Matthew 25:31-33 (NRSVB) "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.”
As I was I in prayer this week over a dear sister who has befallen into dire physical complications, already spending many weeks in the hospital, with seemingly more weeks yet to come, I was not only distraught about her condition, but also about the growing indifference of believers who declare they are too busy to visit her or even give her a call. This sister has been a member of our church for twenty years, so it’s not that she is new and relatively unknown, and sadly, this is not the only case that I’ve noticed this growing dilemma. When asked if they’ve called or been able to drop by, they excuse themselves because their lives are so busy; jobs, children, grandchildren, etc. If anyone understands busy, I do, and I must admit my own shortcomings, too, that I haven’t always been as outreaching either.
As I was praying over this matter, this scripture in Matthew came to my mind. I looked it up and even though I remembered basically what it said, I was quite taken aback for the distinction it made between the sheep and the goats. Let’s read on.
34 “Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
Now I’m sure you have heard this scripture taught many times, just as I have, and it is usually during a mission outreach or missions fundraising effort, reminding us that as we give to send missionaries out, they are doing these things, and there is truth in that. I can’t go to India and Africa, or to the Amazon, but I can help send someone else and thus, I have a part in it. But in the next verses, it appears that Christ is talking about something far closer to home.
“37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
In the King James Version of the Bible, verse 40 says, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible says, “members of my family”. It appears that Jesus is speaking about our brothers and sisters in Christ!
So these are the people who are seated at the right hand of Jesus in Glory, the sheep who know the voice of their Shepherd and follow where He leads, John 10:27. What would Jesus Do? He would visit the sick, encourage the downtrodden, give to one who has a need, make a stranger feel welcome, visit those in prison. As Christians (like Christ) we follow our Shepherd and obey His voice when we do these things.
What are the characteristics of goats? Well, let me tell you, if you want to deal with something that is exasperating and annoying, deal with a goat! We have raised a few goats in our time and even used our Billy goat in a couple of church dramas. That Billy never did what we needed him to do when he was supposed to do it. In one drama, just as the shepherd character walked in front of the congregation with Billy, he just fell down on the floor and laid there! The guy finally had to pick him up and drag him to the spot where he was supposed to stand! Then Billy stood beside the shepherd and tried to eat the scenery and chewed on the shepherd’s robe the entire time.
Our goats would continually press their boundaries, even though we had electrical wire fencing in front of the regular fence. Eventually they would make a way to get out. They also climbed trees or anything else that would get them higher than the ground, and there’s nothing worse than the sound of a silly goat who is not a happy camper!
Goats are "restless" and like to roam. Goats constantly challenge the boundaries set by the Shepherd. (They are never satisfied with where they are) In Jeremiah, God speaks of his sheep being scattered in the mountains like he-goats before the flock.
Goats are very curious, always looking for something to get into. Psalms 104:18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats;
Goats don't like to follow, they like to lead, always have to be out in front. They are always sure "they" know where the flock needs to go.
“41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me 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 nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
John 13:12 – 17 (NIV) “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
So the Great Shepherd is asking us today – which section do we want to be seated in, the Goat Section or the Sheep Section? I pray that we will be His sheep!