Matthew 25:31-46 – The Sheep and the Goats

A real problem (for me) is the use of this parable in contemporary preaching.  It is usually used for coercing people to bring canned food into the church food pantry around thanksgiving:  “If you bring a can of cream corn to give to the poor, then you are helping Jesus.”  (I always wondered what the poor people did with all that creamed corn and canned okra, but that is another problem!)  While I think that we have to care for the poor, that may not be what this parable is about. this is a parable about the audacious grace of God.

This parable-like section is a grand conclusion to the Olivet Discourse and sums up many of the eschatological themes in Matthew. But is this a parable? Not in the normal sense of a parable, it is more of an apocalyptic prophecy with parabolic elements. The story is usually treated as a parable, despite the fact it is not a story drawn from everyday life. As an apocalyptic prophecy, the Sheep and Goats is an interpretation and re-application of themes from the Hebrew Bible to a new situation.

Clearly the “Son of Man” is not a symbol, Jesus is identifying himself as the one who will be doing the final judgement. There is, however, a shift from Son of Man to “the King” in verse 34. The King in this parable is not necessarily a metaphor for Jesus but an actual title of Jesus that he will have at that time. That Jesus sees himself as the central character in this parable helps us to read the previous parables – Jesus is the bridegroom in 25:1-12 and he is the king who went away in 25: 14-30.
The Sheep and the Goats are metaphorical elements that parallel the Wise and foolish virgins and the productive and unproductive servants in the parable of the talents. The elements of the judgement are not to be taken as metaphors, what the sheep do and what the goats do not do should be understood as a part of the judgement that they are facing at the end of the age. The wise virgin and prepared servant are more or less like the Sheep, the foolish virgin and the unprepared servant are more or less like the goats.

sheep_goatIt is probably best to see this as a prophetic or apocalyptic parable using the metaphor of the separation of sheep and goats to indicate that at the end of the age the nations will be separated and judged. The basis of that judgement will be the treatment of the “least of these brothers of mine.” This prophecy may be based on several passages from the Hebrew Bible. For example, Ezekiel 34:11-17 describes Israel as a flock in need of a true shepherd. It is quite possible that the Sheep and Goats of Matthew 25 is an allusion to  Ezekiel 34:16: “As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.” (Joel 3:12 has a similar metaphor).

Like any of the parables, this story must be read in the context of the first listeners. The shocking end of the parables of the kingdom is that those that thought they were getting into the kingdom are not going to be there, and those that were on the outside do get in. The ruling Jews thought that they were going to be in the kingdom, in fact, they were the “keepers of the kingdom of God.” Yet when Messiah came, they did not recognize him. They never really had much of a chance to since they were not caring for the poor and the needy as they ought. Jesus is very critical of the Pharisees who liked their fine things, or the people giving in the temple and mocking the widow and her mites.

On the other hand, the underclass probably did not think of themselves are serious candidates for the first to get into the kingdom. They were told repeatedly that they were the unclean, “sinners and tax-collectors.” Yet they will enter the kingdom, and those that were accepting and caring for this underclass, as Jesus was, will enter as well.  Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry this kind of grace by eating with sinners, now he is welcoming people into his kingdom who showed the same grace to other “least of these brothers.”

33 thoughts on “Matthew 25:31-46 – The Sheep and the Goats

  1. “It is probably best to see this as a prophetic or apocalyptic parable using the metaphor of the separation of sheep and goats to indicate that at the end of the age the nations will be separated and judged.” Why is Jesus telling Jews about a Gentile judgement. interpretation vs. recipients troubles me.

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    • The OT frequently discusses judgement of the Gentiles. By the first century there were dozens of extra-biblical apocalypses detailing the judgment of the nations. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to find any Jewish apocalypse that does not have a spectacular judgment on the Gentiles.

      Since this is the last statement in the Olivet Discourse, it is fitting that Jesus finally get to his actual return!

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  2. Again I think it is important to remember first off the context and original intent of the passage of scripture. I agree with you Dr. Long, this is apocalyptic prophecy with a parabolic intent. This passage seems to be “….using the metaphor of the separation of sheep and goats to indicate that at the end of the age the nations will be separated and judged”(P.Long). There is this theme that repeats itself, and that is the people who thought they would get in or who were originally intended “to get in” (Kingdom of God; Matt. 22) don’t get in; where as the people on the outside or the outcasts are the ones to accept the invite and come in. One a side note, its absolutely brilliant how the “sheep” and the “goats” both are oblivious to (Matt 25:40) “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”, but they both make completely opposite choices in life. Also the way the passage reads it seems as though the goats or people who are going to hell, needed something more obvious in their life to take their inheritance in Christ.

