Matthew 25:31-46 ~ "Festering Divisions Made Final"
Please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 25. We are finishing out chapter 25 this morning. We have been walking through two chapters which go hand in hand, Matthew chapter 24 and then again in chapter 25. Matthew chapter 24 begins with a question that is posed by the disciples in which they ask Jesus, what is the sign of your returning and when will the end of the age be and how will we know all of these things? Jesus begins to address some of those questions and he works his way through chapter 24 speaking about different things that signal the approach of the end while at the same time saying very clearly and very specifically that no one knows the day or the hour. Jesus gives us some clues and some hints that we can look for and pay attention to and we can sense the nearness of the end as it approaches while at the same time we are reminded that none of us can have any certainty regarding exactly when the end comes.
Then we worked our way into Matthew chapter 25 were Jesus has been teaching through a series of parables illustrating what the arrival of the kingdom of heaven will be like. In the first parable he tells us about ten bridesmaids, five of which were wise and five of which were foolish. The foolish ones kept thinking they had plenty of time and they felt that they were ready for Jesus to return, for the bridegroom to return at a time that they thought was appropriate. When it was delayed they ran out of oil. We find that the wise bridesmaids anticipated every possibility and they stayed faithful and they stayed true regardless of what the circumstances might be. Jesus then tells a parable about individuals who are charged to engage in business while their master is away. Two of the servants did it right. They took what the Lord gave them and they multiplied it, they were faithful with it. One said “he's a hard man to please and so I'm going to take what the Lord has given me I'm going to just throw it in a hole in the ground in a not going to do anything with it.” Of course the purpose of that parable was to remind us that were called to make some sort of spiritual profit for the Lord. We are to take what he has given us and use it in the world to honour him and to glorify him. That brings us to this last parable. The kingdom of heaven and the return of Christ in Matthew chapter 25 verse 31.
Before we jump in this morning I would like to just pause for a moment and ask the Lord help us and open our minds to understand what it is that he is saying. Father, we thank you so much for your word this morning. We thank you Lord for teaching us, for warning us, for encouraging us to always keep our focus and to always keep our gaze on that inescapable fact of history that you are coming again. You are coming to this world, you are coming to visit your people, you are coming to establish righteousness and to up-hold the truth and to do justice and we just say amen Lord. We see all of the atrocities and all of the war and the violence and all manner of evil and wickedness done all around us and we just look forward to that day Lord in which you will come to visit your people. We will be free from all of that pain and we will be free to live with you in your presence forever. Father, as we look now at Matthew chapter 25 verses 31 and as we consider the great separation that will happen on that fateful day, I pray Lord that you would help us to see the need for asking the question “are we a part of your people or not?” I pray Lord that as we look at this parable, this separating of goats from sheep, I pray Lord that your spirit will help us to understand as we asked the question this morning are we truly counted among your people or not. Help us to see that. We pray in Christ name, Amen.
In schoolyards all across Canada from time in memorial there have always been a group of boys and girls that will go out at lunchtime and they will engage in some form of play. They go out at recess time to participate in a pickup game of baseball or kickball or dodgeball. There's always a ball involved in some form. Also from time in memorial, there's always been a need to pick teams. If you are going to have a game of ball you are going to have to have two teams that are sort of in competition with each other. The question becomes, how will we choose those teams?
