The scene for final judgment is set. The nations are gathered and the glory of the king is on full display. The trembling onlookers will all wait with the expectation that they will be rewarded for having faithfully served the king; however, the great separation will be at hand. As we meditate on this text and the future reality it foretells, we must picture ourselves with trembling hearts before that glorious throne and the glorious king .
The nations are gathered before the king on His throne as one great herd of sheep and goats. The sheep will be gathered to His right and enter into eternal life, but the goats will be gathered to His left and enter into eternal punishment. But, what divides the two? It is neither race, nationality or gender. Instead it is the response offered to the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, or imprisoned. Jesus here teaches that our profession of faith is accompanied by real manifestations of that faith to real strangers, beggars, and prisoners.
Perhaps the most interesting factor of this passage is that both the sheep and the goats are equally unaware of their actions. The sheep were unaware that when they faithfully ministered to the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned they had done it as unto the Lord and the goats were unaware that their neglect was unto the Lord. Each group asks the same question: "Lord, when did we see you?" But, the response of the king is very different. To the faithful He will say "Come and inherit," but to the unfaithful He will say, "depart." At the heart of this great division is the issue of faithfulness. Faithfulness is merely the everyday manifestation of faith through ministry to those in need.
So, if the sheep and goats are equally unaware of the spiritual reality of their ministry, then what can this passage offer us?
- Simple service to those in need is the natural posture of true believers.
- Followers of Christ should identify with those in need.
- Eternity matters most; however, we must not spiritualize our way out of ministering in a practical way.
We may be faithfully unaware, but we must be found faithful.