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  3. I agree that this passage needs to be read in context. The listeners would not have been as focused on taking care of the poor as much as who actually entered the Kingdom. They would have been appalled that the supposed leaders would not have entered the Kingdom. But Jesus is clear that they were wrong. In Ezekiel 34:11-17 it says, Israel is in need of a true shepherd. Wright also says, “Meanwhile, however, Israel’s official rulers and guardians, the ‘shepherds,’ have failed hopelessly in their task” (Wright 165). Those who were supposed to be leading and receiving the Kingdom were to be condemned. Like Dr. Long points out this passage somewhat alludes to the previous parables (the servants and the virgins). The judgment in each of these is the same, those who had been faithful received the Kingdom, while those who were not were eternally punished (Matthew 25:12, 30). Again, Jews had a very different idea of who the Messiah would be and what things he would say. Jesus’ sayings would certainly have shocked them.

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    • I agree that in order to best understand the passage, it needs to be understood in context of the passage and the listeners of that time. It is interesting that this follows a series of shocking reversals. To me it appears that is not a reversal. All throughout the Law and the Prophets the Jews are told to care for the poor. This is a natural progression from the Law and Prophets. Taking care of the poor leads to the Kingdom, while ignoring the poor does not. The biggest difference is that Jesus equates himself with those in need. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt 25:40) This prophecy of judgment seems to be just what Jews were expecting at the time. The twist was the amount of interaction Jesus had with “the least of these”. Table fellowship with those who were often considered “unclean” and “sinners and tax collectors” would have been outside their expectations. It may have shocked them, but it should not have been a reversal on their ideas.

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  4. I think that when one reads this parable for the first time, what it has been described in Dr. Long’s first paragraph, people’s first thought would be to think of this parable as the people who will be able to go into the kingdom of heaven are the ones who are servants to God. But, I believe that in order to view the words and view the actual meaning of the passage, one has to look at the context. Knowing and understanding the context of any passage is huge when it comes to understanding what God is really saying. It could become dangerous for one to pick out a passage and take the interpretation the way they just read it. I do not think that is correct because then there will be many interpretations of the text and that verse or passage may not even be speaking directly to that person. First, one needs to know the actual context of the verse or passage before they can really have an understanding of what the passage is saying. I think that this passage is referring specifically to the end times. This passage is saying, ‘be ready’ and I think that Dr. Long said it well when he goes back to a different passage in the Old Testament, “For example, Ezekiel 34:11-17 describes Israel as a flock in need of a true shepherd. It is quite possible that the Sheep and Goats of Matthew 25 is an allusion to Ezekiel 34:16: “As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.” (Joel 3:12 has a similar metaphor).” Finding other passages in Scripture to enhance what was already said is a good way at looking into the context of the passage to get the correct interpretation of the passage.

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  5. Maybe I haven’t been to church long enough, but I haven’t had the opportunity of having this parable used in order for the congregation to bring canned goods! But, as for any other parable, the context of it is extremely important. Many times, people take things out of context in order to better themselves or the church. One of the biggest examples of this that I’ve seen is in Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. I’ve seen this verse used over and over again in order to get people to either give money to the church or to get volunteers to help out around the church. While that verse may be true in a way, it isn’t always talking about money.

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  6. “this is a parable about the audacious grace of God.” P long I really liked that comment. It is so true because as everyone is talking about the context and reading this passage within its context and not trying to apply it to the church today, but take it for what it’s worth and then apply it. I believe churches and people get caught up in the actions of trying to maintain favor in the eyes of the Lord that they will take passages such as these out of context and then try to apply them like you talked about in a church with canned food. It isn’t a matter of where you stand socially but of how you act and the position of the heart. Like the Jewish leaders that figured they would get into the kingdom only to find out that knowledge is nothing unless applied and lived out.
    I can understand how the difference of classes cause this idea of “only the higher classes get into heaven” which then makes it so the underclass and poor think of themselves as unimportant and unclean. “Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry this kind of grace by eating with sinners, now he is welcoming people into his kingdom who showed the same grace to other “least of these brothers.” ” This is the important part of this parable, that Jesus is demonstrating that it doesn’t matter where you are socially only if you believe and act according to that faith you will enter into the kingdom. No one can announce who is saved and who will enter the kingdom except for God, and so it doesn’t matter where the social standing is as long as the faith and heart is there.
    Pablo I liked your honesty and your view on Luke 6, you are correct it is not only talking about money and we Christians should not abuse that it could in order to guilt people into giving. We need to take every piece of scripture according to how it is written and not how it COULD have been written or what it could stand for. Context is key!

