WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMES
Key Verse 25:31
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.”
“When the Son of Man comes!” And that was the whole point of Jesus’ tri-parable in this chapter, when he returns! It was the last thing he teaches before he allows them to take him to his suffering and crucifixion. He teaches about how important it is to be prepared for “When the Son of Man comes”— for when the Christ, the Lord of glory will return. He also teachers something else, about how to be prepared for his return. In the first two parables, he teaches that faith in Christ and responsibility are most important in preparing for his return. It will be vital for us to have faith when he returns, and not just your ordinary run of the mill faith which so many people seem to have and to think is enough for them and for God. They are depending on it to save them, but it won’t. On the day he returns, just any ol’ faith won’t save people from God’s judgment. The only faith that can save people is the faith God speaks of in the Bible. Now that’s an incredible thing, isn’t it! People think they can use up any kind faith that suits their fancy and God will just have to accept it. They never give a second though to the faith God has prescribed in the Bible for salvation. It’s like using your own kind of medicine for your deadly illness and ignoring the only prescription that works. What then is the right prescription for faith? It’s faith in Christ, in his sacrificial death on the cross, in the redeeming blood of his wounds, in the power of his resurrection which brings about the Holy Spirit in a genuinely repentant sinner’s life, and recreates in them a new life— a life born of God. Without all these ingredients together, whatever faith people are snugly using and depending on is useless, and won’t work. They’re like the foolish virgins whose waiting was in vain. They weren’t even allowed in. The point is that every human being, Christians included, need to prepare for Jesus’ second coming with faith, the right faith. If you’re not growing in faith, you need to put aside everything else in your life and pursue faith!
Jesus then told the second parable which was all about responsibility. It is the other way all people need to prepare for the return of the Son of God. Everybody understands responsibility, because everybody has some responsibility or another to tend to, some more than others, but all have responsibilities in life. And people panic when their responsibilities at work pile up or their fall behind on them. Students panic when their responsibilities demanded from their professors press on them. Yet, it’s funny in a strange way that while people panic over such earthbound responsibilities, often they are dull when it comes to their responsibilities towards God. Human beings understand the seriousness of their responsibilities on earth; so why don’t they understand the critical seriousness of their responsibilities to God? However, they don’t. Even Christians seem to take their responsibilities with a lethargic attitude or an attitude of indifference. Every Christian knows that he or she has all kinds of serious responsibilities towards God. But some go even as far as to refuse to give to God the tithe which is rightfully his. Others refuse him the time and effort that are also rightfully his. Still others refuse to give to God what is due him in love and honor, in prayer and service— and especially in prayer and service— the very talents that God calls all Christians to put to work. These are responsibilities, responsibilities that we must account for. We are a small church, but we have the same responsibilities that the early church had when God’s grace fell on them to deliver them from darkness to light, just as we are! It is not right before God to feel nothing or be indifferent when the word of God calls us to fulfill our responsibilities to him. But it is a veil over our hearts that needs be removed. And God always shows us how a veil that has dulled our hearts can be removed. Fasting prayer is one way to bring our broken heart to God. But faith is also a mighty power to remove the veil a from spiritually irresponsible heart.
We can fulfill all your responsibilities to God through faith. God wants us to be responsible towards him when he entrusted us with all kinds of spiritual responsibilities. What are these responsibilities? There are monetary responsibilities, and home responsibilities, and church responsibilities, prayer responsibilities, campus responsibilities, teaching and serving and all kinds of responsibilities that God has entrusted us with. And he’s given us different talents, skills, abilities, personalities, strengths and even weaknesses that can be used for his glory, all to be put to use in accomplishing these responsibilities. No responsibility is easy to fulfill, and often enough it’s easier to ignore or to abandon the responsibility. But it won’t go away. And so we must fulfill it. And the way to do its to engage our faith. Here’s how it works. In reality a person will fulfill their responsibility towards God in proportion to the faith one has in God. For example, if one has little faith in God, that is, if one has such e faith that God will provide their needs, then they are likely to panic and fulfill personal self motivated responsibilities rather than their responsibilities towards God. But if one has great faith that God takes care of all our needs, then that person is sure to fulfill their responsibility first towards God and his kingdom trusting God for taking care of all other things. That’s the whole principle of the Lord’s words: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) It takes great faith to fulfill my responsibility first towards God and his kingdom, rather than to try to take care of myself first. But if I have little faith, I’ll go after all these things first, and if I have any time left, I’ll see what I can do for God and his kingdom work. Indeed, a person fulfills their responsibility towards God according to their faith. So many of God’s children have a genuine desire to fulfill their responsibility to God. But they can’t seem to trust God all that much. Either their work, or their school, or their family always coming first. And if there’s anything left over it goes to God. This is not the way to fulfill one’s responsibility to God.
We should make every effort to use our faith to fulfill our responsibility towards God and his kingdom. There was a man called Barnabas in the early Christian church. He wasn’t eloquent of speech, nor a dynamic leader. He only had one talent, or let’s say, he had a responsibility which God entrusted him by the Holy Spirit— it was a talent of encouragement. What’s that— A talent of encouragement? Well, he had a cheerful spirit that enabled him to see good even in what looked bad. He had a light heart that enabled him to lift the sorrow from those with a heavy heart. It was a small talent but a vital responsibility. Actually not many Christians in the early church had been given this kind of talent and responsibility. Most had been given courage to speak out or workmanship, or even sharpness of mind to defend the gospel against heresy. But Barnabas had a talent of encouragement, and a responsibility to put it to use for the Lord. While some were boldly preaching the gospel and harassed, persecuted and imprisoned, what did Barnabas do? He went around cheering the weak of faith and encouraging them not to give up but to look to Jesus for strength. He must have also gone to those who were struggling with their sins and encouraged them in the Lord’s grace and mercy until they matured into strong gospel workers in God’s history. At a time when the church was poor and struggling to exist, Barnabas sold a property he had and offered the proceeds to be used as God saw fit. That kind of generosity encouraged the church members to be generous with one another. Later Barnabas with his measly talent of encouragement was also an indispensible part of God’s history in the making when he joined Paul’s missionary journeys.
