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Waiting for Jesus: Living Compassionately

November 22, 2020 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Waiting for Jesus

Topic: Biblical Verse: Matthew 25:31–25:46

The Festival of Christ the King

November 22, 2020

Matthew 25:31-46

 “Waiting for Jesus: Living Compassionately”

“On Christ the King Sunday we are reminded that the highest and most holy form of power is not coercive and domineering but, rather, self-emptying and servant-like. Jesus is a king like no earthly king, and his ministry on earth revealed that God’s reign operates with an ethic of care for the most vulnerable and most in need of compassion” (Sundays and Seasons: Year A 2020. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2019; p. 310). The church year comes to a close today with the Festival of Christ the King, the last Sunday of the church year. Over the last several weeks, we have focused on the Gospel lessons from Matthew 25. Two weeks ago, we focused on Matthew 25:1-13 and Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins under the theme, “Waiting for Jesus: Living Expectantly.” Last Sunday, we focused on Matthew 25:14-30 and Jesus’ parable of the three servants entrusted with their master’s talents under the theme, “Waiting for Jesus: Living Responsibly.” Today, on the Festival of Christ the King, we focus on Matthew 25:31-46 and Jesus’ words about the final judgement under the theme: “Waiting for Jesus: Living Compassionately.” Our waiting for the Savior’s promised coming is to be expectant, responsible, and compassionate. “Waiting for Jesus: Living Compassionately” is the theme for today’s message. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

The final judgment here in Matthew 25 can sometimes unsettle our minds. Will I be among the sheep or the goats on that great and final day? Will I be on Jesus’ right hand or on his left? For the child of God, that final judgment will serve as the public declaration of the judgment that has already taken place. For the child of God, for the one whose faith and trust is in Jesus, the judgment took place nearly 2000 years ago when Jesus took our place on the cross and died the death that we rightly deserved. Jesus suffered the judgment, the punishment, that should have been ours. By the power of the Holy Spirit who works saving faith in us, we are declared not guilty and given a full pardon through Jesus’ cleansing blood. That is a present reality, something which we possess now, but it will not be fully revealed until that day when Jesus comes again. Then, in his glory with all the angels, Jesus will declare to his beloved children in front of all the nations who are gathered before his glorious throne: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). We are judged not because of our works, but because of Jesus’ works – what he has done for us through his atoning death upon the cross. That is what makes us righteous. The works of love that we are permitted to do in this life serve as a public witness to Jesus: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick and imprisoned. And the truly amazing thing is that God’s children do not even know what they have done! Jesus calls them – calls us! – what we are: “the righteous.” “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’” (Matthew 25:37-38). And Jesus replies: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).

The title of today’s sermon contains a word that isn’t even found in the Gospel lesson: compassion. The word itself isn’t there, but it is most assuredly described there. What does compassion look like? Here is one example. Each November, Scouts around the nation participate in a “Scouting for Food” campaign to stock pantry shelves in local community service agencies like Koinonia. Cub Scout Pack 867 and Scout Troop 1107, both sponsored by St. John’s, spent the last two Saturdays doing this differently this year, due to the pandemic. Normally, Scouts go door to door, picking up donated canned goods and non-perishable food items, but this year, Scouts were here at church to receive donations of food from people who came in their cars, drove into the parking lot, and dropped off their items in a safe manner. One Scout leader shared that 1,868 lbs. of food was received over the last two Saturdays, and cash donations exceeded $150. One family, after driving by and seeing the Scouts with their roadside signs, later returned with 150 lbs. of food. So there were even more donations this year, even under COVID restrictions. To God be the glory! The people who donated these items, as well as the Scouts who collected them, will probably never actually see the faces of those who will receive this food. But Jesus’ face is there, as he himself tells us: “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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:35-36). It is as Mother Teresa once said, Jesus comes to us in “distressing disguise.” Do we see him? Do we recognize his face in the face of the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and imprisoned? If there is a blessing pronounced on that final day, there is also a curse: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Failing to see Jesus’ face now in the face of those in need, failing to help our neighbor who is Christ in our midst, we risk missing Jesus altogether, not only now but eternally. The Word of God tells us: “He who does not love his brother whom has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). May the Lord work true repentance in our hearts now in this time of grace! If we are waiting for Jesus expectantly and responsibly, then we are also to be waiting for him compassionately.

The last image of Jesus which the world saw was when he was hanging upon the cross, bearing our sins in his bruised and bloody body. That’s the last time the world saw Jesus. Jesus did not reveal himself to the world in his resurrected glory; that blessing was reserved for his disciples who believed in him. But when Jesus comes again, it will not be in humiliation and suffering; it will be in glory, power, and honor that will stun the unbelieving world. As believers who trust in our risen, reigning, and returning Lord Jesus Christ, we look forward with joy, not dread, to his coming again even now as we celebrate this festival of Christ our King. Jesus’ crown of thorns and the wood of the cross that was his throne will give way to majesty and splendor that defy description. That is what we wait for in faith. Until that great and final day, we have work to do. As Christ has served and ministered to us with compassion, so we are to serve and minister with compassion to those who are in need. In this week of Thanksgiving when we pause to give thanks to the Lord for the tremendous blessings that he has bestowed on us, let us also do good to the hungry and thirsty, to the stranger and the naked, to the sick and the prisoner. That is our calling in Christ until Christ shall come again. Amen.  


More in Waiting for Jesus

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Waiting for Jesus: Living Expectantly