Dr. J Warren Smith is an Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Duke Divinity School. His interest is in the history of theology, but his primary focus is in patristic theology, with published works on Gregory of Nyssa and Ambrose of Milan. Dr. Smith regularly teaches Local Pastors at Course of Study in the Sudan. [Read More]
Matthew 25: 31-46 … Service of the Blessed Sheep
Dr. Smith presents the familiar text about judgment, sheep, and goats as one in which Jesus “messes” with our categories. We are a world of groups, but this text opens and breaks down the barriers. He offers the text as a mini apocalypse with roots in Daniel 7 that is essential to Jesus’ understanding and response to Pilate in Matthew 26 and identifies Jesus as the Son of Man. Jesus speaks of the two groups of the blessed and cursed. The blessed will be at the right hand as he, the Son of Man, is at the right hand of God. The cursed are those that rebelled but are those that exalt themselves and not serving the list of these. The reward of both groups is to receive their reward by being with the one they served. Only those that understand who the Messiah is, hear and understand fully the message of service.
Jesus’ conclusion in Matthew 25 is that in the Incarnation the greatest are becoming the least. As Jesus takes a form of a servant, the Incarnate shows us how to become the least, the ones that are hungry, thirsty and a stranger, as he did.
Smith says that “Ministry out of middle class does no one any good“, but by becoming the least of these and living Jesus’ example, a mission to the least of these becomes just and holy. The mission to the least becomes vastly different when it is viewed through the lens of Jesus’ servanthood. You cannot know the unique mission of the church until you understand the unique suffering of the servant Jesus.
If you are interested in reading Smith’s published works there are a few selections available at the Cokesbury Online Book Store.