Thursday, February 14, 2008

Christology of the Poor in Matthew

Many people will know the text in the 25th chapter of Matthew's gospel which describes the final judgement of God on humanity. In this scene, people are characterised as sheep or goats based on how they treated the poor and vulnerable in their lifetimes. An important, though sometimes missed, element in this story is an incarnational theme that proclaims Jesus' presence in those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick or in prison.

In the next chapter, this idea is further nuanced in the anointing scene when Jesus says that the poor will always be with us. This has a parallel in the final chapter of the gospel when Jesus promises that he will always be with us. Matthew's message is clear: Jesus is with us when we are amongst the poor.

What are the consequences of such a Christology? When we read the gospels with a sensitivity to the poor, we will notice that Jesus was born under a scandal, never held down a job, lived his life amongst the poor, brought healing and wholeness to the disinherited, suffered and died as a convicted criminal. The resurrection in this context is God's affirmation that even death is not the final word, that hope may arise in the most dire circumstances.

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