commanded to depart from Jesus’s presence to enter the eternal fire prepared for Satan and his angels.

Application: Eternal fire. See how Jesus reveals additional information on the backstroke about the future? Almost in passing he gives us some detail about the fate of those who, by their own decisions, are shut out of His glorious presence.  But I should look more closely at His standard to peek beyond the obvious. 

The illustrations used by Jesus encompass more than just the command to care for the traditional poor, although it definitely includes them. Jesus was filled with compassion for the “least of these” among us. But if I allow myself to think merely of inner city addicts or hovel dwellers in a jungle village, I might conclude that they are too removed to have practical impact upon me, or that by sending a check occasionally, I have insulated myself from Jesus’s warnings. So to make such insulation more difficult, He confronts me with the profound needs of those I come into contact with: a spouse or child so hurting and fearful that they manifest rebellion and rejection; a widow whose anguish of isolation seems endless, a loved one dying of advancing illness whose needs inexorably overwhelm my dreams of what life might have been. These are the personal, in-your-face applications of Jesus’ parable. No simple mailing of a check to an organization or working a meal line at Thanksgiving will suffice. 

No, Jesus requires more. He demands that I see Him in the rebelling, hurting, and lonely, and that I minister to them as best I can until the need has ended. I may try turning my back, muttering, “They had it coming.” I may turn up the music to drown out their pleas, but I will always know where Jesus will be. He will be with them, hoping I will partner with His compassion, to be His hands-on representation to hurting hearts. Why else would He have given me so much?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, make me always willing to serve, and in so serving, to find You well pleased.

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