King Jesus the Shepherd with the Sheep and the Goats
Jonathan Swift

King Jesus the Shepherd with the Sheep and the Goats

The least of these

The Test of a Nation's Greatness

"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats..." Matthew 25:32

This is a dramatic and overwhelming scene that Jesus describes. As far as the eye can see, the nations are gathered before the throne. There are sheep and there are goats at a time when only sheep are truly welcome in the flock. There has been considerable blending up until this point, but now the shepherd is dividing them.

And there is one criterion by which He judges the nations. How did you treat me when I was among you?

He is not talking about His incarnation here, but His presence among His people many of whom were the poor, the lowly, the imprisoned, the hungry, and so forth. He is identifying with the powerless that He described in Matthew 5 and, from their perspective, evaluating the powerful.

What did you do with all your influence to positively touch the people I love? That is His question. It is the test of a nation's greatness and the test of greatness for every institution or individual that has been entrusted with power. Were you just? Were you fair? Were you generous? Were you compassionate? Were you righteous? Were you aware that I was there in the midst of my brethren?

This is one dimension of judgment in the heavenly kingdom and Jesus gives us a preview. It is but a glimpse. We could not understand more, but we can understand this much: We must always be aware of Jesus and receive others as if we were receiving Him.

The greatness of America has always been in her central idea: the dignity of every human being under God. It is the basis for freedom, laws, and our system of government. For the Christian, that means looking for the image of God in every person we meet and treating that person as we would treat Jesus.

Another Thought on Verse 32

Seeing Jesus: Sheep and Goats

There is a question for self-examination emerging from this passage.  Such examinations are painful, but the process is necessary for our growth.

Am I among the nation of sheep or the nation of goats?  How do I align myself with what God values and those with whom Jesus identifies?

Leo Tolstoy spun a tale about a cobbler who was given to believe that Jesus would visit him on a particular day.  He made simple but elegant preparations.  One by one the poor came to his door and he served them, but he came to the end of the day without the visit for which he longed.

Then he realized what had happened and he heard the voice of Jesus with the words of this passage.  So, the real question is this: Am I seeing Jesus where Jesus is?  That question separates the sheep from the goats.|