SERMON SUMMARY. This is one of my favorite texts; it makes plain the ministry mandate we have to serve others. There might be no more clear New Testament articulation of the Lord’s heart for those in need. We are compelled to help those in need – to be about our father’s business. We have to love what the Lord loves. And, not only that, but we should see ourselves. At some point in time in our lives, we have been all these things (whether physically or spiritually)…naked, hungry, sick, in bondage. In providing service to those who are in need we are a blessing to them but we are also a blessing to ourselves. Serving others helps to remind us to be grateful for the grace and mercy that God provides. Not in a comparative sense but it simply helps us to be grateful. There is liberty and freedom and blessing in serving others. Let us be about our father’s business.
The Lord’s Heart. This is one of the more vivid and intense scriptures in the Bible reflecting the heart of our Lord.
- Remember how we many people stood at the beginning of the sermon? How many of us know people who are struggling in one or more of the ways described in the text (e.g. poverty, prison, sickness, mental health)?
- What things do we see in this narrative parable that tell us what rests on the heart of our Lord? What or who is God particularly concerned about?
- What does it mean when he says “the least of these” in verses 40 and 45? Reflect on what it means to starving, naked, homeless, or institutionalized . . . physically or spiritually
- How do we believe the community church can be more effective in helping to reach “the least of these?”
Our Hearts. This text is intense because of the strength of the judgment against some of the people (“the goats”) in verses 41-46. Imagine what it would be like to live all our lives, to get to judgment, and have the Lord say “depart from me, I never knew you.”
- Reflect on our own lives. How often would we end up on the side with the sheep and how often would we end up on the left with the goats?
- What types of things hinder us from helping those in need?
- What gets in the way of us help “the least of these”?
- Please take the time to list some ways in which you believe the church could help us to be a help to the least of these.
The Prisoner. As I mentioned, this scripture has been marinating with me for several months. The inclusion of the prisoner particularly caught my spirit. We are sympathetic to all others (the hungry, the naked, the sick) but what of the prisoner?
- Does the text distinguish between the guilt or innocence of the prisoner? What does that mean for how we should view and treat those in prison?
- Remember what God did for us when we were yet guilty?
Our Father’s Business. Christ does not distinguish between someone’s guilt and innocence and our ability, our capacity, our call to love them. Those in prison (physical, mental emotional or spiritual) stand on the edge of humanity. They also stand in a place where they need some love . . . a touch from the Master’s hand.
All of us have sinned. All of us have found ourselves struggling. We found ourselves hurting. We found ourselves naked. We found ourselves starving. We found ourselves wanting. We found ourselves in the midst of sin. We found ourselves imprisoned in our minds, in our hearts and in our souls and unable to do anything about it. He did stop because we naked, hungry or in prison. he came for those reasons. He saw that we needed a touch . . . to be fed . . .to be clothed. He saw that we needed to be visited while we were incarcerated. We have salvation because He was about his father’s business. Let us be about our father’s business and do the same for others.