Sheep and Goats

Matthew 25:31-33

32 All the nations will be gathered before him,

and he will separate people one from another

 as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

         When I was a young adult, “end times” was a big audience captivator.  Book series were written and movies produced but in fact we did not know “the plan.”  Just how the eventualities of life will unfold is a mystery as probably it should be.  As Jesus deals with the growing tension in Jerusalem, he does tell a story about what eternal justice will look like.  He tells us that the “Son of Man” will return and so claims his return with a title that relates him to humanity.  He does not identify as the “Son of God,” but does say he will return with his angels to introduce eternity.  Next he shares that humanity will be divided not by ethnicity or language or wealth or talent.  Sheep will be divided from goats.

         When we arrived in Kenya, I could not tell the difference between a sheep and a goat.  They are not common on the Los Angeles freeway.  My toddler son learned to tell a Land Rover from a Jeep, long before I did.  The indigenous people could not tell my very different twin boys apart even though one was blond and blue eyed and the other was brunette and brown eyed.  But then I had to learn how to differentiate the African tribes.   Shades of brown and black of hair differentiated people as well as facial structure.  I doubt that Jesus is looking at people upon his return to see whether tails hung down like sheep, or stick up like goats.  He will be able to see clearly who desires to live in his kingdom and who does not. 

         We will not be forced to act like something that is not true to our real selves.  A sheep will not be made to bounce around like a goat and a goat will not be forced to put it’s head down and blindly follow a leader like a sheep.  We will be separated according to the desires of our heart for who we want to be our “king.”  I find that comforting.  It is easy to think of the return of Jesus as a big judgment of our lives rather than the revelation of choices we have made and alliances that fit our story.  We know it is the will of God that all would want to be in the Kingdom of Heaven but we will not be forced.  Jesus will go to the cross and walk through death for all people but not people will want to follow him.  Holy Week that started Palm Sunday with people waving branches and yelling “hosanna” will end with people yelling, “Crucify him.”  Which crowd do we identify with?

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