Devotional Thoughts on Matthew 25:31-46
March 16-22, 2015
Monday, March 16, 2015
“When the Son of Man comes to his glory and all the angels with him, then he will set on the throne of his glory” (Matthew 25:31-32).
Very few high school students make it through four years of education without at least once being called to the principal’s office. The reasons for the call could be either good or bad. The emotions that the summons inspires, though, are always the same—a mixture of fear and trepidation. Perhaps with today’s zero tolerance policies there is even greater fear. Students are scared that no matter how good they have been they are going to be judged and fall short.
Jesus is coming to set up this “principal’s office.” His office will be one of splendor and glory, which will be complete with a host of angelic administrative assistants. It will inspire awe, respect and a little holy fear. We might feel a little intimidated by the prospect of standing before the “principal,” but we do not need to be.
This story that Jesus told and that Matthew included in his gospel is devoid of any grace. Judgment is strictly based on a person’s actions. Thankfully we know that in reality, when we stand before God, we will do so clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Judgment will not be based on our actions, but rather on Jesus accomplishments through his life, death, and resurrection. With this knowledge, we boldly love and serve.
Precious Lord, we thank you for the gift of salvation you provided for everyone through your life, death and resurrection. Empower us to not live in fear of judgment, but rather in celebration of our salvation. Amen.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
“He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32).
The two cars collided with a sickening thud. The driver and passengers of one car climbed out of the wreckage dazed and bloodied. The driver of the second car was caught and couldn’t get out. Flames started to flicker near the bottom of the car. The by-standers started to move away from the car fearing an explosion. One young man rushed toward the car, wrenched the door open, crawled in and pulled the driver out. When the driver and her rescuer were about twenty feet away there was a muffled boom and then the car was engulfed in flame. The young man was called a hero by the evening news anchors. He shrugged off such comments not thinking that he did anything special.
Circumstances and situations often separate people and reveal who we are on the inside. Some people act heroically, while others cower in fear. Seeing a family in need, people will respond generously while others will apathetically do nothing. Though we may want to do the right thing in every situation we don’t—there’s a little goat in each of us.
Fortunately, before that judgment day that Jesus talks about in this parable, the Holy Spirit is active in our lives. The Spirit’s work is to change us into God’s image—a process technically called sanctification. It is true that a leopard can’t change his spots but the Holy Spirit can turn a goat into a sheep. Thanks be to God!
Holy Spirit, have your way with us. Refine us and mold us into the people you want us to be—people who share God’s love and grace with all the people we meet. Amen.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
“Come you that are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you” (Matthew 25:34).
Prince William may one day be the king of England. Though he isn’t the king, yet, he still is able to live like a king. He has access to all of the castles and all of the other property that are owned by the royals. Prince William also has a kingly bank account. Disciples of Jesus Christ are a lot like Prince William.
We await a day when we will inherit the kingdom prepared for us. That will be a wonderful day. That isn’t the first day that we will walk in God’s kingdom. We live in the reality of God’s kingdom now, the kingdom that was established by the cross of Christ. Note the present tense of the verb “are blessed.” Jesus was very intentional in not saying, “Come you that will be blessed by my father.”
That present tense verb makes a lot of difference in our lives today. It means that we live under the kingship of the God of all creation. We live in a relationship with the king, who has adopted us into his family and calls us his children. Daily we experience God’s love, grace and forgiveness, and daily we have the opportunity to share that same love, grace and forgiveness. Though only princesses and princes we can still live like kings and queens.
Oh King of kings, prevent us from getting so caught up in worries and struggles of this world that we forget to live in your kingdom as your children and servants. Amen.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
“I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35).
One of the favorite children’s games (before the advent of video games) was “Hide and Seek.” We played it for hours. If you played it long enough and often enough individual patterns began to develop. One child might favor hiding under tables or beds, while another child might like to hide in closets. If you were observant when you were “it” you could narrow your search, look where the children usually hid and find them faster.
Much of our time is spent looking for Jesus. Sometimes we look for him in our daily devotional reading, prayers and meditation. There are those days, however, when our prayers are weak, the reading is confusing and we doze off during our meditation. We look for Jesus in worship services, but occasionally the musicians pick an unsingable new song and the sermon is long and boring. Thankfully Jesus has given us a hint about where we can always find him.
