It has been a little over two thousand years that Jesus-Christ first came to earth. Indeed, Jesus, the Word of God, became flesh (the Son of man) and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and shed His blood for the remission of the sins of all mankind. He died on a cross, rose from the dead after three days, ascended to Heavens, and sat down at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19).
Before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples several times He will return and we know now that His coming is imminent (Revelation 22).
When Jesus returns…
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about His second coming, when at the end of the ages He will return in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, and sit on the throne of His glory.
All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats, setting the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on the left.
King Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
Then the righteous (sheep) will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”
Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”
Then they also will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?” Then He will answer them, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Who are the least of these?
In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus talks about a certain category of people, we as individual and also as a community tend to ignore.
Though they are in plain sight, sharing our daily routine and present in the streets of our neighborhoods, most of us have simply turned away from them, shut down eyes and hearts to their hardship and sufferings.
These are specifically in this text: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner.
In today’s context, this list can pretty well be extended to all those who need our love, compassion, and assistance. These are the people we see as unimportant, pitiable, or burdensome; These are: the poor, the beggar, the needy, the homeless, the hopeless, the outcast, the single parent, the widow, the orphan, the abandoned child, the alien, the refugee, the handicapped, the blind, the lame, the deaf, the mute, the sick, the elderly, the wounded, etc.
Why does jesus identify himself to them?
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus, coming to Nazareth on the sabbath day, stood up in the synagogue and read the following passage from the prophet Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2). And then said: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
During the time of His ministry on earth, Jesus went about all the cities and villages (in Israel), teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38).
We, as Christians, are the laborers in the field of God, taking care of His sheep and bringing more to His flock – preaching the Gospel and ministering to people with the gifts of the Holy Spirit He graciously gave us (Mark 16:17-18).
This is why, at the end, we will be judged on how well we invested ourselves into the great commission (Mark 16:14-16) and also on how we treated our brothers – with the love of God or with contempt and indifference.
The reward of the sheep
To those who will have carried out ALL his commands Jesus will say: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
When Christ the King will judge the nations of the earth, He will reward the righteous sheep for their obedience by giving them to inherit the Kingdom of God, while the unrighteous goats will be cast into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Understanding God’s commandments
In Matthew 22:34-40, while Jesus was in Jerusalem, one of the Pharisees come to Him with this question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
To love God is to love his brother
To Love God is to obey God, and to obey God is to carry out His Word. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
God’s command for us is that we honor Him – and Him alone (Exodus 20:1-11) – and that we love our brother/neighbor – for He made us all according to His own likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Therefore, if someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)
Our love for God should be demonstrative – in the way we seek Him daily – and noticeable – in the way our new life in Christ Jesus shows a regenerated person (2 Corinthians 5:17), no longer living a selfish life, but doing to others what we would like them to do for us (Matthew 7:12).
“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48).