As a young man growing up there was always baseball. I don't know why that works as it does in Texas. The national sport of Texas, the state sport, is football not baseball but for whatever reason in grade school baseball was the game that we were always playing. I was blessed to have long legs that covered twice as much ground so I as fast. That made me a good candidate to be chosen to be on somebody's team, but with baseball I could not hit the ball to save my life. So, the question is what good are legs if you can't actually get on base? I'm not very good at all so I humbly offer forth to you this little tidbit. If you're one of those people in the schoolyard pick that was waiting to be chosen and you were one of the last ones to be chosen, I can relate to that. I've been there. Maybe I'm the only one here and that's okay. My identity is in Christ and I've gotten over it. I'm not bitter, I'm not holding onto any repressed anger from my childhood experiences (laughter from the congregation). That's the fundamental question. Everybody's playing a game and you want to play. We want to be a part of the game so now how do we get chosen to be on the team. That is a question that we've all asked at one point in time or another as we come to a schoolyard game. That is the same question that Jesus is calling for us to ask as we approach this final parable in Matthew chapter 25. It's the most important question that we could ever ask because it is the question on which our eternal destiny hinges; are we going to be chosen by Jesus? Have we been chosen by Jesus? What is the nature of the choice? How does he choose us? On what basis does he pick us to be on his team so to speak? How does that happen? Jesus answers that question here in Matthew chapter 25. As you look at this chapter and this final parable you might be tempted to come to the conclusion, if you're just looking at it on a very surface level, that the decision that Christ makes is based upon some spirit of philanthropy some altruistic characteristic that we might choose to embrace when we go out and we just do good works. On a very surface level of reading of this passage you might come to the conclusion that Jesus will choose you or pick you to be on his team, so to speak, on the basis of what a good job you do taking care of the people around you. Now, I want you to understand that we are going to have to go way deeper because here what Jesus is describing in this passage is fundamentally different. Look with me in Matthew chapter 25 verse 31; to pick up here Jesus makes a statement “when the Son of Man comes in his glory again,” his return to this earth is assumed. It is never doubted. It is never questioned. Jesus is coming. He came the first time as a suffering servant; He came the first time as the son of a carpenter living in Nazareth. He came the first time as a poor kid from a redneck town, born in the most humble of the states, born in a manger. When He returns it's going to be totally different. He will no longer a humble kid from a backwoods town born to a poor family, now the true King will come in glory and when He comes a second time he's coming to pick, to choose, to separate. The text goes on “he will sit on his glorious throne,” verse 32, “before Him will be gathered all of the nations and that is the other aspect of this. When Jesus came the first time he came to Israel born in Bethlehem and growing up in Nazareth. Nazareth is a remote corner of the Roman Empire and if you lived in Israel you could not have escaped these events. If you lived in Jerusalem it could not have escaped your attention that a great prophet had arisen, but if you lived in Rome or if you lived further out into the far reaches such as France and Britain you probably would not have known or had any idea that God was visiting his people when He was born in Bethlehem. You did not have any awareness of those things. God comes first to Israel; he comes first to his own, but the second time there is no excuse. The great commission will have covered the globe and every tribe, every tongue, every nation, every people group will have heard the good news that there is a God in heaven who has loved us and has made a way for us for us to be reconciled to him so when he comes the second time the Nations will be required to present themselves before him. Every nation, every country; the statement is explicit, before him will be gathered all the Nations and he will separate people one from another. So first thing we need to understand is this is going to be a time of global judgment in which every country will be required to stand before his discerning gaze and his look of judgment. Some people think that's a little silly, but it's routinely talked about throughout the Old Testament. God routinely says that when he comes he is going to come in judgment and he's going to judge the world and he's going to judge the nations as he has done in history past. Go with me to Matthew chapter 12 and I want you to look at verse 46. Jesus is ministering and he's serving the people. His mother and his brothers come to him and they think he's a crazy guy and they want to talk to him. We find that his judgment has been repeatedly talked about in Isaiah 13. The prophet Isaiah addresses this question that God is going to bring judgment. He mentions various forms of judgment that are afflicted upon the Nations such as the Chaldeans, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. He talks about the great deserts of the South in chapter 15. Moab is discussed as being judged in chapter 17 of Isaiah. Syria is discussed as being judged in chapter 19. Egypt is discussed as being judged and the recipients of the wrath of God's judgment in chapter 21; the great deserts of the South which we understand to be present day Saudi Arabia. Isaiah is not the only prophet. Other prophets such as Ezekiel chapter 1; again Syria and Damascus are spoken about and he goes on to talk about Tyre and Phoenicia, Edom and Moab. Now, for almost all those countries, with the exception of Egypt, you don't see those countries anymore. Point