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The Final Judgement

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26 Nov 2023

Feast of Christ the King

Matthew 25:31-46


The Final Judgement
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Well friends, we come today to the Feast of Christ the King, which is the final Sunday of the liturgical year before we begin a new liturgical year in Advent.


And this feast, coming as it does, at the end of the liturgical year, reminds us of Christ, the King of the universe, the end of all things.


Jesus Christ is ultimately where all things are going but he's also the end in another sense as well.

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He's the purpose, he's the meaning behind all of history and therefore behind our lives as well.


He is the judge of all things, of all people.


That's what we see here today in our passage Matthew 25 verses 31 to 46.


Christ is the King of the Universe, He is the Judge.


Now the notion of a final judgement is of course hard for modern people.


We've been conditioned to see such things as harsh and as intolerant.


But if I were to say a word in favour of judgement, I would say that the fact that our lives will be judged by Jesus Christ means that our lives are actually heading somewhere.


It gives life a meaning.


It means that our actions in this world have immense significance.


We're not just floating around.


We're not just here by accident, but God himself has put us here and that there is a calling.


There are things for us to do that God gives us and he will hold us to account.


This gives our lives a dramatic significance.


It tells us that we are actually living within the context of a great narrative, a structure, a meaning.


The Man is nothing.


And what he meant by that is that we are born with no essence, no purpose, that man has no inherent purpose or essence, that there is no calling to us from the outside, but that we create that purpose or essence later on.


But of course, what this does is it makes our purpose, it makes that essence, whatever we choose it to be, relative and arbitrary.


It's extinguishable by death or calamity.


Life becomes merely a kind of absurdity, an accident with no explanation, no reason, no meaning, going nowhere.


To quote Shakespeare, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


But to the contrary, what is a meaningful life?


Well, to quote the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, he said, by a meaningful life, I do not mean life as a personal project,


I mean life with a meaning that comes from outside us as a call, a vocation, a mission.


That's what a truly meaningful life is.


It's not something that we decide upon for ourselves.


It's not something that we make up for ourselves.


It's something that comes to us from the outside.


A calling, ultimately a calling from God.


Ultimately, indeed, a calling from Jesus Christ.


A voice, an objective reality.


something that we discover, something that we respond to, not something that we create.


Friend, on the Feast of Christ the King we acknowledge the reality that all things come from Jesus Christ, that they are made for him and that they are heading towards him.


He is the beginning, the purpose, the meaning, the end, the king of the universe.


And our passage in Matthew 25


The Final Judgment, it emphasizes the greatness of Jesus Christ.


And it really does remind me of the famous C.S.


Lewis trilemma when he said, you know, we can't just dismiss Jesus Christ as a kind of, or diminish him as a moral teacher and say that that's all he was.


Well, he was just the founder of one of the great world religions.


He was a very, very gifted man, obviously, but he wasn't anything more than that.


Lewis said, no, no, that can't be the case because the kind of things that Jesus said about himself


Would have not not fitted into that category.


He was either insane because he would have made such Grandiose claims for himself to say the least he was he was either insane or he was bad.


You know, he's just lying He's just making this stuff up or if neither of those things are true and he said these things then he must be God he this must all be true and what he said must be true about himself and


And this passage, perhaps more than any other, I'm not sure, but maybe this passage emphasises the greatness of Christ and fits into that serious argument more than any other.


This can be seen in so many ways.


So, for example, verse 31, when the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.


These are the words of Christ, remember, as reported by the Apostle Matthew.


Now here Christ used this common reference to himself, which he uses for himself, son of man, which comes from the book of Daniel.


So Christ frequently referring to himself in this way.


In this passage, he's particularly referencing Daniel chapter seven, which says this, I saw in the night visions and behold, with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man,


that's Jesus, and he came to the ancient days, well that's God, and was presented before him and to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him.


His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.


Now friends, Jesus was saying all these things about himself, that he was the Son of Man, that the Ancient of Days would give him an everlasting dominion, and that his kingdom was one that should not be destroyed.


