A shepherd is with his sheep. He is standing in front of a fence with dozens of sheep behind him. A barn or farm house can be seen on the other side of the fence. Some trees are visible further down the fence line. At the left side of the image the sun is peeping over some mountains on the horizon.

Sheep and Goats, or the Two Ways of Matthew 25

What can we expect when Jesus comes in His glory and sits on the throne of His glory? Many things, but one of them is division! Matthew 25:31-46 provides an incredible and terrifying glimpse of the judgment to come. In the passage, Jesus is described as the Son of Man who sits on His throne as King. All are subject to Him, and His declaration is final. All will be on one side of Him, or the other. As Matthew 25:32 tells us, all the nations will be gathered, “and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

This separation is then described further,

He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Matthew 25:33

In the grand scheme of things, all of us are either sheep or goats. We either hear the voice of the Great Shepherd, or we do not (John 10:4). Additionally, we will be set at the right hand of Jesus, or the left. There will be two different locations, and none in-between.

The Reason for This Separation

As the text continues, we learn that this division is based on whether we did acts of service, or not. The Lord speaks of those on His right as having,

  • Given Him food to eat
  • Given Him something to drink
  • Taken Him in so that He may have a place to stay
  • Clothed Him with a garment
  • Visited Him when He was sick
  • Came to Him when He was in prison

Such statements are puzzling, especially considering many people did not see Jesus in person. A multitude of generations that have come and gone since the death of Christ. None of us have seen Him in person. Even so, the Lord speaks as if people have either served Him, or not. He rebukes those whom He sets on His left. He calls them goats, and criticizes them by saying,

  • I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat
  • I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink
  • I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in
  • Naked, and you didn’t clothe me
  • Sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me

Reasonable Questions, and Their Answers

Both those who did service, and those who did not, ask the Lord questions. The righteous answer Him, and ask when they did such things (Matt. 25:37-39). Those at Jesus’ left make a similar statement (vs. 44). The King answers the righteous by saying, “Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (vs. 40).

This provides a clear indication of one way that we will be judged on the last day.

We will be judged, in part, on whether we do acts of service toward Christians. We know that the text is a reference to only those in Christ because Jesus said, “the least of these my brothers.” Elsewhere in Matthew we are taught that Jesus’ family is made up of those who do the will of His Father.

For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Matthew 12:50

Because of the above, we recognize that part of the judgment will be based on how people serve Jesus’ family. His brothers, sisters, and mothers. By doing so, we actually serve the Lord Himself! This is a remarkable truth, and something worth considering as we go throughout our days. How different would we act if we truly believed it? I mean, really thought we were serving Christ when we were helping His people?

Hopefully we will all recognize that fact, and seek to serve as the Lord commands. By neglecting such instruction, we may be counted as the goats mentioned in Matthew 25. Such a declaration carries with it great consequences. Jesus told those at His left to depart from him, and also described them as cursed (Matt. 25:41). After sharing all the things that these people didn’t do, He condemns them to go away into eternal punishment (vs. 46).

Gratefully, it doesn’t have to be that way! The righteous will go into eternal life. May we all be counted worthy of that through the person of Jesus Christ!

Image Used

A Shepherd and His Sheep by Quangpraha from Pixabay.