We read in Matthew 25 about Judgment and the separation of the sheep from the goats. I struggled with the analogy for a bit, but then I realized it really reflects the beauty of God and his glory. I was trying to impose my understanding of the physical world onto what Jesus was trying to reveal about God and His kingdom.
A shepherd can readily separate the sheep from the goats because he just has to look at the flock and say – “You look like a sheep. You’re a sheep.” or “You look like a goat. You’re a goat.” But in life people walk around and each one looks like a person – based on appearances you cannot see if a person is a sheep or a goat. I struggled with that part — that if I were looking I couldn’t just look and see the sheep and goats. I’d like to think that I could tell a sheep apart from a goat.
Yet I am not a shepherd or The Shepherd. I am just a person and I can only see the outside and I am not meant to be the shepherd.
In this passage Jesus tells us that judgment will be based on actions and non-actions — It is not a surface appearance, but in how a life is lived. God’s love is boundless – with Him it doesn’t matter what you look like, it matters who you are! Everyone is called to be a sheep. Everyone is capable of being a sheep. Will you choose to be a sheep?
And Jesus lays it out for us in how to be a sheep – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned.
And here’s the glorious kicker which indicates that these actions are to be actions you do throughout your entire life – “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” You might read that and think “OK I fed one hungry person. I have a great chance at being judged a sheep – hooray!“. Do not do one thing then become complacent – We cannot know how God will judge us. We can hope that he will be merciful, we can hope to be sheep, but don’t misread the verse — we aren’t to do it for “at least one” we are to do it for “one of the least”.
Because if we don’t do these things our non-actions are still seen and judged equally — ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ It’s right there that we should know that if we do not do these things for “these least ones” we risk being judged a goat.
So strive for sheepness! Jesus is our shepherd. May we all be worthy of being in His flock!
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his 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.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”