1.29 Synoptics -- The Last Judgment

Mat 25:31-46. This teaching about the Last Judgment is unique to Matthew. It speaks of a universal judgment with the same standard used for all nations!

        "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" (Mat 25:32).

        This separation will be on the basis of how people acted toward the hidden Christ during their earthly lives. But both righteous and wicked are surprised, because they did not recognize him during their lifetimes. He replies that he was in the guise of "the least of my brethren": the hungry, stranger, sick and imprisoned. This list recalls the words of Isaiah:

        "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" (Isa 58:6-7)

        The effect of this statement by Jesus was similar to overturning the moneychangers' booths outside the Temple – it upset the complacent tradition about life after death, the idea that good Jews go to rest in Abraham's bosom, while sinners and Gentiles go to the dark place, Sheol. There is no reference at all to what is central in Jewish faith: the Temple, the sacrifice, the Law. Even worse, the Jews and Gentiles are judged by the same standard, and it is a hidden one. This is truly revolutionary stuff, but once again, Jesus stood within the prophetic tradition of the Old Covenant. This no doubt left the scholars confused and arguing among themselves.

        

Meanwhile, the common people understood and received this word, because they realized they were not excluded or condemned by it. Those who were not religious professionals were always second-class Jews, they were under the tutelage of the religious leaders, dependent upon them for adjudication of disputes, regulation of conduct, performance of required rituals. They knew they were not "holy" in a legal sense, and could never make God’s "A-team." But Jesus introduced an entirely different standard of moral measurement, one that was based on real-life situations – the people knew what it was to be hungry, sick or needy. And the Gentiles knew what it was to be a stranger (Gk – "xenos"). This was a revelation to them: that God was not rating them on the basis of their knowledge of and fidelity to theological concepts and doctrines, but on the basis of their conduct to the needy and undeserving.