Read Matthew 25:31–46.
In Matthew 24–25, Jesus teaches about his return and uses several parables to describe what “the kingdom of heaven will be like” (25:1). Perhaps the most unsettling element of Jesus’ teaching in 25:31–46 is the surprise of both groups who are being judged. They don’t protest about being judged per se; after all, the Son of Man has come in glory, attended by an immense gathering of heavenly beings, and even his throne is glorious. This entrance confirms and conveys his authority to judge. He has the right to call every nation before him, and come they must.
The surprise is not about the fact of judgment nor the rights of the judge. Instead, both those on the right and on the left are confused about the evidence. The sheep are looking at this King of glory and thinking, Surely we would have known if we had served him. He is unmistakable. The goats were thinking the same, but in reverse. When would they ever have refused such a one? They couldn’t think of an instance.
In response, the glorious Christ reveals the key: He has always been identified, unified, with his brothers and sisters. This is more than mere affiliation; it is true identification. Who are his brothers and sisters? Jesus taught plainly, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50). No matter a person’s station, ethnicity, gender, or nationality, if they are united with Christ, then caring for them is caring for Jesus himself.
This is not works-righteousness, where each person gets a reward or punishment based on his or her deeds. This is a revealing of allegiance to or rebellion against King Jesus—which is why there are only two destinations.
It would be easier, perhaps, to obey the glorious Christ—because we’d see his power with our own eyes. But God calls us to faith, not sight. In fact, at Christmas, we remember that he came almost in disguise. Even today, he is identified with his frail and foolish people.
Lip service won’t do. Real trust in Jesus moves our allegiance to him and results in obedience. Do we believe him that service to lowly and despised Christians is better proof of our discipleship than even miracles and prophecy (7:21–23)? That we can’t have the greatest commandment without the second, nor the second without the first (22:37–40)? The true allegiance of all will be revealed; let us put our faith in him.
Rachel Gilson serves on Cru’s leadership team for theological development and culture. She is the author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next.
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