Matthew 25: 31-46
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Reign of Christ
November 23, 2014
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for His Name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
When he had finished, his audience applauded with enthusiasm and asked him to repeat the verses that they might again hear his wonderful rendition. Then the second man recited the same words: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want ..." But when he finished, not a sound came from his audience. Instead, the people sat quietly, in a deep, mood of prayer and devotion. Then the first man rose and said, "I have a confession to make. The difference between what you have just heard from my friend and what you heard from me is that I know the Psalm; my friend knows the Shepherd."
The Parable of the Last Judgment in today's Gospel Lesson confronts us head-on with one of the great paradoxes of our Christian faith. It is one which many of us have yet to grasp even though we have been members of the Church all our lives. To put it as simply as possible: the very best way to know and experience the Presence of the Lord who is our Shepherd, the very best way to make the inward journey to God, is through the outward journey to others. Or, as one of the early Church Fathers put it centuries ago, "The prodigal son cannot fully experience the Father's love until he has walked the Jericho Road with the Good Samaritan."
Jesus said, "... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mt. 20:28). He did this throughout His entire life and, ultimately, on the Cross. And He made it clear in His teaching that those who are His followers are to be women and men for others also. This teaching appears most powerfully in the "Parable of the Last Judgment" which we have just read from the Gospel of Matthew.