Hey Look, It's Jesus!

Matthew 25:35-40

For I (Jesus) 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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

I think a lot of times we hear these words and we want to takee them figuratively.  Like this is some spiritual riddle that’s cloaked in mystery that we won’t understand until we get to heaven.  But it’s not, it’s just clear instructions on what Jesus thinks is important. He is saying there are hurting people in the world and when you help them, you are really helping Him.

Now, that sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? How can giving a homeless guy a sandwich or shoveling my elderly neighbor’s driveway be ministering to Jesus? I think I used to think it just meant that He wanted us to reach out to the hurting because He loves them. But I think it’s much more. Jesus cares so much for people who are hurting or who are weak that He identifies Himself with them – this is the One who was born in a barn, who grew up poor, betrayed by friends and strangers, and who had to be buried in a friend’s tomb because He couldn’t afford one of His own – He understands what it’s like to the weak one. So, He identifies Himself with the poor and the hurting, so much so that He says when you help one of them, you’re really helping Him.

And He says this to the group of people standing before His throne in our passage.  And look at what they say, “When?” “When did we see You?” I love the humility. They aren’t patting themselves on the backs, high-fiving each other. They’re scratching their heads. “Lord, we don’t remember seeing YOU, we were just helping our neighbors who needed help. They were hungry so we gave them some food and they were too sick to go out so we went to visit them, and helped them pay their gas bill.” And Jesus answers them, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”

Now, I have something I wanted to address that I found as I studied this passage.

Several of the commentaries that I read on this passage insist that these verses are referring only to how people treat followers of Jesus (presumably because Jesus uses the term, “these brothers of mine”.) That makes me want to tear my hair out!!!  I think that it reveals an underlying arrogance that we have that WE are the point, that WE are the focus. I looked up the Greek word for “brothers” (I’m not a Greek scholar) The word is adelphos. The same word that is used in “Philadelphia” the city of brotherly love. The definition of adelphos includes:

1) a brother, whether born of the same two parents or only of the same father or mother

2) having the same national ancestor, belonging to the same people, or countryman

3) any fellow or man

4) a fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection

5) an associate in employment or office

6) brethren in Christ

a) his brothers by blood

b) all men

c) apostles

Why do we think that it’s all about us? We don’t ever say it this way but we think that God has chosen us because He likes us better. That we’re the cool kids in high school, we’re the Jock and the Prom Queen in Breakfast Club (That’s a movie from the mid 80’s for those of you under 30).

This thinking is a trap that we have to get ourselves out of! It’s dangerous! That’s the point of this whole passage. It’s NOT ALL ABOUT US!!! What makes us think that those people who are not yet followers of God are any less valuable and important to Him? Jesus said that the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 sheep in the fold and goes out to find the 1 who is lost. The lost one is a higher priority because they are in danger.

It is my belief that this passage is referring to ANY who are suffering. James said, “this is true religion to look after widows and orphans.”

Jesus is a King who identifies with His people in all of the mess, pain, and confusion that life brings to them! He is the King who walks with the homeless and understands poverty…..

And now He has given US the responsibility to be His hands and feet on earth, we are the ones who have the responsibility to bring the hurting a cup of water, to visit the sick and the prisoner, to help the poor or the struggling.

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Later in this passage, Jesus addresses the other half of this group. The ones who didn’t help the hurting. They didn’t feed the hungry, and visit the sick or those in prison. They just came home from church, hit the button and opened the garage door, pulled the car in and closed the door behind them. Day after day, week after week. In case you’re wondering, I am saying this as much to myself as to any of you.

The thing that really scares me is that this group asks the same question as the first group, “When?” They don’t seem like bad people, not serial killers or deviants. They’re regular people who missed the whole point! They thought they were the focus! They thought they were doing the right things

and Jesus says, I was your neighbor who didn’t know Christ, was the single mom who worked and went to school and raised 3 kids, I was the outcast at school that no one sat with at lunch and you REFUSED TO HELP ME.

Tell me, if Jesus was sitting in Allegan County Jail right now, do you think a couple of us might go and visit Him? Or if He was sick in the hospital? Or if He had lost His job and was going to lose His house out on M-89, do you think we might pull together and help Him make his house payment? I think we’d knock each other over trying to help Him, but we ignore the hundreds, maybe thousands who are hurting around us and Jesus is saying, “That’s ME!” I’m the One who is hungry,and thirsty and lonely, it’s ME!”

After reading this passage this morning you know what? He is sitting in the Allegan County Jail, right now, broken and hopeless. He is in a hospital bed right now, wondering who will take care of his family if he dies, or whether there is a heaven. He is a 9 year old boy whose dad isn’t around. He is a single mom who is in danger of losing her home to foreclosure.

He is here in Allegan and it is our responsibility to find Him, the hurting, and to help. That is our mission. This is who we are as a church. This is who the Bridge is called to be. And I thought our launch time would be a good time talk about this because as great as this time is and as fun and as much as I love being there on Sunday mornings, Sunday mornings are NOT THE POINT! Sunday mornings are a time for celebration and equipping, but the POINT IS OUT THERE Monday thru Saturday.