While working as a lifeguard on Australia’s Gold Coast in December 2015, Nick Malcolm noticed a boy caught in a rip current that began dragging him farther into the Pacific Ocean. Responding to the boy’s need, Malcolm paddled out, pulled him from the surf, and returned him to safety. Only later did he find out, to his surprise, that the boy he had rescued was Prince Christian of Denmark.
That feeling of surprise will be dwarfed by the shock of those who will stand before the Son of Man when He comes. Jesus describes the separation of the sheep from the goats and then explains the reasoning: those admitted to the kingdom have cared for Him while He was hungry, thirsty, a foreigner, naked, sick, or imprisoned; those sent away with the Devil did not (vv. 34–43).
Befuddled, both sides ask the same question, “When did we see you?” After all, who would refuse to aid the glorious Son of Man if given the chance? The surprise is that they served the Son of Man when they were willing to serve those who are easily overlooked. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (v. 40). Having already criticized imperial pretension and pomp, Jesus goes further, identifying Himself with those at the bottom of the ladder.
The righteous people should serve as our model in many ways. We should especially notice the purity of their love for others, which led them to be surprised they had served the Son of Man. They did not give aid because they knew they were serving royalty. Rather, understanding God’s command that we love our neighbors, like good lifeguards they responded to the need they saw and sought to give aid to those in distress.
Where do you see persons in need of love and service, those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, or imprisoned? How might you respond to their needs? Pray that God would help you grow in your love for your neighbors so that you can respond to their needs appropriately and in a way consistent with God’s will.