Sermon 22 November 2020


 

Christ the King Sunday All Saints Lydiard Millicent

 

Do you and I see Judgment as good news-something in fact that you can look forward to? Certainly, those who have suffered a terrible injustice, fraud or theft or murder in the family may dread the day the criminal is judged but they would not be without such a day. Let us hear it for lawyers, good lawyers do a good service to good people, Judges who judge well, Juries who deliver a fair decision, all are vital in playing their part. So why then do Christians get all embarrassed about judgement as if its bad news and not good news. The judgement that God will deliver on that final day is a refuge for all who have suffered injustice. God will do right for everyone.

In Matthew’s Gospel its Jesus who has been judged by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, they have made him to look as if he has done wrong things and said wrong things, but now in chapter 25 the tables are turned as in what looks like a parable, Jesus sets the scene for judgement day.

It is a scene of glory; I remember saying in a sermon I wish I were the vicar of a Church that had a representation of  Christ in Glory. Well All Saints does, I have just not noticed it before , and there it is in the third part of the stained-glass triptych. It depicts I believe Jesus on the throne (above the depiction of the angel appearing to the three women at the garden tomb)

 Resurrection window All Saints Church Lydiard Millicent

Jesus the victorious Jesus on the throne as Son of Man is the centre and focus of this passage in Matthew 25, the words he speaks would have reminded the first listeners of Matthews Gospel immediately of Daniel 7 Verse 9 of chapter 7 says:

“ As I looked thrones were put in place and one that was the ancient of days took his seat, his raiment was white as snow and the  hair of his head like pure wool. His throne is fiery flames, its wheels were burning flames” and then verse 14:

“And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom that all peoples and nations all languages should serve him his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and his kingdom is one that shall not be destroyed”

That is the  setting for today’s Gospel reading the glorious and victorious Son of Man sitting on the throne in judgement and he is there with all his angels. All the Nations are gathered there before him; the word is Ta Ethne which we came across recently in the sermon on the last chapter of Matthew and the Great commission. The word means people of all tongues, the Gentiles, the Pagan nations, and they are there before the Son of Man and judgement begins.

What is the message of Jesus the Son of Man is it about Nations and countries and peoples and conquest and governments and matters of sate No! In a way the picture of Judgement is too much for you and me to take in so Jesus switches to a good old agricultural story one which nearly every first listener of the Gospel would understand rural agricultural life. The picture of a shepherd at the end of the day dividing his sheep from his goats.

A bit of background may help here: its no surprise that Jesus should turn from a prophetic picture of judgment and then start using agricultural imagery,  most of Jesus listeners lived in a agricultural world in Galilee they would understand what he was talking about, they would have understood that goats hate the cold so they need to be separated at the end of the day and given shelter inside, the sheep with more wool on them and thicker too would prefer to sleep in the outdoors under the stars. But in addition, we note here that the word Matthew uses for goat is young male kid goat the same word used in Luke 15 where the older brother say “You have never given me a party with a kid goat”

Luke 15:29New King James Version29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends

So young male goats were regularly culled so that the more valuable females could flourish as they were good for wool, skins, meat, and milk which could be made into curds and cheese. So, separation of animals was part and parcel of rural living. It happened and our reading from Ezekiel 34 reflects that as well.

Ezekiel 34:20-23 New International Version20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, 22 I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.

Jesus The Son of Man is a shepherd king in the line of David he is not some potentate as writers have said “Jesus had the smell (not literally) of sheep about him he cared for his flocks” so we come to the separation, the Judge come shepherd Jesus the Son of Man is not cruel, he is not anti- goat, he does in the separation what any good farmer would do separate the goats from the sheep and in the Near Middle East, both looked similar; the goat and sheep were often a mix of dirty brown only some were pure white but the Shepherd knows the difference in fact so often in scripture the shepherd is said to know his flock by name and they know his voice.

But now we reverse again we put off agricultural imagery and we are back in a court scene judgement is happening.

To his right go the sheep to his left the goats the sheep go to the right because.

The hungry were fed

The thirsty were given water

The stranger was given hospitality

The naked were clothed

The sick and those in prison receive a visit.

Who were the recipients of these acts of kindness the whole world? No, it was the little ones of Jesus that were the recipients, and no single act of kindness has been forgotton.

The clue is in verse 40

Matthew 25:40

New American Standard Bible 1995

40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

So, it is Christian (or Jewish) little brothers and sisters of Jesus that the Son of Man has in mind here. The litmus test of our faith at the end of time is not how many Bible commentaries we have, it is not our knowledge of the Christian faith; it’s what we have done with it (James 1;22-25)

James 1:22-25

New American Standard Bible 1995

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his [a]natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, [b]he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but [c]an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in [d]what he does.

