Welcome back everyone to our conversation on The Parables of Jesus. It’s hard to believe but this is my last talk in this series, and I have to tell you, I’m really going to miss this series. This series has really impacted me in many ways, but one of the things that has really hit my heart lately is just how important these Parables have been to our lives right now…just how timely each talk has been to the world that we are living in today. It’s amazing to see how God orchestrates it all for us, and that has felt like a real blessing throughout this series. Now we just need to talk for a moment, because if you have been walking with us through this series you know that from the time we hit Matthew 18 a few weeks ago, all the way through today, Jesus’ teachings have just continued to intensify…they have been ramping up, and really it all leads to this final Parable found in Matthew 25 that we will be studying today, which when you stop, slow down, and personalize this particular scripture and what Jesus is saying here…it can be terrifying, incredibly intense, and absolutely crystal clear…there is no mistaking what Jesus is saying, even if it is something that many, many people don’t really pay attention to, or care to think about as we walk through everyday life enjoying the moments of now…with all of eternity feeling way off in the distance. So that is your warning for today, this is the single most intense parable Jesus will tell, if we are paying attention and personalizing what he is saying…and to get our hearts ready for this, as always, I want us to get warmed up and ready, and I want you thinking through and personalize a couple of questions here this morning and we will start here…
Would you say that you live out your faith? Do you see and feel God’s love in you to the point where it’s flowing out of your heart and into your life, your relationships, and all the world to see? Not sure, maybe later today ask those closest to you if you live out your faith well. How do you view people? When you see someone out in the real world out in the community…how do you view them? Are you able to see “need” around you? Do you see and are you open to the needs of people all around you? Do you see it, or not? If you see a need around you, the next question is important. What do you do with that need you see? Do you step into it, or do you think, that’s a shame, and move on with your day. Last question, do you see the value of people, and the importance of serving, helping, caring for, and loving people as we live our lives as Christians? These are very important questions all centering around the love we have in us…which Scripture says should be very prominent in the life of a follower of Christ.
1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. NLT
We talk about living out our faith and living a life of love a lot around MRC and we do that because in the end everything is about love. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God because love comes from God…God is love. Jesus literally says that if you love you are literally showing God to this world…it’s the proof that you are a Christian.
John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” NLT
So if you have spent any length of time around MRC you may be thinking to yourself, “Here they go again, talking to us about loving and serving and living out our faith, Sam is back on that kick again!” Well, yes it does come up a lot around here because it is such a big deal, but today I want to add another question that is a little harder to process, especially as we plow through life typically with no focus on all of eternity to come as we navigate life and engage all that life is throwing at us in our everyday lives as we live them. So, here’s the last question that I want to ask you this morning before we really dive into this parable. If you knew that today was your last day, would you look back over your life with gratitude and peace or would you look back over your life, your actions, and how you lived your life with regret? I have been faced with this question in my personal life a lot over the last few weeks and it can be a profound way to think about our lives and how we live them. This quote from a man named JC Ryles has been in my heart and mind a lot over the last few weeks…
“The two rarest things in the world are a young man who isn’t filled with pride and an old one who isn’t filled with regret.” J.C. Ryles
I have had the pleasure of watching a man, one of my heroes, live out one of these two rarest things and that is to live a life that isn’t filled with regret. My grandfather and I were very close, and on Thursday, October 6th my grandfather went home to be with the Lord and to be reunited with all His loved ones that went home before him. It was tough because he meant so much to me, but happy because I know he isn’t in pain anymore and is now home in eternal paradise with no more pain or suffering in his life. The last time we spoke he asked me to pray that He would go home soon, and while I told him that I didn’t think I could pray that he would die, I would pray that his prayers would be answered, and he smiled and told me that he was ready. In all the emotions, and all the sadness of saying goodbye to this incredible man, there was something that really stood out, my Pap had no regrets, and was excited to see Jesus, he wasn’t afraid or worried…because my grandfather lived out the very Scripture that we will be studying today. What an awesome and rare gift, to live with, learn from, and experience life with him, and then to witness a man at the end of his life ready, looking forward to meeting Jesus, with no regrets…as we prepared for the funeral services, there was one scripture that had to be at the center of that service, it was his favorite Scripture, it’s one that he spoke of often, and applied to his life…and it’s the exact Scripture that we will be studying today as we close out Matthew 25.
