Sermon / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Christ the King Sunday / Sunday November 26th 2017 - / Matthew 25:31-46 / "The Shepherd King"
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 26th 2017: Christ the King Sunday / Matthew 25:31–46 "The Shepherd King"
“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. Today on the Last Sunday of the Church Year we hear Jesus speaking of a shepherd king who separates his sheep from the goats. Before the Sermon we sang the hymn, “The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want,” LSB 710. It’s a hymn that references Psalm 23 and we know what Jesus says of Himself in relation to being a shepherd when He says in John’s Gospel, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
Now last week we went into some detail to place this conversation that Jesus had with His disciples in a particular time and place, and to refresh your memory Jesus is telling this parable of the shepherd king who separates his sheep from the goats, alongside last week’s parable of the Master and the Servants with the Talents of Gold and the week pervious to last week’s parable of the 10 virgins and their lamps and oil or lack thereof. These are all taught to His disciples in the midst of Holy Week leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, they are taught to them in private on the Mount of Olives as He, Jesus the very Lamb of God, is about to be led like a sheep to His slaughter at the cross to take away the sin of the world. He is speaking to them about all of this, using all of these parables because they came to Him privately, saying, “… what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” What will it be like, what should we watch for? What you have today is the end of this teaching, after this reading the gears shift in the Gospel of Matthew to the plot to kill Jesus by the High Priest Caiaphas and the chief priests and the elders of the people.
Jesus, who is your Good Shepherd, Jesus who is the Shepherd and Lord of Psalm 23, is the Shepherd King of today’s parable who separates His sheep from the goats. This parable today is almost less a parable than it is an analogue of what will happen on The Last Day, The Day of His return at The End of Time when He will take the goats and send them away into eternal punishment, the eternal fire prepared, originally not for men but, for the devil and his angels but the righteous, the ones that are truly His Jesus the Shepherd King brings into eternal life.
This is dramatic and potentially unsettling … but did you notice one very important detail. When Jesus tells this parable of Judgment people often skip over something. It’s easy to get caught up in the questions that the sheep and the goats ask because they mirror each other: The sheep ask the Shepherd King, ‘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 goats ask the Shepherd King, ‘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?’ It’s also easy to get distracted because these conversations are about what the sheep and goats have done or have not done, and we then start to think about what we’ve done or have failed to do, and then we might begin to think am I a sheep or a goat? What will it be like for me on That Day?
But here’s the thing that is often over looked … the sheep and the goats ask their questions, the sheep and the goats are addressed by the Shepherd King after the Shepherd King has already separated them from each other. When the end comes you will either be separated to the Lord Jesus’ left or to His right before any conversation about anything happens. And you’ll notice that there is no second separation in this parable. The Shepherd King after looking at the goats and sheep a little more closely doesn’t then boot some out of the sheep out over to the goats because they upon closer inspection were deemed unworthy, neither does the Shepherd King based on how hard any particular goat worked, or by how well his fellow goats esteemed him, thought well of him, move any goats over to the sheep. No special pleading on The Day, no secret revelation on The Day suddenly changes you standing in the eyes of the Shepherd King. You sheep who come to That Day and are counted among those on His right hand do not get there based on your work. This is why we love the 23rd Psalm so much. Listen to it – listen to your part as a sheep listen to the Shepherd King’s part in the Psalm:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
Who is doing all the work? Who is leading, feeding and caring for His sheep? It is not the work of the sheep it is the work of the Shepherd that brings the sheep into the house of the LORD where the sheep will then dwell forever. Again this is why we can sing with confidence, “I am Jesus’ little lamb, ever glad it hard I am; For my Shepherd gently guide me, knows my need and well provides me; Loves me every day the same, even called me by my name.” (LSB 740)
Before these parables, which include the parable of the goats and the sheep and the Shepherd King, Jesus had already in some detail described The Day of this separation. During this same time of teaching with His disciples Jesus said that the coming of the Son of Man would be like this, Jesus said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Dear one on That Day you who are baptized into Jesus, you who believe in Him need not be afraid, for it is your Shepherd King who comes on those clouds, who calls you to Himself. He will call you by your name: You His sheep.
