Last Sunday of the Church Year
Passage: Matthew 25:31–25:46
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 25:31-46
Date: November 26, 2017 ; Last Sunday; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“And He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”
All of the nations will be gathered before him.
No longer will God be denied or ignored.
Judgment Day will be a sorting and a separation.
Jesus tells his last parable, the parable of the sheep and goats, to help us get a bit of an understanding of what to expect on Judgment Day.
We will be sorted and separated the same way a shepherd sorts and separates the sheep from the goats.
During the day, the sheep and the goats intermingle and graze together in the pasture.
At the end of the day the shepherd sorts through them and separates them so that they can go back to their respective pens.
The sheep on the right. The goats on the left.
They are separated not because of what they have done - but because of what they are.
What they do only reflects what they are.
The sheep, those on his right, receive the inheritance. The kingdom that was prepared since the foundation of the world.
The goats, those on his left, are cursed. They go to the eternal punishment prepared for the devil and his angels.
This is terrifying. This is eternal.
Are you are a sheep or a goat?
Will you end up on God’s right where you will inherit the kingdom of heaven? Or, will you end up on his left where you will receive eternal punishment?
Are you a sheep or a goat?
Let’s consider the difference between the two.
The sheep are those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
The sheep are forgiven sinners.
The sheep are those who have received God’s mercy and grace, given through Christ Jesus, received through the gift of faith.
This is what the sheep are.
The goats are those who deny, those who reject, God’s mercy and grace.
The goats are those who live as though they themselves are a god, those who turn to false idols, those who live for themselves and their own selfish desires.
This is what the goats are.
So, when you are standing before the judgment throne, what will you be? Will you be a sheep or a goat?
This is a difficult, scary, and uncomfortable question to consider, isn’t it?
The stakes are so high.
It’s difficult, scary, and uncomfortable because we all see a bit of the goat in us.
When we are honest with ourselves, we recognize that we sometimes act more like the goat than we do the sheep.
And when we stand before the judgment throne - our lives will be in plain view.
God knows all. All of our sins, all of those despicable things that we have thought and done, all of those things that we continue to struggle with - will be exposed.
No more hiding. No more excuses and rationalizing. No more denial.
It will never be more clear that we deserve to be among the goats, that we deserve to be sorted to the Shepherd’s left, that we deserve to depart, to be cursed, to be punished.
So, how do we prevent this from happening?
How do we end up as one of the sheep who will be placed to the Shepherd’s right and who will inherit the kingdom?
Many believe and teach that you become a sheep by being good.
In fact, at first glance, it seems that this is what our Gospel lesson for this morning teaches.
We heard, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” (Matthew 25:34-36).
It sounds like all you have to do is give some food, drink, and clothing to the poor, be nice to strangers, help out the sick, visit a few prison inmates and you’re in!
But, instead of this being a list good deeds that are necessary to make it to heaven - it is a description of the sheep.
It’s a description of God’s people. It’s a description of you.
As God’s people, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives, sanctifying us - we live according to his will.
We love. We act in kindness and charity. We tell others of God’s love and salvation.
Not to become sheep. But because we are sheep and this is who we are in Christ.
We are sheep because of what the Lamb of God did for us – not because of what we do for God.
Certainly we strive to live holy and righteous lives as God’s people.
We fight our sinful, our goat nature, with the means of grace that God has provided us - his Word and Sacraments.
Yet, in this life, we will continue to struggle with our goat nature. We will fail. We will sin.
But, with repentant hearts we seek and receive God’s forgiveness.
The difference between “sheep” and “goat” is simply the difference between faith and unbelief.
It’s interesting to note that neither the sheep nor the goats remembered serving, or not serving, Jesus.
“Lord, when did we do these things for you?” the sheep asked.
The answer to this question is that when you serve those around you - you serve the Lord.
God doesn’t need our good works. He’s God! He’s got everything he needs.
However, our neighbours do need our good works.
We need each other’s love, and kindness, and charity.
We need to be encouraged in our faith and others need to hear of the Good News of salvation.
This is how we serve God - by loving and serving each other.
We serve without concern over reward or recognition, but simply because it’s who we are in Christ.
This is the life that the Good Shepherd has prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
We joyfully hear and follow the voice of our Shepherd who leads us besides still waters, restores our souls, and leads us in paths of righteousness.
Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil because our Good Shepherd is with us and he comforts us with his rod and staff.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.