Matthew 25:37
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
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(37) When saw we thee an hungred?—It is clear that this question of surprise could not be asked by any who, as believers in Christ, have come under this teaching. They know, even now, the full significance of their acts of mercy, and that knowledge is as their strongest motive. But in the lips of the heathen who stand before the judgment-seat such a question will be natural enough. They have acted from what seemed merely human affection towards merely human objects, and they are therefore rightly represented as astonished when they hear that they have, in their ministrations to the sons of men, been ministering to the Son of Man.

Matthew 25:37-40. Then shall the righteous answer, &c. — The righteous, with great surprise, ask, with reverence and humility, when all this happened, since they never had seen him in want of their assistance, nor could remember that they had ever bestowed aught upon him. It cannot be supposed, however, that either the righteous or the wicked should answer in the very words here mentioned. But what we learn here from is, That neither of them have the same estimation of their own works which the Judge hath. And the King shall answer — Inasmuch as, &c. — “This is unspeakably astonishing! The united wisdom of men and angels could not have thought of any thing more proper to convey an idea of the warmth and strength of the divine benevolence to men, or offer a more constraining motive to charity, than that the Son of God should declare from the judgment-seat, in presence of the whole universe assembled, that such good offices as are done to the afflicted are done to him. Having in the days of his flesh suffered injuries and afflictions unspeakable, he considers all the virtuous distressed as members of his body, loves them tenderly, and is so much interested in their welfare, that when they are happy he rejoices; when they are distressed he is grieved: Ye have done it unto me — O wonderful condescension of the Son of God! O astonishing stupidity of men, who neglect altogether, or are persuaded with difficulty to do good to Christ! That Jesus should call the poor, even among the heathen, his brethren, is a great honour to the human nature, and shows the divine benignity in an amiable light. This happy relation arises from the manhood which he still possesses in common with men, and from the poverty, affliction, and other miseries of mankind, that he was exposed to while he lived in the world. He calls good men, more especially, his brethren, because they are children of the same Father, (namely, God,) after whose image they are formed by the influence of his Spirit. It is this conformity of natures, human and divine, which makes men Christ’s brethren; for which reason, in whatever person it is found, he will acknowledge the relation, without regard to any circumstance whatever that is out of the person’s power.” — Macknight.

25:31-46 This is a description of the last judgment. It is as an explanation of the former parables. There is a judgment to come, in which every man shall be sentenced to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery. Christ shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory, as Mediator. The wicked and godly here dwell together, in the same cities, churches, families, and are not always to be known the one from the other; such are the weaknesses of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners; and death takes both: but in that day they will be parted for ever. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd; he will shortly distinguish between those that are his, and those that are not. All other distinctions will be done away; but the great one between saints and sinners, holy and unholy, will remain for ever. The happiness the saints shall possess is very great. It is a kingdom; the most valuable possession on earth; yet this is but a faint resemblance of the blessed state of the saints in heaven. It is a kingdom prepared. The Father provided it for them in the greatness of his wisdom and power; the Son purchased it for them; and the blessed Spirit, in preparing them for the kingdom, is preparing it for them. It is prepared for them: it is in all points adapted to the new nature of a sanctified soul. It is prepared from the foundation of the world. This happiness was for the saints, and they for it, from all eternity. They shall come and inherit it. What we inherit is not got by ourselves. It is God that makes heirs of heaven. We are not to suppose that acts of bounty will entitle to eternal happiness. Good works done for God's sake, through Jesus Christ, are here noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them. The wicked in this world were often called to come to Christ for life and rest, but they turned from his calls; and justly are those bid to depart from Christ, that would not come to him. Condemned sinners will in vain offer excuses. The punishment of the wicked will be an everlasting punishment; their state cannot be altered. Thus life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us, that we may choose our way, and as our way so shall our end be.Then shall the righteous ... - This answer is indicative of humility - a deep sense of their being unworthy such commendation. They will feel that their poor acts of kindness have come so far short of what they should have been that they have no claim to praise or reward. It is not, however, to be supposed that in the day of judgment this will be actually "said" by the righteous, but that this would be a proper expression of their feelings. 37-39. Then shall the righteous answer him, &c. See Poole on "Matthew 25:40".

