Wednesday, November 19, 2008

King Jesus Matthew 25:31-46

Celebrating King Jesus.

I ask my girls the question, "Who is our King?" and I usually know their response will be, "Jesus is the King." This coming weekend is Christ the King Sunday. It's the day set aside in the church year, right before Advent and Christmas, to celebrate Jesus as King and Lord in all His majesty and authority.

Our brave Revised Common Lectionary has wisely chosen Jesus' parable about Judgment for this weeks Gospel reading. It's the very last parable in Matthew. Jesus teaching and preaching ministry are over his crown of thorns is coming quick. Now Matthew invites us, through Jesus' own words, to imagine ourselves in the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The place of judgment will be huge. All the nations will stretch out before the King. The sheep and the goats will be sorted out. As you imagine the scene remember that the King has set a standard to select sheep from goats...

...the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’Matthew 25:34-40 (NRSV)
Those on the right will enter into paradise. The others on the left didn't meet the standard and they will be sent out of paradise, not out into the outer darkness reserved for the unprepared bridesmaids, but into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

The hard part of the story is that both groups seem surprisingly unaware of their own action or inaction on behalf of the King. The King replied to them telling them about the times they did or didn't care for the needs of his family members. Caring for the hungry, thirsty, strange, naked, sick, or imprisoned is caring for the king.

Maybe you'd do anything for your King. Now your king is inviting you to do just that right now in any time or place where you encounter him. There are lots of places where we have and will meet the king and we might be most surprised that it's him we are serving and not just the person in front of us. We remember Jesus as King incarnate and yet hidden to the world. He's the one who comes to judge the living and the dead as declared in the creed. And he's revealed the standard for judgment.


Maybe some would like to vote for a different king today. Maybe some would like a different standard. Jesus invites us to serve him in all kinds of places and times not always seeing him but serving him in the least of his family. My home state, Minnesota, is beginning a recount of ballots today; but there's no recount for Christ the king. He is the one to judge the living and the dead.

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