A Sheep or a Goat?

sheep and goat

If I was picking, I’d rather be a goat than a sheep.  Goats are more curious and independent; they don’t need as much shepherding.  They appear smarter; free thinkers if you will.  Goat’s eat more than grass, and have better hair days, too!

But when Jesus chose his last metaphor to describe his eminent return, he said that one day he will sit on his throne and he will separate all the nations like a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats.  (Read Matthew 25:31-47.)  The sheep will be on his right side – the side associated with the right arm of strength and blessing.  The goats are on the left side, the side associated with the boot.  On second thought, I’d rather be a sheep.

Jesus has always had a thing for sheep.   “I am the good shepherd,” he said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15) Sheep know him.  They recognize his voice. (Jn 10:16)

 Jesus said his sheep recognize him…

in the thirsty man who needs a drink
in the hungry woman who needs to eat
in the stranger who needs a place to stay
in the child who is cold and needs a coat
in the sick friend sitting through chemo
in the prisoner, marking time in a cell

…and then show mercy and compassion to him!  Sheep may seem dense, but they see what others can’t see!  The sheep belong to the shepherd; they have his very mind (I Cor 2:16), so they can see him in other people.  The sheep are beholden to their shepherd.  They love him, follow him and serve him.  He keeps the wolf out (Jn 10:11-12); he makes them lie down in green pastures, he leads them beside quiet waters; he restores their soul. (Ps. 23)

Jesus, on his beloved mountain side, to his closest friends, on his way to the cross, concludes this Olivet discourse with some pretty practical advice.   I’m leaving, he said, but my Spirit is staying.  Look for me.  Listen for my voice.  Stay with the flock.  Give me a drink and some bread, invite me in, put clothes on my back, look after me when I’m sick; visit me when I’m in bondage.

Friends, Jesus is a good shepherd.  He loves you.  He won’t let you get away.  Let’s stick together and serve our master until he takes us home!

Resolute Risk

th (28)

If you’re like me, you’ve given up on New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you have some goals, but let’s be real, you just don’t want to be resolute about them. If they happen, great, but you don’t want the pressure of commitment and it seems nobler not to fail. Innate in us is a collective “maintenance” resolution. Let’s just not let things get any worse than they are right now. Comfort and safety. Good ole American ideals.

Jesus said life in the Kingdom of God does not operate that way. Comfort and safety are replaced with risking all.   Faith and trust are paramount. These concepts are part of Jesus’ last teaching on the way to the cross in Matthew 24 and 25. We know the story as the parable of the talents. (Read Matthew 25:14-30.)

Jesus has been talking about his return; he’s about to lay down his life, rise again, and ascend to the Father, but he will come back, and we won’t know the day or the hour. He’s using stories to teach his disciples and us how to live in the meantime. The ten virgins taught us to know the bridegroom and to be there when he returns. The three servants teach us to invest in the growing kingdom of God.

Sometimes, we think kingdom living is mostly about getting all the doctrine and theology right. We’re so afraid of getting something wrong that we’re afraid to do anything at all! We just keep reading and re-reading the manual, and don’t get out into the game! Jesus said to put his words into practice (Mt 7:24), to go and proclaim the kingdom (Mt 10:7), to take what you’ve been given and put it to work!   God’s been saying it from the very beginning, “Be fruitful and multiply!” (Ge 1:22)

Being ready for Jesus’ return is not a numbers game. He’s not going to line you up and count your money nor the number of people you have baptized. What he will do is examine your heart.   Will he see faith? “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance,” Jesus said. (25:29) Have you trusted him with what you have? Have you listened? Have you done what he’s told you, specifically, to do when he’s told you to do it? Have you been willing to take risks when asked? Have you been certain of what you could not see, despite your doubts?

There’s not a flow chart. Some get a little to work with; some get a lot. Only together are we the body, moved by the head, Jesus himself, to accomplish His purposes for the sake of the world and for the glory of God.  Does that make you uncomfortable? Good.  Discomfort and risk. Good ole Kingdom ideals.