“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
Throughout the gospels, Jesus and his followers are described as ‘walking’ on a long journey through the desert. This obviously has a literal context, but the metaphorical context is where the power of this story shines through. In my mind, anyone can see themselves as a follower of Christ, on this long walk, searching for some sort of sanctuary. But the real strength of this parable comes from the grace shown by king. In fact, he acts as if he is repaying the favor. This kingdom was prepared for the followers of Christ, but they didn’t have to earn it, they inherited it. I find this particularly beautiful because it shows us that our rewards for following Christ, what we struggle and strife for, are already in our hands.
However, there is still a stipulation for inheriting the kingdom according to this parable. We must take care of the “least of these” who are members of God’s family. This means feeding the hungry, giving clothes to those who need them, and visiting the sick.
Something I always found so fascinating about this verse is that it also includes visiting those in prison. In a traditional kind of upbringing, we’re taught that once caught, or convicted, of a crime, you throw away your chance at participating in a traditional American life. So, when I was younger, and I first heard this verse, I remember the cogs spinning in my head as a child when I first heard this verse, almost as if to say, “Wait, we should be nice to them?” This means something vastly different to me now. The line of “I was in prison, and you visited me” seems to me to be a representation of the true power of God’s grace and love extending to all people. It also shows that by spreading God’s word and living it out in acts of compassion we can create the kingdom of God and experience it in this world.
My name is Gabriel Wounded Head, and I am a Junior at California Lutheran University. I am studying TV/Film Production, with a minor in Religion. I come from Brookings, South Dakota (Go Jacks!) and am a proud member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. My Father is a pastor in the ELCA. I play Rugby with the campus club and love spending my time watching movies, and various sports. If it’s competitive I’m down to watch it.
- Gabriel Wounded Head
Cal Lutheran Class of 2023