Jesus is No Goat / Matthew 25:31–46 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 26th 2023 / Last Sunday of the Church Year / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 26th 2023: Last Sunday of the Church Year / Matthew 25:31–46 "Jesus is No Goat"
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. 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.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Two weeks ago in our Old Testament reading we heard this question from the Book of Amos, “Woe to you who desire The Day of the LORD! Why would you have The Day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light,” in the sermon that day I’d made the connection between this passage and Good Friday and Jesus’ crucifixion. Pointing out that Saint Matthew, Jesus’ disciple who recorded today’s Gospel Reading in his Gospel, includes this detail about the events of Good Friday as Jesus was nailed to the cross “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” This was indeed a Day of Darkness for those who loved Jesus, fear that His death would spell the end of everything He’d accomplished was gripping many of those who’d followed Him, even most of His remaining twelve disciples who’d run away from Jesus as He was being arrested. And although Jesus had taught them what was to happen they couldn’t see it in the unexpected darkness of that day. Had the words from our Old Testament reading come to mind, hope for light of what was truly happening in the darkness of the cross may have sprung to life in their hearts: Remember what the Lord promised through Ezekiel, “As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out My sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” Through the Old Testament prophets Amos and Ezekiel the Lord is warning that there will be sheep and goats at the cross on Good Friday, from there (keeping what Jesus teaches in our Gospel reading in mind) we must remember that there’ll be sheep and goats in our daily life and that in The End there will be sheep and goats in the final judgment on The Last Day.
Who are those sheep and goats? That’s a good question; but first who is the one at the cross, in our daily life and in The End. Who will be the judge between these sheep and goats?
Early on Holy Scripture begins to give us our answer to the question of who this judge will be on that day of clouds and thick darkness: What John the Baptizer had said at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry at the time of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River was, in the darkness of that Good Friday, coming true; back then John had pointed at this Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because He was before me.’ I myself did not know Him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that He might be revealed to Israel.” Even before that not long after Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary when the Wise Men had come from the East to the West searching for Him they and the wicked King Herod had revealed to them who this child would be by words of the Lord’s through His Old Testament prophet Micah, “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’” When this news was told to them Herod was like a goat and the Wise Men were like sheep. So here we have Jesus described as a lamb and as a shepherd.
Over and over again especially from the time of Jesus’ baptism right up to the day of His crucifixion Jesus was being revealed to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, revealed to be the Saviour, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the true Shepherd King of Israel, the Good Shepherd, the ultimate ruler who would shepherd the Lord’s people Israel. As with King Herod this was not seen by everyone, this Shepherd King was not gladly recognized by all the people: As we have been hearing over the last number of weeks some at the time of our Gospel Reading like the chief priests, the Sadducees, the Scribes, the Herodians, the Pharisees and the Elders of the people, even His disciple Judas Iscariot, would not recognize Jesus for who He is. This is also true in our day, there are those who have been told about Him but cannot hear what is being said, they have been shown Jesus yet they will not see Him. This will become very important by the end of the sermon today, particularly in relation to our daily life as Christians. But let’s ask another question now to prime the pump for this in advance of that “How can a person see Jesus for who Jesus truly is?”
Earlier in the Gospel of Matthew right after Jesus’ warning about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” about their present influence on the Children of Israel at that time, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Note: This is very important because our Gospel reading today starts with Jesus saying, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne,”) [The Disciples respond to Jesus’ question saying], “Some say [the Son of Man is] John the Baptiser, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” [This is when] Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” So to answer that question, “How can a person see Jesus for who Jesus truly is?” It must be revealed to them by God the Father, and how do we believed that this happens? Well by the working of the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son in order to point us to the Christ. When Christ Jesus then is shared with people and people come to hold fast to this Jesus, what Saint Paul teaches by the power of the Holy Spirit comes true, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In the midst of the hearing the seeds of faith are spread. But some hearts, like King Herod’s heart back in the days when Jesus was but a child refuse to believe, they are like hard and stony ground to the Good News of Jesus, they are deaf ears, they are not receptive souls.
Again we have witnessed this as we have dug into the events of Holy Week revolving around Jesus’ public teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem and His teaching of His disciples on the Mount of Olives. They all have the Son of Man, Jesus, right there teaching them but they all do not recognize it. The seed of His word is scattered among all of them but it is not all taking root in the same way. Now if you were to stop and ask the chief priests, the Sadducees, the Scribes and lawyers and Herodians and Pharisees if they were believers in the LORD of Scripture, in the God of Israel they would say yes but they were not able to recognize the Son of Man, Jesus, when He stood before them, when they looked upon the face of their Shepherd King, when His words hit their ears, therefore they were deceived, blind and obstinate in their minds and in their hearts. And among Jesus’ disciples you have Judas who, as we thought about last week, proved to be one who didn’t truly know who Jesus really was, who couldn’t see that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Judas was one that the Son of Man was revealed to but He couldn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of Man. The ones who greeted Jesus with loud hosannas on Palm Sunday at the beginning of the week, the Virgin Mary, the other disciples—apart from Judas—while they may all have their doubts and struggles were ones receptive to the truth of who Jesus is. And so now you are starting to see how again there are goats on the left of Jesus and there are sheep on the right among the people who surround Jesus during that first Holy Week as the Cross of His crucifixion looms.
