Bible Study on Matthew 25:31-46
This Bible study examines the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 25:31-46. It is
designed to be used by a group, but the study can be easily adapted for use by an
individual. The leader should prepare in advance by reading the passage
carefully and answering all of the questions. Know the questions well enough so
that they can be rephrased if necessary. Allow the text itself to provide the
answers. Try to encourage each person to participate in the discussion.
This first set of questions could be considered optional for a group, but would be
helpful for the leader’s preparation. These verses follow a section in which Jesus
describes the “last things” and immediately precede the closing chapters of
Matthew which recount Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Skim chapters
24 and 25 of Matthew. Identify the main themes. Briefly compare Matthew
25:31-46 with the rest of the section. How is it similar? How is it different? How
is it a fitting end to the section?
Read Matthew 25:31-46 out loud. What is it about? Identify some characteristics
of the writing style. Do you sense a particular atmosphere in the passage?
Looking at verses 31-33, describe the scene. What role does the Son of Man
assume here? Where else in verses 31-46 do you see him in this position?
Verses 34-40 and 41-45 are remarkably similar in structure. Compare the
dialogue between the King and those on his right and left hands in the following
- What is the fate of the two groups?
- What are the standards by which the two groups are judged? Whose needs
had they met or failed to meet? Did everyone get a fair chance?
- What responses do the two groups make to the King’s judgment? What is
common to both responses? ON what standards might they have expected
the judgment to be based? (Imagine yourself in each group and discuss
what would be going through your mind).
- How does Jesus answer both groups?
Compare the description of Jesus in verse 31 with what he says about himself in
verses 35, 36, 42, and 43. How is Jesus uniquely qualified as judge? Describe
how Jesus being both “King” and “the one in need” was also evident in his life,
death and resurrection (see also John 5:26-27 and Philippians 2:3-11).
Consider Jesus as bearer of the griefs and sorrows of the needy (Isaiah 53:4).
Why is it consistent that those who have ministered to the needy on earth should
spend eternity with the King? Explain how those who the King commands to
“depart” had already departed from him.
Some have suggested that this passage is concerned primarily with meeting the
needs of Christian brothers and sisters. In other places of Scripture the focus of
ministry is clearly directed toward anyone who is in need – even an enemy (see
Romans 12:20). Read the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 and
discuss its implications.
Consider again the specific needs that Jesus identifies with n Matthew 25:31-46.
Who did he expect to be able to meet these needs? What are some of the
obstacles and attitudes we need to confront before we are willing to help people
in need? Where are the hungry and needy in our world? How do we relate to
them? Considering the profound importance Jesus gave to this ministry, how
should we respond? (See Isaiah 58:6-9 for an example of the emphasis placed on
this ministry in the Old Testament.) What are some specific actions that can be
taken in meeting each of the needs mentioned?
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus teaches about our
responsibility to make maximum use of the gifts we have been given while we still
have the opportunity. Think about the gifts and resources you have that could be
used to minister to those in need. What are they? Are they being used fully?
Citizenship in a democracy is a gift that U.S. Christians often overlook. Discuss
the opportunities that we have to influence public policy decisions that affect
people in need. Can you see ways that we can be ministers and advocates for the
poor (and therefore Jesus himself) as we participate in the political process? Paul
Simon, a former U.S. Senator from Illinois noted, “Someone who sits down and
writes a letter about hunger… almost literally has to be saving a life…”
End with prayer that we will more clearly see the responsibility to meet the needs
of people as an opportunity to minister to Jesus himself.
For more information, ideas and suggestions for action contact Bread for the
World, 50 F Street NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC 20001, 1-800-82-BREAD,