What I’m saying is that it does not matter what talent or responsibility we are given, that all talents are given to us in God’s wisdom for God’s glory to be used for his kingdom work. And we should fulfill them is by faith. By faith means that we put our faith in God, we trust him who gave us these talents and responsibilities, and we decide by faith to take that responsibility to heart, and then the Lord himself gives us wisdom to see where best to use our talents and how to best fulfill our responsibilities. We all know that it is in the human nature to do one’s best to serve one’s own benefit and to promote one’s own interest first as a priority. But Christians know better than to do that. Every Spirit inspired gospel word in Scripture tells us to honor God and serve his interests first and foremost. That is why Jesus in his mercy teaches us to take our responsibility before God to heart. If we have ignored or abandoned them, or feel indifferent about them, we need a conviction from the Lord to look once again at our talents and responsibilities with an eye of reverence. Let’s take a moment to bow our heads and ask God to convict us to take our spiritual responsibilities to heart and fulfill them in faith.
Now Jesus went on to tell the third and final parable, and it’s also about his return for he says: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him.” And this parable has another teaching regarding preparation for his return. Let’s see.
Look at verse 31. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory”. What is the ultimate reason for all the work of faith to be done here on earth? Clearly it is to celebrate the Savior’s victory over everything, and to witness his crowning on the throne of heaven. That day is going to be the most glorious day in history. Why? Because everything that’s ever been suffered for the gospel and for the glory of God will not have been wasted at all— it will all now come to fulfillment. In life when people live for themselves, they end up suffering from a meaningless existence, even if they have done well for themselves in the world. They work so hard for themselves because they want to find security and comfort. But in the process they become captive to what they have and live in fear and anxiety of losing everything. But when people live for God, the opposite happens. They suffer because if they want to please God, they have to learn from Jesus and imitate his life. And if you imitate Jesus’ life how can you not but suffer! It’s a life of giving and sacrifice and self denial, all for the love of Christ and the glory of his kingdom. When you think about it, those who live for themselves suffer and those who live for God suffer. In this world people suffer one way or another. But while the losses of those who live for themselves are in vain, the Lord assures us that your losses as a Christian aren’t at all. Whatever you lose for the Lord here on earth, is only a prelude to what we will all share with him in his glorious kingdom, “When he sits on his throne in heavenly glory.”
When Jesus taught about his return, it was something he and all of us are sure about. So what will happen at his coming? Look at verses 32. “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.” At his coming and coronation, something will happen that will shake all human security and foundation. He will separate the sheep from the goats. There will be a separation of human kind before the throne of God. It will be fortunate for those who will be considered sheep at the time, and it will be tragic for those considered goats. Now, that’s the truth God tells us in these verses, that in the end, every human being, whoever they may be, whether a president or a janitor, a prince or a carpenter, will be either a sheep or a goat. There will be no other kind of recognition in the court of heaven. The question is: who are the sheep and who are the goats?
Read verses 33-40. “He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I 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.’”
Who are the sheep? From the parable Jesus tells, it’s incredible that the sheep are those who used up what talents they have to serve God and his purpose. They fulfilled their responsibility of love towards Jesus and those who live for him and call on his name. How did they serve God and his purpose in the world? They had compassion on those who were poor and destitute. They had compassion on those who suffer from sin and from worldly injustice. They loved someone or another even when they didn’t have to love them, and they forgave them even when they were greatly wronged by them. Perhaps when someone struggled with some problem they had, they stopped to pray for them. When someone was too weak and helpless they carried them until they were well and able to walk again. And after they did all this, it didn’t seem that they did it to be recognized and appreciated by any one. Look at what Jesus says of them. They did all this for the love of Jesus. Actually they were surprised when the King reminded them that they had served him personally and sacrificially. The Lord Jesus assures all of you who love him and live for him, that the sacrificial life you live, may be at time a life full of heart ache and headache, and a life of loss or losses. But it is surely the most blessed life you can live as you wait for the King to come again. When he does, not even one drop of water you’ve given to anyone in the name of Jesus or for Jesus’ name’s sake will be counted as loss. It will all be counted as a mark of glory on each of your heads.
Look at verses 41-46. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
On that day when the Lord returns to set up his kingdom, there will be sheep. But there will also be goats. Who are they? It seems the goats are those who live for themselves. They live to profit their own lives. They live for their own enjoyment, even when all around them they see so much physical and spiritual suffering and so many needy people in this world. Didn’t they see the needs of those who belonged to the Lord, who suffered just because they bear the name of Jesus? Of course they saw. But they did not care. The goats don’t care much for others, but only seek to do better for themselves and their own. If their conscience ever bothers them, they have learned to justify the things they do by telling themselves that in general they are a good person, that they have taken good care of their families, and have no responsibility towards others, not even those who serve God’s cause. The goats are like Cain who said “Am I my brother’s keeper?” They’re like Lot who abandoned Abraham and the holy life for the comfort and security of city life. These goats are selfish, with self serving interests. Even if they think they’re the good guy who’d never hurt a fly, the truth is that if they didn’t serve Jesus and his interests in their lives, they had lived a life in enmity with God. Of course, Jesus really wants all people to follow sheep’s way of life. And they can only do so if they put their faith in Christ. God help us to put all our talents to good use and to do so by faith, as we serve him and his kingdom during our life. Amen.