So, are we saved simply by what we do ? (no) Jesus clearly says we need to be born again. Paul says we are saved by grace. But we need to listen to the whole voice of scripture and here Jesus is speaking quite close to his departure, torture death on the cross, and resurrection and ascension. He knows very well that the disciples and those who come to faith through them will be persecuted. So, in Jesus’s focus here is how people treat the servants of the King. The latter part of Matthew has been moving to this point all the parables have a similar point be ready. The steward who was clever and settled debts was ready, the Virgins who had their lamps trimmed and fuel ready were prepared to meet the bridegroom.

 Are you and I ready for the coming King? it will make Offsted look like a picnic in the park! Jesus is good through and through and judgement is about a right reckoning. There will be thousands whom the world has never heard from; secret heroes and heroines who through their kindness done in thankfulness for the grace they received from Christ will receive a reward. And true wickedness and true evil will be punished, this frightens those of us in the comfortable West, but is a truth of huge relief to the thousands of Christians who suffer for their faith. For example, like the 14-year-old catholic girl in Pakistan kidnapped forcibly married and forcibly married to a Muslim man in his fifties some kind people got her release. The young Nigerian Christian man falsely imprisoned because someone accused him and again a Catholic agency sued for his release. These people yearn for judgement why don’t we ?We should remember perfect Love cast out all fear , if we are born again if we are living for Jesus, we have nothing to fear. But we do need to get a renewed call to care for Jesus’s little ones and to do it today. If not locally, then through Tear Fund, through Sat 7, through Bible Society, through CMS, through MAF and others .If you are in All Saints Lydiard Millicent, in the weekly e mail we have listed where our tithed giving goes to, and all these agencies receive help this November through our giving, may this encourage you, if it works for you to increase your giving to All Saints, your giving makes a difference locally through CPAS Spurgeons and Swindon Food Collective and Children’s Society and globally through the above mentioned agencies. The more you give the more we can give away! Andrew will mention in his prayers the suffering of Christians in our link province of Uganda. In Matthew 10:42 Jesus says, Matthew 10:42 New International Version

42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

The truth was that many of Jesus disciples and those who went out with Paul and Peter on mission suffered for their faith. They were beaten, stripped naked, left thirsty and hungry, and  put in prison.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8New American Standard Bible

But we have this treasure in [a]earthen containers, so that the extraordinary greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing;

In Hebrews it says (Hebrews 11:35-39) King James Version

35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:

37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.

38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

So, Jesus is clear faith is good, but faith can hurt and the faithful can suffer so help them, care for them, these things matter.

So, there is a reward says Jesus for all those who help his little brothers and sisters

That has been his message throughout Matthew

Matthew 10:42Matthew 10:42New International Version

42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Matthew 18:5-6Matthew 18:5-6 English Standard Version

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

There is a reward for those who treat little ones of Jesus well and punishment for those  who treat them badly and that comes out in the second half of the Judgement separation when the goats are put to Jesus’s left and those who haven’t cared for his little ones are flung out into eternal punishment.

Matthew 25:41-46

New American Bible (Revised Edition)

41 [a]Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ 44 [b]Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ 45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ 46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I would not be telling the truth if I said I enjoyed these verses or did not find them hard. They are hard. But the context is important Jesus is facing death he is facing the shame of the Cross and he knows that his disciples will suffer beyond cruel punishment as they spread the Gospel. Out of the 11 remaining disciples after Calvary, only one, John,  will not die of martyrdom the other’s will all die for Jesus. And so, Jesus is preparing his Church for suffering. Both Mark and Matthew knew when they put pen to paper that the early Church was suffering death from Nero and his soldiers. Harsh though these words may seem to us comfortable westerners actually they have been food and encouragement and solace to thousands of Christians who have suffered. Scripture needs wise praying over and rather than make rash conclusions I would say read Matthew 25 on your own and ask what these words mean to you and our Church and our nation at this time. The point about judgement is that our actions or our negligence to act have eternal consequences, but the true disciple who loves Jesus and is loved by him, who daily seeks to do his will, will have nothing to fear.

I end with a quote from Michael Green:

“To the despised working man (Jesus) is committed the judgment of the whole world, Before him will be not just Jews and Christians but the Ta ethne, the Pagan nations. It is those who have given themselves in generous sense with no thought of reward who will be rewarded”.

So is judgement good? Well yes, it is, but unfortunately preachers in the past have tried to  deliberately  frighten people. I do not believe Jesus ever did this ,that is because the Son of Man who talked about judgment was the same man who healed the sick and the Leper and make the blind see, and loved people to the very limit. I also believe the message of judgement was aimed at the religiously proud who thought they were above judgment not the sad and desperate sinner and the fact is according to the Book of Common prayer all of us are desperate sinners at our worst, and as the Freedom in Christ course rightly tells us in Christ we are Saints! To both groups Sinners and Saints, the coming Judgement of Christ is good news not bad news.

 


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