In Matthew 25 Jesus is meeting with his disciples and he is preparing them for what’s coming next. He will hand over the ministry to them. This is His game time speech. He says to remember these 2 things: 1) Be Ready! 2) And Serve. We get the part about being ready, but serve? That’s the end game? Jesus has been preparing them for this for years. I am returning, so be ready and serve. Learn how to serve.
This will be the criteria for the end of your life, whether or not you served.
“Objection!” you might say. Aren’t we saved by grace? There’s one way any of us will ever enter Heaven: by the grace of God through Jesus Christ demonstrated for us and by our asking of forgiveness. We do not earn this.
When we give our lives to Christ we are recipients of grace. This transforms us. The changed heart is a life that serves God. If we have received grace we will serve. We want to serve.
James 2 says faith without works is dead. Service is a natural result of our faith.
Have you ever roasted marshmallows? You place it on a stick and put it close to the fire. Sometimes we pull it back and examine it. We are checking to see if it’s done yet. Sometimes it’s on fire and we blow it out. Sometimes we squeeze it. Why we do squeeze it? We are checking to see if it’s done. If it’s close enough to the fire the marshmallow changes!
Jesus is saying if we have experienced grace we will be transformed. We will know how to serve and we will spend our lives serving. Service is proof of change.
Jesus determines what is fair.
Jesus demonstrates true justice for us. In Matthew 26 Jesus us on trial and experiences justice in our world. This justice was incomplete. Matthew 25 is a picture of when justice will be complete and that is when we stand before Him.
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Jesus tells his disciples that at the end when He returns there will be a judgment and it will be evident if we are believers or not. At that time people from all nations will be gathered before Him, all together but also individually. He will separate the believers and the nonbelievers, those who have trusted God and those who have not.
Most of us are not shepherds and we don’t have experience separating sheep and goats. Most of us have no clue what this is like. In ancient Palestine every day the sheep and goats mingled together. They ate together, drank together, but overnight they were separated. From a distance sheep and goats can look very similar, but in close proximity it’s easy to tell the difference. It won’t be difficult at the end of times to tell the difference. A separation will happen. The way we separate is different than the way God separates. The way things happen here on earth is not how things will happen in Heaven.
God’s plan is bigger than what we see with our eyes.
We don’t see things like God does.
34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
This follows closely the parable of the talents, that at the end they will be judged based on what they have done. You who have done little, enter into the joy of my salvation. This is family language. You will receive an inheritance. Inheriting isn’t something we earned, but something that is given to a member of the family. Christ has been preparing us for this moment. It’s always been god’s plan to take a people who aren’t a people and make them a people. Even in Genesis, Deuteronomy, all throughout the New Testament, this is God’s plan. All tribes and nations come together to make God’s people. God has been building His family. He is pulling us together.
The way God evaluates surprises us. God’s values are so different than ours. We spend most of our lives establishing a way of valuing people based on different criteria than what God uses. We value people because of their position. We value people because of their wealth. We value people because of their beauty. We value people because of their athletic ability. This is different than how God assigns power and the way the inheritance of the Kingdom of God will work. What is it God uses to determine if we will receive the power of the Kingdom? It’s whether or not we serve!
Jesus is trying to teach His disciples that life is about serving. This is what really matters. In Mark 9:35 Jesus is with His disciples and the disciples are arguing over who is the greatest. If you have a bunch of guys together we have ways of determining who is the greatest, a spitting contest, shooting paper balls into a garbage can. The disciples were doing that. Mark 9:39 Jesus says the one who is the greatest is the servant of all. We are still trying to figure all this out? Who’s the greatest? Jesus says the one who is the greatest is the one who learns how to serve. God’s values are different.
The Kingdom belongs to servants.
35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Jesus describes how we serve those who are vulnerable. The word stranger here means foreigner. There are vulnerable moments in life. Jesus says He was in this position. It comes as a surprise to the disciples when they hear this. Serving is not optional, it’s natural to do what we do as believers. Jesus says he was sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you visited me. How many of you have done that for Jesus today?
40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Caring for one of His brothers is the same as caring for Jesus. Here’s the part Matthew really brings to light: Jesus says, “one of my brothers.” This is family language again. Jesus has been talking about building His family and bringing them all together. These are His last words to his disciples preparing them for what is to come, a period of persecution. A special emphasis Jesus is making is that each one will pay a price for the Gospel. There will be those who will suffer for the sake of the Gospel in taking the Gospel to the nations. We as believers are called to care for those who take the Gospel to the nations. These are the brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Matthew 24:14 Jesus reminds us that in times of intense persecution the hearts of many will grow cold. Our tendency is going to be to withdraw and stop caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:23-27 – Paul describes every one of these conditions in reference to himself. Paul was hungry, Paul was imprisoned, Paul was a foreigner and was welcomed in. Paul was independently wealthy and well-respected. He gave up all those things for the sake of the Gospel to go to the nations.
Jesus is reminding the disciples about the cost that is in front of them. Jesus is reminding us as a church that it’s our responsibility to care for those who serve. This is an end of times image we have a calling to care for those around the world, our brothers and sisters who are hungry and imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel. The image Jesus presents is one day we will stand face to face with Jesus and all the earth will be present. As we come before Him Jesus gives us our reward for serving and we will be surprised by it. “Remember that offering you gave for that missionary?” “Remember that teacher you encouraged on a mission trip?” Jesus will say that was His brother and sister and when we cared for them, His family, we cared for Jesus. We often don’t even know that anybody sees what we do but God sees. God knows. At that moment God will reward you and you’ll see the results of your caring. God has called us to the least of these.
Failure to serve indicates that we don’t know Jesus.
43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Failure to serve also indicates we don’t love the brothers and sisters of Jesus. This means we have not been impacted by the grace of Jesus Christ. Coming to Christ transforms us. It won’t be difficult to tell. Church, we cannot be silent. We do not have the option of sitting by while our brothers and sisters in Christ suffer around the world. We have a great and high calling. Are the marshmallows done? Has the grace of God transformed us and put a passion in our hearts for our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we have a passion to take the Gospel to the nations?
There are a number of ways you can get involved in this right here at First Baptist. We have a Heart Connections team that works with orphans and those in foster care here and around the world. We have a newly formed Freedom team to address human trafficking. They have a training coming up in April. We have an On Mission Team that every month sends money out to those serving around the world. There are many ways to get involved. I pray as God speaks into your heart that you will ask, “God, how can I be used to be your hands and feet?” May God impress upon you the least of these among you. May we know that God knows and God sees. May God lead us to a place to serve.
Sermon notes are takes, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.