“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” …
If you see a young man wearing shoulder pads and a helmet, you might assume that he is a football player. He might look strong and tough, and he might be wearing a jersey with the name of a well-known team. He might even talk about what position he plays and how much experience he has on the grid-iron. As you look at him and listen to him talk, you might become convinced that he really is a football player, but it’s not until he actually runs onto the field and lines-up with his team that you can know for sure that he is what he claims to be.
Jesus didn’t tell this parable to explain how someone becomes a Christian or what qualifies us to get into heaven; He told it to motivate his followers to actually live out, through word and deed, what we claim to be. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. This parable doesn’t teach some other type of salvation based on how many good deeds we do, but Jesus wants us to know that a person of genuine faith, whose heart has been deeply and forever changed by God’s grace, will do good deeds in Jesus’ name. We will love people in need as a way of loving our Lord. We will care for the sick, the poor and the imprisoned as though we were caring for Jesus himself. These good things we do don’t save our souls, but they give evidence that our souls have been saved by grace.
All too often we put on a jersey and shoulder pads without actually lining-up to run a play on the field. We talk about faith, sing joyful songs and read the Bible in quiet devotional times, but how often do we turn our faith into actions of love, compassion and self-giving service? What I like best about this parable is the humility of the righteous people who are surprised to hear that their acts of kindness have been noticed by the King. They do good things out of the goodness of their hearts, not realizing that by loving others they are in fact loving their King. May we love the same way, not to be noticed or praised or because we are trying to earn God’s favor, but because Jesus has changed our hearts so much that loving people has become who we actually are.
Jesus, teach me to love others the way You love me. Show me how to give to those in need and how to lift up those who are struggling. Use me to spread Your goodness and grace in this broken, hurting world. I ask this in Your wonderful name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian