Matthew 25:31-46 – The Parable of the Judgment


Matthew 25:31-46


In this Parable of the Judgment Jesus’ transforms the time of waiting for the Son of Man from useless idleness to the important and unselfconscious care of the neighbor in need.


Though earlier in the discourse Jesus has warned the disciples about asking “when” (24:3-4, 36), in this final parable of the series we hear not an “if” but a confident “when” regarding the coming of the Son of Man. Almost in anticipation of the Great Commission (28:18-20), the Son of Man now sits on his throne judging “all the nations.” As exalted “king” (25:34) this Messiah now exercises judgment, separating the sheep from the goats. In telling Matthean motifs, the “righteous” are invited to share in the “blessings” of the “kingdom” that has been prepared for them from the beginning by the Father’s design, while the wicked are sent to join their father, the devil along with his angels. And how will the separation be decided? Here is the surprise, emphasized in the elaborate symmetry and fourfold repetition of the narrative. The judgment is based upon how this community has treated the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner in the meantime of waiting. In this parable the community’s meantime of waiting is changed from a useless passage of time to a redefinition of community in the care of the neighbor, and from worry about the “when” of the coming of the Son of Man to the realization that the “when” has already taken place in the face of the needy.