Then shall the righteous answer him,.... From whence it appears, that only such shall be at the right hand of Christ, who are righteous persons, who have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them; and, in consequence of which, are created anew unto righteousness and true holiness; and, under the influence of divine grace, live soberly, righteously, and godly: and those, upon hearing such works ascribed unto them, will, with wonder and astonishment, reply,

saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? which answer arises partly from not attending to, or thoroughly understanding the words of Christ, which they seem to take in such sense, as if he meant these things were personally done to him; whereas the far greater part of them had never seen him in the flesh, and much less in such circumstances as required such things to be done to him; and partly from surprise and astonishment, that he should take notice of such mean actions, and so highly extol them, and graciously reward them; as also from a forgetfulness of them, their left hand not knowing what their right hand had done: which shows, that they had put no confidence in their works, or depended upon them for their justification before God, and acceptance, with him; these were out of sight, and mind; their only trust being in the person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
Matthew 25:37 ff. Not mere modesty (not even, according to Olshausen, unconscious modesty), but an actual declining with humility, on the ground that they have never rendered the loving services in question to Christ Himself; for they do not venture to estimate the moral value of those services according to the lofty principle of Christ’s unity with His people, Matthew 18:5, Matthew 10:40. The Lord Himself then explains what He means, Matthew 25:40. Hence it does not follow from this passage that these δίκαιοι “have not as yet been consciously leading the New Testament life” (Auberlen, Cremer). Bengel well remarks: “Fideles opera bona sua, impii mala Matthew 25:44, non perinde aestimant ut judex.”

πότε σὲ εἴδομεν] three times, earnestly, honestly.

ἐφʼ ὅσον] in quantum, inasmuch as; see on Romans 11:13.

ἐποιήσατε] ye have done it, namely, the things previously mentioned.

ἑνὶ τούτων τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν ἐλαχίστων] to a single one of these my brethren, and that of the most insignificant of them. Those words, which are referred by Keil, Olshausen, Georgii, Hilgenfeld, Keim (see on Matthew 25:31 f.), to Christians in general; by Cremer, to the elect; by Luthardt, to the Christian church in its distress; by Auberlen, to their poor miserable fellow-men (comp. de Wette, Ullmann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1847, p. 164 ff.),—do not admit of being also referred to the apostles (Matthew 28:10; 1 Corinthians 4:13), to whom, as surrounding His judgment-throne, Christ is supposed to point; for the amount of love shown to the apostles cannot be taken as the universal standard of judgment; and though the apostles themselves, appearing here, as they do, in their relation to the rest of Christians, may well be called the brethren of Christ (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17); yet they would certainly not be described by Him as the least of such brethren. No; as during His earthly life Christ is always surrounded by the obscure and despised (the poor, the humble, publicans and sinners, and such like), who seek their salvation through Him; so He also represents Himself as still surrounded by such as these on the occasion of the judgment (comp. Ewald, p. 420). In consequence of their longing after Him, and of their love for Him, and the eternal salvation to be found in Him (as ἠγαπηκότες τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ, 2 Timothy 4:8), they here come crowding around the throne of His glory; and to these He now points. They are the πτωχοί, πενθοῦντες, πρᾳεῖς, δεδιωγμένοι of the Sermon on the Mount, who are now on the point of receiving the promised bliss.

Matthew 25:37. κύριε: not necessarily spoken by disciples supposed to know or believe in Jesus (Weiss). The title fits the judicial dignity of the person addressed by whomsoever used. In disclaiming the praise accorded, those who call the Judge κύριος virtually deny personal acquaintance with Him.

Matthew 25:37. Πότε Σὲ εἴδομεν, κ.τ.λ., when saw we Thee, etc.[1102]) The faithful do not estimate their good deeds, nor the wicked their bad (Matthew 25:44), in the same manner as the Judge.

[1102] In like manner, many of the righteous, who have conferred benefits on each other in this world, remain mutually unknown.—B. G. V.

Verses 37-39. - Shall the righteous answer him. The righteous are those on the right hand, those who have passed through earthly probation, and have come forth holy and pure. Their reply (which is given before the Lord's explanation) is contained in three verses, which recapitulate the deeds specified by the Lord, with some slight variation in the wording. When saw we thee, etc.? If this reply is conceived as spoken by the followers of Christ, who most be supposed to know what he had said (ch. 10:40-42, "He that receiveth you receiveth me," etc.), it must be considered as expressive, not so much of surprise, as profound humility, which had never hitherto realized the grand idea. They had done so little, they had rendered him no service personally, they were unworthy so to do - how could they merit such a reward? If the answer is taken as given by non-Christians, it shows ignorance of the high value of their service, and astonishment that, in following the dictates of conscience and charity, they had unwittingly had the supreme honour of serving Christ. Mediaeval legends have exemplified the identity of Christ and his suffering members by telling how saints have seen him in those whom they relieved. Such stories are told of Saints Augustine, Christopher, Martin, and others. And fed thee (ἐθρέψαμεν). Instead of "gave me to eat" (ver. 35). Sick or in prison, and came unto thee. Instead of "sick, and ye visited me; in prison," etc. The Lord could not more emphatically have recommended works of mercy as having the highest value in his estimation. "There is a mystery in many of the actions of men, which needs the interpretation of the Master" (Morison). Matthew 25:37
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