AUDIO – 29 minutes
Pastor Dan (transcription)
We’ve begun a new series here at Kirkmont called “Kirkmont Cares”. It’s a 5-week series and essentially what we’re doing for 5 weeks is we’re patting ourselves on the back and we’re bragging about how much we care for people for people in need (joking).
Well… kind of.. we might do that for a little bit of a time, but for the most part what we’re going to be doing in our 5 weeks together is looking at the truth of the Bible and discovering how it is that God wants us to be caring for people.
And I want to be clear, when I use this expression, we’re talking about caring FOR people, not just caring ABOUT people. And we’re going to be purposeful in using that language. Because what I think of when I hear caring “about” something is… someone hears a sad story or reads a sad story of some kind, and you have some sort of short term emotions that are attached to reading that sad story… you sort of care about it… you wish that had not happened to them; but very rarely does that produce any type of change in your life or in their life at all.
It might, at best, caring ABOUT someone might at best produce some sort of short prayer, or small check, or something like that; but we’re after the idea of caring “FOR” people in accordance with the way the Bible asks us to do that.
And I can’t think of any passage that is more appropriate, more challenging for the subject of caring FOR people than the passage that Pat alluded to earlier in our Children’s message known as the Book of Matthew 25. In fact this passage is so pivotal in churches caring for people, that there are entire churches who summarize all of their local ministry efforts, all of their global ministry effort by simply calling them our “Matthew 25 Ministry”. And this is the passage we’re going to be looking at.
And before we read the passage I wanted to share with you this illustration that I received this morning about this passage. I was here about 7AM and I was practicing my other introduction. It was a story about a time I went to Haiti a few years ago.. it’s a good story but you’re not going to hear it today because I changed my mind.
I was nervous because the story was going too long… and we have communion and I was thinking, “What am I gonna do?”… and then all of the sudden my phone dings… and someone had sent me this article with this passage that we’re going to look at today.
And here’s what it says,
A pastor transformed himself into a homeless person [referring to pic above he said, “that’s kinda like if you come to the office and you happen to see me on a Friday (LAUGHTER)] and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that service, that morning.
He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service….only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food… NO ONE in the church gave him change. He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back. [Ushers there’s your sermon, you can just go home, you heard it]. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, and with people looking down on him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up in front of the church and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation….”We would like now to introduce to you our new pastor. The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation…..The homeless man sitting in the back stood up… and started walking down the aisle… the clapping stopped with ALL eyes on him…. he walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment…. then he recited … the passage we’re going to read together this morning.
After reciting it, he looked towards the congregation and told them…
[Now next time you want to get mad at me for something I do or say… it could be this guy, up here 🙂 ]
He all what he had experienced… many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame… he then said… Today I see a gathering of people… not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples… when will YOU decide to become disciples? He then dismissed service until next week.
There were probably many people happy that the sermon was so short.. right?
But nonetheless… I think this is a wonderful introduction to the passage we’re going to be looking at, Matthew 25, here it is, starting in verse 31.
The Sheep and the Goats
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“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.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
So Jesus tells this group of people… essentially, it’s a parable, a made-up fictional story to teach a point, but it’s more than just a parable… it’s this weird fusion between a parable and like a historical future event that’s actually going to happen… it sort of brings the two together and he tells them this message.
He says, ‘It’s going to involve ALL_people… there’s going to be an event, a judgment event someday that’s going to involve people from all nations… meaning there’s no one who’s going to be left out of this incident that Jesus described. They’re all going to be there… every single person.
And he says what Jesus is going to begin to do, is to take some people and put them on His right, and we’ll call them sheep. And he’ll take some people and put them on his left, and we’ll call them goats.
We don’t mean to offend anyone who’s left-handed or happens to be particularly inclined to goats… but if you read the story you realize the people on the left, who are called goats, do not have a favorable outcome. Those who are on the RIGHT receive heaven.
Jesus tells this parable, He tells this story, he tells us that this is going to happen.
I want to just save you some potential future anxiety when you find yourself there at this moment some day; you do realize that if you’re looking at someone, their right is your left. I just want you to be clear about that.
So, when you stand and you face Jesus someday and He points like this (to Jesus’ right), and you’re thinking ‘Oh my gosh, He’s sending me to the LEFT, I’M A GOAT“! Don’t, that’s not true. OK? (LAUGHTER) So I just want you to get your bearings right.
