Seeing the Face of Jesus

by | Nov 22, 2020 | Resources

Seeing the Face of Jesus

It’s Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday in the church year and what a year it has been. In our passage from Matthew’s gospel this morning we look at a passage that we know as the ‘Sheep and the Goats.’

There is a common thread in this passage and it is that no one is able to see Jesus. Is this something that we also stumble with? Seeing the face of Jesus in those who we meet?

Scripture: Matthew 25: 31-46

The band REM sing “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” It may not be the end of the world, but it is certainly the end of the church year. Today is Christ the King Sunday and it’s the last Sunday of the church year before we move into the season of Advent.

I’m also not sure that any of us feel fine. This year has been unlike any in recent memory and feeling fine is probably not how most of us would describe it. There are many events this year that might have unsettled us, but the global pandemic caused by Covid-19 sits squarely in the front of our mind. Not only has it affected millions of people around the world, causing countless deaths and disrupting our way of life. But in the process of doing that it has revealed vast social inequities about how we live and care for people. Questions about how we care and provide for those who are unemployed and homeless. How we care for the elderly, a population which has been devastated by this virus.

It’s the end of the church year, and we aren’t sure what to expect in the months ahead. It will certainly be a challenging Advent and Christmas season as families and friends negotiate how to see one another and remain safe.

As we ponder the reality of our lives and the situation we face together as a society Jesus provides us with a challenging passage. It is a passage, that in light of the social inequities that have been exposed due to Covid-19 has particular meaning.

There is one unifying theme in this passage. Both groups, the sheep and the goats, miss the connection between Jesus and the poor. The only difference between them is that one group cares for the poor while the other does not.

The question that arises from this passage is can we see the humanity, the image of God in the needy of the world? That is the challenge of this passage and Jesus doesn’t make it easy. Scott Hoezee writes about what a response from goats might look like: “If we had known it was you, Lord . . . the goats want to say. Why didn’t you just say something!? What was up with all those coy disguises??!!

“If they asked that, maybe the reply would be along the lines of this: You didn’t have to know it was me all along–the righteous didn’t either.  It should have been enough to realize no more than that this other person was a human being created in the very image of God!  If you had known no more than that (and you did!), that would have been enough.  You didn’t need to know it was me.  Had you simply acknowledged their humanity, their God-likeness, you would have been led to do the right thing.” (Scott Hoezee)

We categorize people in all sorts of ways. Economically we do it by class upper, middle and lower. We can name people from the upper class, we all know who the wealthy are in the world because there aren’t that many of them compared to those of us in the middle and lower economic classes. When it comes to the lower class or the poor we tend to put a lot of people in that category. The unemployed, immigrants, those on social assistance, the homeless, the addicts.

We don’t talk about John who lost his job, turned to alcohol to cope and eventually lost his home. Or Sally who lives at the shelter with her two kids because if she sees her husband she might be assaulted, again. We don’t know their names and we don’t know their stories. In some ways its impossible to know the stories, but I suspect that on some levels we don’t want to know. We are content to allow them to be anonymous, to keep things at arms length. This doesn’t mean we don’t provide various different ways of support, but it’s indirect and often non-personal.

We forget that sometimes the most important things we can do in life are things that appear to have no significance at the time. Sometimes we forget that the face of Christ can be found in all people we meet. And we also forget that Jesus had a special place for the poor of the world.

The gift of grace, by which we are saved, is that it opens our eyes to the larger world. It moves our hearts and our minds to places we might not otherwise go. It allows us to view the world, not as the world is, but as it should be. In short, through grace we see the world through the colours of the kingdom and if that is true then we can’t help but see the face of Jesus in all who we meet.

We are at the beginning of the end, which itself is a new beginning. Let’s move into this new church year, with all the challenges we might face, with eyes that allow us to not only see the humanity of those around us, but the face of Christ as well. Amen.

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

St. Andrew’s supports the gathering of community agencies, providing space for the Affordable Housing Committee. Rev. Ellis’ voice is key in advocating for improvements in awareness, empathy and action on key determinants such as housing, income and food security. 

Kristina Nairn

Public Health Nurse, HKPR Health Unit

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