to the Moabites. Point to the Hittites. Point to the Phoenicians. These are individuals who came into proximity with the people of God, with the nation of Israel, they understood that there was a one true God and that they had a calling to honour him and to worship him and to turn to him, but these are nations that chose rather to make war. These are nations that chose to oppose over and over again the Old Testament and God is making the statement “I will do judgment.” Now we look around and we don't see those countries anymore. When God promises that those that do not turn to him in repentance he will bring judgment on; that is not an idle threat and that is not a fleeting caution. This is a significant teaching that Jesus is preaching to us this morning that has historical precedents. The Nations will be gathered for judgment. Canada will be brought before the throne of the Lord. If you here this morning you're thinking “well I'm going to be able to hide myself within my neighbours and the people who live on my street. He won’t come to me individually. I'll be able to kind of keep my head down and find some sort of relief from his watchful eye by hiding with my family and with my neighbours. You need to understand that's not how that is going to work. The nation of Canada will come to him and every individual within this country will stand before him and give an account. The text starts off in verse 32 “Before him will be gathered all nations,” so the nations will come and then He gets very specific. He will separate people's one from another. Meaning that within the country of Canada the individuals who comprise this country will be divided up. On what basis? What is the nature of this division? What is the nature of this choice? How does Jesus choose? He gives the answer to that question – “he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” He makes a comparison here to flocks; goats as opposed to sheep. Verse 33, “And he will place a sheep on his right, but the goats he will place on the left.” For our purposes it is going to become very apparent as you work your way through the chapter to the end that goats represent individuals who are not welcomed into his kingdom and sheep represent individuals who are welcomed into his kingdom. For our purposes this morning, just to expedite what he is about to teach, the sheep are the ones who do good and the goats are the ones who are indifferent. It is not necessarily that they are hostile, but they just don't care. He goes on in verse 34, “Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
So the ones that are welcomed into the kingdom are individuals who are doing good and the ones who are not welcomed into the kingdom are individuals who are indifferent and don't do anything. He makes a statement in verse 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to your? Then he will answer them, saying Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” which again is the goats.
The statement to the first group is that you ministered good, come in to the Kingdom. The statement to the second group is, you didn't minister at all so you are not welcomed into the Kingdom. If we just leave it at that, if we don't bore any deeper into the passage, we would be left with the inescapable conclusion that salvation hinges on what we do, but we need to stop for a second and consider the pictures that are used here.
There are a few clues in the text which will help us to understand. Number one Jesus starts out with a comparison. The first thing he says is that there are sheep and there are goats. This is a rich metaphor that is used throughout the Old Testament over and over again well as in the New Testament. The people of God, Israel specifically, as Christians are described as being sheep who'd followed the one true shepherd. Jesus is portrayed as being the one true shepherd. Then you have the goats. For the vast majority of us this differentiation doesn't really seem to matter one way or the other; it’s not a big deal. If you've ever actually worked in ranching you understand there's a world of difference between trying to work with a bunch of sheep versus trying to work with a bunch of goats. I have never had the privilege of working with sheep and goats, but one of my dearest friends in the whole world, a fellow by the name of George Menefee, in Texas when everyone else is working with cattle or horses he was a sheep farmer and he was a goat rancher. One time I had the privilege of walking with him on his ranch in Central Texas and I said, so what's the big difference here? He said “man, sheep can be such a pain. They are hard animals to work with.” I said, “oh so you prefer goats?” He said “well, goats can be such a pain too. They are hard to work with as well. They're both really challenging creatures.” So I said “what is the difference?” Sheep are oblivious to their surroundings. They are actually quite silly and quite foolish animals. They don't actually observe what's going on around them and they need a shepherd who is looking after them. They get to a point in time where they just listen to the shepherd’s voice and they follow the shepherd around because they know that the shepherd is going to take care of them. They tend to be foolish animals, but the really good thing about a sheep is they have a strong internal drive to flock. They tend to stick together and so even if a handful of them get to a point to where they'll themselves to the shepherd and understand that shepherd's voice and follow the shepherd, for the most part the flock, even the newborn lambs that are not familiar with the shepherd, will stick together. The other sheep tend to go together. Sometimes this is really bad, but most the time it can be really good. Sometimes you get what my friend George Menefee refers to as a Judas type sheep. Yes, he was referencing Judas of the 12 apostles; for whatever reason this sheep will go the wrong way and because of the strong flocking mentality the whole flock will go tearing off after that sheep even though this sheep is leading them to ultimate destruction.
