Sunday 26th November, 2017
Hymn of meditation: PH 602
“Love one another”, said the Lord, “Love others, as I have loved you”,
Love one another, with pure love, O Jesus, give me this pure love.
Master, speak! Thy servant heareth, Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth; Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee: What hast Thou to say to me?
Every single one of us has been called to serve in one way or another, but one big question still remains: CALLED TO SERVE WHO?
Matthew 25:31-46 is a well known parable where Jesus establishes everyone’s final destiny on the basis of whether or not they gave food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, welcomed the stranger, cared for the sick, and visited those who were imprisoned. Jesus is clear, that which was done or not done to one of the “least of these” had affected Him.
If the text is declared to indicate the basis for our final destiny – that in Jesus’ words is to either “inherit the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world” or to “go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:34,46), then it is exceedingly significant that we seek to understand what is being communicated.
Matthew 25:31-46 – A key to understanding this is to note that what Jesus actually says is, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Nowhere in the New Testament is such language used to refer to all people in general. In fact, earlier in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks the question, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48). He then progresses by “pointing to his disciples, (saying), ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew. 12:49-50).
In effect, this is a parabolic manner of communicating what Jesus states explicitly in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What, according to these verses, determines our eternal destiny? “Does the Spirit of love that compelled Christ to the cross indwell us in such a way that we love one another with a similar sacrificial disposition?”
Just to substantiate this point further, hear the words of the apostle James, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that.” (James 2:15-16). This further echoes the parable from Matthew? James is using this point to highlight whether or not a person has living faith.
The apostle John also adds his voice to this conversation by stating, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:17-18)
Such tangible sacrificial love toward other disciples of Jesus Christ, in His eyes, is indicative that they have passed from death to life. (1 John 3:13-14)
1 John 3:13-14
Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
Hopefully, by now, it is evident that there is sufficient support to question the commonplace interpretation of Matthew’s parable. Rather than being an exhortation to engage in social justice, the parable is a clarion call to love other disciples of Jesus in the same sacrificial and selfless manner with which He (Jesus) loves us all.
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:44-46)
If we do not know the original, we will settle for anything that looks good. We must devote our time to getting to know what God has called us to so we don’t miss the essence of our living.
What is Eternal Life?
John 17:3 gives us the only true definition of eternal life as not just “a retirement package” in heaven but states:
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”
Key Truth to Note
1. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister and mother.” (Matthew. 12:50)
2. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew. 25:40)
3. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
4. “13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death”. (1 John 3:13-14)
If we fail to understand the offer of eternal life and our mission, we will pursue religion and miss God entirely; We will abide by rules and not have a relationship with Him; We will learn all about Him and miss knowing Him.
We have been called to serve, called by name and in all that we are. Proclaim God’s love to the world.