So it’s HIS right; and it’s HIS left.. OK?
So He’s going to send people to the RIGHT, and He’s going to send people to the LEFT; and of course the question that’s begged is, “How do I make sure that I’m on the RIGHT side?” “How do I make sure I end up as a sheep and not a goat?”
That’s a GREAT question.
Jesus seems to be telling us that the answer to “how we end up on the right and not on the left” is by CARING for a particular group of people, who we’ll discuss the details of who they are in just moment… but by CARING FOR THEM WELL ENOUGH–if we do right by them we end up as SHEEP; if we do wrong by them we end up as GOATS.
Now, for some of you here this morning… this is immediately causing some sort of… like a conflict… a contradiction. Because it kinda sounds like Jesus is saying, “If you’re a good person, you’ll go to heaven; and if you’re not a good person you won’t.
And for 6 weeks in a row here at Kirkmont we did a series called The Prodigal God that we just finished; reinforcing the reality that that’s not what determines whether or not you go to heaven. That NO one’s good enough to earn their way into heaven; that you can get as lost in your relationship with God by being rebellious and lost in your relationship with God by trying to be too righteous.
That we all_need_Jesus_Christ, and to transfer our trust, our faith IN HIM and what He did on the Cross for us.
So if that’s what determines whether we get to heaven or not, how can Jesus come along and teach us this passage? It seems like a contradiction… it seems like Jesus is being inconsistent, the Bible is contradicting itself… what’s going on here?
I think there’s TWO key interpretive principles to understand this passage. We have to sort of put our Christian Ed Thinking Caps on… and say “How are we going to understand what this passage really means?
I think the first key is found in verse 40
…it’s the identification of “the least of these brothers of mine”.
I think the key interpretive component is identifying “WHO IS THAT?”… because Jesus is saying, ‘everything is going to be hinged on how these people are being treated: if you treat them well you’re a SHEEP; if you don’t treat them well you’re a goat.’
SO WHO ARE “the least of these brothers of mine”?
One possible solution that’s been offered to that is that “the least of these brothers” simply refers to Jesus’ 12 disciples.
I tell you, I have a wonderful Study Bible.. in fact I think it’s the best Bible I’ve ever come across. I just love it;
I think its got great study notes and that’s how it interprets this passage and I totally disagree with it. But nonetheless (LAUGHTER)… but nonetheless it says, “The 12 Disciples“.
So one interpretation is ‘the 12 disciples’. Now there is some biblical precedent for that in Matthew, chapter 10… Jesus is speaking to His twelve disciples in a whole chapter of Scripture where he’s sending them out. Matthew 10:40-41 says this,
“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.
You see there’s some Biblical precedent for the idea that Jesus identifies with the disciples so strongly that when He sends them out, “.. if you treated them well, it’s like you treated Jesus well”.
So people are picking up on that whole idea and saying “Maybe this is who Jesus was talking about here”. And that solves their problem, perhaps, with Jesus being inconsistent… because what they say then is, is the disciples were sent out to teach people about Jesus, and if you don’t treat them well, it must be because you didn’t receive their message well; so ultimately the issue is that you didn’t believe in Jesus.
But there’s some major problems with that interpretation.
First of all… HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO VISIT THE 12 DISCIPLES? How were we supposed to feed them? How were supposed clothe them? How were we supposed to give them water?
I mean this is a message spoken about how all people from all the nations are supposed to treat these 12 people?
The other issue is, if Jesus was really focused on people just believing the message, why not tell a story about “Believing the Disciples Message” rather than this whole passage about treating them a certain way?
What happens also if you come along and you treat them well, but you don’t believe in their message?
“Hey… ya know, Disciples… what yer sayin’ about Jesus sounds totally crazy, but I don’t want you to be hungry and without clothes… so here, I’ll take care of you”.
Do those people get to end up on the RIGHT side? Do they get to end up as sheep?
Jesus makes no mention of their message. He makes no mention of the disciples message and whether or not people believed in it.
The other possibility, and the way that many people just read this is “The least of these brothers of mine”, simply refers to everyone. The idea is that Jesus is identifying with everyone in this way. And there’s some Biblical support for this as well, elsewhere, in Proverbs 19:17 the Scripture says this,
“Whoever is kind to the poor…“
…without any qualifier, not just the ‘poor disciples’ or certain poor people, but simply
“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.”
