It seems, the gospel of Matthew, at least to me, is slowly stripping away the full range of liberties presented to my free will. I wonder if I will lose the gift of free will all together, like the man described in the following passage of Matthew 27:32 that states, “Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.” Here an innocent men, forced to labor and share the burden of Christ’s punishment. Without warning and certainly without invitation, some are forced to submit to uncommon hardship whether it is disease or falsely accused and imprisoned, leaving the crumbs of their free will to choose between despair or hope. Not only do I believe the Beatitudes somehow clothe the suffering with a special grace despite their outlook of their hardship, they also invite the carefree souls far removed from the trials and tribulations shared willingly by Jesus to understand their judgment found in Matthew 25:31-46. If you have questions of Christianity and how God judges us, it is worth the weight of your soul to truly contemplate Matthew 25:31-46:
The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 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. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King 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: 35 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; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 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.’
41 “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: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 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.’
44 “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?’ 45 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.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Reading this sobering passage from Matthew 25 for the first time or with a new depth is as troubling as it is inspiring. The noble Christian process of “dying to oneself” begins when one relinquishes their freedom of indulgence so as to minister to the suffering, or according to St. Matthew, Christ. It’s worth mentioning that “ministering” is self-giving, the definition of true love, and is meant to glorify God – not ourselves. If each small “yes” said in silence by those seeking Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned, then a “no” is whispered to obtaining the distractions to the Divine promoted by this world. Those fortunate to say “yes” to the wants and needs of Christ’s commandmants experience a new beginning. Those submissive to the will of the Father empathetically seeking to minister to His Son Jesus compelled by the conviction of their lowly status by the Holy Spirit, slowly transform into the aspiring faithful in a “willing” death and a grateful respondent to the merits won for all by Christ at Calvary. This free infusion of God’s grace reveals our good purpose promising a hopeful future. Grace propels the prideful to confidently seek humility to further grow and reflect the goodness of God’s light in Truth. Although I may passionately believe that my Christian expression offers lavish helps for the humble mind along with a richness of religious externals that narrows my path, it ultimately comes down to my willingness to open and freely offer my presence into situations where Jesus abides because of my trusting response to God’s incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. The path to Christianity did not begin on a “Roman Road” but rather from a sermon on a mount. It is a narrow path seeking true love defined only by and through the Holy One of God. It is recognizing the blessed that are promised final comfort by the One called Messiah. The very author of Salvation instructs eager souls how to pray. It is exchanging selfishness in a chance to cooperate, not earn, with the will of the One who sent Jesus. It leads followers with cross-in-tow seeking the Way, the Truth, and the Life to the very places He abides. And yes “He”, that is Jesus, is the One and only who can offer the opportunity to ever-lasting re-union with the Trinity. Why? Because His love is perfect and His sacrifice was complete. The Gospel is a response to life – not a book we throw at each other. Christian hope is not making a presumptuous reservation in Heaven, rather it bathes the convicted of sin in the authority of Christ’s forgiveness while allowing faithful vision to the Kingdom at hand and to come. So take a look around – Jesus isn’t hiding…He’s waiting. Let Him in.
Here I stand within your midst,
Yet still you pass me by.
Blind to life of my distress,
Growing deaf to my cries.
“Lord! Lord!” They’re just empty words –
Fallen sounds of pride.
Like life lived by a sword,
Alone… you will die.
Love God and your neighbors,
Do the Father’s will,
Forgive all your trespassers,
Come to Calv’ry’s Hill.
Your sins I promise to erase,
Raise you from the dead.
So why’s church a marketplace,
Leaving sheep unfed?
I’m the Alpha and Omega,
I AM Holy One of God,
I’ve come to set the captives free,
I’m the power in Aaron’s rod.
Lift all sufferings to my cross,
Share the pain of my victory.
Yes, discipleship has its cost,
But how will you end your story?
You gained the world but lost your soul?
Or… sought forgiveness instead of control?
©2012 by Chris Clody 3/16/2012
Do you have any difficulty in accepting the Beatitudes, especially when the “Blessed” are not mentioned by Jesus to be even His followers? Is modern Christianity moving away from the message of the Beatitudes or the blessing/warning found in Matthew 25:31-46? Let me know your thoughts!
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