If Matthew 25:31-46 was summarized by a singular verse I would argue: “Truly I tell you, just as you did to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Did what? Feed the hungry. Visit the prisoner. Tend the ill. Welcome the stranger. Whatever is done for, with, and to the “least of these,” then God’s love through Jesus’ ministry is revealed and strengthened. In Henri Nouwen’s always relevant The Wounded Healer (published in 1972), he imagined how and where the Messiah will be found: “sitting among the poor at the gates of the city.” Nouwen forever challenged us with the “wounded” Messiah, the One ready to tend the wounds of another.
But I struggle with some verses before the “least of these.” You see, I like goats.
In all of the Gospels (including The Gospel of Thomas for you impertinent scriptural renegades) goats are only mentioned once. Yup, only here in Matthew. Indeed, the only other time goats make an appearance in the entire New Testament is Hebrews 9 and 10.
But like goats I do . . . even though Matthew predictably casts them as the bad boys. Sheep are good (protected by the Son of Man’s right hand), while those lousy goats will be yanked away by the awful left hand.
With goats, I think of stubborn and independent traits. And sheep? Well, they are so darn sheepish! Continue reading →
Matthew 25:31-46 – The Reign of Christ, Final Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, November 23, 2014
“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
In Matthew’s Gospel, the future reckoning of the “good” and the “bad” hinges on actions in the present moment. With agrarian imagery familiar to his first century believers, Matthew’s Jesus declared the “good” sheep will be saved and rewarded and the “bad” goats will be abandoned, left out.
The bright dawn of Holy sorting is near for the good sheep! Those goats that live alienated from God, those goats that pander to the false gods of greed, avarice, deceit, and selfishness, will soon be cast into darkness.
And yet, doesn’t it always seem like the end times?
Were the Christian crusaders of the Middle Ages, with their menacing swords and fervent faith, the “sheep” or the “goats” as they attacked the “infidels” in the Holy Land? Both sides claimed God’s side. Didn’t their world feel as if it were on the verge of ending then, regardless of which side a soldier’s arrow was launched from?
In recent news, a 22 year-old Union soldier earned the Medal of Honor 151 years after he died trying to thwart Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Both the Union and the Confederacy claimed God’s side. Didn’t their world feel as if it were on the verge of ending then, regardless of which side squeezed a trigger or launched a cannonball? Continue reading →