Key Verse: Matthew 25:40Big Idea: Be ready! The King will separate the true from the false.
In the second half of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus taught about the nature of the coming judgment. He used several parables about the importance of being prepared for His return and described the nature of the judgment on those who are unprepared. One parable, describing the sheep and goats, is hardly a parable at all. Jesus does not lay out a realistic scenario about how a shepherd might interact with a mixed flock but uses the images of sheep and goats as part of direct teaching on how the world will be judged. The image itself is simple: a shepherd would let his sheep and his goats graze together during the day but would separate them at night.
In the same way, Jesus will come on the last day to distinguish between those who are His and those who are not. They are distinguished by their nature - no amount of goat-like behavior by a sheep would ever make it into a goat - but their behavior reveals their nature. The sheep are the ones who have shown love to other Christians (Jesus’ brothers), by caring for them when they were sick, visiting them in prison, feeding them when they were hungry and receiving them when they were foreigners. The goats showed that they were goats by failing to do the same. Why was the way they treated each other so important? Jesus revealed that what they did for other Christians, they were really doing for Him.
If we really love God, we will love other people, and if we do not love other people, we reveal that we do not really love God. Our heart shows itself through our actions, and there will be no uncertainty in Jesus’ judgment. By nature, we are all goats and show it by the fact that we all sin and come short of the glory of God. But by grace, if we admit that we are sinners to Jesus, but ask Him in faith to change our hearts, he makes us into new creatures, and that change is revealed by a different kind of action. Superficial changes will not fool the King, and we can never behave our way into being something we are not. Ultimately, we need to be ready for the day that Jesus makes the final separation.
Discussion idea: Is it possible for us to definitively distinguish between people who are sheep and people who are goats today? Why or why not?
Prayer focus: Pray to recognize the image of God in others, and to treat serving others as worship of God.