ISAIAH 40:1–11, MARK 1:1–8
Today, the gospel of Mark brings a BIZARRE STORY about a man for the Second Sunday of Advent. While Isaiah spoke of this man as a "voice crying in the wilderness," the gospel of Mark identifies this person as John the Baptist. His story was strange to us today in many ways. First, John made his living in the wilderness and lived with wild animals. He was eating Locusts and wild honey for his diet. Lastly, John wore Camal's skin to cover himself—sounds primitive!
Both passages bring to us the message of readiness in our calling, comfort in our weary, deliverance in weakness, and peace in our distress and hope in our sorrows. Isaiah comforted Israel in the Babylonian exile, promising deliverance from God. That God has forgiven his people and now it is time for God to accomplish his divine purpose by taking his people back to their promised land. That, the messenger has been discharge to "break the good news" of restoration to his people.
The gospel message speaks of John the Baptist, who did not desire to live in big Manson, a nice house, or even in a tent. He was not interested in eating hamburgers, fries, and chicken sandwich. There were no hot wings for appetizer nor chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Yet, even in his uncomfortable situation, John was ready for the purpose to "break the news of the coming of the Messiah." He proclaimed a message of repentance, forgiveness and return to God.
You may ask whether John had indeed eaten Locusts? The Answer is a BIG YES! John the Baptist "ate Locusts and wild honey." Eating Locusts may sound disgusting. However, Locusts were prefect diets for John the Baptist. And YES, John did not wear a suit, or even a T-shirt, but what he wore were made of a camel skin and his belt was made from a fresh leather. This too, sound uncivilized.
John was ready and he has all the equipment for the task. The Camel skin helps protect from the severe heart of the wilderness and the leather belt support his back as he walks long ways. Honey has antioxidants and Locust has portion to build up strength.
Yes, it is primitive for us today in the 21st century. For ancient Israel, Locust was the type of insect allowed by mosaic law in the Torah-extract. "Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs that you may eat are those which have knees extending above their feet, [using this longer leg] to hop on the ground. Among thee you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family, and the white locust family. All other flying insects with four feet [for walking] must be avoided by you." Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, ohr.edu: (Ask the Rabbi April 30, 1994, Issue #19)
How does Locust test? Served as are Kosher snacks, many people say Locusts test like chicken and crunchy in texture. This may not surprise you either. Take Africa for example, different kinds of insects are eaten by different ethnic groups all over Africa. As anthropologists/sociologist would say, the beauty of a culture/tradition is in the eyes of the beholder, say anthropologies.
Therefore, eating Locusts for John was normal. He was content with his lifestyle (Philippians 4:12-13). Even if his food and clothing seem uncomforting, John was buckled-up and was at peace with himself while in the wilderness. He was ready for the task given from God. And at the right time, John was discharged to remind people, exhort them, and call Israel to repent and return to God and the God of their fathers. He called for a new life in Israel. He led simple life but equipped to deliver a message from God.
John appeared, in the wilderness after 400 plus years of God's silence since the prophet Malachi. In those four hundred years, people had lost the meaning of life and tend to wander around over gods. Yet, Jehovah Adonai raised up a prophet to restore the fortune of Israel and bring back the nation to its path.
John the Baptist had the Spirit and zeal of the prophet Elijah as it was promised by prophet Malachi, saying, "Behold, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes" " (Malachi 4:4) (Luke 1:17). John came to draw attention to God. He was a hairy man like Elijah, “a hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kings 1:8). Elijah was a miracle worker, a messenger who encountered King Ahab and his wife. He prayed and there was no rain in Israel for three years because people chose to worship Baal over the God of Israel. After three years, Elijah defeated queen Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. He destroyed the worship of Baal at Mounty Carmel and led the people back to worship Yahweh (1 King 18).
One more thing, in the ancient days, there were no microphones, emails, Facebook, Tik-Tok, snapchat etc. to help spread their message to people. The messengers had to go around on foot announcing the message from one location to another, so that people could hear them. They use their voices, etc. to call attention to their message. A message could be a King's edict, public announcement for a special meeting or a call for war. People go out to listen to a prophet.
I remember back in Africa when a messenger would walk round my village from one location to another. They would repeat the message twice and people close to the road would ask him questions for a better understanding. Then when the messenger voice or the trumpet does not sound for the next five minutes, it would be understood that everyone had received the message. But people would continue asking others about the announcement. At that point, everyone is assumed to receive the message and are tasked to pass on the message.
