Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I was in second grade, my teacher noticed that I was having trouble seeing the writing on the blackboard. So, my mother took me to the optometrist. It turned out that I was nearsighted. I remember so well the day I got my first pair of glasses. We were driving home when I looked out the window. For the first time, I could see everything so clearly! I could see each individual leaf on the trees we passed. It was amazing!
Today’s Gospel reminded me of this incident, because all the people in the reading are surprised by what Jesus says. But not in the way we might expect. The sheep don’t boast of their good deeds, and the goats don’t apologize for their lack of action. Their responses are very similar. “Lord, when was it that we saw you?” or “Lord, when was it that we didn’t see you?”
It is understandable, I guess, especially considering the common expectation that a King is powerful and important. Even in the first verse of today’s reading, we hear “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.” This leads the hearer to expect a powerful and just ruler. Maybe they were surprised that they should or could have recognized Jesus in such strange places and people as the poor and imprisoned the hungry and the sick.
I sometimes need to remind myself that Jesus is with poor, ill, and hungry people I see every day - and that I am called to care for them. But it is not just the people who are obviously are in need that we are called to care for. We are also called to take care of each other, our family and friends, and our brothers and sisters here in this congregation. When we gather here each week, we need to see each other and reach out to each other. Just as much as we are called to see the face of Jesus in the stranger, it is important to see the face of Jesus in each other and our families and friends. Even with the ones we don’t always see eye to eye.
Next week we will begin the season of Advent. This is the last time Jesus will be with the people preaching and teaching. We know this if we continue reading the first very first verse in the next chapter of Mathew’s Gospel, which begins with, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2 ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.’”
When we read passages in the Gospel, it is important to understand where the passage fits into the story of Jesus. What does it mean that Jesus says these things about the King coming in his glory, just as He is going to the cross? For me, hearing about the King of Glory and the Crucifixion so close together is an important reminder that God comes to us in many ways - in the faces of our neighbors near and far. The King of Glory who created everything and most importantly, in the incarnation of Jesus, who is willing to give his life for the love of the world. Amen.