Church of England Diocese of Leeds Kirkby Ravensworth

A SERMON from Rev Antony for Christ the King 22nd November 2020

Christ the King Sunday (Year A.)

Matthew 25:31-46

The weeks before Advent we have readings reminding us about what the coming of Christ into the world means for us, what the Kingdom of God is like, and how we should prepare.

We see Jesus is King, Lord of all and the reading from Matthew reminds us of the end of time when all will be judged by Jesus. Jesus uses the image of a shepherd who sorts out the sheep from the goats, so there will be a separation of those who have done good things and those who have failed to do good.

The teaching of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew is coming to a conclusion it is as though Jesus is shown by Matthew to say 'Look what I have said is serious, this is important, and you need to listen to what I say because there are consequences to your actions.'

The good news is that the challenge which Jesus gives can be fulfilled by any one of us, we all have the ability to reach out in love to the needs of others. Jesus simply tells his followers to be kind to one another. Look after the poor, visit the sick give food to the hungry. We can all do this, and so we have the opportunity to become a part of God's family.

So what’s the point that Jesus is making?

By recording these words, Matthew show that Jesus was expecting lives to be changed through his teaching and the actions of his followers. Jesus’ words were not just spoken for fun, or to trip people up, but were spoken so that his followers would respond and demonstrate his love in actions of care for others, especially those who didn’t have a voice or were rejected by society as not worthy.

God notices what’s going on in our lives. The lives we lead here on earth are of consequence. The way in which we treat others is of importance to God, he takes note and there will be some form of judgement.

Jesus is using a picture which was familiar to his hearers to illustrate the fact that good and bad behaviour is judged.

The Jews grew up with the image of a Messiah the one who would come and judge humanity and separate them as a shepherd separated the sheep from the goats. Of course, they expected that the sheep would be the Jews of Israel, and the goats would be everybody else.

But Jesus tells his hearers that they are in for a surprise. Yes, there is going to be judgement, but the criteria has changed!

From now on the basis for being part of God’s Kingdom was was to be based on the teachings of Jesus and the way people obey those teachings.

If people wanted to be a part of the Kingdom of God, they must treat their neighbour as they would wish to be treated themselves, with love, respect and forgiveness.

Jesus mentions six deeds of mercy. They are not meant to be comprehensive, rather they show that Jesus is concerned with acts of kindness towards the needy.

Jesus does not demand spiritual practise; he just asks us to act with charity to others.

Acts of Charity are easily recognised and they are acts of faith.

Each one of us have many opportunities to help the needy by acts of kindness.

To visit, to care, such things all are within reach of each one of us.

In the story Jesus says that those who are rewarded are surprised, because they had no idea that their acts of kindness were noticed by God. They were motivated only by love, not by greed or reward but by simple acts of genuine love.

Jesus was never selective in his care for others and he even encouraged Christians to care for their enemies.

We note that Jesus is not speaking about a literal point of judgement in the future history of the world. Rather Jesus is stressing the need for us to take seriously his teaching on the importance of right behaviour here and now.

In showing kindness and mercy, people demonstrate the presence of God within them and live by the standards of God’s kingdom. By their behaviour they make themselves citizens of God’s kingdom because, they are one with Christ.

Those who respond to the teaching of Jesus see everyone as a brother or sister in Christ, and they will respond to their needs. By their deeds they are to be known.

By walking in the way of Jesus, they will be in relationship with him, and become part of his family but the un-faithful will only look after themselves and will find Christ to be far from them.

If we embrace the teaching of Jesus as our King then we become part of his kingdom now, not at some judgement at the end of time. So we find the kingdom is give to us in our lives today and we know not only the joy of considering the needs of others, but the delight of serving Christ the King.

Today we are reminded that we are each called to the service of others; we are also called to work against oppressive systems and human structures that fail to serve the needy in our world.

God's calls us to take the resources he has given us and use them for the good of all, and to be considerate of the plight of the weak and powerless.

On the Sunday of Christ the King we are called to dedicate ourselves afresh to Jesus and in so doing to serve others so that we can become more and more a part of God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.