Reflecting the King and his Kingdom, Matthew 25, 26th November 2023

Reflecting the King and his Kingdom, Matthew 25, 26th November 2023

Character of the King and the Kingdom – Matthew 25.31-46 – All Saints

Who likes waiting? We wait for a lot of things don’t we – some big and some routine – last week I was on a trip to visit some missionaries serving with our organisation so that meant waiting at airports for transfers. We also wait for packages to arrive tracking it with the delivery app. We wait for medical test results to come back which can be a challenge, waiting a child to be born is a nervous and exciting time full of expectancy, and the list goes on. What do you do while you wait? Sit on the couch and wait passively? Try and distract

yourself? Go about life in the most meaningful way until the thing you are waiting for arrives?

Our passage today is the last of a series of teachings where Jesus teaches his disciples about the time between his coming death, resurrection and ascension, and his return at some undisclosed time in the future. The common theme between them all is waiting – our attitude and action while we wait for the return of the king.

In this passage Jesus is presented as the King returning and sitting on his throne with all peoples standing before the throne. Jesus is the king will judge those who stand before him. Using the imagery of a shepherd who separates their sheep and goats, King Jesus separates the people before him into two groups. The separation is based on how they have treated ‘the least of these’ while Jesus was away. The least are people typically regarded as the poor and vulnerable in society at that time – the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the thirsty, the naked, the prisoner. Those who acted with compassion towards them are commended for they have demonstrated love not just to the least, but as if to Jesus himself. They are to inherit the kingdom which has been prepared for them. While those who failed to act with love and compassion to the least are judged not just for their failure to ‘the least’ but also for their failure to do it as if to Jesus. Jesus makes the connection between how the least are treated with how he is treated.

The point of this vision of a judgement scene needs to be seen as the conclusion to the previous parables of Jesus which focus on the absence of the king. How are people to act when the king is away? The previous parables tell his followers to be expectant, ready, and using their gifts for the benefit of the kingdom. This story tells us what happens when the Messianic king and good shepherd returns. The focus is on the actions of the two groups of people while they waited for the return of the king.

The king, the good shepherd expects his people not only to be expectant, ready and using their gifts, but also to be doing righteous acts towards the least – those in need. We are to live and act in ways that are consistent with the nature of the king and his kingdom.

When Jesus started his ministry the gospel authors all comment that in Jesus God’s kingdom is made manifest or real. Jesus’ coming to earth ushers in God’s kingdom action in a new and decisive way.

We read in Matthew 4.23 that: Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. In Luke’s Gospel Jesus reads from Isaiah 61.1: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to

proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Jesus’ ministry on earth was in part teaching and also revealing to us what this kingdom was to be like and how those who follow him are to be in his kingdom. Jesus demonstrated the character of the kingdom in both word and deed – he preached and taught about the Father, and he fed the hungry, he set free the

oppressed, the demon possessed man who was naked was clothed after he was set free, his disciples visited John the Baptist in prison, he healed the sick, he welcomed the ones that society rejected. Jesus ministered to the least. These acts of compassion not only showed kindness and love, but they also revealed the character of the king and his kingdom.

It is important to note that Jesus draws on a rich heritage of Old Testament Scriptures that all his listeners would have understood to some degree. In Ezekiel 34 God is Israel’s shepherd who cares for his sheep and will judge those, especially its leaders, who have not lived consistently with the king’s character.

Ezekiel also looks forward to the time when God will raise up a new shepherd from the line of David. Jesus is this Davidic shepherd give us life through his death and resurrection and who will judge those who have oppressed or abused the weaker sheep – the least. Jesus is both the Messianic king and the good shepherd who reflects the very character and nature of the kingdom where ‘the least’ are recipients of his love and compassion.

Jesus also draws on the numerous references in the law to how the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the hungry are to be treated with love, compassion and justice. The psalms are no different. Psalm 146.7-8 says: 7 God upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, 8 the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

Again, all of these are the least of society.

So, in coming to the end of his ministry Jesus reaffirms his character as king and what his kingdom people are to be like. Jesus wants them to know how they are to act while he is away – they are to reflect who the king is – in word and deed they are to demonstrate who Jesus is as king. They are to be ready and expectant, to share the good news of Jesus, use their gifts and talents for the kingdom, but also to imitate Jesus in doing acts of compassion and love towards the least.

Our acts of love and compassion, however, are always in response to what Jesus has done for us – never to earn favour but to express our love for Christ and for others just as Jesus taught. We live by grace which relieves pressure from us to perform or be busy for God to earn favour. Faith in Jesus, love for God, and our response to Jesus’ saving act on the Cross is to result in deeds that bless others especially the least and is motivated by love for Jesus.

So, what does that mean for you and me?

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray: your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As we pray these words, we are not just asking for the return of Jesus, but that God’s kingdom will be made more and more manifest here on earth. And how is that to happen? In part it is through the words and actions of the

citizens of the king and his kingdom. As we follow Jesus’ example, as we serve our king, as we share the good news of the kingdom, and as we live as citizens of the kingdom, we are a part of God’s kingdom plans and mission.

Through this passage we are encouraged as a community of disciples of Jesus to live with expectancy of the return of our king and to be about kingdom business. Paul writes in Galatians 6.9-10: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. So, while we wait for the return of the king, we are to demonstrate the love of Jesus through our acts of compassion to those in our church community who have needs.

We are all busy and some of you might think I am tired and worn out and can’t do anymore, others have ideas and energy to get involved. So how can each of us show Jesus’ love to those with physical emotional and spiritual needs? We do this by getting to know one another, by listening, by sharing life together. As we go about life we can serve and minister to one another and be Jesus to each other in everyday ways – a meal here, a prayer there, a practical help, wise counsel, listening to a friend in trouble. Be encouraged that as you do these things to the least you are doing it as if to Jesus.

Beyond our church we are encouraged to do acts of love and compassion to those in need. As we move into our new church building next year, we will be right in the heart of a neighbourhood. How can we as a church see what the needs of this community are and how can we serve them – we do this by getting to know the community, seeing the needs of the least, and being open to how Jesus leads us to serve. In all these acts we demonstrate the good news of Jesus’ love and we do them as if we do them to Jesus himself.

May each of us have the eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to be about the king’s kingdom business while we wait for our King to return.