The Sheep and the Goats

Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46

31 "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Meditation: What kind of future are you preparing for? What about the life to come after our death?  God puts in the heart of every living person the desire for unending life and happiness with him. While death claims each of us at the appointed time, God gives us something which death cannot touch – his own divine life and sustaining power. We can either accept or reject the offer which God makes to us in Christ Jesus the Lord. The Day of the Lord will reveal what kind of life we have chosen for the age to come – a life of peace and joy with God or a life of misery and separation apart from God.

Jesus' parable of the separation of goats and sheep invites his audience to consider their lives in view of the age to come. What happens when you put sheep and goats together? Jesus' audience readily understood the need for separating the two. In arid lands, like Israel, goats and sheep often grazed together during the day because green pasture was sparse. At nightfall, when the shepherd brought the sheep and goats to their place of rest, he separated them into two groups. Goats by temperament are aggressive, domineering, restless, and territorial. They butt heads with their horns whenever they think someone is intruding on their space.

What's the point of this story for us? The kind of life we choose to live now and the moral choices we make will have consequences that determine our future – for better or for worse. Separation is an inevitable consequence of judgement. The Day of Judgement will reveal who had true faith in God and who lived according to God's command to love him first above all else and to love one's neighbor as oneself, with true compassion and mercy. Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are not called to flee the society around us nor to disdain those who treat us unfavorably or unfairly. We are to be leaven in a society that needs God's healing love and forgiveness. When we let our light shine we allow others to see God's love, truth, and compassion in the way we speak and treat them. God has shown us his incredible mercy and loving-kindness through his Son, Jesus Christ, who came to save us from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and a world blinded by vanity and deception. We are ambassadors for Christ and our mission is to bring his light, truth, and merciful love to those who stumble in darkness, ignorance, and unbelief.

As much as we might like to judge the parables, the parables, nonetheless, judge us by pointing out the consequences of the choices we make and the kind of life we choose to follow. Jesus teaches us a very important lesson about loving our neighbor and taking responsibility for others. God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done but also for what we have failed to do. Now is the time of God’s mercy, for seeking his help and grace to turn away from sin, and to walk in his way of love. We can love freely, generously, and unconditionally because God has already poured his love into our hearts through the gift and working of his Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Ask the Holy Spirit to purify your heart that you may love as God loves and live charitably with all.

This parable is similar to the parable about Lazarus and the rich man.  The rich man let Lazarus die on his doorstep and was doomed to crave for drops of cold water he had not thought of giving to the poor man. When Martin of Tours (who lived in the 4th century), a young Roman soldier and seeker of the Christian faith, met an unclothed man begging for alms in the freezing cold, he stopped and cut his coat in two and gave half to the stranger.  That night he dreamt he saw the heavenly court with Jesus robed in a torn cloak.  One of the angels present asked, "Master, why do you wear that battered cloak?"  Jesus replied, "My servant Martin gave it to me." Martin’s disciple and biographer Sulpicius Severus states that as a consequence of this vision Martin “flew to be baptized.” God is gracious and merciful; his love compels us to treat others with mercy and kindness. When we do something for one of Christ's little ones, we do it for Christ. Do you treat your neighbor with mercy and love as Christ has treated you?

The scriptures present us with the choice between two kingdoms – the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The choice is ours. Which kingdom do you serve? God's kingdom lasts forever because it is built on the foundation of God's love and justice. To accept Jesus as Lord and King is to enter a kingdom that will last forever where righteousness, love, truth, and peace dwell. Is your life submitted to the Lordship of Jesus?

"Lord Jesus Christ, you are my Lord and King and there is no other. May your love rule in my heart that I may think and act with charity towards all.”

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