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  7. Indeed, it is our duty, yes our responsibility to care for the poor! Jesus identified himself with the poor and outcasts of his time and as his followers we are to do the same. In this section of scripture I believe Jesus is stating a fact as to what IS going to happen at the end of the age. He is telling his audience that this is the way it is going to be at the judgement. But, this poses a question for me. Are the actions described in this story a matter of works salvation or is there a giving/devoting one’s life to Christ. What is the “salvation aspect” of the story. People are being allowed into the kingdom based on what they did for people not trusting Christ as Lord and Savior Or, are the good deeds a result of salvation? Not sure. What a day this is going to be. .

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  8. I really like how Chris starts of saying that it our duty to take care of the poor, because that is a very important statement. I think it is very important to take care of the poor, but this passage is sometimes also taken out of context. It is not bad to use this passage as a motivator to get people to bring in canned goods to the poor. When people think that good deeds, such as this, will get you into heaven is when they are mistaken. In order to understand what Jesus is trying to say here you must read this in context.

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  9. I’ve noticed this as anything other than a parable, but Dr. Long is clearly on to something. And I think the nature of this passage and what is said here says a great deal of not only who Jesus was but also who Jesus thought he was and more specifically, how he viewed his role. This being a parabolic prophecy shows us that Christ is well aware of who he is. He considers himself a prophet AND a teacher. And he also sees himself as the king. This is the central theme of his kingdom-near ministry. He is king and as king he is the presence of the kingdom; of what is and is to come. Moreover, Jesus redefines life around himself; especially Jewish life, customs, tradition, and teachings. He is king, he is God, he is what will separate. He will be the judge and the true Shepherd. He and the Father are truly, in every essence of relationship to Israel, one.

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  10. “This parable-like section is a grand conclusion to the Olivet Discourse and sums up many of the eschatological themes in Matthew.” I most definitely agree, P. Long. As many have already said, context is extremely important. The only thing that I wonder is: how do these things make sense in the mind of those hearing Jesus for the first time? Also, once understanding this, is it not possible to relate elements of this story to the modern church? Or is is safe to assume this story is only dealing with eschatological themes? Regardless, we must understand that so often we do not understand the original and historical context of the parable stories or teachings of Jesus. While they are applicable, in many ways, to the church today, they are not always meant for direct instruction but rather for the understanding of God and His plan for the world.

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  11. From reading this parable and reading about the original intent of it and who Jesus was talking to and the whole purpose of the conversation, I too agree that this is an apocalyptic prophecy with some parabolic intents in it. I don’t believe the parable was directed towards taking care of the poor, even though that is something good and what God wants, but I don’t believe that was the aim for the parable. I believe that Jesus uses the sheep and goats as metaphors of productive and unproductive servants. Those who are active in their faith and those that aren’t. The Bible says that faith without deeds is dead and I believe that Jesus is explaining that if you have faith, then you will serve God by serving others and doing good for others, but those that don’t love God, don’t see the need to serve others but only themselves. This isn’t only applied now but the part that is apocalyptic is that there will be a separation at the end of the age. Jesus is telling them that He will separate those that served Him from those that never served Him.

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  12. We are to take care of the least of these. This passage has a clear meaning of being aware of those who are less fortunate than you. The poor deserve more than a can of corn, they deserve our love. God loves us and pursues us so that we in return will pass that love and pursuit on to others and thus return to Him. Context is important and gives us an outline for understanding of the passage we are reading. This passage must be read in context to fully grasp its meaning.

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  13. This may be going out on a bit of a limb here but could it be that this story is in reference to Israel considering that they made up the main body of his audience? Could the many of the “goats” in this situation be Jews who thought they were shoe ins to enter the kingdom of God but really never knew God. Instead they just followed their rules and missed the point and had constantly wrong motives.

