Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
Key Verse(s): And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Observation: This passage from the gospel according to Matthew gives a detailed description of the “Day of Judgment.” Jesus describes his second coming to his disciples. The Son of Man who came humbly as a child born in a manger will return as a king sitting on a throne of glory. Jesus says that as king he will separate people into two groups just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. According to this passage, the sheep are those who have performed acts of mercy for “the least of these,” while the goats have ignored the needs of “the least of these.” Jesus invites the sheep into his kingdom to live with him but the goats are sent off into an eternal fire.
Application: This passage is intended to instruct the disciples how to live as they waited for Jesus to return and since we too are waiting for Jesus to return we are called to heed Jesus’ instruction. The metaphor of sheep and goats makes more sense when we consider that at the time that Jesus is speaking there are no biologically engineered sheep as we have today. Sheep and goats were (and still are in some parts of Asia and Africa) strikingly similar in appearance. Only shepherds with a well-trained eye can tell the difference between sheep and goats. So it is that as we wait for Jesus’ return, we are called to care for each other physically, spiritually, and mentally but we are to leave the separating to Jesus. Jesus and Jesus alone has the authority to pronounce judgment on anyone. Moreover, we are all sheep. From time to time we all act like goats but we were made to be sheep. Jesus instructs the sheep to enter his kingdom because it has been prepared for them but the goats are instructed to enter a destination that was intended for the devil and his angels. We can’t tell sheep from goat because none of us were created to be goats. Perhaps our feeding the hungry and providing drink to the thirsty are intended to not only meet the physical needs but also to fulfill the spiritual need of reminding “the least of these” just who they are. Consequently, we will find that we too are “the least of these” who need the protection and salvation of the shepherd-king!
Prayer: God of grace and God of mercy, you have blessed us in so many ways. Lord help us to live for you so that you are glorified and we are the sheep that you intended for us to be. Thank you for the Shepherd-King, who lives and reigns with you forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.