Jesus is with the hungry and thirsty. He is with the sick and the poor. We can find Jesus among the oppressed, the marginalized, the neglected and the forgotten. Jesus isn’t hard to find, but sometimes we can only find him in places we don’t want to go. It may be necessary for us to scrape up the courage, find the time and dig deep down and discover the love that we need to go where Jesus is. Oh the joy when Jesus is found!
Loving Lord as you followers you beckon us to go where you lead. Grant us the faith, hope and love we need to do this. Amen.
Friday, March 20, 2015
“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 25:40).
It’s bad enough to struggle every day to put food on the table and to keep up with the bills, but the disdain that society has toward the poor makes it almost unbearable. If you come to school with thread bare jeans and a torn and wrinkled shirt that don’t have brand names on them, you’ll never get into the popular groups and no one will want to sit with you during lunch. Just try to pay for your groceries with food stamps and see the reactions of the people in line behind you. It’s not a pretty sight. See what happens when you bring your child who is burning up with a fever to the emergency room and have to tell the medical personnel that you don’t have insurance.
In Old Testament times and during the time that Jesus walked the earth, it was thought that God blessed the rich and cursed the poor. Our words and actions still tend to give credibility to such thoughts. How odd that Jesus teaches exactly the opposite. Jesus looks at the poor and needy and proclaims that they are members of his family. Jesus not only identifies with the hungry, sick and imprisoned, but he also says that they are him.
It isn’t easy to change our perspective especially when it goes against the popular point of view. This, however, is exactly what Jesus challenges us to do. We are not to use our gifts and talents to emulate the rich, but rather to serve the poor—to serve Jesus. What do you see when you see the poor and needy? Who do you see when you see the sick and dying?
Healing Lord, you gave sight to the blind. Heal our eyes that we may see you in the needs of others and to use our gifts and talents to serve you. Amen.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
“I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink” (Matthew 25:43).
We call them “Pew Potatoes” today. They are people who occupy a pew regularly on Sunday mornings, but do little else. They don’t stay for coffee, though they may grab a brownie on the way out from worship. They aren’t a member of a small group Bible study and they don’t participate in any service opportunities. One hour a week is all they think is needed to be called a Christian—a follower of Jesus Christ.
Pew Potatoes are not a twenty-first century phenomena. They were all too common in Matthew’s time when he wrote this gospel. While their brothers and sisters did the grunt work needed to care for those in need, these first century pew potatoes sat back and waited for Jesus to return. Matthew is adamant that disciples of Jesus Christ are not called to simply occupy space. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew records Jesus saying to his disciples, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
We don’t need to do everything, but as followers of Jesus Christ we do need to do something. While celebrating God’s love and grace, we trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us into opportunities where we can live out our faith and carry on the ministry of Jesus that he left to his disciples. Where might the Spirit be leading us today?
Lord God, grant us eyes to see the what your people lack, ears to hear their cries, months to offer comfort and hope, hands and feet to walk with them and ease their burden. Amen.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
“And these will go away to eternal punishment but the righteousness into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
There’s an argument going on within the pages of scripture. Martin Luther would look at this verse and condemn it as, “works righteous.” Paul contradicts it when he writes to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God …” (Ephesians 2:8). Perhaps Jesus spoke these words more to prove a point instead of describing the future.
Our words and actions have eternal consequences. Many pastors share that they sensed God’s call to the ordained ministry because someone took them aside and said, “You know, you’d make a good pastor.” CEO’s and professional athletes talk about the encouragement of a teacher or coach making a life changing difference in their lives. Donating a kidney saves a life. Tutoring after class could mean the difference between a college graduation and a high school dropout.
We can’t predict the effect our words and actions will have upon others. We can trust that when we speak and act in love powerful things can happen. The Holy Spirit can use our gifts and talents to transform the lives of others. How humbling yet awe inspiring it is to realize that God uses us to make eternal differences.
Powerful God, speak to us that we may speak in loving echoes of your words. Amen.