November 30, 2023

For One of the Least

Prayer for Illumination

Open our eyes to the truths contained in this passage and empower us to live out the message it conveys. May Your Holy Spirit be our teacher and guide today. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray.


We celebrate today, with Christians all around the world, the feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Christian Year. It is the triumphant ending of the Christian year before we begin the whole cycle again next Sunday as we return to the Advent season once again, and prepare to welcome Jesus as a vulnerable baby in a month.

For the last two Sundays, we studied the Olivet Discourse - Jesus’ teachings on the end times at the Mount of Olives a few days before His crucifixion. However, if we look at these parables carefully, they are not really about the end times but it’s more like how to wait for the end times.

In other words, how we should live as those who anticipate the return of the King. Today’s story - the parable of the sheep and the goats - is the last parable of the Olivet Discourse.

In the Olivet Discourse, there are always two groups of people - the wise bridesmaids & the foolish bridesmaids; the good and faithful servants & the wicked and lazy servants; and here, the sheep and the goats.

One group inherits the kingdom, and the other group does not inherit the kingdom. That is the point of each of these illustrations. We do not need to pay too much attention to the different characteristics of sheep and goats.

The parable begins, “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 - basically all human beings will be gathered before the throne of the King.

The assembly of all the nations gets three surprises. First, the King - and Judge of all - turns out to be Jesus of Nazareth whom they rejected, persecuted, and crucified.

The second surprise is that they are divided by how they have treated needy persons—those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, ill, imprisoned, or a stranger.

The final, shocking surprise is that the King has taken such treatment personally.

The King will first separate people one from another - one group of people at his right hand and the other at the left. Then He will call those at his right hand, "You that are blessed by my Father,” and He will say to them “You will inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Then He explains why. “For 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.”

Surprised by the King’s praise, they will ask, “When did we do that? We do not remember seeing you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or imprisoned?” And his answer was rather unexpected. “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Next, the King will call those at His left, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And He will give them the reason which is exactly the opposite.

“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.”

Confused, they ask, “When didn’t I care for you?” The King’s answer is again unanticipated. “Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

At first glance, it seems to suggest that salvation is the result of good works - how we treat people. The “sheep” acted hospitably and charitably, giving food, drink, and clothing to the needy. The “goats” showed no charity.

But, the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that salvation is by faith through the grace of God and not by our good works. Ephesians 2:8 - 9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast.”

Jesus Himself makes it clear even in the parable that the salvation of the “sheep” is not based on their charitable works. Their inheritance is theirs “since the creation of the world”, long before they could ever do any good works!

The good works mentioned in the parable - giving food & drink & clothing, being hospitable to a stranger; caring for the sick and the imprisoned - are not the cause of salvation but the effect of salvation. It is the fruit of the believers.

As Christians, we are supposed to become like Christ each day. What we do and how we live should be a reflection of what we believe and whom we love with all our hearts. We cannot say that we follow Jesus and then walk a path different than what or how He would walk.

How we live results from our relationship with Jesus - from the relationship that exists between servant and Master, the saved and their Savior, the sheep and their Shepherd. Followers of Christ should treat others with kindness, serving them as if they were serving Christ Himself.

However, it doesn’t have anything to do with mindlessly following the crowd and doing it out of pressure. You’ve probably seen a YouTube video or Facebook post about paying for the order of the next car in the Drive-thru.

The driver of the first car must have started with good intentions to share the Christmas spirit, but the drivers of the third or fourth probably didn’t even want to pay for the next car. But because everybody is doing it, the driver feels the pressure and pays for the next car and then grumbles, especially if it’s much more than their own order.

William Barclay, a renowned theologian, stated that those who were on the right side of Jesus in the text did not even realize they were being helpful to the people and the world around them.

They helped because they could not stop themselves. Christ's love in the heart compelled them to compassionate action. It was the natural, instinctive, uncalculated reaction of a loving heart. It was honest generosity.

Even though our actions and charitable works are not a criterion of salvation, they matter because what we do is a reflection of what we believe. And when we follow Jesus, we find ourselves rather surprised that the things we do by instinct now - like caring for the vulnerable - reflect our sincere love for Jesus.

As the season of Christmas comes closer, we receive many letters and phone calls for financial support and help. To some of you, it can be stressful because you are also going through a tough time. But you surprised me.

Two Sundays ago, we collected a special offering for the Hummingbird Ministries. Honestly, I had a lack of faith in you. I thought, “What if the collection is not enough?” So the session decided that if the special offering is not enough, then we should add some extra and send it to the Hummingbird Ministries. We collected $490.00. Isn’t it great?

You gladly gave your offering for the ministry of the Indigenous community, sharing the light of Jesus. We will increase the collected offering to $500.00 (to make it even) and send it to the Hummingbird Ministries.

That being said, if anyone is able and available to volunteer for the Christmas Party on Saturday, December 9th at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in White Rock, please let me or Bev know. They still need more volunteers. Actually, if you support them with your presence, that will make a big difference.

I was also amazed by how the Christmas Hampers have been supported. On the first day when Trevor made an announcement, most of the tags on the tree were gone. Now it’s all taken and the boxes are filled. Our church may be small in number, but you have huge and generous hearts.

Lastly, your love is not only outward to the community but also inward to our own brothers and sisters. A couple of our members regularly visit the shut-in, bringing the Daily Bread or sermons or doing grocery shopping together.

You may not notice it, but they also take all the recyclings of the church home because our church does not have the city’s garbage and recycling collection service or water all the plants.

Some of our members always give rides to those who do not have a ride. I had done that for a few years when I was living in Toronto. So I understand how it can be inconvenient sometimes. But they do it joyfully.

Many times, your services for the needy, for your neighbors, and for our church are not recognized or appreciated. I know that you will say “I’m not doing it for recognition.” I know that you’re doing it out of love…naturally. But I want to encourage you that your every kindness and sacrifice is being recorded and remembered by our King. He sees you.

Thank you for your good works for our own brothers and sisters, and for our community, the ministries of our Presbytery, and the mission of God. Thank you because you are serving them as if you were serving Christ Himself. Because you’re doing it naturally, instinctively, out of loving hearts. Remember, Jesus takes how you treat others personally.

Friends, let us continue doing what we’ve been doing and let us do it all the more. Let us ask God to open our eyes to see His face in the face of a homeless person on the corner of SafeWay; in the face of a bruised woman in the women’s shelter; in the face of a runaway teenager on the street; in the face of converted Christian in a Muslim family; in the face of a foreign worker in a farm; in the face of the shut-in in a Long-term care facility. Let us move toward solidarity with them and try to meet their needs by sharing the resources we have.

And, someday, when we all stand before the throne of the King of kings, He will call each and every one of us, "Come, You who are blessed by my Father. You will inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… because

“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.”


Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to us and showing us how to love and how to live. Open our eyes to see the needs of our neighbors and help us serve them lovingly and generously as You served us as a Servant King. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.