Thursday, April 15, 2010

Separating the Sheep from the Goats: Matthew 25:31-46

Recently, I got together with my friends from Jesus for the Homeless, and we discussed our goals and vision for the group, as well as a strategy going forward.

We drew on the passage from Matt 25:31-46.

For those interested, here is a transcript of our study:

Separating the Sheep from the Goats: Matthew 25:31-46

Our group is called Jesus for the Homeless.  What I like about this name is that it has Jesus in it.  You see, the whole reason this group got together was because of Jesus.  A bunch of guys were reading the bible one day, and saw how Jesus loved the poor and the downtrodden, the widows and the fatherless.  They realized they could not claim to love and follow Jesus without helping the poor.

Our Homeless nights have been running for some 6 months now, and I feel it is important to come back to scripture and think about our goals and vision for the group.  Why are we doing this? and what is the goal we are trying to reach?

I would like to open to a verse in Matthew, which I hope to be our group's defining passage.

Matt 25:40 - "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.'"

This verse comes from a segment in the book of Matthew, where Jesus is speaking of the Judgement.  The separating of the sheep from the goats.  

Let us firstly read the entire passage.  [Reading of Mathew 25:31-46]

Firstly, who is the Judge?  The King, the son of man, Jesus Christ himself.

Next, who will be judged?  The passage says Jesus, will gather all the nations.  Everyone, Christians, non-Christians alike will be gathered together and judged.  And He is going to separate them like a shepherd separates sheep from goats. 

So who gets to inherit the kingdom?  The sheep.

And why do the sheep inherit the kingdom?  Lets read v 35 to 40 again.

Mat 25:35  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thristy and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in;
Mat 25:36  Naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.
Mat 25:37  Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you? or thirsty, and give you something to drink?
Mat 25:38  And when did we see you a stranger, and invite you in? or naked, and clothed you?
Mat 25:39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Mat 25:40  And the King shall answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me'.

Who are these brothers Jesus talks about?  There are scholars who says Jesus is refering to the Jews, or to fellow Christians.  But this question is similar to "who is my neighbour" which a lawyer asked Him in Luke 10:29.  The point is not who you should help, but how.  Serving others without expecting a reward.  These acts of compasion are not things we need gifts or skills in order to perform.  They are simple acts of kindness which anyone can do.

Sheep and Goat look similar and often grazed together.  Jesus is using this picture of sheep and goats to describe His people among the rest of the people; unbelievers and pretenders.

Jesus says the sheep who inherit the kingdom will be those who show compassion to the needy.  

Now, don't get me wrong here, it is not by our actions and goodness that gets us to heaven, these actions are just the fruit of following Jesus.    If we love and follow Jesus, we will feed the hungry and visit the sick.  What separates us from unbelievers and pretenders, is not just our actions, but our intentions and our reasons.  And when we show kindness and compassion to our brothers, without thinking of the reward, even to the least of them, we do it to the Lord himself.

So back to our group; Jesus for the Homeless. 

Why do we do it?  Because we love and follow Jesus. 
How should we do it?  We treat everyone with love and respect as if they were the Lord Himself.
What do we need? Anyone who is interested in helping the poor.  There are lots of ways you can help, but whats important is that desire to help.