It has been thrilling to me to read again in Matthew the sequence of events and sayings in Jesus’ final days on earth. Two back-to-back sayings of the Lord stunned me a few days ago. Sometimes familiar things become fresh and powerful by being seen in a new relationship.
At the end of Matthew 25 there is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Picture Jesus, who looked as ordinary as any other man, beginning this parable with these astonishing words: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say…” (verses 31-33).
Let these words sink in. First, let’s nail down who the Son of Man is. There is no doubt. In Matthew 16:13 Jesus had said, “Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” and then two verses later he said, “But who do you say that I am?” There it is. Jesus is the Son of Man. It was one of his favorite titles for himself. There was hidden in it the mystery of his humanness and his heavenly dignity, because in Daniel 7:13-14 “one like a Son of Man” in heaven was to receive an eternal kingdom from God.
Now let it sink in what Jesus said about himself in Matthew 25:31-33:
1. “He will come someday in glory.” This glory is not the mere glory of a sunset or the Grand Canyon or the Hale-Bopp Comet or the universe. This is the glory of God—as Matthew 16:27 says, “the glory of his Father.” If the creation has glory that stops our mouths with its waterfalls and ravines and snow-capped Rockies and star-sheeted night skies, then the glory of the one who conceived and created it all will put it all in the shade. The Son of Man is coming with that glory.
2. “And all the angels with him.” All of them. Did you get that? Heaven will be left empty of its armies. All the angels will be with him! This means that the triumph is so sure that one doesn't have to cover his rear guard. No one will threaten heaven. All the armies of God on the front line with the Son of Man. Jesus could handle the conquest of earth alone. He is God. But the angels come to magnify him and do his bidding. What is that bidding? Just this: “He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds.” They are going to gather you and me to meet the Son of Man.
3. “Then, he will sit on his glorious throne.” He is on a throne because he is King. “Then the King will say …” Jesus is King of the universe now. He rules all and upholds all (Matthew 28:18; Colossians 1:17). But when he comes, this kingship will be plain to everyone in Minneapolis.
4. “Before him will be gathered all the nations.” Jesus, the Son of Man, the King of the Universe, will sit on his throne, and every people and every president and chief and prime minister and premier and king on earth will gather and say, “Jesus is Lord,” to the glory of God the Father. When the elect are gathered, and the King sits in glorious judgment, then will be fulfilled the words of the prophet, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3).
5. Then suddenly after this parable, I read in the next verses: “When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” Same Son of Man. Delivered up and crucified. Did you ever wonder what joy and hope sustained Jesus in those horrific hours of suffering?
He is risen! And he is coming. In the meantime, “let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured” (Hebrews 13:13).
Fixed on his coming,