I then asked George, “what will what about goats?” He told me goats are very curious. Unlike sheep, which largely remain oblivious to their surroundings, goats will look at everything and get into everything and try to find their way into every place that they shouldn't be. They get their heads stuck in fences and they'll try to jump over things that are naturally inclined to get up on top of things and so they're always getting up on your sheds and jumping over fences and they're always trying to get out. They are inquisitive and they are curious and they are not as prone to flock together. If you come out and one goat is missing don't think its coming back because it won't. That goat will leave and look around and say hey I don't have any buddy goats around and the goat doesn't care. The goat is independent-minded and he is out of there if he can find a way.
Jesus is saying here that you have got sheep and you've got goats and while we should be cautious about pressing this point to far, it's worth noting that the people of God are described as sheep with a flocking mentality who stick together and the goats those individuals who are not welcomed into the kingdom of God. We understand from the nature of the goat that these are independent minded individuals who may not really care about the fellow goats around them. That's the point that Jesus presses further. If you look with me they asked the question, when did we come do any of these things for you? In verse 40 the King answered them “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brother,” Notice that to one of the least of these my brothers. Although this parable is often used to talk about the need for the church to be engaged in social justice and to be engaged in things like leave alleviating poverty and working against world hunger, if we look closely Jesus has in mind a very specific item that he is looking for in the second half when he talks about the goats. He said you didn't minister at all and in the first half he says as you did it to the least of these my brothers. Now don't misunderstand me, we as the people of God absolutely should be concerned about alleviating property and taking care of the poor and meeting physical need, but we understand that when Jesus is telling this parable and talking about his return and how He is going to divide us one from the other, we understand that he is looking at a group of people that are gathered together that are related in some aspect. A group of people that serve each other, that minister to each other as opposed to a group of people that are disjointed, disconnected and don't minister to each other and quite frankly don't even care that much about ministering to each other. We are talking about radically different groups of people. We are talking about something radically different as those of a sheep from goats.
You say, how do we understand ourselves to be brothers? How do we understand ourselves to be a part of the family of God? He solidly answered that question in Matthew chapter 12 verse 46. Jesus is ministering and serving the people when his mother and his brother come to him and they think he is a crazy guy. They want to talk to him. In Matthew chapter 12 verse 46 it says “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Verse 48 “But he replied to the man who told him, who is my mother and who are my brothers?”This is a rhetorical question. We would say “whoa! Your mother's your mother and your brothers your brother.” He is going to push back against that and say that it takes more than biological connection, it takes more than a blood relationship to be related to Christ. He makes a statement in verse 49 “And stretching out his hands towards his disciples, (towards those individuals that gathered together with him, who are hearing his teaching) “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother.” Jesus connects himself very explicitly with people who have a heart to obey God. His statement here at the end of the age when he comes in judgment is that those people who are going to be welcomed into heaven are going to have that same heartbeat and they're going to want to be connected to those individuals who, like them, have a heart to obey the will of the Father in heaven. Now, I don't know if you've noticed, but we've shifted the external appearance of things. We have got people ministering to others who are also Christians, but we've just touched on what it means to be a brother of Christ and what it means to have a different sort of heart, a heart where you want to do the will of God.