Hours before Jesus is arrested He prays this prayer recorded by Saint John, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave me to do.” Earlier that same week when some of the God fearing Greeks came seeking Jesus, Jesus spoke of what was to come saying, “Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” ... Jesus continues saying “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” He speak of the cross as His coming in glory and a place of judgment, where justice will prevail, where the devil will be cast out, a place where men will be drawn to Him, people will be drawn to Him.
Where the world sees a crown of thorns, the Christian sees a crown of glory; where the world see an instrument of death, the Christian sees a throne of glory; where the world sees humiliation and defeat, the Christian sees authority and victory; where the world read the inscription over Jesus’ head as mockery and insult, the Christian reads it as glorious truth; yes where the goats of the world fail to see Jesus for who He truly is, the sheep trust Him to be their salvation. Let’s think of two men: a sheep and a goat at the cross. Saint Luke tells us how it was on that day that, “two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with [Jesus]. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified [Jesus], and the criminals, one on [Jesus’] right and one on His left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide His garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at [Jesus], saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, His Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up and offering Him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over Him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at [Jesus], saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And [Jesus] said to [the criminal crucified on His right], “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
With all this in mind, in the days leading up to those moments as Jesus teaches His disciples on the Mount of Olives with parabolic language, language that sounds like a parable, like a story, we see that today’s teaching of the coming of the Son of Man is not simply a story, it’s more than a parable, for the sole purpose of teaching a moral lesson. It is also then a hint that all of these teachings Jesus has been giving His disciples and us serve a dual purpose: they teach us about real events while they teach us about how to live our lives as Christians and how not to live our lives as Christian.
Over the last weeks we have seen how Jesus was both the bridegroom and the one who in your place had faultless faithfulness; Jesus is both the Master and in your place He is the perfectly faithful servant, and here today Jesus is both the Son of Man, the true Shepherd King of Israel seeking the scattered sheep on a day of clouds and thick darkness and at one and the same time He is in your place the Lamb of God who in death takes away your sin and the sins of the world. When you are baptised into Him, when your faith is in Him you are counted as one of the five Wise Virgins, one of the two Faithfull Servants to whom wealth is entrusted, one of the multitude of the sheep of His pasture. Because Jesus is no goat, you then are no goat, this is why the sheep (who cannot see clearly the value of their works redeemed by Christ the Crucified) say to the Son of Man when He returns in Glory, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ Dear ones, as Christians, in Christ, because Jesus accomplished these things without fault or failure, you are now free to care for those in need around you without tallying up a record of it for some future reward. The reward is already yours in Christ Jesus.
At the cross Jesus took the lowest place in all of humanity, at the cross He who is the very Son of Man, the very Son of God, made Himself the least: He was hungry and naked, in desperate need of a hospital, a prisoner of those who sought His destruction, one who the goats considered a dangerous stranger; so now when we see those in need let us not forget to see Jesus in them, for whatever need they have Jesus knows personally for He in like manner had those needs too. As Christians however scattered you may feel don’t fight against helping those in need. However dark the day may be don’t let the World “get your goat” in this life, and if this happens repent, return to Jesus as the sheep you are and receive from Him His forgiveness, for His promise to His disciples leading up to Good Friday is His promise to you ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ [for,] ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ His promise to the criminal crucified on His right hand side is His promise to you “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” The goats desire to make a case for themselves to the judge thinking their works will save them; the sheep have the case made for them by the judge as ones who have not counted their works towards their salvation. Truth be told the sheep and the goats have all fallen short of the glory of God and God who knows hearts judges between the two, for some this is disquieting, do not let your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid. Live lives of repentance, live lives constantly turning to the voice of your Good Shepherd and when you sin against God and each other remember the prayer Jesus prays at the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The question is whether we as sheep take that forgiveness (for the sins we know and the sins we don’t know) and run with it to serve our neighbour in need or whether we as goats deny that forgiveness (for the sins we know and the sins we don’t know) and the judge who grants it and desire to be the judge of what is good or evil, believing the second oldest lie, that you can “be like God, knowing good and evil.” Such a way of life leads to darkness with no light to eternal punishment. But that dear ones is not what is meant for you. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Amos 5:18
 Matthew 27:45
 Ezekiel 34:12
 John 1:29–31
 Matthew 2:6
 Matthew 16:6
 Matthew 16:13–17
 Romans 10:17
 They may as well be the Goat Of Mendes, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:44–47)
 Maybe they would each have this or that that they didn’t believe in, like the Sadducees and the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life Everlasting (Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8), but they would say yes.
 Matthew 21:9
 John 17:1–4
 John 12:27–28a
 John 12:31–32
 Luke 23:32–43
 Luke 24:44-47
 In Matthew 10:24 Jesus teaches, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” And in John 13:16 He teaches, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
 Romans 3:23b-23, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
 Proverbs 21:2; Luke 16:15
 John 14:1, 27
 Genesis 3:5
Photo Credits: Main Photo Goats and Sheep from pexels; detail of goat from pexels; detail of a group of goats from pexels; sheep and goat from pixabay; gold tinted detail of Christ Jesus crowned with thorns photo from pexels; photo of stained glass window of Jesus crowned with thorns from pxhere.