As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to reach out to the lost with the good news of the Kingdom. We are moreover called to reach out to the "last" of the lost joining God in His plan to see the "panta ta ethne" (the nations) hear His message. Additionally, we are called to the "least" which is the third point to this already lengthy blog.
In Matthew 25:31-46, there is a great story told by Jesus in which He describes a final judgement. The "Son of Man" (Jesus) in all His glory with His angels sits on His glorious throne and judges the nations. All the nations ("panta ta ethne") are gathered before Him and He begins to separate them, one from another. He separates the sheep (His flock) to the right and the goats (not of His flock) to the left and says to the sheep, "Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world..." (Matthew 25:34)
As you read through these verses and this story, it becomes evident that the criteria in this judgement has everything to do with how the "sheep" treated the hungry, thirsty, stranger, naked, sick and prisoners. The sheep are rewarded with an inheritance in Jesus' kingdom based upon how they responded to those in need. Conversely, the "goats" in the next few verses are excluded from the kingdom based upon the sole fact that they did not care for their needy brothers.
Then, Jesus makes an extraordinary statement revealing a disturbing truth. When the sheep asked, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?..." To which Jesus replied, "I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:40)
I am not suggesting that Jesus is saying our "good works" are what gets us placed in the sheep pen. I am saying that our "good works" are a tell tale sign of how (or even if) our lives have been transformed by the Master Shepherd. For whatever we did for the "least", we did for Jesus.
Two things. The word "least" can really be interpreted only one way. These are the people who are "very little" or "very small" in the eyes of the world. These are the ones with the "least" dignity and the least hope in this life: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, etc. You cannot spiritualize this fact. These are the "poorest of the poor" in the world.
Secondly, when we minister to these, in the name of Jesus, Jesus Himself says, "...you did for Me." Can it be that when we reach out to the "least", we are reaching out to Jesus? And conversely, when we turn our backs on the "least", we turn our backs on Jesus. Want to talk about radical?
I believe Jesus calls us, as His church and His body, to be on His business in making His name known among the lost, the last and the least.
Final note. It is interesting to me that the three passages we've looked at (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 25:31-40) all use the wording, "to the nations" or "panta ta ethne".
Our task and call? To the "panta ta ethne" of the lost, last and least!