But before we read it, let’s pray for those ready hearts so we are open and ready to receive Jesus’ teachings here today. Let’s pray.
So as we dive into this parable, let’s remember how things have been going here as we have been walking through Matthew 25 the last few weeks, this is really the peak of intensity for Jesus. We are coming to the end of Passion week. It’s in Matthew 26 that we will see the religious leaders of that time execute their plot to kill Jesus. So this has led Jesus to talk about the day when He returns…because he knows how limited his time is with them now. The day He returns…which quite frankly can be a little unsettling for us to think about, as we walk through life in the here and now. It really has been a theme in what he has been talking about for quite some time. In Matthew 24 he says this…
Matthew 24:36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. 37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. 40 “Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left. 42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.” NLT
Then he continues this discussion of the reality of His return in the last few Parables we have studied. In the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids during our combined service what did we see?
Matthew 25:10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’ 13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” NLT
That reality continues in the Parable Ken had with us last week, The Parable of the Three Servants and what they did with what was given to them…and the account they must give when the master returns, do you remember that?
Matthew 25:14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. 16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. 19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. NLT
This parable ends with those who did nothing with what God gave them thrown out into the cold and the darkness where there is weeping and the gnashing of teeth….really intense stuff all of which leads us into the last Parable of Matthew 25, The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which is all about The Final Judgement Day…so yes, very intense Scriptures here in Matthew 25.
Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” NIV
So, there isn’t going to be a more intense scripture for us to study, and this is definitely one that should grab your attention because whether or not we want to think about it, this day is a reality for us all and while many don’t like talking about, we know that true spirituality isn’t an escape from reality but an absolute commitment to it. So, let’s talk about this Scripture for a bit and what it truly means to our lives today. Jesus says something in verse 31 that is worth a second look.
Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” NIV
When Jesus returns, and it’s not if it is when, he will not return as they saw him walking on this Earth but He will return in all His glory surrounded by angels, sitting on His throne in heavenly glory, this won’t be a humble carpenters son born in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, here to lay down his life but the return is of the King coming in the intensity of His heavenly glory. Then we see a lot that we need to talk about in the upcoming verses but let’s just sit in verse 34 for a moment…
Matthew 25:32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. NIV
So, Jesus is talking about The Final Judgement and illustrates it with sheep and goats and the separation of these sheep and the goats, but it’s verse 34 that really catches my eye there, because that is the goal right? That we would stand before Jesus and hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Giving us our inheritance, the Kingdom which was prepared for us since the creation of the world…this is it, it’s what we all want, this is the goal, our eternal destiny in the greatest inheritance we could ever want or dream of! But it does give us some things to talk about because so many Christians spend their lives working, striving, and doing their best to earn their way into Heaven, and we do it through our humanness, and we strive to earn this inheritance (which we can’t earn by the way) the way we humans think we should…but what have we learned about the ways of God, and what matters to Him in comparison to what matters to us people? It’s always so opposite. We humans tend to think about our Faith and get drawn to all the wrong things. We look for status and prominent positions inside churches. We want microphones and places of what we view as important and to be in the spotlight and feel validated from the attention we may draw. We work and strive to fill our minds with knowledge and just do all the very things those religious leaders (who we really see as Jesus’ adversaries) were doing back in the day.
But Jesus keeps going with this Parable and explains that our lives, are to be lives of love and while humans view Christianity and Spirituality the way the world does, God says it’s truly a life of love lived out in the simple and pure parts of our everyday life…what did Jesus pick out here in this teaching?
Jesus doesn’t say that you climbed the organizational leadership chart in your church, or that you spoke to a packed arena of people about Him, or that you had the most knowledge about God and could quote the most Scripture to others…it wasn’t about the fame your earned from others, or the amount of wealth you earned in your time on this planet, what does He say? You fed those in need. You gave a drink to those who were thirsty. You welcomed the lonely, you helped the sick, you visited the prisoners in prisoned…which aren’t spectacular things necessarily that only a few have the talent and giftings to do, but things we all can do. Do you see it? This is the Christian life, a life of love as God sees it.
