And the king will answer them,‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40
To set the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46, the king—Jesus—is speaking in verse 40 to those people—the sheep—separated from the goats by the king and placed at his right hand. The king commends those who, in caring for “the least of these who are members of my family,” by feeding the hungry, providing drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the imprisoned, cared also for the king. This contrasts with the king’s condemnation spoken later in the passage those people—the goats on his left—who failed to care for the hungry or thirsty, the stranger, the naked, or the sick or imprisoned, and, in so failing to care for “the least of these,” failed also to care for the King.
Difficult and challenging words by Jesus!
Jesus’ words are a call to each of us, as disciples of Jesus. We need to always recall the Good News we have received and in which we hope: we are saved by faith in Christ, through God’s reconciling work of love, revealed in Jesus’ life, death on the Cross, and Resurrection. But our faith in Christ should be neither lifeless nor loveless, but rather, as Paul states in Galatians 5:6, a “faith working in love.” We are called by Jesus to love God and love and serve others, even those sometimes hard-to-love people who are “the least of these.” Praise God that, in His love and grace, He grants us the power to love, broken vessels that we are. God also grants us the Church, a family of brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called both to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and, together with our brothers and sisters, to love and serve others, even the “least of these!”
Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40 are comfort for us, as disciples. Each of us suffers in various ways. The truth is that, however we try to shield ourselves, suffering is and will be an unavoidable, sometimes seemingly overwhelming, part of our lives. Jesus, the King, wholly and completely identifies with and is close to those members of His family who suffer—that includes us, as adopted sons and daughters of God. We can take comfort that, however deep our suffering and pain, Jesus, through his identification with suffering humanity, is and will always be there with and for us. That is Good News!
We thank you God for your great grace and love. May our faith in You be a living and active faith marked by love and service to others, including the “least of these who are members of your family.” We thank you that, in and through the living Christ, You identify and always are with us in our own trials and suffering. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.