How to serve Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

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,[f] you did it to me.’

I believe this passage has a special application pertaining to the nations’ treatment of the Jews in the days leading up to Christ’s return.  Still, pretty much all passages of Scripture have some sort of application for us today.  This one may be applicable in all places and at all times, except for some hypothetical place where no one is poor, needy, sick, etc.  I’m not sure where that might be.  

The other day, I was reading in Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries.  Though a professed agnostic, this sociologist of religion quoted the passage above and went on to explain how the early church put it into practice.

[Ancient] Pagan and Christian writers are unanimous not only that Christian Scripture stressed love and charity as the central duties of faith, but that these were sustained in everyday behavior … When the New Testament was new, these were the norms of Christian communities. (Stark, The Rise of Christianity, 86-87)

They should still be the norms today – helping the poor, the needy, the sick and those in prison  They probably are, for the most part, at least among Christians that I know,.  I’m happy to be pastor of a church where all of these behaviors are normal.  But still, let’s keep doing these things until Jesus comes.  When we serve those in need he says we are serving him.

Matthew 24 Verse by Verse

Matt photoThe extended teaching known as the Olivet Discourse is one of the Bible’s most important pertaining to end times prophecy.  In it Christ reminds to always be watching for him.  He is coming and we do not know when.

Matthew 24.pdf

Matthew 24.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Matthew 24

Heavenly Father,

Jesus warned us that many will be deceived by false signs and false Christs prior to his actual coming.  Please protect us from every form of spiritual deception.

Help us not to fear as we continuously hear of wars and rumors of wars, political turmoil, famines, earthquakes, and increasing troubles of various kinds.  We understand that these things must be, but they do not mean that the end is here, or even that it is near enough for us to see it.

On the other hand, help us to always be watchful, because our Lord is returning for us at a time that we do not know and will not expect.

He might even come today, so help us to always be ready.

In Christ’s name,

Amen.

 

Always be ready – Matthew 24:36-44

In this passage, part of Christ’s Olivet Discourse, Jesus makes a vital point for us.  We must always be ready for his return.

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

I have personally and unscientifically observed two common and unfortunate responses to the thought that Jesus can come back at any moment. 

One is to go completely overboard in end times enthusiasm.  I remember years ago having to comfort a man whose wife had died.  Grief is hard.  His was made worse by the conviction that he and his wife, who were not young, were both going to live to see the rapture of the church.  He has since died as well.  No rapture.

The other unfortunate response, perhaps egged on by views like the one above, is to decide that Bible prophecy is so difficult, obscure or controversial that it’s not worth paying it any attention.  This seems to be more common at present, but it directly contradicts Jesus’ point.

Whether one believes this passage from Matthew is talking about the rapture or not (I personally think it is, which I know is a minority view), Christ wants us to be ready.  He wants us to stay awake (v.42), be ready (v.44) and to watch (Matt 25:13).

The fact that we cannot know when Jesus is coming is not a motivator to not care when he will return.  I believe this tension and lack of clarity regarding his return is designed to keep us always watchful.  Every generation of Christians has every reason to believe that Jesus can come during their lifetime, but we can never be sure that he will.  

Therefore we must always be ready.  Let’s repeat that.

44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!