This is similar with John experience and ancient Israel. People kept pouring to listen to John because the message has been passed on from one person to another. It was done human to human connection!
God's promise was fulfilled in the coming of John the Baptist (Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3). John was a long-promised messenger to come and prepare the way for Christ's coming. When John emerged from the wilderness, people were interested to see, hear, and even talk to him (Mark 1:7).
Like Elijah, John asked people to repent and chose to live a life fit for repentance. His Baptism was for the change of hearts to God—as making a "U" turn when you make a wrong exit. His message meant to remind people of forgiveness and reconciliation. He compared this newness or change as of constructing a highway, where the valleys are filled-in and the hills made low. He called upon everyone to make such radical change, in that the whole world shall see the glorious salvation of God. A World at peace and everyone cares for one another.
John made it clear, that Messiah will be "baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire. Meaning people will be baptized into Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. As with fire, means everyone will be made accountable and responsible for their act of faith. He called people out of Jerusalem, back to the wilderness at the Jordan river. For many people, we may think John had lost his mind by asking people to leave behind their comfort life. But this was the prophetic model. Elijah too, had called queen Jezebel and his people out to Mount Carmel. There, Baal was defeated, and people entered the city with the rain pouring after three years of draught.
Here, John recreated Israel's entry to the promise land and to Jerusalem. Remember, Jordan was the last River the Israelites had crossed when entering the promise land. During the first entry, Joshua called out leaders and elders of the 12 tribes ad laid stones to help crossover to the new land.
Now John symbolized this event. By his call to baptism in the Jordan river, John the Baptist signified the spiritual reinter to the promise land. It was calling for new partnership with God and make people ready to receive the promised Messiah. He tasked people to go and "break the good news" they had just received. He had made it clear all-along to people, that he was not the Messiah. But he was the forerunner in the preparation for the coming of the promised One.
I can go on and on with literal background of this rich story. But let us turn to what it means to us today. First the location of John's activities present challenge to the temple practice, temple goers without real change and life of faith. His message exhorts to virtue and self-righteousness. He demands purity of heart, repentance of guilt and forgiveness. This too, is a call for us today to step out of our comfort zones in our ministry.
Second, John calls us for renewal; Isiah invites us to partner with God during this advent. As Israel returned to God when years of exile ended, we too, are remined the drawing new of the light of hope. We are called out to accept the message of God with pure hearts. The voice calling us to the church outside beyond the building walls. In every advent season we begin a new journey with God and reminded of our experience's wilderness/ of life circumstances. In his journey, the Lord assures us his presence. On Christmas Hope of new life is born again in our hearts. Yeshua, the savior confirms his indwelling among us—as Emmanuel—God with us!
Third, as John had his full armor of God, we are asked to do the same this time as we journey through Advent. You and I are demanded to "fasten the belt of truth" and "put on the breastplate of righteousness" and break the good news of God's grace (Ephesians 6:10-17). As John asked his attendees, the Lord asks us today to empty ourselves and to "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:13).
Fourth, we are strengthened and comforted in our darkness of life. "Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins" (Isaiah 40:1-2). This season, the Lord is taking us back to his intended purpose. He assures us of forgiveness, and gracious gift of salvation—it is accomplished through Christ! Our hope in Advent "…is not grounded in the possibilities we can see in the human community, but in the faithfulness of God that is not conditioned by human frailty or fickleness" Charles B Cousar.
Fifth, God is doing something new in our wilderness as we are reminded of our Baptism. God speaks anew into the silence and desolation of our lives when we repent, listen, and recognize his voice. The Lord brings assurance and solidarity to us—God is always faithful to his promises.
Take our current situation for example. We long for a time where everyone is set free; where no mask is required; where everyone talk to family member, a friend, a coworker freely without being cautious of contacting the virus. This time was like the exiles to whom the message of deliverance was first broken. They were anticipating a day when they were all set free and enjoy peace at last.
It is the same for us today during this season. We are all exhausted, mentally, emotionally, and weary spiritually and hope for a new day. We are anticipating Christ's birth. God's promise of care and concern for you, in your moments. “Like a shepherd the Lord will take care of his people. He will gather his children, carries them in his arms and leads nursing mothers through the long journey of the desert… " (Isaiah 40:11).