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  14. “We are to take care of the least of these. This passage has a clear meaning of being aware of those who are less fortunate than you. The poor deserve more than a can of corn, they deserve our love.” (Andrew Clark) I really liked this quote from Andrew, and we see this kind of action constantly not only in the Law, but also as teaching and something we are to do as
    co-heirs with Christ. I think of the Good Samaritan parable. The person of the law asks Christ, “What is the greatest commandment?” And Christ says, “Love the Lord your God, and your neighbor as yourself.” Yes, love your neighbor, EVERYBODY. Love those around us, those on the streets who need food.

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  15. I see many comments and read many commentaries on this passage and I have been enlightened by the context given to me that the book of Matthew (a book written by a Jew around 70-110 AD) records or translates Jesus words – Jesus already died and rose again by the time this book is written – so in getting Jesus message out meant that Jesus was speaking to people around him and in that moment there were people who claimed they were following ” the Lord” , the “Messiah ” and / or “The King of the Jews” / “Lord of Israel ” etc… etc .. So Jesus is speaking to these people and even his disciples to an extent but its mostly directed at those who are rejecting the “disciples” of Jesus and yet these are the same people claiming they follow the same Lord . I hear this passage used in fear based ways to instill a sense of fear or urgency that you can be left out of heaven if you don’t adopt these needy kids or help the poor , go to prisons etc. And though I know it is obvious that Jesus calls His followers to do such things they are not bad things at all , to me this passage when unpacked really is not one of those kinds of passages that calls us to that – I mean its not the sole reason for the message , it may have a fold in doing such things however .You see this passage of Scripture is not about faith alone or faith without works being dead or all the varieties of salvation messages that get added to it over time , those sorts of things . What I feel the Spirit gave to me is that these passages speak to how the earliest disciples were saying they met the Messiah or they heard the witness accounts , that the first followers were getting persecuted and thrown into prisons and were losing anything of “earthly” value, to follow Jesus , no longer were they following the ways of the Roman authorities or the Jewish temple leaders , the nation of Israel and how that civilization and society stood at that time , what have you. They were following Jesus at a cost . And those people spreading the “good news” were a nuisance and got hungry and got thrown into jail for blasphemy and being revolutionaries , disrupting powers and they were without proper clothing . And so not only was this message conveyed to reveal and display this new covenant but it was also a clear depiction of who the least actually were. In context in actuality the disciples were also the least and were speaking about Jesus being “the One” , and many were waiting supposedly for the advent and yet missed Him but still said they knew Him and knew who God was . Jesus was speaking to those professors mainly and conveying that if they did not help these people who are speaking in my name ( Jesus speaking ) and who are giving up comfort and they are poor and hungry on account of my ( JC) message they bring , then those people were actually rejecting God Himself, therefore on judgement they would be rejected as well. Its a little tweak to most commentaries out there, I see a lot of context bent toward end times and punishment with this verse and chapter and although its true to an extent its not really the whole proper context – still many context commentaries are similar to what I just described but Im amazed at how few still convey the message in this regard that Jesus intended and through the lens of properly grasping the early days of the first church . It makes perfect sense when your eyes are opened to it, and then you hear all this false preaching on this verse ( i mean look up all the sermons on it , wow) and yet thats supposed to be the sound teaching because so many were taught it a certain way and just blindly accepted without digging deeper and one they years people added their own doctrines they grew up with or certain judgment kind of doctrine which has a confirmation bias attached to this passage . Not to mention the varieties of changes in church history . Consider that people use this passage to make disciples feel bad or to warn unbelievers of judgment , or we get told if we were “really ” disciples we should be doing these things. Or you hear and consider that believers or church goers are told that false believers are among us, like the goats mixed in with the sheep and that is true , like weed in the wheat ( wheat and tares) and it all will grow together until that time when … harvest what not, but its more leaning that earliest church is who it speaks to more than us now , it is meant for us to know it and see it but it was not meant for us to interpret it listening to how we believe something today in the modern history since it was written and even later became the NT . SO you know its hard to tell them apart and so you have these false prophets and false professors around and thats true. I see that and hear that but we are so apt to judge anytime someone is different and not indoctrinated , when in essence the passages show how disciples and followers of the Lord should be treated , that thats how we should be treated and those who reject our testimony towards Jesus and how He saved us and changed us and revealed His Kingship to us, when we don’t look the part and are not full of pride and not really looking so spiritual or whatever to the rest of the world that looks on the outward appearances and sees religious cloaks rather easily , they reject Jesus . So in essence its how disciples ( we who follow Jesus ) should be treated and the result of those who reject us , reject Jesus as well. Theres a two fold you get out of it I feel ultimately . So we also should be doing the things it says but not to “church ” people because in the “Christian ” or “religious ” circles are goats and sheep , and yeah we should be doing those things to the least and all those outside of the church( the bride and the Body of Christ ) and all those who have not been born anew by Spirit yet. We should be loving the outsiders and thats like taking care of Jesus ( one fold ) the other ( second fold) is that those who claim they knew the Lord in Jesus day and around the time Matthew recorded this message , it was truly truly meant for them more so ,who ever wrote the book of Matthew was sharing that Jesus conveyed that those who follow “me” ( the Lord Jesus referring to himself) will be thrown into prison , martyred , get sick and have needs ( these were the first missionaries) and if you take care of those people who claimed Jesus you received me ( Jesus referring to himself) . I feel its still a foretelling perhaps of future judgment day but not so much should it be an emphasis about that as it is about the moment it was spoken and the early church and those listeners who would have understood it better , and understood more clearly than we would , as time goes on we added so much to it and many doctrines and disputes cloud its origin . Though even some of the error in interpreting it have some good sounding truth , some nuggets of truth , ultimately the passage needs a true translation in modern times which relates to the current culture . And its not about hell and brimstone , its like saying if someone is string the Good News and sharing that Jesus is the One way , the One door and One Shepard to knowing our human Creator and having a relationship with Him , and that how we becomes part of the One Flock,if one rejects that person then they are rejecting Jesus too. But again I don’t even think its about a disciple today necessarily either , it can be helpful for a disciples and a follower to hear this passage and sift through it , but it was merely meant for that early day in who it was spoken to directly . Its useful for any follower today but its translation mainly is not to apply it today in a way for salvation purposes . hope that makes sense , its hard to convey it in words… and I don’t have the lofty descriptions of what my words already have words to describe them, just don’t know those theological heady seminarian terms .

