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Matthew 25:31-46 – The Parable of the Judgment

Summary

In this Parable of the Judgment Jesus' transforms the time of waiting for the Son of Man from useless idleness to the important and unselfconscious care of the neighbor in need.

Analysis

Though earlier in the discourse Jesus has warned the disciples about asking "when" (24:3-4, 36), in this final parable of the series we hear not an "if" but a confident "when" regarding the coming of the Son of Man. Almost in anticipation of the Great Commission (28:18-20), the Son of Man now sits on his throne judging "all the nations." As exalted "king" (25:34) this Messiah now exercises judgment, separating the sheep from the goats. In telling Matthean motifs, the "righteous" are invited to share in the "blessings" of the "kingdom" that has been prepared for them from the beginning by the Father's design, while the wicked are sent to join their father, the devil along with his angels. And how will the separation be decided? Here is the surprise, emphasized in the elaborate symmetry and fourfold repetition of the narrative. The judgment is based upon how this community has treated the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner in the meantime of waiting. In this parable the community's meantime of waiting is changed from a useless passage of time to a redefinition of community in the care of the neighbor, and from worry about the "when" of the coming of the Son of Man to the realization that the "when" has already taken place in the face of the needy.

Matthew 25:31-46

The Judgement of the Nations

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “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.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

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10 February 2011

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