And so there’s some precedence for the idea that God just thinks of anyone who’s in need, when we help them, we are ultimately supporting and helping Him.
By the way, whether we think it’s the disciples, or whether we think it’s everyone… I think the heart of the passage can still come to the surface. I think the heart of the passage can still come to the surface and this is the idea that,
There’s a group of people with whom God identifies so closely… that HOW WE TREAT THEM is like HOW WE TREAT GOD.
And the truth of the matter is, we’re kind of that way as people too aren’t we?
I mean is there anyone in this room who doesn’t have someone that you love SO MUCH, that you identify with them SO CLOSELY that no matter how someone else would treat them, it’s like they might as well have treated you that way… sometimes even more so.
That you don’t have someone whom you love so much that if someone was cruel and unkind and violent to… you’d be infuriated on their behalf. Or if someone was incredibly generous and supportive to someone in your life, you would be very grateful to that person for caring for the person whom YOU love.
We all have someone in our life who we identify with in that way.
And the beauty of this passage is God is saying, “There’s a group of people out there whom I identify with in such a way, that when you treat them a certain way it’s as if you treated ME that way”.
We have a Golden Retriever... we bought a Golden Retriever, his name’s Brady. We bought that breed because we knew we were going to be having kids… he was our first ‘kid’ ya know… and we knew we’d be having children and we wanted a safe dog around our kids, and he’s been just that. I mean he’s been so kind and sweet and gentle around our kids; and I’ve never seen him bite anyone or even look like he was going to bite anyone.
But I have a sense… this underlying confidence in the fact that if our dog saw someone in our home mistreating someone in our family a certain way, that our dog would step up to the occasion.
And in many ways, I like to think I have a Golden Retriever personality (LAUGHTER)… OK, maybe not (laughter continues), but I’ve never hit anybody… I’ve never hit anyone, but I’ve been “hit”… I got beat up on the playground in Third Grade… her name was Tara Fleck (LAUGHTER).
And my parents enrolled me in Karate the next year… but anyway, I would like to think that I’m “gentle person”… but my whole point is to say to you that if I saw someone who was threatening my wife or kids, I don’t even think I would have to think twice about doing something physical or violent to protect them… or to defend them in some way. I identify with them in that way.
And this is what God is saying, only He’s doing a POSITIVE thing… instead of the negative.
Some people think, “Hey, I’m excused from this passage because I don’t treat people bad. But that’s not how God’s approaching this thing. He’s saying, “What you do for them in the positive is what you do for me… and you need to do positive things for them.” It’s not good enough to just say, “I haven’t done anything BAD to them”.
So maybe the better illustration is imagine a natural disaster comes and just hits our area… and your children or your grandchildren who’ve been put under your care are separated from you.
And for days you don’t see them. You don’t know if they’re still alive… and if they are alive are the subject to the winds of the streets and all the violence and things that are breaking out. Are they being fed; are they being given water; are they properly sheltered… what are their circumstances.
If you found out a few days later there was a family that SAW your child and brought them in and cared for them and returned them to you… just imagine how eternally grateful to them you would be.
Now if we can love someone and identify with someone that great, just imagine how much God, the creator of the heavens and the earth does for those who are in need.
And the wonderful privilege that we have of caring for those people who Christ cares about… the wonderful privilege that we have of we have of CARING FOR CHRIST… (pause) … because Christ cares about those people who are in need.
It’s a wonderful privilege that we have… and God identities Himself with people in such a great way, that what we do for them we_have_done_for_Him.
I think another interpretive issue is just… when we read this passage it sounds a lot like what Jesus is saying is that, if we have some FAITH in Him… but also have our WORKS then that will equal whether we get to go to heaven or not.
Let’s put up this equation for you. The parable sounds like:
FAITH + WORKS = SALVATION
Actually, to be honest with you… the parable sounds like,
WORKS = SALVATION doesn’t it… there’s no mention of FAITH anywhere at all in this. But many of you, like me believe that the Bible actually teaches:
FAITH = SALVATION
So that’s why we find it so troubling. And I do believe that the Scripture teaches that FAITH equals SALVATION, but we also have to remember it also teaches that SALVATION equals WORKS as well.
* * * FAITH = SALVATION = WORKS * * *
… that those people who are truly saved and have truly entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ… their life_should_begin_to_change.