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  16. I love the opening paragraph of this post! They should at least give a recipe to use with that canned okra! But this apocalyptic parable I think can be summed up similarly to that of the 10 virgins. There are a lot of people who resemble a sheep (goats) they think they are close enough or have a false view of their salvation or false confidence in themselves that even though they are a goat, they can try and do enough to act like the sheep. But, in this case I think the parable is explaining that there is a lack of doing that the sheep are doing, therefore they do not enter. These are the kind of scriptures that confuse me. Is Jesus saying that only those who are doing good works and taking care of the poor and the least of these entering into the kingdom? I thought salvation was based on our faith in Jesus Christ. Has Jesus already labeled us goats and sheep?

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  17. The parable of the sheep and the goats relates in some ways to the parables of the talents and the parable of the ten virgins because they all present two kinds of people, those who pleased God after he returned and those who disappointed him. The goats in this parable are similar to the foolish virgins and the lazy servant because all of them were not prepared when Christ returned for the final judgment and were rejected the kingdom of heaven because of it. Even though they thought they would enter in, they did not because they were fools and did not do as Christ instructed of them while on earth waiting for his arrival. The sheep in this parable are similar to the wise virgins and the hardworking servants because all of them were prepared for Christ’s return and were welcomed into heaven. These people may not have felt worthy and did not think they would be let in; however, they were more worthy than those who were more focused on themselves and their own lives. The blog talks about Pharisees and other people who did not take care of the poor, witness to the unbelievers and lead as a good Christian should and how they believed that they were still going to get into heaven, but in reality it is those who are lowly and humble servants who truly want to glorify God with their actions.

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  18. I can imagine in a culture that placed a large emphasis on social status, Jesus’ teaching would have been shocking. How could those who were the “least” find the most favor in God’s eyes? The religious leaders I can imagine would have been mortified to hear Jesus teach that they were the foolish ones. And at the same time, I imagine those who considered themselves the lowest would have found it surprising to think they could be first into the kingdom. Strauss says that in first century Palestine, protecting the status quo was very important. Ideas of equality did not exist, instead there was a mentality of “serve those above you and exercise authority over those below” (p.206). How would those who were considered the lowest react to the teaching that they in fact may enter the kingdom of God first, while those who were considered the holiest may not? You state in the blog that the underclass would not have thought of themselves as serious candidates. It makes me wonder what their response was when they then heard Jesus say the opposite? Were they filled with hope, or did they laugh it off as wishful thinking as Sarah laughed when she heard she would have a baby (Gen. 18:12)? However, just as in the parable of the Ten Virgins, it brings a sense of sadness when thinking of all the people who wrongly believe as the Pharisees did, that their actions will grant them access to eternal life. And for those who are saved, it is reminder of how truly amazing the gift of salvation is, for we really are all “the least of these”.
    Strauss, Mark L. Four Portraits, One Jesus: A Survey of Jesus and the Gospels 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, Zondervan Academic, 2020.

