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.
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.