Saint Paul provides even more comfort and detail about That Day when He writes about the coming of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians, saying, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep [that is the dead who are alive in Christ Jesus even while they are dead to the world], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” Are you starting to get a clearer picture of That Day? This is why week in and week out we confess, I believe in the “resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting,” this is why week in and week out we confess, “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” In the first verse of the appointed introit for today St. Peter says, “In keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” In keeping with Jesus promise, in keeping with the promises of our Good Shepherd, in keeping with the promises of our Shepherd King we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
You may be tempted to think … well then if it’s all fixed and predetermined I guess I don’t need to think about it very much …
This righteousness, this faultlessness, this perfection and goodness of Jesus has been lavished upon you in your baptism. This is true. At that time, in your baptism, you have been sealed away in Him. This is very true. Linked to Jesus your Good Shepherd so when He comes with His angels they will simply separate out the baptized, the baptized with faith in Christ Jesus, from those who are not clothed in the blood of Christ Jesus, the righteous blood of Christ. This is most certainly true. If you are found without that garment, without a sheepskin as it were, you then are placed with the goats. What does Jesus say in the Gospel of Mark? “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” If someone then throws away their baptism, and disregards the gift, putting on a garment of goatskin as it were, if they in The End fail to believe then it won’t help that they at some point were baptized. It is those who believe and are baptized and remain faithful unto death that are counted in the host of the righteous, who are counted with the sheep of the Good Shepherd, the Shepherd King. This all happens in life, it isn’t determined at the time of Jesus’ return. At that point we are who we are. By the very same blood of Jesus shed upon the cross of Good Friday the goats are condemned and the sheep are vindicated in Christ.
Can a goat become one of the sheep of the Shepherd King? ... I leave a pause there ... Are you thinking of someone? Are you thinking of yourself? Here’s an example from Scripture: In the days after Jesus’ Easter resurrection, after His 40 days with them following His resurrection, after His ascension to be seated at the right hand of His Father in Heaven, after the Day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit there was a deacon named Stephen who was “full of grace and power, [who] was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” One day as He was preaching some of the goats came and stoned this sheep of the Good Shepherd to death. And there at that time was a goat named Saul who later recounted how it was that, “when the blood of Stephen [this witness of Christ Jesus] was being shed, [that he, Saul,] was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed [Stephen].’ This same goat of a man Saul ravaged the church, and entered house after house, dragging off men and women and committed them to prison. This goat Saul breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord; He received permission to round up the sheep in Damascus to bring them back to goats in Jerusalem that they would be imprisoned and punished there. Had Saul’s story ended right there the Shepherd King, for all of Saul’s abuse of the sheep of His Hand, could have justly said to that goat Saul ‘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.’ For Saul was not one who cared for the sheep, he had no eyes to even see that they were sheep, that goat Saul did not see Jesus in the face of these men and women.
But Saul’s story doesn’t end there … on the road to Damascus this goat, this persecutor of the early Christian Church is knocked to the ground by a blinding light and a voice came forth saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And [Saul] said, “Who are you, Lord?” And [the one addressing him] said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Yes the One who speaks to this goat Saul is the risen and ascended Lord, the Shepherd King, who sits at the right Hand of God the Father Almighty. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ This goat Saul would be changed, he was no longer to be a goat, rather Jesus shepherded him into His flock of sheep, Saul was baptized, Saul by the grace of God believed and Saul became Saint Paul the Apostle; the one who would later write, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
There is hope for the goats in your life, the goats of the world, that hope is in Christ Jesus the Shepherd King. They have no hope in their works apart from Him. In the person of Christ Jesus the goats took the very Lamb of God and beat Him and slaughter Him. But God the Father did not leave the innocent Lamb of God in the clutches of death, He brought Jesus the Shepherd King back from the dead on Easter morning. This is good news for every one of His sheep and it is good news for every one of the goats too for if they hear it and believe it they will no longer be goats but sheep. Jesus, because of His great love for you, became the least, taking the brunt of the fat goats, who with shoulder and side push and thrust against the weak with their horns. He took all their abuse, their scorn, every last bit of it. And when you are abused and persecuted for your faith in this life, know that the abuse and persecution you endure are not yours only, that as they do it to you, they do it to Jesus. The Last Day then is not only His day but also your Day of vindication. A Day of forgiveness made manifest by your Good Shepherd.
In these days, the days that we have been given, speak to the goats with gentleness and respect, speak to them of Jesus your Shepherd King that they might believe and be moved from the goats to the sheep right now in this life before The Great Day of the Lord’s reappearing. Don’t wait for it to be done in the end: For when the end comes it will be too late to move from the left to the right hand side of Jesus. Today is the day, the time is now. 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 Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 10:14–15
 Matthew 24:3
 Psalm 23
 Matthew 24:29–31
 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
 2nd Peter 3:13
 Mark 16:16
 Acts 6:8
 Acts 22:20
 Acts 8:3
 Acts 9:1
 Acts 9:4-5
 Ezekiel 34:21