When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. ESV This is the culmination of the chapter where we had two parables encouraging us be prepared for Christ’s return. The reading today regards that return.
Jesus begins with the title of Son of Man, his most common name for himself. There are some differences between this passage and the images of Revelation. In Matthew, Jesus says that he, the Son of Man, will look at the lives of people. He will not be acting as God, the final judge.
If we peek ahead to verse 34, we see that Jesus switches to the title of King. There is meaning in his selection of names. Jesus, Son of Man, King. All these indicate that he is human. The very man, Jesus, whom the authorities humiliated on the cross is the same who is the Son of Man and King of every person ever on earth.
Jesus fills several roles. We see God by looking at Jesus. We are saved by Jesus. We stand at the judgment docket with Jesus as our lawyer. What he says to God will be much the same as what he says in this “parable”. Only the images of sheep, goats, and shepherd have parable qualities, the rest is real.
Verse 34. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ESV You should know that understanding this whole passage is more difficult than for most of the NT. In this verse, Jesus may be speaking of the New Earth, after the final days and judgment. Jesus will be King of the New Earth and the only citizens will be those who have complete faith in him.
Jesus may be speaking about this earth and we who are living on it. He is the King of a new Kingdom, one which is apart from the others of the earth—including the USA—and he is our ruler. I say “our” only if we are sheep in this parabolic image.
For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there. Phillips Again, we have some difficulty. This seems to reward those who do good deeds, not those with great faith.
That is only a problem if we assume that it is either/or. In fact, it is both. First comes faith. Faith opens our eyes to the needs of others. A follower of Jesus cannot see a destitute woman pushing a shopping cart with all her possessions without wanting to help in some way. Jesus passed by many who needed help; even he could not help everyone, so we must be practical. But, are we doing Jesus’ work if we die wealthy?
Looking back at verse 32, one reading has, And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. KJV This translation of the Greek is not accurate and none of the newer works speak of separating the nations. It is the people of the nations who are divided.
But those people who are separated to the right are no longer Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, etc,, they are citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Be righteous and do good.