Now here’s what is interesting…these people at the Final Judgement are all confused because of how Jesus presents what those sheep did and what the goats did not do…did you pick up on this?
Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” NIV
Jesus says that when we love and help others, we are helping Him! Now here’s what is very interesting…if you or I saw Jesus Christ laying in the street, homeless, hungry, thirsty and in need we would drop everything to help Him am I right? The goats who are separated for not caring for Him by caring for others are thinking wait a minute Jesus…if it was you, we certainly would have helped! Which once again shows us the importance of our heart and motives to the Kingdom of God. It’s one thing to serve and love others out of the pure love of God in and flowing out of us, it’s a whole other thing to love and serve others wanting something out of it. Pure love isn’t calculating, and for our own personal gain, which comes out clearly in this really frightening and intense illustration.
Listen, we all know that the greatest thing we can do is to love God and love others, I mean Jesus told us it is the most important thing we can do…but do we truly love God and love others with this love of God flowing in and flowing out of us or are we drawn to other things? So many people look at faith and are drawn to flashier things, popularity, status, and power. They will do things for God and for others but in the end, there is a hook, or a motive that isn’t super pure behind their efforts and Jesus really is impressing into that point with this intense teaching. It’s the simple moments, the ordinary moments of life and love, it’s humble, it’s seeing and valuing others, it’s serving, and loving those around us in our everyday life…or not. So, you may be getting a little uncomfortable here today thinking, “Sam it really sounds like you are telling me that I need to earn my salvation” but again, remember…Jesus does that for us.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. NIV
So, we simply believe in Jesus and accept Him as our Lord and Savior and Jesus handles all the rest for us…Jesus does that we do not! We know that it isn’t by anything we earn but a gift from God through Jesus, so that isn’t it! If that were true, we would stand before Jesus and get out our list of things we have done and how many people we would help and it would erase the fact that we continued to live our lives how we wanted…our works do not erase our sin, Jesus handles that for us. BUT…and it’s a big but here that we have to talk about. The Bible also is clear, that those who truly believe, there will be life change…there will be a result of that faith in their lives! If you say you believe and there is no life change, no action, no fruit in your life, you don’t really believe.
James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.” NIV
We need to see this, faith, without life change, without action is dead, it’s nothing and we need to talk about it, even if it makes us a little uncomfortable here today, I’m not sure there is a more intense scripture to discuss and to try to personalize into your own life today than what Jesus is talking about here at the end of Matthew 25.
You know I had 45 years with my grandfather, and I know that is a rare gift, most people don’t get that kind of time with their grandfather, it was a blessing being the oldest grandson in the family with a young grandfather because I watched this man live out his faith…and in his last moments, as the reality of meeting Jesus face to face was right in front of Him he was at total peace, because he lived out this Scripture we studied here today, it was his favorite passage of Scripture while it makes so many others uncomfortable…but he took care of people. He lived a life of love, and knew it, and found peace at the end of his life, he had no regrets because as he so articulately put it. I did all those things…he lived out His faith and it was beautiful to see as he looked back over his life that he was ready to meet Jesus. So, let’s go back to our questions as we close here today.
Would you say that you live out your faith? Do you see and feel God’s love in you to the point where it’s flowing out of your heart and into your life, your relationships, and all the world to see? How do you view people? When you see someone out in the real world out in the community…how do you view them, do you see them as Jesus himself? Are you able to see the needs all around you? Do you see and are you open to the needs of people all around you? Do you see it, or not? If you see a need around you, the next question is important. What do you do with that need you see? Do you step into it, or do you think, that’s a shame, and move on with your day. Do you see the value of people, and the importance of serving, helping, caring for, and loving people as we live our lives as Christians? And my last question for you is a tough one but an important one… If you knew that today was your last day, would you look back over your life with gratitude and peace or would you look back over your life, your actions, and how you lived your life with regret?
“The two rarest things in the world are a young man who isn’t filled with pride and an old one who isn’t filled with regret.” J.C. Ryles