Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Here we are with one more parable, Jesus’s last story before he enters Jerusalem. It is the final parable of a series of parables. The Kingdom is like… bridesmaids waiting for the groom to show up. The Kingdom is like… a wedding banquet with no guests. The Kingdom is like… a rich man who trusts his servants with a ridiculous amount of money. Although Jesus does not specifically say, “The Kingdom is like…” Instead, he says, “When the Son of Man comes…” But just like in the previous parables, Jesus begins with a story that the people hearing him can identify with.
And that’s what he is doing here – talking about something the people would understand. Sheep and goats, while very different, were led out together during the day to graze. Then when the flocks were brought in for the night, the sheep with their wool coats were put in a pen outside. But the goats, who didn’t have that thick wool to keep them warm, were led into the barn. And sheep and goats have different temperaments. Sheep are more likely to huddle together. Goats, on the other hand, are more likely to wander.
So, what is Jesus saying in this parable? What stands out to me is that neither the sheep nor the goats in the story recognize the king. Both groups ask, “When did we do this?” or “When did we not do this?” When we look around and see people, we have no idea whether they are sheep or goats because, honestly, we are all both. None of us are all good or bad. I think what Jesus is talking about in this parable is whether we can see each other as God sees us.
I remember before I got my first pair of glasses, I thought I was seeing the world just as it is. But after I got that first pair and started to look around, I realized there was so much more going on around me. There was so much more to see, everywhere I looked! In order to know what type of glasses I needed, the optometrist tested my eyes. I find that test, whenever I go to the optometrist, still makes me a little nervous. The optometrist has me look through this big, scary looking binocular type thing, and changes the lenses for each eye, adjusting them as I answer this question, “Which is better, this, or this?” This or This. This or this. And I give my best guess of what I am seeing. What makes me nervous is that if I pick the wrong one. my glasses will not be right, and it will be all my fault!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is also talking about seeing and not seeing. And they all fail, the goats and the sheep fail the test. They can’t see God in the people around them. The difference is how they act when they see someone in need. Something happens when we hear this story. It can make us afraid. What if I don’t get it right? What if we don’t see God in the people around me? In our fear, we swap the message, to care for all those in need in a broken, hurting world, into a prescription for getting into heaven.
We set up boundaries around God’s love. We turn God’s love into a set of rules. Follow these rules and you are in. Break them and you are out. That is not how God operates. God loves all people and is always calling all people to come into the Kingdom. Our job is not to separate the sheep from the goats. Our job is to love and care for all those in need, and to love each other as God loves us. Amen.