And I think if we can take that second equation and read it into this Parable, and understand it from that perspective, then it starts to make sense–that Jesus is using this understanding as He’s teaching this.
So the idea is that if people haven’t done what they should towards other people… if there are no WORKS we can read back into the idea that there is no SALVATION, and we can read back into the idea that there is no FAITH.
In the Book of Hebrews 6:9-10 the Scripture tells us this,
Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
You see what the author of Hebrews is saying, “The things that accompany salvation”. He’s talking to them about their “Good Works” and their “Righteousness”… and he’s saying, “Those are things that don’t EARN your SALVATION… it’s not WORKS = SALVATION… but they are things that accompany salvation.
So that if someone is actually ‘Saved‘, they should also actually produce “GOOD WORKS” in their life.
James 2:17 … some of you are more familiar with this passage. James comes along and sort of picks up on the same idea and he says this,
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Now let’s go back to the equation:
* * * FAITH = SALVATION = WORKS * * *
FAITH if it is not accompanied by ACTION is dead.
So you see what he’s saying is, “If you have a FAITH that doesn’t actually produce a WORKS… it’s actually a faith that produces deadness… it obviously hasn’t produced real salvation.
Now I think that’s one of the most important ways to understand this passage… is not that Jesus is saying you need to EARN your way to be on the RIGHT or to be on the LEFT… but here’s the scary reality of what He’s teaching:
I believe what Jesus is saying is “people who don’t care FOR (not just about; but who don’t care FOR people are ultimately people who haven’t placed their faith in Jesus Christ.”
Friends… don’t get mad at me; I didn’t say that… do you think I like hearing that?
I just think this morning, with all of my heart, that JESUS SAID IT in this passage of Scripture–that people who DON’T care FOR people are ultimately people who haven’t placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
We want to give you here at Kirkmont some opportunities to respond to this whole “Kirkmont Cares” series. If God is moving in your life to stepping up in this area, we want to give you some tangible ways to do this. These are not new opportunities, but I’m hoping to present them in a slightly different way.
You see, recently I’ve been at a Missions Committee meeting here at Kirkmont, only to discover there’s a little bit of … you know.. “disappointment”… might be too strong of a word, but a little bit of a disappointment that when we have some of the opportunities we have here to go serve the community, we don’t get the type of turnout we think we should get.
And so my assessment of that is, it’s pretty difficult to put a signup sheet in the back and ask someone to go and signup WITH a bunch of people they don’t know, and go serve FOR a bunch of people that they don’t know.
And so I’m hoping that we might be able to create a new strategy that will at least eliminate one of those factors.
We’re going to challenge our Small Groups. Recently we had over 80 people join a Small Group; which means we have well over 100 people participating in a weekly small group.
We’re going to challenge our Small Groups to take on one of these local ministry efforts. That way you’re at least doing it WITH some people that you know, even if you’re doing it FOR some people that you don’t know.
And so we’re asking our Small Groups to identify one of these local ministries.
Here’s my challenge to you: by the end of the year, that you’ll have either DONE something, or at least scheduled something, as a small group, to go do, and volunteer, and expose yourself to one of the local ministries that Kirkmont is already supporting.
Here’s the list of them… there are certainly more than this, but here are a few ones that I know have ministry opportunities ready for your small group. We support the:
MIAMI VALLEY WOMEN’S CENTER – We support them financially; we already have some people who are volunteering there. We have an announcement in your bulletin about how you can support them right here at Christmas time; but they are always, year round, looking for people who can help in many different ways. So some of our small groups might really relate to that ministry and say “Hey, let’s go do that”. www.womenscenter.org
We also have the…
GOSPEL MISSION PROJECT – What’s beautiful about the Gospel Mission Project is not that we don’t have needs in the Beavercreek area, but we cannot ignore the reality that we have downtown Dayton just minutes away from us, and there are needs REALLY great there that maybe our community doesn’t know about. Again, we support them financially; we have some people who are helping them out, but we could be doing better, and I think some of our small groups might really like participating in that ministry. www.gmission.org
We have the…
FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION CENTER – which is run by GREENE COUNTY. It’s designed to help women and children who are in violent situations. Some of your people might identify and related to that ministry; and we challenge some of our Small Groups to consider contacting them. www.fvpcgc.org
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY FOR GREENE COUNTY – a ministry providing affordable homes and shelter to those who don’t have it.