Therefore, as Israelites were tasked to prepare a road for the coming of Yahweh, now we are informed to make our hearts ready. Human heart is center of our change. It is the temple of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. From our hearts the spring of life and the living water flows (Prov. 4:23; John 7:38). In this season, make peace, love one another, take care of the poor, and feed the needy. In that, God comes and indwells in our hearts and make his living in midst. Then we will be blessed with the gifts, of compassion, and forgiveness, care, toward others and build unity with our neighbors.
Sixth, the work of evangelism is to show God and newness where none seemed possible. As messengers of the good news, we are dispatched to speak, break the news (mĕbaššēr"/ መስበር) loudly and clear calling people to be at peace, stable and ready in these trying times. You are called to break the news of the new season where light shines through the dense darkness and shall not overcome. A message of breakthrough, that gives future for those who has no future. Let us acquire a passion for the gospel message and bring comfort to the brokenhearted, of assurance of peace and a promising future.
Lastly, let us be content with our lives and run the race of faith as we prepare to receive the newborn Messiah (Philippians 4:12-13). May Christ finds a space in our hearts on Christmas Day, where our spiritual exile ends, darkness of our circumstances is dispelled and drought of desire for peace yields to springs of water of blessings through Christ. Life begins anew, whole, safe, protected. Everything comes anew after hearing the good news proclaimed and act on it. As we are reminded of our Baptism, know that we are renewed, revived and "…everything old [left behind]; everything become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Therefore, let us be ready and prepare our hearts for Christ’s return as a Baby born in Bethlehem. Let us welcome the Messiah and proclaim ["mĕbaššēr"] the good news to everyone. Peace to you and to the whole world!
Mark 13:24–37; 1 Corinthians 1:3–9
First Sunday in Advent
It is the first Sunday in Advent Season. A time of expectation, waiting and watchfulness. A time of prayer for hope, peace, joy, and love as the dawning light of the promised child approaches. This time of the year, once again, we feel the urgency to prepare for Jesus’ coming on Christmas day. So, let me ask you. How are you feeling in the wait? Are you anxious? Are you sitting or standing? How you wait matters.
Many people think that our tradition might have changed the concept and the doctrine of Advent and Christmas. This sounds convincing to me. Because narrowing down the Advent season to only four weeks’ counting in our culture, seems to shade the whole meaning of the season. Advent becomes more secular and money-oriented, as everyone buys Christmas gifts for loved ones. Then Advent becomes a four week and Christmas as onetime event every year. Also, church seems to pause from the watching and waiting when Christmas is left behind.
However, Jesus reminds us today and calls us to watchfulness and to be alert as we wait for his return (Mark 13:24–37). This means we are to observe the three phases of advent: The first advent (Jesus is born in Bethlehem), (the everyday Advent), the resurrected and the now present Jesus, and the Second Advent (the ascended and the returning King Jesus). If the scripture is true, then, any time before and beyond the season of Advent, is considered as the season of anticipation for the church. Our faith journey and everyday life is part of the Advent Season.
Our gospel today calls our attention to the Second coming of Jesus, not as a baby, but as a judge and King. King Jesus, as we learned last Sunday, will return with a multitude of angels. He will sit on his glorious throne and separate the sheep from the goat. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:31-46)
Jesus talks about his second coming and I agree it doesn’t sound promising. But let us remember that, there is no first Advent without the Second Advent. “By the same token, confidence in the Second Advent is possible only when the church recollects the fulfilment of the first advent” says Charles B. Cousar.
The old testament refers to this day as “the day of the Lord” and our passage today is dense with OT quotations. The prophets: Joel, Isiah, Jeremiah, Micha, Malachi, Daniel, etc. referred to this day as sudden, beyond our control and our predictions. The day of “tumult and trampling and terror,” a day of battering down walls, a day of tribulation. A day filled with darkness and awful crisis. For this reason, the prophets had been calling on the people of Israel to be prepared and be ready if they wish to be spared from the judgment of the Lord (Malachi 3:16-18). “Who can endure the day of his coming?” Malachi asked. This, indeed, doesn’t look like the day of Advent we are waiting for this season.
