What is truth? This question the Roman Governor Pilate asked Jesus is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. Pilate may have been replying in a sarcastic manor when Jesus stood before him claiming himself to be the truth, but it is a reality each of one of us must answer. What is the truth about Christ? As this is the week of Passover, Good Friday, and Easter, I want to help answer this question of who Jesus is by examining the last part of Olivet discourse found in Matthew 25:31-46.
Matthew 25:31-46 is a very popular passage these days. It is often used by social justice minded people calling attention to make provision for the “least of these” in society. Although this is a noble and important aspect of understanding this passage, it would be better to make this a secondary point of application. The primary point of this passage is to ask what are the requirements for entrance into God’s kingdom?
The reason this is the primary question the passage raises is because of its conclusion. By the end of the story, Christ, has divided and separated the sheep and goats based on their treatment of him. The goats “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
Prior to this passage, Christ illustrates his authority as the one who administers justice in four parables. They are the parable of the faithful houseowner, the wise servant, the ten virgins, and the talents. (see Matthew 24:42-25:31) These parables develop a three-fold theme of an authority figure, who then judges the attitude of his subjects, and issues the consequences of his judgment.
In these parables Christ plays the role of the judge, or person having authority, and his judging is based on what the attitudes of the people were to his message. Was the message received and taken seriously or was it ignored and treated indifferently? The consequence and point of division is how the individual treated the message. If received there was blessing, if it was not they were without hope.
Jesus teaching on the sheep and the goats carries the same three-fold theme found in the previously mentioned parables. This is a great parallel to what God had prophesied through his prophet Ezekiel nearly six hundred years before Christ was born. Here God gives to Ezekiel the mark of what the true shepherd would do. “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice” (Ezekiel 34:16). Also, “I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats” (Ezekiel 34:17).
Jesus not only confirms himself as the true shepherd at the conclusion of this discourse, but he also calls himself King and the Son of Man. Jesus is the King as Matthew’s genealogy establishes in the opening chapter of his book, and he’s the Son of Man as one who identifies with us and reveals his incarnation.
When I was a teenager there was a popular song by the Indigo Girls called “Closer to Fine”. Their lyrics reflect the heart of our relativistic age when they sing, “there’s more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line…..And the less I seek my source from some definitive the closer I am to fine.” I have to admit I use to like the song because it was so catchy and innocent sounding, but the philosophy could not be more wrong.
Jesus Christ is the most true reality there is, who does not point anyone in a crooked line. He makes the crooked path straight, and is the truth, and the life. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). This Easter hopefully you are encouraged by the reality of who Christ is because you believe, and if you are not encouraged I hope this gets you to think more about Christ’s claims and what they mean for you. Truth can be known, because it has been revealed.