The Last Judgment (Cor. 8:8-13; 9:1-2, Matthew 25:31-46)
The Sunday of the Last Judgment is the third Sunday of the three-week period prior to the commencement of Great Lent.
On this day, Meatfare Sunday the reading form the Holy Gospel concerns the future judgment of all who will stand before Gods throne when Christ returns in His glory.
(25:31) The Lord said, "When the Son of man comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐν τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ πάντες οἱ ἄγγελοι μετ' αὐτοῦ, τότε καθίσει ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ•
Here is the magnificent culmination of the Lord's address, which is not simply a parable but rather a literal and detailed account of the upcoming and universal judgment. Since His impend suffering, death and subsequent resurrection are now near, the Lord Jesus directs the hearer beyond the imminent events of the cross to the sight of the glory of the Son of Man, His judgment seat, and the whole world, the prototypes Adam and Eve, and the living and the dead before Him. He reveals the heavens opened and all the holy angels present to witness His Judgment.
(25:32) Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
καὶ συναχθήσεται ἔμπροσθεν αὐτοῦ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, καὶ ἀφοριεῖ αὐτοὺς ἀπ' ἀλλήλων, ὥσπερ ὁ ποιμὴν ἀφορίζει τὰ πρόβατα ἀπὸ τῶν ἐρίφων,
The first coming of the Son of Man was in humility, extreme humility; His purpose was to serve and to die. Now we hear that the Second Coming will be in equally extreme glory, as a King to judge all the nations. A king unlike any of this world, he will gather "All" nations, and simply (as the shepherd) separate them as sheep and goats. This is an extraordinary statement of the power of the Lord – it quite unlike any proclamations of the other false prophets or leaders of other religious movements, the paradox is shocking, present and available both pre and post suffering, death and resurrection. The Lord tells the listener what precisely will take place in the future within the full context of the cross which for the Lord lay's in wait. Thus an affirmation of His great power, is also an affirmation of His great humility – that is to say of His great love.
(25:33) and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
καὶ στήσει τὰ μὲν πρόβατα ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ τὰ δὲ ἐρίφια ἐξ εὐωνύμων.
There are only two categories which describe the deeds of one's life – there does not appear to be a room set aside in the image described for "mediation" or for additional "pleadings" or "appeal" – because this book that contains the work of each person (Revelation 20:11-13), leaves nothing to interpretation for the Lord –
1. There were the needy – their case is straightforward
2. There were those in a position to help out of the love which springs from Faith and either did or did not.
3. To have Faith, is to have Love, and to have Love means it is impossible not to help our brothers and sisters in need.
4. On the most basic level then we are to be divided on this day of judgment by our faith, from which our Love and related works spring.
(25:34) Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
τότε ἐρεῖ ὁ βασιλεὺς τοῖς ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ• δεῦτε, οἱ εὐλογημένοι τοῦ πατρός μου, κληρονομήσατε τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου•
(25:35) for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν, ἐδίψησα καὶ ἐποτίσατέ με, ξένος ἤμην καὶ συνηγάγετέ με,
(25:36) I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
γυμνὸς καὶ περιεβάλετέ με, ἠσθένησα καὶ ἐπεσκέψασθέ με, ἐν φυλακῇ ἤμην καὶ ἤλθετε πρός με.
The standard of judgment is unrestricted compassion towards those in need. The Lord who is not in need, substitutes Himself for mankind in this straightforward explanation of this standard. It is not complex, it is as simple as giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming those who would otherwise be unwelcome, perhaps different, not part of our "group", "party" or "click", those who are without clothing, the poor, the indigent who lack even basic needs, the sick who feel desolate, and need companionship, and visitation, and those who suffer desolation from imprisonment.
Is this an unduly burdensome standard? Is this not a standard which all of us can reach, regardless of position – what special resources are required?
