September 9

Text: Matthew 25:41-45

 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'  Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'  Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'”   (NASB)

This is among the most terrifying contrasts Jesus ever gave.  Most religious groups who follow Jesus wish to emphasize Jesus’ compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to the exclusion of his role as the one who pronounces sentence.  A few groups declaring themselves Christian stress the harshness of judgment.  Even fewer stress second opportunities after physical death occurs.  Almost every religious group devoted to following Jesus goes to one extreme or the other—the resurrected Jesus is either the Savior filled with compassion and mercy OR the Savior devoted to harsh accountability.

Which is it?  Both!  As long as we live, it is mercy and compassion.  He will forgive and help in ways that exceed earthly imagination.  However, when the resurrected Jesus returns, if we rejected or neglected the life he offered us, we are accountable for the choices we made in the use of life and the directions we took as we physically lived.  Accountability or mercy is our choice—not his arbitrary decision.

This parable (in a fascinating way) stressed the urgency of preparation.  With the disciples, the urgent factor was the signs—“how will we know these things are about to happen?”  With Jesus, the emphasis is on preparation—the parables of the returning master, the wise and foolish unmarried ladies, the entrusted money, and personal behavior.  To the disciples, the solution was founded on knowing when to get ready.  To Jesus, the solution was, “Exist in a state of readiness by being prepared.”

Note these things:

  1. Both groups had equal opportunities.

  2. Blessing and accountability were determined by personal response.

  3. The reaction of the blessed was unworthiness; the reaction of the accountable was, “You are unfair.”

Instead of minimizing the parable, allow the judge to care for exceptional situations.  Yield to God’s purposes and follow Jesus’ direction to live prepared.  Live in divine mercy, not human accountability.

Suggestion for reflection: How often do you evaluate personal choices?  (Read 1 John 1:5-10.)

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