Take a moment and read the following passage out of Matthew where Jesus talks about when the Son of Man (himself) comes in his glory:
Matthew 25:31-40 ESV
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then 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. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And 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.’
What do you find amazing about this passage? What about these words fills you with wonder and worship? What details of these verses have stuck in your mind since the first time you heard it? Let me give you my answers to those questions. As I do, you can consider if your experience was similar.
What I always found fascinating in this section of Jesus’s discourse was the answer Jesus gave to the question the righteous asked as it pertained to their works. I found it fascinating and exciting that the love we show to other Christians, Jesus’s “brothers,” was declared to be love shown towards Jesus.
“Wow! This is sweet. When I do acts of service for other Christians I am really doing it for Jesus” is something along the lines of my thought process. That made me feel good about the times when I served the body of Christ. It was also very motivating in terms of choosing to tangibly love my brothers and sisters in the Lord.
This is essentially what I found amazing about Matthew 25:31-40. This elicited worship; what a gracious God he is to count out works towards Christians as work towards Christ. This aspect of the story has stuck with me for many years. And make no mistake, this is amazing. It is a wonderful thing that our deeds done to those who walk among us are considered deeds done to the King who will judge the world and share his kingdom with those who are his sheep. But this week a different aspect of the story jumped off the page and became the aspect of the story that now amazes more than anything else.
This aspect’s importance came to light while reading, you guessed it, a John Flavel sermon. In the collection of sermons in Volume 2 of The Works of John Flavel, a collection called “The Method of Grace in the Gospel Redemption,” Flavel preaches on our union with Christ. At one point, he deals with this passage in Matthew. Flavel, almost unintentionally, caused wonder to rise in me in regards to these verses in a different way than it had before.
What I now find the most remarkable aspect of these verses is the fact that Jesus would so closely identify himself with his people. This is stunning. The wonder of these lines is not how our works are considered by Jesus, but rather that he associates himself so intimately with his brothers and sister that to do something for them is to do it for him. Our union with Christ, the one-ness of the relationship which encouraged writers of Scripture to say we are in Christ and Christ is in us, is a truth of massive wonder calling for massive worship. I had never looked at the story of the sheep and the goats with this emphasis.
I thought, and still think, it is a good deal for us that our kindness to fellow Christians is counted as kindness to Christ. That is amazing. But for me, now, what is even more amazing is that Jesus’s relationship with believers is so close, so unified, so intermingled, that when someone does something to a believer, they in actuality do it to Christ. Our union with Christ is a stunning doctrine that stretches my imagination and stimulates my devotion.
How have you viewed this passage? Had you ever read it and been amazed at the union between Christ and his people? I hope you have. And if not, join me in new found wonder at these words of Jesus.