As humans we are experts at self-deception, so it is certainly possible, maybe even easy to fool ourselves about the nature and depth of our true faith. Faith of course is intangible, immaterial, it cannot be measured outwardly. However the fruits of our conviction, can be; for it is tangible, materials and very definitely impacts those around us, particularly those in need – those least engaged in the subtle, and principally human procedure of self-delusion.
Therefore it has been said "...every tree is known by his own fruit." (Lk 6:44)
The real works of Faith can stem from nothing less than genuine Love, all other attempts, for examples those made out of a desire for recognition will in the end carry the seal of many things, but Love. It is these genuine acts of the heart for others in need, that become the reflection of our true inner state – since it is evident even to a child, it certainly will not escape the notice of our Lord God, our Savior, and our Judge.
(25:37) Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
τότε ἀποκριθήσονται αὐτῷ οἱ δίκαιοι λέγοντες• κύριε, πότε σε εἴδομεν πεινῶντα καὶ ἐθρέψαμεν, ἢ διψῶντα καὶ ἐποτίσαμεν;
(25:38) And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
πότε δέ σε εἴδομεν ξένον καὶ συνηγάγομεν, ἢ γυμνὸν καὶ περιεβάλομεν;
(25:39) And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'
πότε δέ σε εἴδομεν ἀσθενῆ ἢ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ ἤλθομεν πρός σε;
(25:40) And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ βασιλεὺς ἐρεῖ αὐτοῖς• ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐφ' ὅσον ἐποιήσατε ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων, ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε.
Those who have acted with mercy and compassion towards the needy seem to be unaware of the connection between who they have helped and the Lord Himself – perhaps this can be attributed to the Humility which is characteristic of Faith and Love – i.e. "we are doing this because they are in need" vs. "we are doing this because we will win points..."
The needy are the most intimate brothers and sisters of Christ. In them perhaps Christ is reflected most, though he Himself has no needs - In the needy is the often the absence of all pretense, and thus the opportunity for the living Christ to enter into their inner being, to alter their "state", though the world, (as it did to Christ) may and often does reject them.
(25:41) Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
Τότε ἐρεῖ καὶ τοῖς ἐξ εὐωνύμων• πορεύεσθε ἀπ' ἐμοῦ οἱ κατηραμένοι εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ•
(25:42) for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
ἐπείνασα γὰρ καὶ οὐκ ἐδώκατέ μοι φαγεῖν, ἐδίψησα καὶ οὐκ ἐποτίσατέ με,
(25:43) I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
ξένος ἤμην καὶ οὐ συνηγάγετέ με, γυμνὸς καὶ οὐ περιεβάλετέ με, ἀσθενὴς καὶ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ οὐκ ἐπεσκέψασθέ με.
(25:44) Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?'
τότε ἀποκριθήσονται αὐτῷ καὶ αὐτοὶ λέγοντες• κύριε, πότε σε εἴδομεν πεινῶντα ἢ διψῶντα ἢ ξένον ἢ γυμνὸν ἢ ἀσθενῆ ἢ ἐν φυλακῇ καὶ οὐ διηκονήσαμέν σοι;
(25:45) Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
τότε ἀποκριθήσεται αὐτοῖς λέγων• ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐφ' ὅσον οὐκ ἐποιήσατε ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἐλαχίστων, οὐδὲ ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε.
The unmerciful and uncompassionate are equally confused about who exactly they were or were not serving - as those in the other camp (the right hand side of the Lord) but this time for very different reasons. They fail to recognize Christ in the needy, the poor, the desolate not because of their humility, but because of their unLove, the hardness of their heart, and perhaps above all the unfamiliarity with real Faith. Just as there can be works with different root causes, and which produce ultimately a very different sort of fruit, so too there can be ignorance of different origins stemming from a very different internal "state".
(25:46) And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
καὶ ἀπελεύσονται οὗτοι εἰς κόλασιν αἰώνιον, οἱ δὲ δίκαιοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
Unambiguously Jesus identifies Himself with the deprived and the castaway and invites to brotherhood those who ignited by love for others (1 Jn. 4:20) would serve those in need – it is these who are crowned with Grace.