Another occasion when Jesus was asked a question and gave an answer quite different from what might have been anticipated is found in the sermon recorded in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. The disciples came to Jesus and asked about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the time of Jesus’ return (see Matt. 24:1-3).
The conclusion of Jesus’ extended answer to this question referred to feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison. He assured them, “When you did it to—or refused to help—one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (see Matt. 25:40, Matt. 25:45).
This is connected with the questions that began this teaching as a picture of the final judgment. Throughout Matthew 24, Jesus presented more direct answers to the disciples’ questions, giving signs and warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age, but He emphasized the need to “keep watch” and live well in light of the promise of His second coming. In the first part of Matthew 25, the story of the wise and foolish virgins urged the need for preparation for an unexpected or delayed return; the story of the three servants introduces the need to live well and productively while waiting; then the parable of sheep and goats is much more specific about the tasks God’s people should be busy with.
Read Matthew 25:31-46. What is Jesus telling us here? Why is this not salvation by works? But what do His words here teach about what it truly means to have a saving faith?
Jesus’ statement—that when we serve others, we are doing it to Him—should transform all our relationships and attitudes. Imagine being able to invite Jesus for a meal or visit Him in the hospital or prison. Jesus said that we do this when we offer that service to people in our community. What an incredible opportunity He offers to us in this way!
|Read prayerfully what Jesus said in these verses. How do we understand the idea that He all but equated Himself with the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned? What powerful obligation does this put on us and how we live?|