So those are some of the local ministry opportunities we want to challenge you to consider taking on as a Small group. You might try a few different ones before settling in on something; and decide together as a group what you think is the appropriate amount of time and frequency to be joining those ministries.
You see three other letters up there W.A.R. or WAR… https://warinternational.org/
This is there for a little plug because next Sunday after church, Women At Risk is what that stands for; and our church has a history of supporting this national and international ministry of helping women who are at-risk for various different reasons. And we’re having a JEWELRY PARTY right here at the church next Sunday… you can see those details in your bulletin.
You can come, buy jewelry, and at the same time do good… what a wonderful opportunity.
So… that reminds me though… this Women At Risk ministry reminds me that on November 22nd, and a few Sunday’s from now, with this whole KIRKMONT CARES we want to tackle some issues that we don’t feel like we can really talk about in a typical Sunday.
For example “Human Trafficking” is an issue that we need to talk about with regard to this subject. It’s the greatest humanitarian crisis that our globe is experiencing; and it’s coming to America, if you will.
And we need to have a PG-13 Service to address some of these things; and we couldn’t do that this morning. So we’re giving all of our parents advance warning, November 22nd, we’re going to offer Children’s Programming through Junior High on November 22nd so that we can show some videos and use some language and talk about some subjects together that wouldn’t be offensive to any of our parents who may be not ready to expose any of their kids to that.
Parents, you can decide what age is best for you; but we want to offer some programming through Junior High.
Well.. you guys have been great… in participating… continue to pray for your small groups, that you guys continue to look for a ministry opportunity…
Now we get to come to THE TABLE… you want to talk about CARING, talk about Jesus “caring’… I want to invite our Praise Team to come up at this time; invite our ushers who are going to help serve to come forward and have a seat.
(and then we did it 🙂 )
Listen to recent sermons on Kirkmont Presbyterian Church website
ADDENDUM – clarification on “Homeless Pastor” illustration
Sometimes blessings come in unique ways. Snopes says the Homeless Pastor story shared above has a “Mixture” of truth. Second, the man in the picture is from England and real homeless man.
Below you will find the facts as their known, but remember as you read that Jesus used similar stories to touch the hearts of his followers – he didn’t preface by saying, “OK – this is just a pretend story…” Bottom Line: the Homeless pastor illustration is a parable, an extremely effective way to engage a learner.
EXCERPTS from Snopes:
“The story (~2 years old) is reminiscent of an urban legend based on the true story of an experiment conducted for a social psychology class at Princeton University in 1970, in which seminary students were sent on urgent assignments designed to take them past an actor posing as a person in need of assistance. Researchers measured whether (and how) students interrupted their pressing tasks to render help, and analyzed the results.
This particular version of the “incognito clergyman” tale appears to be a fabricated story. No one has yet identified a real pastor by the name of Jeremiah Steepek (or a similar variant of that name) or found any church, large or small, headed by a pastor with that name. Nor has anyone been able to verify the event described, even though it was supposedly witnessed by several thousand congregants.
Additionally, the photograph of “Pastor Jeremiah Steepek” that accompanies the online version of this story is complete unrelated to the narrative: it’s actually a picture of an unidentified homeless man snapped by photographer Brad J. Gerrard in Richmond (London):
Similar True Story:
Although this particular narrative about a Pastor Jeremiah Steepek may be an invented one, the gist of the tale was expressed in some real-life incidents that took place in 2013. In June 2013, the Rev. Willie Lyle, the newly-appointed pastor of the Sango United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, spent four and a half days living in the streets in the guise of a homeless man. He then transformed back into his role as pastor as he delivered a sermon:
This is good :
We also note that the plot of this anecdote is somewhat similar to an episode from the opening of In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?, a best-selling 1897 book by Charles Monroe Sheldon (which features a real jobless man shaming a congregation and their pastor for their lack of compassion towards him, rather than a pastor pretending to be jobless in order to test his congregation): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_His_Steps
SNOPES source of all above:
I found one blogger’s comment insightful and you may find useful. It was posted among many that were criticizing the hypocrisy of the person who first published the story.
“I can’t help but shake my head. It appears that instantly Christians wanted to find something other than the story to focus on. If there has been a law broken, it is up to the photographer and/or the person in the portrait to deal with. And the rest of us should be wrestling with the unavoidable truth that were we in this fictitious setting, we too would have probably followed everyone else and ignored someone that presented like this.”