Sunday, October 15, 2017

Posted on Oct 12 2017


Bible Background: In Matthew’s gospel, this is the last teaching of Jesus before the plot turns to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It completes 2 chapters of teachings about the ‘end times’. This judgement scene with the sheep and goats is the only one of its kind in the New Testament. (Turns out that Judgement Day is maybe not such a big theme after all!)

Digging Deeper: 1. In actual farming practice, sheep and goats often grazed together during the day and then were separated for shearing or sometimes separated at night, partly because goats don’t have the heavy coat that sheep have for warmth.

2. This story can be called the “Parable of the Sheep and Goats”. It could also be titled “The Great Surprise!” Neither the ‘righteous’ or the ‘unrighteous’ had any idea that they were serving the king or not serving the king as they responded to or ignored the needy among them.

3. It almost sounds like it’s the good works of the ‘sheep’ that gain them eternal life. But the language is “come, inherit the kingdom.” One does not earn an inheritance. You simply receive it. Besides, the ‘sheep’ had no idea that what they were doing would result in this kind of blessing!

4. “All the nations” is an interesting term. Does this suggest that people can be on the side of Jesus-regardless of their faith or understanding-provided they gladly serve the needy?

5. This parable doesn’t end with a moral imperative like “Go and do like the sheep did.” Nor does it say “Watch out that you aren’t on the side of the goats!” What does it teach? Does it teach that what matters in this life is not some future promise of heaven and eternal life, but rather, how we live mercifully and generously towards others each day? Does it teach that ‘judgement day’ is really every day, as we respond to or ignore the needs of others? Is this a reminder like James 1:27 picks up on that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress…” (over against the religious leaders of Jesus’ day emphasizing law, commandments, rituals?)

6. In the final analysis, there is really only one kingdom that is life-giving, and that is the Kingdom of God, where Jesus’ love rules all in all!