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Sheep and Goats…

November 17, 2014

Sheep in Iowa.Goats

In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. As I began pondering the sermon for Christ the King Sunday, images from the present and past came to mind. Sheep were very prevalent at Royal Air Force Station Croughton in England where I was stationed as a Chaplain (it seemed like they outnumbered the military members at times). They were interesting to watch, unless they were getting loose and eating the new flowers in the chapel’s flower bed just hours before the visit of the Chief of Chaplains! They weren’t the smartest tools in the tool shed at times and yet they would recognize the sound of their shepherd’s truck from across the field and run en mass to be fed or cared for! My experiences with goats has been more recent as a fellow across the road from our house keeps goats. I have noticed that they like to climb on top of things and, like sheep, will run away from anyone who is not their owner.

Sheep and goats are mentioned many times as the subject of sacrifices in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. And, in Deuteronomy 14:4 they are both considered allowable (or kosher) for eating. It is in Ezekiel 34 where we first hear mention of judgment or separation between sheep and goats. “As for you, my flock, the Lord God proclaims: I will judge between the rams and the bucks among the sheep and the goats.” (Ezekiel 34:17 CEB)

Perhaps this chapter of Ezekiel (which my Bible titles “The good shepherd”) was what Jesus had in mind when he told this parable about the sheep and the goats. The Ezekiel chapter also explores the qualities of a good shepherd and foreshadows Jesus’ own description of what a good shepherd was and how that related to him being The Good Shepherd.

It will be interesting to see how the combination of Matthew 25:31-46 and Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 will come together in the sermon for Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday before we begin the season of Advent. Will it be all about judgment and separation at the end times? Or will the focus be on Jesus, our Shepherd King, and how he calls us to serve? I am pretty certain of one thing though. The subject of both passages really isn’t about sheep and goats, it is about how we are called to live as Christ followers.

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