Textual context: 

The last discourse (23-25) anticipates an impending judgment on the Jewish leadership – the scribes and Pharisees. 

  • They have focused on outward expressions of piety, rather than on justice, mercy, and faith.  They were hypocrites. 
  • They have cause Israel to look in the wrong direction at the very hour when the Messiah had come. 
  • They were true children of their prophet-killing ancestors as they were about to kill the greatest prophet of all—the promised Messiah. 

Israel was called to represent the world before God. 

  • They were called to be a holy nation (not merely for their sake) for the sake of the nations of the world. 
  • Instead, they copied the world’s rebellion and wickedness. 
  • It was time for judgment!  They played with fire and now it was out of control. 

Jesus would bear the guilt of sin as the Servant of the Lord.

  • He was like the mother hen who gathered her chicks under her wing as the barn was set ablaze.  He would take the full force of the fire onto himself and rescue the little chicks. 
  • Sadly, the chicks refused the mother’s safety. 
  • Jesus reveals that the fire would consume the generation that had witnessed the Messiah first hand.    

The weight of God’s judgment would fall upon the Temple – the symbol of God’s presence. 

  • Symbol of God’s presence (destruction meant defenseless and desolation). 
  • Jesus warned his disciples that the great Temple was going to come down. 
  • Its destruction would end the present age, so that a new age could begin. 

The birth pangs of the new age will be severe; however, Jesus’ followers must hold on and remain faithful. 

  • They will actively spread the gospel of the kingdom to the whole world.
  • But, in doing so, they will suffer at the hands of friend and foe alike.    

Judgment would be “the end of the age.”

  • At the hands of a pagan invader – the Roman occupation of Jerusalem and Judea. 
  • Roman legions would eventually destroy the Temple and the City. 
  • The world order that Jesus’ generation had known would be demolished. 

What about the followers of Jesus? 

  • They are told to run and hide in the hill country. 
  • The suffering in the city would be catastrophic because it was under God’s judgment!
  • The Son of Man would appear in judgment and a new era would begin!    

The Son of Man would come!

  • His resurrection and ascension would reverse the curse of death. 
  • The good news of Jesus and his Lordship would be spread throughout the world. 
  • At the right time, the Temple and City would be destroyed. 
  • Everything that Jesus had foretold would happen! 

The disciples would experience these things in their generation!   

  • No one would know exactly when it would happen. 
  • Life would be normal right up until the end. 
  • Stay alert and be ready! 
    • Will God find them doing what they should be doing?
    • Will they be wise or foolish?
    • Will they utilize the blessings that God had entrusted to them? [1]

And with that, he tells his disciples this final story: 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand,

‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’

Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’

Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

What’s next?

Jesus has denounced his own people.  He has foretold his own vindication.  When he comes and sits on his throne (resurrection/ascension), the Kingdom will begin!  The final message is found in these words… now is the time for judgment. 

Sheep and goats

  1. Graze together during the day… Shepherd separates them at night – goats are less hardy and need to keep warm; goats can hurt the sheep
  2. Right (receive the kingdom)… left (depart from me)

What is the standard of judgment?

  1. The way those being judged have treated “one of these my brothers and sisters”
  2. How have they treated Jesus’ family…
  3. Redefinition of judgment: 
    1. Past:  How the nations treated Israel.
    1. Now:  How the world treated his new family.

Who are my brothers and sisters… family?

  1. Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his followers and said, “See! These people are my mother and my brothers. Yes, anyone who does what my Father in heaven wants is my true brother and sister and mother.” Matt. 12:48-50
  2. Jesus is sending his “family” into the world with a dangerous mission.  They will be vulnerable to the perils of hunger, isolation, and imprisonment. 
  3. If the world hates you, remember that they hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as it loves its own people. But I have chosen you to be different from those in the world. So you don’t belong to the world, and that is why the world hates you. “Remember the lesson I told you: Servants are not greater than their master. If people treated me badly, they will treat you badly too. And if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours too.  They will do to you whatever they did to me, because you belong to me. They don’t know the one who sent me…Whoever hates me also hates my Father.  I did things among the people of the world that no one else has ever done… they have seen what I did, and still they hate me and my Father.  But this happened to make clear the full meaning of what is written in their law: ‘They hated me for no reason.’  John 15
  4. How you treat Jesus’ family… is how you treat Jesus!


  1. To console and encourage followers of Christ who stood open to persecution as they were fulfilling the great commission to make disciples of “all nations.”
    1. The eleven followers went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. On the mountain the followers saw Jesus. They worshiped him. But some of the followers did not believe that it was really Jesus. So he came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me. So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have told you to do. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of time.” Matt. 28
  2. To remind followers of Christ that they will be vindicated…
    1. “But what will happen if that servant is evil and thinks his master will not come back soon? He will begin to beat the other servants. He will eat and drink with others who are drunk. Then the master will come when the servant is not ready, at a time when the servant is not expecting him.Then the master will punish that servant. He will send him away to be with the hypocrites, where people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.  Matt. 24:48f

[1] N.T. Wright, Matthew For Everyone Part Two.  Wright shows clearly that the text is not referring to the “last judgment.”