Like many of you, I would love to hear a more promising message this season as we are battling the Coronavirus pandemic. We can relate the Second Advent to our current situation and the hope for a vaccine. We are hopeful, as the news has been reporting that, soon, the scientists will deliver a vaccine to help contain the virus. But the vaccine will not help those who are not willing to be vaccinated. Only those who receive vaccination will have confidence in the protection of the vaccine, they will feel secure in the face of the virus. They will be careful but not fearful and terrified, even if there would be another wave of the virus.
This is true with the Second Coming of Jesus for those who believe. The PCUSA doctrine of the Christ’s Second coming affirms this fact. The doctrinal statement correlates to my theme for this first Sunday of Advent. That “The doctrine of Christ’s Second Advent is not intended to terrify. Rather, it is aimed at motivating faithfulness in time of tedium as well as in times of crisis. Believing in Jesus’ certain return provides encouragement when life seems purposeless or when evil seems to be too powerful to overcome. Rather than being anxious and pessimistic, God’s people trust hopefully and live joyfully because in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has revealed the divine purpose of well-being for all.” Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
What an affirmative statement! I must stop here, I guess. This doctrinal statement says-it-all and provides us with the truth of the Second Advent. Besides its awfulness, tumultuous and terror, the Second Advent comes with rewards for those who believe. It provides healing and enlightens hope: The day of the Lord comes with hope and healing. Malachi says, “for you who revere [the name of the Lord], the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” Malachi 4:2. The day of the Lord, will elevate the desire for relationship. The Lord will appear to those who desire life, open their hearts, confess their trespasses, and repent from their past. This process is compared to a process of a refinery and washing with fuller’s soap. Then, the Lord they are seeking will come to the temple of their hearts and made a covenantal relationship (Malachi 3:1-3). And this day will bring New Life and New Beginning: The day of the Lord brings final restoration of God’s people to God’s Kingdom. And the dwelling of God will with men and God will live with them and God will be their King and their light forever (Rev. 21:3; Micah 4:1-2). A new partnership is established!
Therefore, “anticipation of Christ’s return enables us to enter this struggle as vigorously as if it were the eve of the last day. It exists in us as an expectation that God continues to redeem the world.” Charles Wiley. Charles tells us the truth, if I read that correctly. That we should live our lives as if we are in the eve of the day of the Second Advent. Jesus also cautioned us on how we are awaiting the second coming. He encourages us to be alert and patient because how we wait matters.
They said there was a man at one of the packed Delta ticket counters in one of our airports: All of ticket agents were doing their best to politely process each passenger as quickly as they could. Toward the end of the snaking line was a passenger obviously impatient and very frustrated at having to wait so long in the slow-moving line. He finally decided to march right up to the counter and demanded that he be given a boarding pass. The ticket agent turned, looked at him, blinked, took a shallow, deep breath and said, "sir, as you can see there are many passengers ahead of you. We are doing our best to process the passengers as fast as we can. I'm afraid you'll have to get back in line." Outraged and red in face, the man yelled at the ticket agent saying, "do you know who I am!!!? The ticket agent turned, looked at him, blinked, took another shallow, deep breath, picked up the public address system microphone and said calmly, "There is a man at the Delta ticket counter who does not know who he is. Anyone who may be able to identify this man is asked to please step forward and identify him. Thank you." (5jokes)
How are your feelings in your waiting? Are you getting frustrated? Many of us are impatient like the man at the Delta counter and think that the end is getting further away. We submit to the deceit of our emotions which unconsciously make burnt out like the "not-wise" virgins in parable of Matthew 25 :1-13. Then we forget "who we are." Some of us lose hope and stop moving in the line of faith; some of us want to skip the line overall and start to speculate about when the day of the Lord will come. Some of us become skeptics and reluctant when we are pressured by life circumstances. For this reason, Jesus warns us to “learn a lesson from the fig tree,” and remain alert and watchful because—the Second coming is “unknown and Sudden.” It comes with no warning and no one predicts it. Beware of the false teachers who will lead you astray from the truth, Jesus said.
The Scriptures do not deny the side-effects of the long waiting. We are informed that with the long wait, we will be facing numerous challenges. There will be:
The Son of Man, the owner of the house, the church, is coming back! He warns the church and the members to be alert. His warning helps us to avoid being trapped in what I termed the five Side-effects of waiting. You are advised to be alert but hopeful in his return. Yet, let us remember that, "Advent is neither a time of silly optimism nor an invitation to self-indulgent despair, nor even a hope built on the shaky foundations of experience. It is the hope, the only hope worth having, hope for the confidence that translates our dangerous impatience into expectant living in the here and now. It is the hope that aspires toward the future that is in God and for which the farmer is the example." Everett C. Goodwill.
