The people of Israel have a long history with kings. I Samuel 8 tells the story of the people demanding a king; the nations surrounding them have had a king so they want one too. The very thought of it displeases Samuel, so he prays to the LORD and the LORD sayes to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you." And thus began the ruling of earthly kings over the people.
Fast-forward through time and another King stands before the people, Jesus the Christ. Although the people have been watching for the Messiah's arrival, they fail to recognize him. He isn't what they expect. He isn't what they want! What they want is a king to overtake the Roman Empire and return to them the status and power they feel they deserve. This Jesus, he hardly fits the bill. This Jesus, he wants his disciples to be humble, serving others, caring for the needs of the poor and outcast. What kind of king is that!
One role of a king is to provide direction. Jesus provides direction, but it is as a Shepherd caring for his sheep. To the sheep, he instructs: "Come, you that are blessed by the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you..." To the goats he says, "Go, you that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire..." To the sheep who listen to his voice, he says, "Do...just as you did it to one of the least of these...you did it to me." Jesus, the Good Shepherd, provides directions--Come! Go! Do!
In light of Jesus' instruction, caring is crucial—caring for those who are thirsty, hungry, lonely or in need of hospitality. The simple ministry of presence goes a long way in fulfilling Jesus' desires for those who follow him. And, thankfully, the church does have experience in the central mission of hospitality. "Indeed, by the fourth century it was common for congregations to have 'houses of lodging for strangers.' These were the first rudimentary hospitals in the West. Caring for the stranger's ailments was part of their task, but central was their ministry of presence and hospitality."
Jesus’ earthly ministry is about caring for the sheep. Now, as his disciples, that is our ministry as well.
Questions to Ponder:
1. How has Christ been the King of my life this year?
2. As followers of Christ, how should people with power treat those without it?
3. In the Matthew text, who is surprised (verses 37-39 and verse 44)?
May the Lord bless you and the people you love this week. I look forward to seeing you in worship.
 Body Theology, James B. Nelson (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), p. 136.