Christ Confesses Us

You know the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25.

The King puts the sheep on his right hand and says this to them:
"Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
The sheep are shocked. Consulting their memory they don't ever recall seeing the King on earth:
"Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"
The King replies with the famous words:
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Here's what I'd like to note about this parable.

What's interesting is that the "sheep" don't recognize or confess Christ on earth. Not in any verbal or conscious way. The confession of Christ is behavioral, performative and non-verbal.

In fact, the confession of recognition is reversed.

What is salvific isn't a verbal or a conscious recognition of Christ on earth. The sheep don't ever recall seeing Christ on earth. "When did we ever see you?" the sheep say.

What is salvific is that Christ, witnessing our lives, recognizes and confesses us.

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father."

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10 thoughts on “Christ Confesses Us”

  1. Being that many of us who read your wonderful blog are members or former members of the Church of Christ, I wish to make the point that when its congregations, starting from the late seventies and early eighties, began to take a more progressive turn, most, in my opinion, turned the wrong direction. Rather than remolding their religion from a "doing" of religious law into a "doing" onto others, they fell into the rut of other conservative evangelicals in simply claiming grace in the name of Christ. They still remained more so cells of their culture rather than OTHER ORIENTED visionaries of Christ.

    The fact that Jesus says little, very little, regarding "Church", while his waking moments are spent in embracing others in their needs while welcoming them into the kingdom of God, seems to get the attention of few. And while I am not one who says we need to trash the church then grab a tunic and a staff and hit the road, I do believe that we need to confess that the church today in too many areas resembles the vision of Christ very little. But maybe that neglect can be healed by a repentance in which individual talents are accessed more in the way of service than in performance.

    In the mean time, this wonderful, insightful post has hit me right between the eyes, reminding me that each day I MUST open my eyes and find that cup or morsel that God has placed within reaching distance so that I can place it in another's hand.

  2. For at least a century, Matthew 25 has been the classic go-to passage for cherry picking a progressive gospel from the mouth of Jesus.

  3. What I mean to say is that I also love this passage and the theology is all very beautiful and simple until I eventually feel the need to try and harmonize it with all the non-behavioral, non-performative, verbal dimensions of Jesus' teaching... :/

  4. B, I don't know exactly what you have in mind, but I think many non-behavioral and non-performative eadings of the Gospels and epistles are simply based on misinterpreting "pistis" as "belief," in the sense of "thinking." Pistis, and the underlying Hebrew/Aramaic term "emunah" are generally better translated as "faithfulness." Ie: a faithful person faithfully follows through on their commitments and obligations. There is lots of performance and doing in 'faithfulness.'

    It is true that pistis could also mean "being convinced," especially in the context of Greek discussions of rhetoric. However, I think the epistles nicely show the Jewish apostles conveying the sense of 'emunah' as 'faithfulness' to an audience that, like us, sometimes got confused as the cognitive sense of the term overtook its intended meaning.

    Still, there is I think a concept of grace that conditioned the apostle's understanding of God's judgment (for failing to faithfully care for the poor) and Christ's atoning self-sacrifice. However, I don't think it is tenable to suggest that the apostles or Scripture articulated a non-performative view of these issues, as some Protestants seem to think. At root, I think, is a simple mis-translation of 'pistis' as 'belief' instead of 'faithfulness.'

  5. I'm thinking of the passage in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say."

  6. I'm reading bout this parable at the moment in a book by AE. Knock called The Problem of Evil and The Judgments of God.

    He points out that the particular judgement in this parable is not for the individual, but for the nations and how they have treated Israel. That it's not about salvation, for if it was it would simply mean that all you have to do to be "saved" is be hospitable to Jews.

    I think it's beautiful that Christ confesses anyone for anything (whatever it may be) before the Father, angels, people/the nations.

  7. the Matthew 7 passage of 'knowing them by their fruits,' Jesus seems to be saying that exorcisms, prophecy and miracles are not necessarily 'good fruits.' Religious 'stuff' is not the sign of Kingdom essence.

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