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  19. I think that something that stands out about the people referred to as “the least of these” is not that they are poor or that they have suffered, its the humility they have and understanding they have gained from being at the bottom of society and the economy. The difference between the least of these and those who are well off is that, the ones who had the least still had faith, but how many of the wealthy would still have faith if their circumstances were altered. It is easy to praise God when all is well, but praising God through the pain and strife of poverty, is a feat not many of us could overcome. God does not care if you are rich or poor, sinner or priest, it is the actions and thoughts that shine through, his grace has no limits.

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  20. This is one of the most interesting parables that Jesus told. One of the things said by my HCSB Bible notes is “both the sheep and that goats were surprised at their qualifications” and that “mere profession of one’s belief that doesn’t lead to love and concern for people is useless” (1450). We are not supposed to just profess to have faith in Christ and then do nothing with it like in the parable of the talents. We are to put it to use and get as much worth out of it as we can before Jesus returns.
    Many people tend to think of the parables of Matthew 25 as heartless, but as I am thinking about it, I am reminded that only God knows the heart of every person and based on that knowledge, He is able to and will make a judgement about who is righteous in His sight and who is unrighteous. As said in John 2:25, “He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man” (HCSB).
    Our unexpected is not unknown or unexpected to God. He knows everything and we can trust Him when He says someone is either righteous or unrighteous.

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  21. I believe our heart motivation goes into the actions we do. Saying if you do this to get this in return is not what Jesus had in mind when He gave us this parable. While this may not be a traditional parable with an application to everyday life, it does hold some aspects and is an apocalyptic prophecy that can be treated like one. Jesus is the central character in the parable and shifts the title used from Son of Man to the king, which can be seen in other parables during Jesus’ final days of ministry. The sheep and goats’ actions are being judged by Jesus, this is not for our time on earth, but during end times. This parable shows us we will be separated and judged looking at our actions from the earth, Jesus asks many questions from this. The questions are also interesting based on the perspective, Jesus was not asking if they did these to their neighbor, family, or friends. Rather, He is asking if they served Jesus through their actions, “as you did it for one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it for me” (Matt.25:40). This is not for one another to judge, they can give grace and truth, but Jesus is the ultimate judge. Jesus showed this example in His life, this was not a new learning experience for how we should act. The addition to His actions is the idea of being judged for these actions. This is important to keep in mind, not to get more rewards in Heaven and be seen as the best, rather coming with a humble heart.

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  22. I think that it is interesting that Jesus uses the example of sheep and goats. The two animals are not all that different, and yet when sheep and goats are discussed it seems that there is a vast difference. God could have used any other animals for the example, but the the lamb and the sheep are continually spoken of in a positive light in scripture while goats are spoken of in a negative manner. Perhaps the comparison also alludes to Jesus being like the sacrificial lamb. Those who follow him will be like him and be “always on the watch” and avoiding sinful habits as Jesus warns the people to do in Luke 21:36. While those who do not will be like the goats. Imposters of the kingdom and trying to enter, but choosing not to follow and be like Jesus completely.

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  23. We look at a man redeemed and one saved, and a man condemned and lost in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. A casual reading appears to mean that the consequence of good deeds is redemption. The “sheep” behaved charitably, offering the poor food, water, and clothes. No charity was demonstrated by the “goats.” This appears to help in the sheep’s redemption and the goats’ wickedness. The central message of the Sheep and Goats Parable is that the people of Faith will respect others. Positive deeds are the product of our relationship with the shepherd. Christ’s disciples would respectfully regard others, serving them as though they were serving Christ Themselves. The lost are living in the opposite direction. Although “goats” will literally commit acts of goodness and charity, their hearts are not right with God, and their deeds are not to respect and worship God for the right reasons. You must serve with a giving heart, many times people want to do things for recognition or because they know it’s required of them but God loves a cheerful giver and those who do things from the heart.

