I was reading awhile ago in Matthew 25-26. The sweeping apocalyptic scope of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse ends in Matt. 25 with the parable of the sheep and the goats; warnings about wars, the decimation of Jerusalem, and personal preparedness for the hour of Christ’s return give way at last to a simple tale of eternal reward and judgment.
The sheep, who represent the righteous, are received into eternal bliss because of their faithful service to Christ — it was He they ministered to when they loved and embraced the indigent and needy. The goats, representing the unrighteous, are thrust out of heaven to share the awful fate of Satan and his minions. Why? They refused to serve Christ by turning a deaf ear and a cold heart to the pleas of the indigent and needy.
Every time I read this parable, I come away shaken and eager to take spiritual inventory. Am I behaving like a sheep or a goat? I can’t imagine that the reaction of Jesus’ disciples was much different. That’s why it doesn’t surprise me that they were indignant a few days later when a woman “wasted” an entire jar of the costliest perfume by anointing Jesus with it.
“Why this waste?” they protested. “The cost of this perfume is exorbitant. We could have sold it for a high price and then given the money to the poor!”
Translation: “Hey, lady — weren’t you listening to that story about the sheep and the goats the other day? HELLO?!? We could have behaved like sheep if you hadn’t blown all that dough at one time on the Master. What’s the matter with you?!?”
Can you hear Jesus’ words about the sheep and the goats ringing unmercifully in their heads? Who can blame them, right? I mean, who in their right mind wants to go the way of a goat? Ah, but their Master corrected them.
“Leave her alone,” He said. “What she’s done is beautiful. What’s more, wherever My Message is preached, her kind deed will be memorialized.”
Jesus makes two things plain here. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and loving the imprisoned are all essential pastimes, but they are secondary. Nothing can overshadow the importance of the relationship that feeds and energizes all that we do in God’s service. Lavishing our love, devotion, and treasure on Jesus comes before anything else. By personally beholding His countenance in prayer and worship, we gain the visual acuity to perceive His gaze in the eyes of the needy.
aka The MonT-SteR