It is hard to miss the commonality between Jesus’ inaugural sermon (Luke 4) and his last recorded public sermon (Matt 25). Earlier this week I was with a small group of believers as we read and discussed Matthew 25 – the familiar allegory of the sheep and the goats.
I often ask those in our extended CCHF family, “is there a passage of scripture or a Biblical truth that motivated you to choose a career in caring for the underserved?” Not surprisingly, this is one of those passages that influence a lot of us to embrace a life of sacrificial service. It is worth a deeper look. If you have a chance, read it again – ideally before you read the rest of this blog.
The main character in the story is neither the sheep nor the goats, but Christ - Jesus, telling a story about himself. As the folks in our group began looking at how Christ described himself in the story, we saw titles like “Son of man”, King, Lord, “Shepherd”, and “Son of God” (implied by calling God his Father). But a few in our group also saw that he described himself as hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison. “I was hungry and you fed me.”
There is something about God that identifies with those in severe need – the poorest of the poor – those who suffer.
In the story of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, after knocking him off his horse and blinding him, Jesus says to Saul, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul’s paraphrased response: “Persecuting you? I am persecuting a bunch of bad Jews who worship a criminal who was executed about 7 years ago. I am persecuting a group that refers to themselves as “the church”. Who are you?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Jesus identifies himself with the church, His body. Lay a hand on her and you touch him. We should always be careful how we treat and speak about the church. But in this passage, Jesus clearly identifies with the persecuted church. There is something in God that most clearly identifies with those who are persecuted, who are oppressed, who are marginalized and forgotten.
Just as we should treat the church with dignity, we need to also recognize that the welfare mom, the homeless man, the alien, the fatherless and the prisoner are the embodiment of Jesus. The King, Lord, Son of God is present in them. My challenge is to recognize Jesus in their lives, and to treat them as though my interaction with them is an act of personal worship to Him.