Let's be honest: in the final analysis, the Christ of revelation–the one who comes in power, glory and vengeance–is the Christ we want. Yes, of course, the humble servant was a great example of love; his moral example was admirable; the atonement, for sure, was necessary, so we can't forget that. But really–REALLY–it is the cosmic hero of the apocalypse, the rider of the white horse who strikes down his enemies–it is this Christ that we desire.

This is hardly surprising. We live in a world suffused with violence, hatred and, most of all, injustice. We intuitively know and daily experience that justice and recompense in the "here and now" are impossible; therefore, there is something psychologically pacifying about the thought of God setting things "right" in the eschaton. Therefore, in a very definite sense, it is this Christ that we seek, it is this Christ for whom we wait. When Immanuel comes a second time, the final time, we assert that he shall not come in weakness and vulnerability as before; rather, the whole world shall know of his coming, and the necks of nations shall be tread beneath the feet of his judgment. In a nutshell, this is the identity of the Christ of our hope.

I find these conclusions curious, though. If such a thing as the primary failure of the Jewish people of Jesus' day could be identified, it would appear to surmise not that they were ignorant, or horrific sinners. Rather, they did not recognize the savior for which they so desperately longed precisely because Jesus was not the savior they were looking for. After all, in the face of national expectations of a political hero to free them from the chains of Rome, Jesus was a miserable and pathetic failure. In light of the people's hope that their Christ would subdue the nations and institute the rule of Yahweh amidst the peoples of the world, Jesus was an imposter. It is no wonder that he was rejected, for in light of the constant question of "are you the Christ we have been expecting," Jesus' consistent answer was "no." Now this "no," of course, was not because of an identity crisis in Christ's psyche. Rather, the "no" was directed precisely to the wrongheaded understandings of what Immanuel's role in the midst of Israel was to be. The no, in this sense, was not as much a statement of negation as it was an indictment of the Jews misappropriation of the Messianic tradition. Truly, they could not see because they were blinded by the facade of imperial glory and power for which they longed.
It is quite easy, I think, to criticize the Jewish people of Jesus' day for their ignorance of Christ's true nature and purpose. However, do not Christians consistently succumb to the same error? Do we not, in various and sundry ways, misappropriate the reality of who Jesus was for what we long for him to be?
I suspect the answer is "yes," and I would further assert that Jesus himself predicted it. Throughout the years, sermon after sermon has been preached based on the last part of chapter 25 of Matthew. As is often the case, the message proceeds that as Christ is represented in the face of the poor and marginalized, so too should we recognize Christ here and expend our lives on their behalf, as if we were, in fact, doing it "for Christ."

However, I think there is an even more profound meaning here, one that is often missed. The context of this passage is quite important. As opposed to just a casual conversation, the events of this section of Scripture are thoroughly eschatological, occurring at the consummation of all things when all are judged. The opening to the story identifies Christ as the apocalyptic judge, the King to whom all nations will be subordinated at the full in-breaking revelation of God's kingdom on earth.
Having been identified in such a way, the surprise of Christs interlocutors in this passage is not surprising. After all, what does a King have to do with the poor? How can the paradigms of power and imperial glory have anything to do with those in prison? What share have the naked and hungry in the kingdom? Like the Jews misunderstanding of the role of Messiah, however, the interrogators of Christ are also guilty of mistaking identity.

Before continuing, I think it is important to note that both the "sheep" and the "goats" in this passage are guilty of the same misappropriation of Christ's identity. Although the sheep have, perhaps, unintentionally done that which the King requires, their response of bewilderment is precisely the same as that of the goats who did nothing: When did we see YOU, the King of the cosmos, the hero of the eschaton, hungry, naked, poor and imprisoned?

Clearly, in both cases, the classic human paradigms of power and glory have blinded them to the reality of who Christ is. Because they are measuring the kingship and eschatological victory of Christ through the lenses of imperial dominance, what Christ says is utterly asinine. That such a misappropriation should take place is not surprising. After all, if human politics and the hegemonies of power-through-violence and dominance by injustice are the avenues by which the second coming of Christ are understood, Christs words in this passage truly are ridiculous. In human spheres of influence, power is not built and consolidated through beneficence to the poor and marginalized; rather, it is upon their backs that such is established, and it is through the sustenance of such realities that human government grows and consumes.

Interestingly enough, in many classical Christian eschatologies, such descriptions are precisely that which characterize the final purposes of Christ in human history. Armageddonthe final eschatological battle between Christ and the powers of evil and sinis often celebrated as the decisive moment at which Gods kingdom overcomes the violence and inhumanness of sin and evil.
But at what price? If Armageddon is seen as the primary scene of the eschatological victory of Christ over sin, with what are we left? If Armageddon is the final say of the purposes of God in human history, we must conclude that Gods kingdom is finally established and realized through, ironically enough, violence. In this way, the power, inhumanity and injustice of sin and evil in human history are overcome along the very same parameters by which sin and evil operate and are thus given divine legitimization. The death knell of violence is sounded by a greater violence, and thus the cycle is perpetuated eternally. The hero of the universe becomes merely another player in the grand circle of dissolution and destruction; the eschatological victor is the new wielder of the annihilating power of sin and death. The great Enemy has been defeated and concomitantly replaced by one more competent to impose that which is supposedly antithetical to the divine nature.

However, the Christ of Matthew 25, the eschatological King of the nations, rejects such conceptions of power and influence. While his interrogators cannot imagine a kingship apart from the paradigms of human violence and over-lordship, the Christ in this passage is the God made small. Although a King, this Christ is self-identified in the face of the poor, the hungry, the outcast. Although all the power of the universe is at his command; though he resides in the glory of the eternal Godhead; though his victory over sin, death and the devil is final and completed; even in the midst of the consummation of human history, this King makes himself low. Christ reveals that the second comingexpected by all as the final show of God in human historyis exactly the same as the first. The eschatological Christ, the victor of the universe, the hero of the cosmos identifies himself primarily NOT as the conquering warrior who crushes his enemies without mercy, but rather as the powerless ones who reside on the outskirts of human society. While humans judge power on the basis of the economy of
Christ asserts solidarity with those who are locked away or ostracized from the human community. In the face of human conceptions of success based on wealth, Christ locates his persona in the face of the hungry and destitute. Where the human imagination can only fathom peace based upon violent coercion and oppression, the champion of eschaton is still the lamb who looks as if it had been slain.

I really do not have a conclusion to this. There are too many implications that must be explicated from the basis of these brief and introductory observations. So instead, I shall merely raise another question or two. If the eschatological Christ is that which I have outlined above, what does this mean our understanding of eschatology general? In the common usage, eschatology conjures headaches about the debates surrounding the chronology of the last things, arguments over literality vs. historicity, etc. However, if what I have introduced above is reasonably stated, could it be that eschatology is more appropriately a paradigm for ecclesiology? If Christ, even in the midst of eschatological victory, continues to identify himself in the face of the poor and marginalized, is not the question What is going to happen in the last day rightfully replaced by What is to be the business of the people of God in relation to those with whom Christ identifies himself?