Today is called Christ the King Sunday. We’re not that big on feast days in the Church of Scotland but we share the same lectionary with the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church and others. I was covering for Mairi this Sunday last year and we looked at the trial of Jesus where Herod mocked Jesus as King of the Jews.
This year although Jesus is actually speaking 2 days before he speaks with Herod, he is speaking about a day yet to come. It’s quite a passage as the culmination of Jesus’ teaching and the culmination of Matthew chapter 25. Let’s remind ourselves of the context. Having said in the previous chapter that his return will be like a thief in the night and we should all taking steps to be ready, the parable of the 10 bridesmaids teaches that those who have not made preparations will miss out; the time of invitation will come to an end and the door will be closed. The parable of the bags of gold teaches that the time of waiting should be spent working. Although we worked out the maths of the parable, we noted that in dying for us to take the penalty of sin Christ gives us so much that his gifts can be weighed out rather than counted out. We used to redeem vouchers in shops now we redeem loyalty card points but the Redeemer of Melody Green’s song is “Jesus, God’s own Son” who paid a price to set me free and to set you free. In doing so he then gives all the good things we have to enjoy and steward in his service; our health and strength, financial resources and the gifts and talents that we can use to serve him and others.
And it’s the theme of serving Christ and serving others that is the message of this section; does Jesus mean enough to us that we use the time of waiting and working to serve those who Christ identifies with as those in need.
Notice this section does not start like the other two sections of chapter 25. No “it will be like.” This is not even called a parable in the NIV. Just “The sheep and the goats” When the son of man comes in his glory; no messing about; this is going to happen be sure of it. The Son of man – Jesus himself; he’s used the title for himself in the third person regularly and several times in chapter 24 but it’s worth taking in verses 1&2 of chapter 26.
When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified
So that confirms we’re talking about Jesus and when he’s talking- the Wednesday of Holy Week as everyone else would celebrate the Passover on Friday while he was hanging on the cross.
There are four names or titles for Jesus in this passage – you’ll have to reread it if you missed them, but Jesus who arrived humbly as a baby will return gloriously as king to sit on the throne – and Advent is about preparing for both of these. So where is he now? Is he not already seated on the throne? Yes; but a different throne, Hebrews 4v16.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Yes, this is still the time of or grace, of mercy, of opportunity to repent and be accepted into God’s family.
So when that time comes to an end – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him,” what will happen? At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him king of glory now. But for many it will be too late.
And is the only difference between the sheep and the goats what they did and didn’t do? Well no not really. It’s their unobservable relationship with God that motivates the activity or inactivity.
Jesus did not say all this to leave us in doubt or wondering. His invitation is clear. His offer is open to take him as Saviour and Lord; he wants you at his wedding because you mean so much to him – no limit of 20 that day. Don’t wonder if you’ll make the grade…we won’t but Christ does, and we go in as his guests to the wedding as his faithful servants and as his followers.