Yes, these are very grandiose claims indeed.


Verse 32, Christ goes on, Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.


all the nations, every nation, and Christ will judge all the peoples from the nations.


Christ is not a tribal deity but rather the universal God who is the judge of all humanity, not just of some, not just of white western people who happen to be Christian.


Christ is the judge of all peoples at all times, all the nations.


Again, grandiose claim.


If not true, then absolutely crazy.


Verse 34, then the king will say to those on his right, come, you are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.


Here, Christ refers to himself as the king.


The kingdom that he references is his kingdom, which he prepares from the foundation of the world.


The word there for world in Greek is kosmos.


This is Jesus clearly making the claim that he pre-existed the world, not only that he pre-existed his human life, but he pre-existed the foundation of the cosmos himself, itself, sorry, and that he was the one who actually prepared a kingdom for the people he will judge.


So this reminds us that Jesus is not just the end of all things, but that he's also the beginning of all things as well.


He's the beginning.


He's the reason, he's the purpose, he's the king, he's the judge, he's the end.


Now as I say, these things shouldn't be taken lightly and we should each reckon with them seriously.


Is this man really who he said he is?


Or is he mad?


Or perhaps he might be bad?


That's a serious question.


That's a very serious question.


And so as we come to the end of this liturgical year, I want to challenge you to make a New Year's resolution, something we do in the secular New Year.


I think it's a good idea to try it in the liturgical year as well.


If we truly believe the words that Jesus said, let us try in this liturgical year, this new liturgical year,


to live in the light of the fact that Jesus Christ really is the king of the universe and that he really will judge us justly and with love but nevertheless he will judge us for the ways that we live our lives.


Let us reject mistaken views of the faith and the church for the Christian faith friends is not nominalism which literally means being a Christian in name only


maybe ticking a box on a census form, maybe even coming to church regularly, but lacking a serious commitment, lacking a commitment that really changes one's heart and one's life.


The ways one makes one's decision, the way one orders one's life, the way one thinks about one's life.


The Christian faith is not nominalism.


It's not some kind of cultural habit.


It's not a tradition.


It's not a badge of membership of the British establishment or being British or English or anything like that.


If we go to church in a Church of England church, for example, it's none of those things.


Not really.


We could venture a definition and say that being a Christian is really about living in light of the fact that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe, that he's the King of Kings, and that he is the Lord of Lords, and that being Christian is really about living out that belief as consistently as we possibly can.


and allowing it to permeate every aspect of our lives as we seek to be obedient to Christ, as we seek to commit ourselves to him and order our lives in such a way as we hope will please him.


And so that's my challenge to you friends, to make that New Year's resolution.


Avail yourself


of the means of grace that are available to you, particularly in the church.


If you've not been baptised, if you've not been confirmed, then do these things.


Attend church regularly on Sundays at a minimum.


Take the body and blood of Christ to yourself and be renewed and joined to the church through the Eucharist.


Avail yourself of the teaching office of the church as you grow in your knowledge of scripture and of the faith more generally.


And give your gifts to the church so that she might flourish and grow.


If you're already doing this, then that's a good thing.


Maybe you're already trying really hard.


Well, then, as we come to this new liturgical year, then this is a good opportunity to persist, because persistence is a great virtue in the Christian life, and it's very, very important.


So persist, or maybe this might be a time when you've made some resolutions and they've just dropped off a bit.


And now it's an opportunity just to raise your level back to where you were hoping it was going to be before.


Well, that's a good thing to do as well.


Perhaps this might be an opportunity to ask the Lord if there's something else, something else that you could be doing, something else that he's calling you to do, maybe something


that you might need to lay down in order to make space for something else.


I don't know.


It's not for me to say, but ask the Lord.


Think about it.


Seek the Lord's voice and his guidance in your life.


And so, friends, let us commit ourselves in this coming liturgical year from Advent onwards all the way through to live in light of this reality of Jesus Christ's kingship of the whole universe, of the fact that we


Seek to play our part in his story, but that it is in fact his story.


And God bless you.


Amen.

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