Today is Christ the King Sunday. It comes at the end of the church year, and towards the end of Matthew’s gospel. This is a time for celebration, this is the end, this is the goal. Here is the day we are proclaim the hope of God’s eternal realm for justice and peace, where disciples are recognised by the life they have lived, imitating God’s love for all, especially those who are vulnerable, weak, and oppressed.
Matthew 25:31-46 is the final parable of the series in Matthew 24-25. It is in response to the disciple’s question about the “end of the age” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus is teaching how “all the nations” will be gathered before the throne, when the Son of Man comes in glory. The description is magnificent. On that day, the nations will be separated by the Son of Man in the same way as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The separation is based on whether they had fed the hungry ones, clothed the naked ones, given a drink to those in need, visited those who were in prison and welcomed strangers. In this way Jesus makes it clear that judgement for all, both Jew and Gentile, is determined by how they have responded to the call to follow Christ’s example in serving those overlooked and ignored.
The power of the passage lies not so much in what it says about Jesus, but more in what it says about being a follower of Jesus. A true disciple of Jesus is judged by their behaviour. Both the sheep and the goats seemed surprised at Jesus words and asked, “when did we see you……”. And Jesus responded, “whatever you did/did not do for one of the least of these, you did/did not do for me”. Jesus disciples are called to be there for those in need, not simply to “help”, nor assuage their guilt, nor to justify themselves, but simply because they are followers of Christ.
At the heart of discipleship is our attitude and actions of love shown to others. Let words mirror our actions. We live out our discipleship as we encounter the living presence of Christ in one another, and as we perform acts of mercy and justice for those in need.
As the season of Pentecost draws to a close we take hold of the call of Christ to share the love of God, opening ourselves afresh to encountering Christ as we live out God’s great commission.