The Promise and Warning About Christ’s Return

Notes for March 23-24
Matthew 25:31-46    

Biblical Background

  • The Son of Man:  Daniel 7:13-14 states that “the Son of Man” will come to earth and have dominion over all things.  Here Jesus is stating that He is the Son of Man and He will come to judge and rule over all the earth. This is a strong Messianic title.

  • Sheep and Goats:  In biblical times sheep and goats would graze together during the day, however, the shepherds would separate the sheep and goats at night since the goats needed to be together to stay warm in an enclosure while the sheep preferred the open air.  Sheep were also more valuable than goats as their wool could be harvested as well as their meat and so they were cared for more carefully than goats. Thus the symbolism of the sheep and the goats being separated for judgment would not have been missed by the 1st century audience.

  • Right and Left Side:  In the Middle East, the right side is the place of honor at the table. As well, the right place is the side of the righteous and the left for those who are wicked when it comes to judgment. Jesus is always spoken of as sitting or standing on the right hand side of the Father as a sign of honor.

  • Righteous Deeds:  The acts of kindness and charity that Jesus describes are all parts of Jewish morality and religious life, although visiting those in prison wasn’t usually included.

  • Brothers and Sisters:  In the context of this passage in Matthew – the brothers and sisters are those who are followers of Jesus.  Thus there is a blessing that comes from caring for those who are Christians.

  • All Nations Judged: In the Old Testament, God is the judge of all nations, and sometimes nations are judged by the way they treat Israel.  In this case, people are judged by the way they treat followers of Jesus, those who make up the Church.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is the “Son of Man”?  What is His role in this story?

  2. What are the six actions that Jesus uses to judge people?

  3. What type of actions are these and for whom are they done?

  4. How do these actions benefit the person being served? The person serving?

  5. How are the people who do the acts of service the same as those who don’t? How are they different?

  6. Who are “the least of these” in this story? Today in our society?

  7. What does this story teach us about our responsibilities as followers of Jesus?

  8. What are the judgments of the Son of Man in this story? Where do people end up?

  9. What are the warnings given in this passage?

  10. How would you summarize the teaching of Jesus in this passage?

  11. When you were in need – hungry, sick, in prison, etc… - was there anyone who reached out to you? If so, describe how you felt?

  12. What are the promises given in this passage?

  13. Where does out church meet the needs of people in these six areas mentioned by Jesus?

  14. Where do you feel called to serve the needs of others? Are there places that you’ve been avoiding to serve? If so, why?