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  24. Just after reading over the parable and your first few thoughts on the topic, I was struggling to think of how this could be about God’s grace. Growing up this was always the verse used by traveling missionaries and non-profit charities that would come to church or school and tell of their financial needs. Because by helping them, you were helping Jesus, or something like that. It is sometimes too easy to forget that these verses were not written for us, they had an original audience that understood better its context. When he is speaking about those who fed him and those who didn’t, is he speaking about the disciples versus the Pharisees? Is the flock that is being separated the children of Israel, the Jewish population to whom Jesus did his ministry? Are the Gentiles the ones on the outside being let in? One thing is clear, is that Jesus again noted the difference between the givers and the takers. Those who had much and did not give and those who had little and still gave. It is a continual part of his ministry that he ate with the poor and the sinners. We see him with the woman at the well (John 4), we see him with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), and with the woman who washes his feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50). We know that Jesus went out of the way to dine with these people and this should be an application for our own lives, even if it’s not a direct application of this passage.

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  25. I believe that in the parable Jesus is explaining the story by using the goats and sheep. We as the human population represent them. With that being said, I think he is showing how in the end times we will be judged. The judgement will be based on who is faithful to him and who was productive in their Godly ways. It is important to understand that we will be judge. As talked about in the story many thought that they had already made it to the gates of heaven but when judgement time came, they had not. This proves that we have to continue to be servants of God even when we think we have been enough already.

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  26. The two animals being described in the verse have very vast and distinguished differences. With that being said it is why I believe Jesus is talking about religious leaders and others in society at the time. In current days we consider sheep as prey or helpless, which would be those following religious leaders. With that being said, goats are depicted as demonic or dirty, the religious leaders. I would also like to draw a comparison to the foolish and the wise, wise being the sheep and foolish being the goats. Those who are vulnerable are actually higher in their eyes, (probably not what they expect), and those in a position of power are often lower. The hierarchy at the time brings a thought process of serving those above and holding authority over those below, just like a movie I have recently watched called “The Platform,” (very good movie). Those who think of themselves as less are humbled while those who are at the top are full of pride. We are often blinded by things such as pride, envy, etc, in order to gain access to heaven, in order to be seen as the status which we are or would like to be, we must overcome those sinful manners.

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  27. As soon as I started reading this parable, I noticed the header of the passage saying, “The Final Judgement”. I find it interesting that you mentioned, P. Long, that this is more of an apocalyptic prophecy with parabolic elements to it. When comparing this parable to the one previously discussed, the parable of the 10 virgins, I can understand and agree with the fact that this is more of a prophecy than a parable. Aside from reading the header, the first instance I noticed that this passage was about the Final Judgement was in verse 33 where Matthew says, “And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left” (ESV). These “sheep” relate similarly to the wise virgins in the previous parable, as well as the “goats” relating similarly to the foolish virgins in the previous parable. This little metaphor of sheep and goats representing the roles people will take at the final judgement is often more understandable to the reader. This could simply be due to the fact that the shepherd/sheep metaphor is used often in the Bible, with the sheep representing the follower of Christ. The reason that nonbelievers are represented as goats in this parable is explained within the passage. Matthew writes, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…'” (Matt. 25:41, ESV). Goats are not represented as pure, so they are the animal closest in relation to sheep that could represent a cursed human. This is all to say that this metaphor of the sheep and the goat is significant to understanding this prophecy because of the greater understanding of the symbolism of the sheep.

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  28. This parable is very similar to ones that we have seen before, such as the “Ten Virgins”, and the story of the robber. This parable in particular however was the clearest for me to imagine, however after reading it I definitely did not interpret the parable to the fullest extent. I missed the point of grace/compassion and only focused on the people who made it to Heaven, and the people who did not. Originally I only took this parable as a lesson to always be ready for the return of Christ. However, it goes further beyond just that. This parable illustrates how we ought to act throughout are lives. The “sheep” who received grace from God were the people who showed compassion for others, while the goats did not. While it is true we must be ready for the return of Christ at any given time, it is important we understand what it means to be “ready”. It does not mean to just anticipate everyday that God is going to come so we should just not do anything at all with our lives. It means that we should live everyday bringing glory to God, just as the “sheeps” did.

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