Sunday School Lessons

If I Had Been There

Have you ever seen an account of an event on the news, or perhaps a documentary, and wondered what you would have done if you were there?  Could you have solved the problem better than it actually turned out?  Would you have been able to see the solution in enough time to react properly and save the day?

We know movie / TV / book characters that know just the right thing to say and do, but they have a script to follow, and the outcome has already been written.  But what if we were actually in these situations, where we had a chance to become a hero/heroine, make a really bad choice, or just miss an opportunity?  Really, though, it’s probably good that many of us aren’t tasked with life-or-death decisions, but I’m not picking on you: even if you are really wise and capable, this world could do with a lot less of the trauma from which people need rescuing.

As Jesus teaches His disciples in Matthew 25, He describes how He will separate people into two groups (described as sheep and goats).  Then He speaks to the sheep.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Matthew 25:34‭-‬36 NIV

Like imagining yourself in a situation that happened to someone else, have you ever thought about living in the first century, and walking with Jesus directly?  Now, we could say that we walk with Jesus today in a spiritual sense, but I’m talking about walking and talking with the human being who was also God, seeing the face of Jesus in person.

In reality, many of those whose quick-thinking choices we hear about (whether good or bad) don’t have the luxury of having time to think through their respective situations.  Without experiencing their background, their education, and their reactions in a specific scenario, we cannot judge them too harshly for decisions, especially those that were made in an instant.

Similarly, I’m not sure if those who knew Jesus during His ministry fully appreciated what we have been able to learn from later revelation.  Still, can you imagine the opportunity to serve Jesus himself?

  • How much money would you give to an organization if it was going directly to Jesus?
  • How many ministries would you volunteer for if you got to serve Jesus in person?
  • How little would other things matter – distractions that pull us away from what is more important – in our lives if Jesus was right there with us?
  • How quickly would you get up and do something if Jesus asked you in person to do so?

I’m reminded of the women who took care of Jesus, described in verses like Luke 8:1-3.  (See also Mark 15:40-41, Matthew 27:55-56.)  There were also women (see Luke 23:55-56) – possibly the same ones as in the preceding verses – who prepared spices and perfumes after Jesus’ burial.  People like the disciples and these women got to help Jesus while He lived here on earth.

In that context, it appears that those who are blessed and receive an inheritance here in Matthew 25 have taken pretty good care of Jesus.

Here’s the thing, though: other than a relatively narrow window of history (in the first century) and location (Israel), not too many people in the history of the earth got to serve Jesus directly.  I suspect that many of you would have been glad to cook (or purchase) food for Jesus, or shop with Him for a new outfit, but the reality is that He returned to Heaven in His resurrected body centuries ago.

As a result, we might find ourselves in the same category as those asking questions here: When do we get the chance to serve Jesus?

The response in Matthew 25:40 is that serving others (and this passage sounds like others in the family of God, specifically) is the same as serving Jesus.  No matter how weird our fellow Christian brothers and sisters might be, meeting their needs – whether physical needs, medical needs, or emotional needs – can count as serving Jesus.

We can take a further look at this in the next article, but today is a great day to look for chances to serve Jesus by serving others in His name.  Won’t you consider doing so?

From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 18, 2022


  • The Lookout, December 18, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press NIV Commentary – Matthew, by Larry Chouinard, pages 443-447.  © 1997 College Press Publishing Co.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.