Christ the King, Sunday – 22nd November 2020 — Gospel: Mt 25,31-46
Bearing Witness to Kingship
The Lord’s teaching opens with apocalyptic images that convey Christ’s kingship. The image of the Son of Man coming in glory recalls many instances where Jesus foretells the coming judgment (24,30-31; 26,64). The Son of Man is called the King (25,34). All the nations of the world have gathered before him and behold his majesty. This imagery recalls Zechariah 14:1-21 where every nation will recognize the kingship of the Lord. From the throne, the King uses his authority to separate the people. Jesus, the shepherd, separates the good sheep from the bad goats. He calls the sheep those who are “blessed by my Father” (25,34). In Christ’s kingdom, the blessed ones are those who do not retaliate with violence, but bear witness to a new empire by serving others.
The blessed ones have demonstrated their faithfulness by performing acts of loving-kindness. The charge to care for the poor and the disadvantaged can be found throughout scripture, but it is especially exhibited in the ministry of Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus has announced the arrival of God’s kingdom while he cures the sick (e.g., 8,28-9,8; 9,18-38; 12,9-14; 14,34-36; 15,29-31); welcomes the despised (9,9-13); and provides food for the hungry (14,13-21; 15,32-39). He orders his disciples to carry on his ministry by doing likewise (10,5-15.40-42). The blessed ones performed these deeds with no idea that they were ministering to Christ. The service of the “least” concerns all people everywhere.
The righteous ones are those who have seen a King who is not like the kings of this world. They are blessed because they know a King who brings real peace, who sees the needy, and who hears the cries of the oppressed. In God’s kingdom, no one is hungry, naked, sick, or alone. This kingdom has invaded the world, especially to those on the fringes of society. To bear witness to Christ as King is to be a messenger of this kingdom to serve others and work towards bringing God’s glorious empire. “The difference between followers of Jesus and those who do not know Jesus is that those who have seen Jesus no longer have any excuse to avoid “the least of these” (Stanley Hauerwas).