By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
(Last Sunday after Pentecost, Christ the King & Thanksgiving Sunday)
In my last sermon I told you that it was an introduction of Jesus’ teaching on the future judgment. In our passage today, we see the future scenario of that judgment where the Son of Man, who is also the Judge and King will judge all peoples and separate “the sheep from the goats.” We might also see the merciful favor of the King to the least amongst us.
I. The Promise: Jesus Shall Come Again
In Matthew 25:31, Jesus promised that he would come again in his glory. He said, “But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory.”
What a glorious day! It’s like in the movie that the conqueror comes back home with all his soldiers, and the people are shouting for joy. Tetelestai! Tetelestai!
II. The Prophecy: Judgment Shall Separate the Sheep from the Goats
In this passage Jesus told a prophecy on Judgment Day. Jesus said, “All the nations will be assembled in front of him, and he will separate them out, one from another, like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt.25:32-34).
Usually Jesus used parables to teach spiritual truths by means of earthly situations. So this parable of the goats and the sheep tells an earthly example of an spiritual reality.
At night, goats need to gather together for warmth, while sheep need open space. Because of this, a shepherd would separate them. This is the picture in Jesus’s story. Of course, for his hearers, this picture was familiar from their everyday lives. So this is a picture of separation, and it’s how Jesus describes the nations being judged by God (http://www.facingthechallenge.org/matthew25.php ).
However, make no mistake of thinking that goat is unclean than sheep. Actually based on the Old Testament they were both clean animals, and they were both sacrificial animals (jewishencyclopedia.com). In the ancient world, sheep was given higher value due to its monetary value. Its skin was expensive, its meat was expensive, and its milk was expensive. However, goat’s meat and milk were lesser expensive. Even in modern times, sheep is more expensive than goat. So this parable of the goats and the sheep tells an earthly example of an spiritual reality.
Jesus used this parable just to differentiate the two kinds of people in his future judgment.
It is clear that this parable of the sheep and goats that it is “actions” that determine who the sheep are, and who the goats are.
It goes along with Jesus Christ saying, “You will know them by their fruits…every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:16-19).
Of course, salvation cannot be obtained through good deeds and works, but such things are expected of those who are saved. Works and good deeds are the visible fruit of those who have been saved by God’s saving grace.
Essentially, one’s acceptance of salvation through Jesus Christ is seen through one’s actions. Those who accept God’s gift of salvation will repent, and will serve God with their good actions.
Basically, this means you can “see” who is saved and who isn’t by their good actions, that is why many who have recently been saved will get comments like, “What happened to you? It’s like you’re a different person.” People see changes in you.
Their sudden change in lifestyle and decisions, which is a direct result of their acceptance of Jesus Christ and salvation, causes people to be surprised (http://www.messiah-of-god.com/parable-of-the-sheep-and-goats.html ).
III. The Preparation: Judge Prepares Two Places
In this parable, Jesus mentioned that the goats will be on the left side of the King, and later on they will be judged and cast out to eternal fire and punishment.
However, the sheep will be on the right side of the King, and they will inherit the Kingdom of God where they will enjoy eternal life. Matthew 25:34 says, “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
What’s going on? Both goat and sheep are clean animals, and are meant for sacrificial offering to God, but still the King favors the sheep!
The parable hints that both of them are showered with the grace of God. However, only the sheep enjoyed the favor of God at the end. This reveals that God knows who are true believers through their actions!
The King says, “Come, you who have been blessed by my Father! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, because I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (Mt.25:334-36).
Both the righteous and the wicked asked the King, since they were stirred, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you something to eat, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or see you naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ (Mt.25:37-39).
Then the king answered them, “I tell you with certainty, since you did it for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me” (Mt.25:40).
Last Thursday night, Nov 20, 2014, President Obama announced his executive order on immigration. About 5 million undocumented aliens will be benefited with that order. He used the Bible to amplify his points.
He said, “Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal — that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will” (http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/20/politics/obama-immigration-speech-transcript).
Obama quoted Exodus 23:9, but I believe the best text for his intention is our passage today. “. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me by giving me working visa!” (J ) Kidding aside, giving aliens legality to mingle and work with us in America will help them support their families back home, and some people will assure longer fellowship with their families here in America. Whatever are their political reasons, I believe when America is helping the strangers, and the least in our society we are doing it for Jesus.
Someday, the King will ask each one of us, what did you do to help the least among you? What did you do to help the homeless, the hungry, the prisoners, the sick, and the undocumented aliens?
God said in Amos 5:21-24, “I hate—I despise—your feast days, and your solemn convocations stink. And if you send up burnt offerings to me as well as your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I consider your peace offerings of fattened cattle. Spare me your noisy singing—I will not listen to your musical instruments. But let justice roll on like many waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing river.”
In other words, God said I don’t like your celebration, your praise and worship, I don’t like your offerings, even your musical band. However, if you uphold justice and righteousness I will be very happy.
Do you want the Judge-King to be happy in Judgment Day? Let justice and righteousness for the hungry, for the homeless, for the sick, for the prisoners, for strangers roll down as waters, like an ever-flowing river.