In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells a rather unusual parable about the Kingdom of God. In it we hear about the coming of the King:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.
The Son of Man is a new name for this King who sits on the throne in glory. He is like a shepherd, Jesus says, who separates sheep from goats.
We can wonder who this person might be.
The sheep are put at his right hand, and the King says,
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world
The sheep inherit the Kingdom of God. That means the Kingdom belongs to them. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God has been prepared since "the foundation of the world." From the very beginning, God has had a plan. God has prepared the Kingdom for the sheep since the very beginning. In this parable, we hear about how the sheep inherit the Kingdom.
The King says to the sheep,
I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
The sheep are bewildered. They do not recall ever having served the King.
They might recall giving some coins to a homeless person who was begging on the street, but they never fed the King.
They might recall pouring water for their pesky little brother, but they never gave the King something to drink.
When a new kid wandered alone in the playground, they might recall going over to talk to her, but they never welcomed the King.
When there was a clothing drive at school, they might recall bringing hats and mitts, coats and boots for the poor, but they never gave clothes to a naked King.
Frankly, they do recall hating visits to the hospital to see their sick grandfather, and they certainly never cared for a sick King.
They know they never stepped foot in a prison, so there is no way they could have visited the King. True, they recall forgiving the kid who was mean to them, the sister who stole their candy, and the friend who told lies. But those people were not in prison. Were they?
But the King says,
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
The least—those are the ones who are the smallest or the weakest or the poorest.
Jesus tells us that the King is served when the least are served.
We also know that we would much rather be a sheep than a goat, right? The King sends the goats away from him, saying,
for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
The goats are confused, too. If they had seen that the King needed help, they would have helped. Obviously.
But the King tells them,
‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
It is interesting that both the sheep and the goats did not know that they served the King when they helped people in need.
But we know, do we not?
We know the rules of the Kingdom. We know the Summary of the Law—the two most important commandments: Love God, and Love your neighbour as yourself.
We already love the King, and now, after listening to this parable, we know how to love our neighbour, too.