The sheep and the goats
READ Matthew 25:31-46
The theme of judgment continues. As in the preceding chapter and other biblical passages (Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 20:11-15), it is apocalyptic language which is used to speak of the final judgment. Jesus assumes the role of final Judge from God the Father.
The picture Is one aspect of the great final judgment, when Jesus, the Son of Man, comes (31). At dusk a shepherd would gather his flock to send the goats inside to warmer accommodations and to leave the sheep out in the field (Ezekiel 34:17, 20, 22). “all the nations” (32) probably refers to a gathering of non-Christian people, though some take it simply to mean everyone. (The Jews actually used the phrase to describe the Gentiles.) The judgment is not corporate but individual. Each person must answer for his or her own actions. The criterion of judgment is their behavior in the face of the practical needs of “these brothers of mind”(40). Many take these people to be simply the poor and oppressed, but it seems more likely that Jesus is referring to His followers (10:40-42; 28:1). He is so intimately identified with them that any act of kindness to them is an act of kindness to Him.
It is possible to be aware of ‘sins of commission’ – greed, violence, gossip and so on – and to pay less attention to ‘sins of omission’ such as are envisaged here. God demands that all people should be on the lookout for opportunities to serve Him through meeting the needs of others. We are not dealing with minor issues but with the possibility of eternal life and the terror of eternal punishment (46). This final parable is nothing if not sobering.
PRAY Lord, I often put off the simple acts of kindness and love to others. Please help me to grow this gift of Yours in me.