“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 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.
“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. For 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 invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” …
This passage isn’t like other parables Jesus told. He left no ambiguity here about his topic or thesis. He said straight out what He was about to describe. One day, He will come in glory with the heavenly host and sit on his throne to divide people into two categories. It will be like a shepherd separating sheep and goats. That’s when the parable begins, but there’s no mistaking that Jesus is telling us about something very real that will happen when He returns. There are a number of things that make this parable challenging for us. As we read further, we will need to address what the parable teaches about salvation and the necessity of good works, but for now let’s focus on the challenging idea of Jesus separating humanity into two distinct groups. Sheep and goats. Good and bad. Worthy and unworthy.
We struggle with the notion of drawing lines of division between people because, well, who am I to judge? I know I’m a sinner and am not worthy of God’s unending love. While I may look down on the sins of others, I need to be careful not to condemn someone else for the same sin that I commit. Maybe it’s easy to pick out some of the goats, the really bad people who do terrible things, but most people’s lives seem more grey than black or white, sort of good and sort of bad all mixed together. So, how am I supposed to tell the difference between the sheep and the goats? Here’s the thing: that’s not my job, and it’s not yours either. Jesus is the only one who will sit on that throne and do the work of separating.
Our calling is not to play judge or jury over the lives of others. No, our calling is to live out genuine faith by doing the things the King witnessed his good sheep doing. Feed the hungry. Give refreshing water to the thirsty. Welcome strangers. Clothe those in need. Care for the sick. Visit the outcast and imprisoned. Those are things good sheep do in service to their King. Those are things Jesus’ followers do to bring honor to his name. One day, Jesus will return and do his promised work of separating sheep and goats, and until then, we know exactly the type of things Jesus wants his sheep to do.
Father in Heaven, You are good and wise. Thank You for the promise that Jesus will return. May that day come soon! For now, help me to love others in Your name and to share with them the good news of salvation through Jesus. I pray in His name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian