34A/King17. Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17. Yahweh is greatly distressed at how badly their leaders have led the Hebrew peoples. Through Ezekiel the prophet (Ezekiel 34: 20b-21), Yahweh says, “Now will I judge between the fat and lean sheep. Because you push with side and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them out.” In today’s reading it is the sleek and the strong who have taken advantage of the lost, the strays and the sick. Yahweh comes as judge to straighten out what had become crooked, to empower those who were powerless, to strip naked those who overpowered the weak.
Matthew 25:31-46. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory” “upon his throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” He will judge them as a king judges his people. As David was king and a shepherd, like the Son of Man takes on the image of shepherd as well as king. Continuing in this same line of imagery, the king tends his people as a shepherd his flock of sheep and goats. The sheep are portrayed as the obedient ones who meekly follow the commands of the shepherd, whereas the goats are the impetuous ones who do as they wish and not as the shepherd wishes. To the sheep, the king says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To the goats he says, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Then he says what the sheep did that made them sheep and the goats that made them goats. The king says of himself, “when I was hungry,” which is to say that he himself was the one who was without food. Those designated as either sheep or goats are puzzled because neither saw the king being hungry. So they ask, “When did we see you hungry?” The king replies, “Whatever you did for the least brothers of mine, you did for me.” He identifies himself with those in need. God is love. His love unites him to those who are in need of his help. We do not have a God who is distant from us. Because of his very nature as an all-loving God, he is together with us in our need. Our deepest need is to be with him in heaven. Jesus said in John 5:44-45a, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly father.” God’s love extends to all. When we refuse to love anyone as God loves them, we are refusing to love God himself. “If anyone says ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28. “For since death came through man; the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” The sin of Adam and our sins divorce us from God and his love that is true life. Jesus’ love for us on the cross overwhelms sin and its fruit, death. At the Second Coming, “when everything is subjected to him, the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” God the Father is God over all with his Son at his right hand.