Christ completes his Olivet Discourse with two more parables and a passage of future judgment. The need to watch and be ready is combined with some thoughts on what “being ready” means in day-to-day life.
The church has been waiting for Christ’s return for what seems like a long time. Help our faith to be genuine and our attitude to remain watchful so that we will be ready when he finally arrives.
Help us also to be busy about our Master’s business. You have given us resources and abilities that you expect us to use for you. Help us not to fear or get lazy, but rather to use what you have given us for your glory.
We also realize that the consequences of Christ’s judgment are eternal. We ask you to forgive us that we might inherit the kingdom that you have prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
We pray for all of those we know that are lost, that they might be saved, and in that way avoid the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
While we are waiting for Jesus and working for you, help us to be a blessing to the poor, the needy, the foreigner, the sick and those who are in prison.
Help us to be a blessing to any and all that need our help, starting with our brothers and sisters in Christ, but not stopping with only them.
And help us to keep doing this until Jesus comes.
In Christ’s name,
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.
The Parable of the Wedding Feast continues a string of parables that Jesus began in Matthew 21. The full text of the parable is here.
The king represents God and his son is the Messiah. The invited guests would be the nation of Israel up to the time of Jesus. Their poor treatment of many prophets and messengers is well documented in the Old Testament and continued to the time of John the Baptist.
God’s response was to destroy their city, Jerusalem, and this happened more than once. Jesus seems to be looking to what would be a future destruction from his own perspective.
Since the invited guests refused to take part in the festivities, the king encourages anyone at all to come. The point is that the wedding is going to take place with or without the originally invited guests.
In the ancient world, there were examples of kings who handed out special clothing to their guests. One outcome of this was that everyone was on the same level — no pride for the wealthy and stylish, no shame for those who were poor. All of them were honored guests of the king. (See Gundry 1994).
One man was wearing his own clothes, apparently thinking they were good enough. He has no answer for the king when he is confronted. He is thrown out immediately.
Here are a few things we should take to heart from this parable:
- Not all those raised with a religious background accept God’s invitation to the royal wedding of his Son.
- For example, many of the Jews in Old Testament times or the time of Jesus refused.
- Many raised in the church today do the same, ignoring the invitation and belittling God’s messengers. They believe they know better.
- Even if we say yes, we must remember that we are allowed in only on God’s terms not on our own.
- The result is that many who are “bad” as well as those who are “good” (v.10) end up as guests in the wedding when the party starts. They all came in at God’s invitation and on his terms. Those who refuse Christ’s offer or try to negotiate something other than entrance as a result of his free gift find themselves left out.
Our last installment of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount takes us through topics like casting judgment upon others and the golden rule.
Unity, Diversity and Our Identity in Christ
Part 2 of 14
The entrance of sin into the world has had devastating consequences for us all.