We are pondering the last story Matthew reports Jesus telling before Matthew turns to the narrative of events of this week that culminated in the cross for Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples that some day he will return as “Son of Man” and separate the nations into sheep and goats. Jesus will say to the sheep, the ones of his flock “enter into the kingdom of heaven. The goats, the ones who did not want him as their shepherd, will be told to depart. Both groups will be told that the criterion is how they treated others, the needy. The sheep can’t remember when they did well. “When did we see you needy?” The goats can’t remember when they missed an opportunity to help the needy. “When did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” The sheep openly admit they don’t deserve grace. The goats argue that they do deserve to be rewarded. The goats miss the point. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve when we don’t expect it.
The journey of Lent is facing our mortality, our fallibility our need for Jesus to heal our vision, open our ears, and raise us from the dead. We come to realize that we may perform good deeds every now and then but not always. We are not perfect. We are sinful people living in a sinful world and we need a savior. We need grace. We need the cross. We deserve death and Jesus is going to show us how grace defeats evil. Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday when we will receive a new commandment, a new mandate. Today let us ponder if we think we have dealt with the needy as we ought or if we indeed need grace and forgiveness. I suspect our prayer this week is to bow our head and confess as we did on Ash Wednesday, from ashes we came and to ashes we go – Lord have mercy. Blessings as you pray.