After a day of confrontation with the religious leaders, Jesus and the disciples left the city of Jerusalem and returned to their evening quarters in Bethany. Along the way, the disciples pointed out the beautiful view of the temple. We can imagine their surprise at Jesus’ response as He began to speak of the day when the temple would be destroyed, and then as He looked beyond to the end of times. Some of us read this extended passage with fear. Some of us read it as if it were a puzzle, thinking if we can just piece it together, we will know the timing of future events. Neither seems to be Jesus’ point. Instead, He seems to be preparing the disciples and us for what is to come. Don’t be surprised by suffering when it comes. Don’t let your love grow cold due to the lawlessness you experience. And don’t let false teachers lead you astray. With that framework in mind, read this larger portion of Scripture and then return to the focused passage for a time of reflection.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 17th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Matthew 24:1 - 26:5
Focused Passage for Reflection - Matthew 25:31-46
Reflecting on the Text:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” Throughout these chapters and in this focused text, Jesus doesn’t give a specific date and a specific year. Jesus is not giving us a road map so that the clever among us can decipher the date of His return. Instead, He simply says…when. He is telling us to be ready, for on the day of God’s choosing, there will come judgment. So how can we be ready?
Two messages are communicated here in regards to our being ready. The first is the message of SOVEREIGN GRACE. Jesus declares those, for whom the kingdom was prepared before the foundation of the world, as “blessed”. “Before the foundation of the world” means before we were born. That means the Kingdom is given…by grace. But there is a second message in this passage. It is the call to RESPOND. Jesus describes those who will inherit the Kingdom (notice the language of family), as those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned.
So which is it? Sovereign grace or our response? Quite simply, Jesus says it is both. Though in this text, the emphasis no doubt is on our response. So what might that be telling us? Well, from this text and from the whole of Scripture, it tells us that our Christlike care of the needy and oppressed (our response) is evidence of His prior love and work in our lives (His Sovereign grace).
Scripture is abundantly clear. Man is NOT saved by his works but by the saving grace of Jesus. Scripture is also clear in telling us that the gospel which saves us is the gospel which transforms us. In accord with this truth, the Word throughout calls us to respond with works of love and mercy. Oh, and there is another Scriptural truth which is unmistakeable in this text. Judgment will come.
So, we get back to the question of when will Judgment come? To that question, I offer another in response. Why do we want to know when? Is it so we will have a deadline as to when we have to respond to the gospel? Is it because there are areas of our lives where we still want to hold back, at least for now? Maybe these are the reasons why we ask “when”. But Jesus doesn’t tell us when. He simply tells us to be prepared.
Interestingly though, in this text, the sheep didn’t even know that they had done these good deeds of love and mercy. Or at least they didn’t know they had done them to Jesus. What could that be telling us? Could it be that their focus was less on the deed and more on the Savior they loved? Could it be they were simply responding to His prior love? If we begin to think about our response in this way, it would beg the question: Why delay another moment?
Questions for personal reflection:
From this text, what do we learn about the person of Jesus and the priorities of Jesus?
What does this text stir inside of you? Does it stir fear? Or does it stir a heart of love and gratitude? How have you responded to this Jesus?
How does the reality of Judgment impact your prayer life?