The Sheep and the Goats
31 “The Son of Man will come in all his glory. All the angels will come with him. Then he will sit in glory on his throne. 32All the nations will be gathered in front of him. He will separate the people into two groups. He will be like a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep to his right and the goats to his left.
34 Then the King will speak to those on his right. He will say, ‘My Father has blessed you. Come and take what is yours. It is the kingdom prepared for you since the world was created. 35I 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. 36I needed clothes. And you gave them to me. I was sick. And you took care of me. I was in prison. And you came to visit me.’
3 “Then the people who have done what is right will answer him. ‘Lord,’ they will ask, ‘when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in? When did we see you needing clothes and give them to you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘You are cursed! Go away from me into the fire that burns forever. It has been prepared for the devil and his angels. 42I was hungry. But you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty. But you gave me nothing to drink. 43I was a stranger. But you did not invite me in. I needed clothes. But you did not give me any. I was sick and in prison. But you did not take care of me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty and not help you? When did we see you as a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison and not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. Anything you didn’t do for one of the least important of these, you didn’t do for me.’
46“Then they will go away to be punished forever. But those who have done what is right will receive eternal life.”
Props: a stuffed “animal” sheep
In today’s scripture passage, Jesus tells the story of sheep and goats. He tells us that we are all like sheep or goats and that the sheep are those who will get to experience heaven. The king will separate the people like sheep from goats. To the sheep, he will say, “Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” A sheep is compared to someone who shows compassion. Compassion is seeing a need . . . and doing something about it. If you see someone who needs help and you offer help, then you are a sheep in the king’s eyes. When you follow Jesus, you live life looking for, finding, and showing others, even the least important, the love that God has for them.
The goats don’t see the king in their day-to-day lives. They don’t help feed those who are hungry, give drink to those who are thirsty, or help to those in need. The king says, “Anything you didn’t do for one of the least important, you didn’t do for me.”
I want to tell you a story; afterward, you tell me who was a sheep in the story. (If you have your own personal story, apply it here.)
My family had just left a restaurant in the Smoky Mountains, and our bellies were full. My daughter was six years old, and my son was just a baby in the stroller, as we walked on the sidewalks of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, we saw a man who looked homeless. His clothes were tattered, and he needed a shave. He had a plastic bag with a carton of cigarettes in it. The man was sitting on a bench that was hidden in the shade. I felt a tug on my arm and heard my daughter’s voice, “Daddy, look at him. He doesn’t look like us. What’s wrong with him?” I explained that he was most likely homeless and that he wasn’t on vacation as we were.
“Can we help him?” she asked. I replied, “There’s nothing we can do. If we give him money, he will just spend it foolishly. No, we had better keep walking.”
And then we took about two steps, and she stopped and pointed across the street. “Look Daddy, McDonalds.” And I am thinking, “We just ate.” My daughter said, “Daddy, they have gift cards, and you have to buy food there; you can’t buy cigarettes.” She’s right, and we immediately crossed the street, and got in line to order. We bought the gift card and went back across the street. The man was gone. We looked around, but at first could not find him. We finally found him, tucked away at a putt-putt golf course, hole 13, in the shade. My six-year old daughter walked right up to this man and said, “Here; Jesus loves you and so do I,” as she handed him the gift card.
Okay, who was the sheep in the story? (Allow children to answer.). That’s right, the six-year old child. She saw a need . . . and did something about it. She was the age of some of you.
That event changed my life and my understanding of life. This story is about being a sheep.
Jesus wants us to take care of one another just like he cares for each of us. Jesus wants us to feed the hungry, take care of the sick, and even help people who have done bad things. By caring for others, we care for Jesus. Every one of you can be a sheep too! When you see a need . . . do something about it —not because you want the attention or the credit, but because you love others just as Jesus does!
Prayer: Loving God, we invite you to move us, stir us, and perhaps make us feel a little uncomfortable remembering all the times we acted like goats in our lives. Change us and allow us to see a need…and do something about it in our daily lives. God, allow us and challenge us to do ministry in the name of your Son for the least of these. In Jesus’ precious and holy name. Amen.