I was reading this morning in Matthew’s gospel (Mt 25:31–46) about Jesus incognito.
The sheep hear: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,g you did it to me.’
The goats hear the obverse: ‘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.’
Thought #1 - If this separating of sheep and goats represents the judgment of individuals, it doesn’t square very well with the view of Paul’s “salvation by faith alone” theology as articulated by many of our reformed friends. Systematic theology like to synthesize doctrines by combining what is seen in various passages of scripture, various streams of thought and writing. This isn’t very easy to do; in fact, it’s impossible to do. I’m quite skeptical of the systematic theology project overall. It claims to have understanding in many areas where absolute knowledge is just not possible.
Thought #2 - The text says that it is the nations being judged, not individuals. Is this significant at all? I am so conditioned by the interpretations I have heard for the last 66 years that it is often very difficult for me to pretend I haven’t heard them. Is it possible that this is parallel to the judgments of nations we often see in the prophets? Is it my Protestant view of individuality that twists this into judgment of individual people?
Thought #3 - Who are “the least of these”? Are they the down and out of society? Are they the homeless? Are they the helpless? Or are they the disciples of Jesus, as described in earlier parts of Matthew’s gospel? Just who is this Jesus incognito?
Thought #4 - If this passage applies to me as an individual, and if my eternal destiny is predicated on how I treat Jesus incognito, what should my response be in a welfare state where the basic needs of everyone is met by the government, excepting those who for one reason or another do not avail themselves of the benefits they should have?
I don’t know. The Bible always makes me think a lot.