The Parable of the Sheep and Goats – Matthew 25:31-46

To the Sheep of Gymea Anglican – Matthew 25:31-46

In his famous parable of ‘the Sheep and the Goats’ in Matthew 25, Jesus depicts the final day of  Judgement like a Shepherd separating his flock into two distinct groups: the sheep on his right and the goats on his left (vs 33). The Sheep represent those who, on Judgement Day, will enter eternal life and receive their inheritance of God’s Kingdom (vs 34). The Goats represent those who will be condemned to ‘eternal punishment’ in Hell (vs 41, 46). It’s both a marvellous and harrowing picture that should make us sit up and pay attention to what distinguishes these two groups – lest we unwittingly be found among the goats!

So, what is the difference? Well, fundamentally the difference is found in who they are. Either they are a sheep or they are a goat. A Sheep is not a goat any more than a goat is a sheep. It doesn’t matter how much a goat acts like a sheep, baa’s like a sheep, or even dresses like a sheep – at the end of the day, it is still a goat. And vice versa. The same is true for those whom these animals represent. Either they have repented of their sins and believed the gospel of God’s forgiveness (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38) – or they haven’t. Either they profess ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ and believe God rose him from the dead (Rom 10:9) – or they don’t. Either they have been born again into a living hope and have been adopted into God’s family (1 Pet 1:3, 4) – or they are still spiritually dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-3). The fundamental difference between the Sheep heading for eternal life and the goats heading for eternal punishment is whether they are in Christ or not.

However, of course, in the parable Jesus points his hearers to a clear indicator of what ‘sheep-like’ and ‘goat-like’ behaviour is. And the difference is the way they treated  Jesus Himself. The Sheep are those who fed Jesus when he was hungry, gave him something to drink when thirsty; invited him in, clothed him, looked after him when sick, and visited him in prison (vs 35-36). The goats are those who did none of this for Jesus (vs 42-43). The twist in this parable is found when both the Sheep and Goats question: whendid they ever have opportunity to care for Jesus in these compassionate ways? And Jesus tells them “Whatever you did (or did not do) for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did (or did not do) forme.” (vs 40, 45). An act of love for others is ultimately an act of love for Jesus. And this love for Jesus and others is only found in those who have first received the love of God in Christ (1 John 4:19).

Like a good fruit tree will produce good fruit, so will God’s Sheep never fail to produce good works. For this is the outflows of our salvation. We were saved by grace, apart from works, todogood works which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:8- 10).

This parable is a helpful preparation for us in the season ahead of new Church leadership. While we will sit under our acting minister, Michael Blake, until our new senior minister, David Fell, begins in January – let’s continue being the people God has saved us to be in Gymea. Namely, let’s be the Sheep in this parable – who love Jesus by loving others in practical ways.

Sadly, many Christians can adopt the unbiblical idea that we pay our minister ‘to do the ministry’ for us: “He will visit the sick and those in prison, he will care for the poor and the needy!” And yet in this parable, it is theSheep(including the minister) who are  doing these acts of kindness (see Eph 4:11ff). Friends, rather than 1 (or 10) people doing everything, our Church works at its best when we all work together: the many parts working as one body united on the same mission (1 Cor 12). This is what it means to live as His Sheep. This is what it means to be God’s Church in Gymea.

Under God, let’s live out our identity in Christ through active service of others!

Your brother In Christ, Craig Stalder

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