On the surface our message for this Sunday is one of judgement. The parable ends with one group, the goats, receiving eternal punishment. The other, the sheep, receive eternal life. Which makes you want to jump up and down saying “I’m a sheep! Please put me with the sheep!” We say this because we don’t want to receive eternal punishment!
This parable has two contrasting interpretations. One group of scholars believe the line ‘least of these’ refers to the disciples or in our context Christians. That ‘all the nations’ represent the world and how the world treats Christians. Therefore the world will be judged by how it receives the disciples, Christians and the message of Christ.
The other interpretation speaks to how both followers of Christ and non-believes treat other people, specifically those who are hungry, thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Whether we stop and help these individuals or not. The second interpretation is curious in that there is no special qualification of belief required before hand. The emphasis is on the actions taken. However, we should not mistake good intentions and humanitarian effort as being solely the requirements of receiving God’s grace. To do so cheapens the message of the gospel and indicates that salvation is something that we achieve. Theologian Lindsay Armstrong writes that “… this Scripture testifies that salvation is something we discover, often when we least expect it.”
Text: Matthew 25: 31-46
Questions to ponder for Sunday:
- Are you a sheep or a goat?
- If you were to distill the message of this parable down to one sentence, what would that sentence be?
A Prayer for Sunday:
Lord God, lead me today. Guide my thoughts and my actions. Allow me to understand your word more keenly, unlock the truth of your great love, mercy and grace in my life. As I study your holy scripture today may your Spirit infuse me with a willingness to learn and inspire me to reflect on how your teaching informs my living. In Jesus name, Amen.