Rev. William C. Bills
October 23, 2018
Redaction criticism looks at scripture through the eyes of an editor. Some Bible stories are told multiple times in various contexts. The story of Jesus feeding a great crowd of people with loaves and fish appears six times in four gospels. The choice to locate material in a particular place in the narrative influences its importance and interpretation.
Matthew 25 is comprised of three parables, told by Jesus in succession. They are the final teachings of Jesus before he is betrayed and then crucified. Matthew may view them as the last word on Jesus’ teachings. It is no coincidence that chapter 24 in Matthew treats “the last things” or Jesus’ teaching about the end of the age and the coming kingdom of God. The third and final parable in Matthew 25 is known as the separation of the sheep and the goats. It is sometimes called the parable of the final judgment. Matthew chose to make it the last word from Jesus on serving others before he is betrayed.
We are taught over and over that we are saved by faith alone. But Matthew makes it appear that we are saved by what we do for others. And we are judged by our failure to serve. In this sense, judgment isn’t rendered by God at all. We render judgment on ourselves, both through our service and our failure to serve. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit prisoners, we are not only serving them, we are serving Jesus. When we fail to serve others, we fail to serve Jesus. The choice to serve or not is always ours.
The second goal in our strategic plan calls for 51% of the congregation to be involved in some kind of mission or outreach program. It asks each person in the congregation to do something for others at least once a week. Goal two asks us as a congregation to commit to 10,000 hours of service in 2019. In the parable of the sheep and the goats those who are called blessed didn’t know they were serving Jesus with their actions. They were just doing what came naturally. We often do good for others without having to think about it. Sometimes, without thinking about it, we say no. In 2019, be attentive to all the opportunities you have to serve others. Make a commitment to do as much good as you can for as many people as you can. Those who would save their lives must be willing to give their lives away.