I said I was never good at baseball, but one of my favourite games to play with my daughters is catch; for a short period of time. If you're here and you are a mom or dad and you've ever played catch with an eight-year-old girl you know that's fun for three or four throws and then you get tired of running over here and running over there. What happens is I get a glove and a baseball and I'm like “alright Chloe!” and she's super excited. “Alright I'm going to throw this.” “All right dad!” she says. I give a nice gentle lob as she's only about 5 to 10 feet from me. It hits her gloves perfectly and then of course it falls out of her glove. She picks up the ball and of course she acts like Nolan Ryan or something she's going to do the whole Hall of Fame fast pitch-knuckleball-curve-whatever and I'm thinking “oh no!” I don't know why I have that response because it never comes at me, it flies over there to the left or right so that I have to run and I get it. I pick it up and I throw it back to her and then we repeat that for about four or five times before I say “Let's go inside and drink some lemonade. It's a good time for that sort of thing.” If I could, let’s connect this illustration to what it means to be a Christian. There is something you get from God that you're called to throw back. Turn with me to first John chapter 4 verse seven. The issue here is in becoming a different person and as a result of becoming a different person you're going to have a different outward lifestyle, but the fundamental issue is about becoming a different person. That's the fundamental question. If we want to be chosen by God “to be on the winning team” so to speak, how do we get chosen? Will you get chosen by being a different person? Only God can make you into that new creature and that's what the apostle John talks about right here in John chapter 4 verse 7. He makes a statement “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” When we are looking at the events that are taking place in Matthew chapter 25, these are people that are visiting others in prison, that are giving the shirt off their back to clothe each other, and they are giving food to each other, they are ministering to each other. As the text says “they are doing it to their fellow brothers.” You need to understand that they are outwardly pragmatically performing acts of love. They are loving and that is the fundamental characteristic because the God that we worship, the God that we claim is our Father is first and foremost a God of love. The text says here that we ought to love one another because God is love.
Now just to start this off, how exactly do we actually have it in us to love? Romans, the reason that we do love is because He first loved us. You see, if we live in the general world around us, if I do something to offend you, for example I borrow your weed-whacker and I forget to return it for a really long time and you're upset because you know I've got your weed-whacker and have stolen it essentially, you come to me and you say “I want my weed-whacker back!” and I give back then you storm off. In that moment I've offended the man that I've stolen his weed-whacker from. The world says that we have to go to the party that is offended and if we've done the offending, if we are wrong we go there to make amends and to apologize. That's not how God does it. If you stop to think about it, God has never done anything wrong to us and we have sinned against him repeatedly. Wouldn't you think it would be up to us to go to him to try and reconcile make amends? Absolutely! That's our responsibility and yet we don't. God's not waiting for us to come to Him because he knows that in our depravity and in the pride of our heart we are never going to come. He himself takes the initiative to bring about reconciliation.
Notice this next phrase in John 4 verse 9 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him.” In this is love, not that we have love, God that but the he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. Well that's a $500 fancy stained-glass word, propitiation. What the Bible was saying there is a Greek word hilasmos. There's a need for justice to be done. All of us have sinned and we've all offended the holy God and as a result we stand under his judgment, because God loves us, he wants to reconcile with us even though He is the one that has been sinned against. So, overlooking those sins for the moment, he sends his Son into the world to take the initiative to be reconciled. Before we get to propitiation it is worth noting that the Bible states He is His only begotten son. Two words in English one word in the Greek mono gennao; mono meaning one or single and gennao meaning begotten or born. His only son. He sends him to do the work that we should do, yet we ourselves will never do. In Jesus, knowing that man should pursue reconciliation with God and yet knowing that we will not, in Jesus God provides a person who will. He will combine what we should do, our responsibility, within his person and he himself is the only one who can actually make amends and find their union in Christ with a sinless and perfect life. He says, “I will satisfy God's demand of justice.” In doing that he dies on the cross burying the penalty for our sins so that God's righteous standard can be met and that at the same time he is forgiven and released from the debt that we owe if we will place our faith in what Jesus did. So understand this, to become a sheep requires first and foremost receiving the love of God and when we say “you have to receive the love of God,” what we mean very specifically is that you have to recognize the supreme act of love God has performed for you on your behalf by dying in your place for the forgiveness of your sins. You have to trust and that this makes you right with God because he says that is the only thing that will satisfy his standard. You receive that by faith, you receive that gift of love as though God is pitching a ball and you catch it. If you've been forgiven the Scriptures are clear, if you've come to know God the overflow of your life will be now a life that reflects that forgiveness that reflects that mercy, a life that seeks to love. John starts off in this passage verse 7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” If you love as the Bible defines love, not as the world defines love, then you know God and you've been born of God. The only way you can love the way God would have you to love, is if you have first received by faith what he is done for you on the cross. You say “Wait a minute pastor. Can you just clarify that for me for moment? The way that you and I typically love is not actually what the Bible defines as love?” There is a parable told by a rabbi and it says this rabbi encountered a man he who is a fisherman. He lived by the side of the sea went out and caught fish every day and every evening for dinner eat fish. The rabbi asked him “Do you love fish?” and he said “Yes I love fish. They taste good, they smell good, you can mix them with different sauces you can do different things, there are different types of fish and fish taste wonderful and I love fish.” The rabbi tries to clarify by saying “Let me get this straight. You love fish and that is why you go out and catch them out of their natural habitat, smash their brains out with a rock, skin them, fillet them and then eat them; that's love?” The fisherman thought about it and said “They sure do taste good. I sure do love that taste.”
