The Text: Matthew 25: 31-34
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Let us pray:
Open our ears, O Lord,
to hear your word and know your voice.
Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills,
that we may serve you today/now and always. Amen
The Sheep and the Goats.
What is the difference between a sheep and a goat? According to animal behavioural researchers about 50 IQ points – in favour of the sheep!
That is what is stated on a website called “Sheep 101” – with a name like that, one could guess the answer is biased towards the sheep!
It’s not hard for us to tell the difference between sheep and goats, but in Palestine it was not that easy to tell the difference between sheep and goats – only the shepherd would know.
Just in case you can’t, the website says:
Sheep have thick curly horns; goats have long narrow horns.
Sheep need to be shorn, goats don’t.
Some goats have beards.
Sheep’s tail’s hang down, but goats don’t.
Sheep tend to graze, goats browse.
Sheep hang around together more than goats.
Goats smell more and are more likely to have lice than sheep.
Sheep can be led once they know and trust their shepherd, but goats have to be driven.
Goats are very destructive, sheep aren’t.
So, separating sheep from goats is pretty simple really. Or is it….?
Today is the last Sunday of the church year on the church calendar and today is known as the Day of Fulfillment.
When we think of fulfillment we may think of completion, a promise that is made and kept, a job that was started that is now finished.
It always gives me great satisfaction to see a project completed – to see plans fulfilled and turned into reality.
When we think of God’s plan for mankinds salvation, we see that God has fulfilled his promise to the people of old by sending his Son Jesus to be the Saviour of all.
In the life death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus many Old Testament promises were fulfilled.
For example, in the Old Testament book of Isaiah the Lord said through the Prophet that “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means ‘God with us.’”
This prophecy was fulfilled when the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus.
God fulfills his promises. He has in the past and he will in the future.
There are so many promises that God makes in his word.
To those who put their faith in Jesus God promises an abundant life—life to the full.
He promises a heavenly home.
He promises eternal life.
He promises answers to prayer and deliverance.
He promises us the gifts of the Spirit: growth and fruitfulness.
He promises us his protecting care, guidance, hope, peace and joy.
He promises us an inheritance with all the saints.
He promises to strengthen us for His service and he also promises us rest.
The list of God’s promises goes on and on, and God will fulfill his promises to us.
In our creed we confess that Jesus will come again to Judge the living and the dead, we trust absolutely that God will fulfill this promise.
Verses 31-33 of our gospel says:“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left this judgment will be the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises.
So how will God judge us?
The reality is that each of us faces judgment.
We shudder at the thought of God judging us because we know that we haven’t lived up to God’s standards.
We may want to do the right thing, but so often what we want to do and what we actually do are two different things.
That’s what makes the idea of a final judgment so scary.
We are afraid that on the basis of our record we won’t hear words of blessing and a welcome into heaven.
We are afraid that Jesus will say, “Away from me, you that are under God’s curse!
Away to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels!”
If it were up to us to present a case in God’s courtroom why we deserve to be “called blessed and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for us since the creation of the world” we would fail miserably.
But there is good news!
Jesus is not only the king and judge, but he is our Saviour.
We believe and trust that he died on the cross to clear us from any accusation that will come up on the last day.
His death wiped away all guilt for the good we fail to do.
Remember, Jesus died to save us.
He has ensured us that those who trust in him will not die, but have eternal life.
If our eternal future depended on the good things we did in this life, then we would be doomed for sure.
Every good thing we do is covered with our own selfishness and pride.
Thank God that our eternal future rests solely on Jesus who saves us.
This parable gives us a good picture of what genuine faith looks like.
A genuine faith will show itself in acts of love towards others.
People who have faith in Jesus will see to it that those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, poor, sick, or in prison have their needs met.
They understand that to help such people is what their faith is all about.
Those without genuine faith say: “Yes I believe in Jesus” and then do nothing.
Showing love toward others and taking care of their needs is the way faith in Jesus is put into action.
Did you notice how surprised the faithful people were when told that they had been so caring toward others?
“When did we do that? When did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison?”
Faith naturally demonstrates itself in acts of love meeting the needs of those in need.
It’s as natural as an apple tree producing apples or a tomato plant producing tomatoes.
Faith gives food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, welcome to the stranger, company to the sick and imprisoned, without being told, without thinking about it.
That’s how faith in Christ bears much fruit.
The parable leaves us asking.
Am I a sheep or a goat?
Am I on the right or the left?
The answer now is “yes”.
Our sin tells us we are undeniably goats by nature.
Our faith does not show itself the way God would like me to show it.
We have neglected the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.
Our faith has not been demonstrated in our daily life.
On the other hand, we are sheep.
Our Baptism brings us into Shepherd’s flock.
We are loved dearly by Jesus who gave his life to rescue us.
We are his forgiven sheep to whom he says, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom.”
Without Jesus we are condemned as goats, but with Jesus we are blessed. Today – ‘Fulfillment Sunday’ – we look forward to the day when God’s grace at work in our lives is fulfilled.
As we continue to wait for that day may we live by faith, continue to nurture faith through the God’s gift of his word and sacraments and may our faith in Christ show itself in the way we care for those in need.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.