One of Jesus’ preferred methods of teaching was the use of parables. This isn’t a common form of communication today, but it was a highly effective means of explaining unfamiliar ideas by using familiar elements.
Matthew 25 contains a series of three parables with the theme of Jesus’ return and the final judgment of believers and unbelievers.
I’m going to unpack this parable in two-parts. In this first part, I will make three-observations from the text, and the second will uncover the significance of works and faith.
For the first-century listener, the components in Jesus’ parable was clear and packed with meaning. Sheep and goats were two well-known animals in the first century.
Sheep and goats were often mixed as they required similar care and oversight. At the end of a day, the shepherd would separate the goats from the sheep because goats did not tolerate the colder temps at night.
Between the two herds, sheep were the more prized possession.
Jesus’ original audience understood this, and they would have assumed they were sheep, not the goats, because of lineage and heritage. But Jesus gives them a different definition of the characteristics of sheep.
- Sheep are people who have placed their faith in God to save them.
- Goats represent those who have not.
#1 Judgment is returning.
When Jesus returns, He is going to ask you for an account of what you did in this life. At that moment, if you haven’t already, it will become obvious what was most important.
Quite possibly, the standards we had measured life by, at that moment, may be viewed as irrelevant, and what we designated as irrelevant was truly relevant.
His questions won’t be about your personal accomplishments or educational achievements, nor how much money you made in life, but what conclusion did you come to regarding His son Jesus Christ?
#2 Sheep and goats are intermingled.
This is the opposite message the church has been sending for centuries. The church has urged believers to separate themselves from unbelievers for fear of contamination. This is an inaccurate view of scripture.
The Bible teaches how the believer is to separate themselves from the mindset and patterns of this world.
This is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
- Light is most effective in dark places.
- Light becomes a beacon of hope for those in darkness to find a way out.
This is how we influence the world, from within culture not from outside. If we look at the institutions in our world that have diminished moral values, one significant factor is the withdrawal of godly men and women from those institutions.
Influence doesn’t happen from a distance, but only as godly men and women are engaged with culture. Take a single light and place it in a dark room, and it becomes infinitely more useful.
#3 Right-side vs. left-side.
The right-side has been well established as a position of strength and favor. The phrase, “my right-hand man or woman,” refers to someone who has earned your trust and respect.
In this parable, you want to be on the right side. The left side was an unfavorable position or, in this case, an unfavorable destination.
Making a decision to accepts God’s gift of forgiveness is the most important choice you can make in life. As a follower of Jesus, we are re-born for influence. Let’s shine so the world will see God living through us!