Now for the world that actually is a perfect picture of how we love apart from the love of God. We look at people based upon how they make us feel. Indeed, there's a Greek word for love, “philia”, which means brotherly love. This is the love that we give to people because they give it back. It's the love that we engage in and which we want in return in order to be friends with a certain person because they're funny and they tell the best jokes or they like us and they think were cool and want to hang out with us and we like that. So, we kind of beat up of each other in that regard. That's fish love. I know it may not seem that way and in your mind you're thinking I would never bash out my friends brains and fillet him like Hannibal Lecter. That is a silly proposition. You're right, but nevertheless you still only truly love that person because of what they do for you. This means that at the end of the day you really love yourself not that other person. That is the character of fish love.
The love that is being called for here by God is a love that mirrors the love that he has for us. We don't contribute anything to God, we don't in some way make God better, we don't add to God as it is not as though God is up in heaven lonely and thinking “I really wish I had some people to hang out with so I am going to create these people. Oh dear, they are all sinners, but I really need them and I need them so bad so I'm going to die in the cross to forgive them for their sins.” That is not the case at all. God loves us because it says in Scriptures that God is love and the Bible uses the Greek word for love “agape” which means that he loves us for our sake and not for his own sake. The love which he pours out is the most glorifying to him because it is a true selfless sacrificial love when Jesus dies on the cross for us, entirely for us, loving us with a true God oriented love. The biblical form of love is completely different than the world's idea of fish love. When you receive that form of love by faith it transforms you supernaturally and miraculously to where John is able to say “beloved” and he's talking to fellow believers. When he makes the statement “beloved fellow Christians” and we use that word beloved, he's talking about those people that are loved by God. To love those individuals who are loved by God, who've received the love of God, let us love one another for love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Because we are loved by God the apostle John can say we should love because that's how we know God. In this sense love is not like math. It is not some abstract concept that's taught on a white board such as 2+2 = 4 to then go through all the formulas and taught calculations. In this sense love is more like the measles in that you gotta catch it to really understand it. You gotta know what it is and the best way to know it is to experience it. That's what we mean when we say you have a personal relationship with God. When you receive what Jesus did by faith on the cross it totally transforms you. When you have embraced into your life something that radically altars your perspective and changes how you see the world it changes your fundamental desires to where you now want to love other people with no thought to the return on investment, but because you know God and you've received his love you are able to freely give that love to others.
There's a movie that came out a number of years ago's named Field of Dreams. If you're a baseball fan you probably have watched it. It stars Kevin Costner. In this movie Kevin Costner plays the part of Ray Kinsella who is a struggling corn farmer in Iowa. He hears a voice one day that says “if you build it, he will come.” There's this moment where he thinks he is schizophrenic and is struggling with this whole thing, but he keeps hearing this voice so he talks it over with his wife and eventually decides he's going to plow under a huge chunk of his corn field. Of course all the townsfolk think its crazy and that's this is ridiculous. Throughout the movie he is doing all of these things and you keep getting these glimpses that there is something that the character Ray Kinsella is struggle with. That when he was younger he got into a fight with his dad and he walked out and never went back. A number of years later his dad died and the character Ray struggles with that. He feels guilty about that and he recognizes that he never made his relationship right with his father. So, all throughout the movie this voice keeps coming in saying “if you build it, he will come.” He plows the field and he builds this giant baseball diamond. One day he's on his corn field and lo and behold Shoeless Joe Jackson, famous baseball player that helped win the World Series for the 1919 White Sox, shows up. He thanks Ray for building the field and of course Ray recognizes the ghost of Joe Jackson. Joe Jackson says “we just really appreciate you building this field for us. Joe then asks “Would you mind if I bring back a few my buddies?” Of course Ray says yes. What else are you gonna say? “No, I'd rather you not. You are a ghost and this is alarming.” That would be a poor movie. So of course character Joe Jackson shows up later with the team of the 1919 World Series Champion White Sox and they play on his baseball diamond in the middle of this cornfield. You begin to think this is how farmer Ray gets his big break by charging admission to come see a bunch of ghosts playing baseball in his cornfield and that idea is actually floated. The movie progresses and eventually towards the end the game comes to a close and the sun is winding its way Westerly and about to set. Shoeless Joe Jackson comes over to Ray and says “Thanks for letting us play baseball in your field. It is time for us to go so we are going to be on our way.” The players began to melt back into the corn and right before they do Shoeless Joe Jackson turns around he looks at Ray and says “if you build it,” he pauses and he looks over towards home plate and continues “he will come.” Ray looks over at home plate and there's the catcher all done up with his catcher gear. He stands up and he yanks off his catcher mask to reveal a younger version of Ray's father, John Kinsella; the ghost of his father that he never was able to reconcile with. He walks over and they have this moment where they don't actually say I'm sorry will you forgive me. All that biblical stuff of reconciliation is totally missing from Hollywood so you wouldn't expect it to actually be there, but they have this moment where they kind of shake hands and look at each other. It's kind of like, okay were reconciled now. You have to just kind of come to that conclusion and then the father John Kinsella starts to walk away and as he is walking away there's this great moment where the camera zooms in on Kevin Costner's face and he gets all emotional and he says “Hey dad, you want to play catch?” and just as his dad's about to hit the cornfield he stops and turns around and he says “I'd love that.” He comes back and the movie ends with him and his dad playing catch.
For so many of us we look at this movie and we see there a clear parallel with our relationship with God the Father, but the movie gets it critically wrong. In the movie Ray has to do all this work to build this cornfield in order to bring about reconciliation with his father. In the Bible says it's exactly the opposite. The Father does all this work to bring about reconciliation with you. At the end of the day he absolutely does want to play catch, to pitch back and forth the love between father and child. Your heavenly Father wants to know you and wants have a relationship with you he wants to engage in this giving and taking of love. The explanation in Matthew chapter 25 is that as you strive to get to know him better you will take that love and because of your faith in him you will love people in the church. So, I conclude this morning right where John has us, “beloved.” If God so loved us, let us love one another.
Let's bow for word of prayer. Father we thank you for your word this morning. We thank you so much that you sent your son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. We thank you Lord that you supremely demonstrated your love for us and that in this wonderful act of sacrifice you loved us for our sake. That is the supreme demonstration of your glory and your righteousness. Father, I pray that we would love others that same way so when we come, Lord, to that day in which you will be separating sheep from goats, Father I pray that all of us here at First Baptist may be found in that camp of sheep who truly understood and knew your love and love as you loved us. God let it be so here among us at First Baptist. We pray in Christ name, Amen.
The Gospel of Matthew is a story about a once and coming King. Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of David, the long awaited for Messiah. He has come once, and Matthew tells the story of His arrival, ministry, sacrificial atoning work on the cross, and His promise to return soon.