However, the loving God did not leave us empty-handed in this waiting. God has blessed us with hope that rests on the conviction that we are destined for life-eternity, not for his wrath and destruction. God has enriched us with the blessing of heavens: we belong to Christ; God equips us with discernment and knowledge; he sanctified believers through the blood of Christ. Paul assured us of God’s promise, saying, "God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9).
Therefore, know that you are called to help one another by utilizing your gifts and offer encouragement to make everyone strong in faith as we keep watching and anticipating Christ’s Second Coming. Whether Jesus comes as a baby, on Christmas Day, or now as he is present in the Holy Spirit, or when he comes as King to judge and reward the elect, you and I are warned to wait and be watchful! Remember that “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth [the Lord] has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).
ADVENT IS HERE!
We pray for Hope
MATTHEW 25: 31-46, EPHESIANS 1: 15-23
I once heard a joke about a king who sent his soldiers to an operation and his Knight was leading the operation. Then the Knight and his men returned to the castle after a long hard day of raiding.
“How are we advancing?” The king asked.
“Sire,” the Knight replied, “I have been robbing and plundering ruthlessly, burning the towns and farms of the enemies to the west.
“What?!” shouted the king. I don’t have enemies in the west!
“Oh, no…” says the Knight. “Well, you now do.” (5jokes)
After reading this passage, one would see Jesus having more enemies to the left when he returns to separate the Sheep from Goats on judgment day. While scriptures teach that salvation is by faith and not by good works, one may assume that this passage presents a reward for good works.
Here is the fact. The Protestant Reformation was built on the Biblical truth of salvation by faith and rejected any form of church systemic principles and concepts attributed to human salvation. Salvation is unmerited favor of God and it comes by God’s grace. Salvation cannot be earned, nor achieved on the basis of human endeavor, but it is solely a gift from God alone. It is God's initiative and action.
Yet, this passage seems to present something different when we read that the sheep are ushered to the Kingdom of God because they have done good to others. But is it true that the sheep are received in the Kingdom of God because of their charitable works? Did Jesus demand good works as the basis for our salvation? These are few questions anyone reading this story would struggle to understand--
Remember, Jesus used parables in most of his teachings. His Parables were based on life experiences, cultural practices, and allegories of his time. People understood, reflected on them, and applied them to their faith lives. In a few cases Jesus would tell the disciples what the parables means. Yet, parables are hard to comprehend, to find meaning and apply, mostly for us in the 21st century. Our trust is in the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit, the counselor— (John 14:26).
In Matthew 25 alone there are two parables and the third part of the passage, is the teaching of Jesus about his return. We learn about the parable of the ten virgins—(about saving faith); the parable of the talents— (about Service faith); and the story where Jesus put forward the kingdom future— (Gracious faith).
Let me refresh our memories for a few seconds and explore the background. Jesus was in the temple with his disciples in the prior chapter, (Matthew 24). They left the temple passing through the Kidron Valley to mount Olive. In the later chapters, this would be the same path for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and too, where he would be praying at Gethsemane, and then when he would be led to Golgotha.
The disciples lagged after church. They kept gazing at the temples’ beauty. When they came up, they tried “to call his attention” to the features of the temple and asked him of his return and the signs preceding his coming (Matthew 24:1-3)
Now, they were on the mountain top. They sat down and Jesus began encouraging the disciples to be alert and cautious of the false Christs who might come in “between” and the time when he would come back. Jesus exhorted them to remain faithful stewards of the gospel. “It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns,” Jesus said (Matthew 24:45-51)
Then Jesus moved on and told them the parable of ten virgins and the talents and the last sermon he preached in his lifetime on earth. When you explore this passage, you will find it interesting that this story is not a mere parable. The story of the Kingdom and judgment is different from the rest of the parables Jesus had told and taught in the book of Matthew. It does not follow the features of a parable. Jesus began saying, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” His desire was for the disciples to look back to the parables he had taught them for the last three years. That they would say Ah, ah… Jesus was the Bridegroom, the Master with talents, and now Christ is the King who is coming back from a distant county to subdue the authorities under his feet (1Corinthians 15:25-26).
This passage is the last sermon of Jesus on earth. He concluded his teachings with this simple passage. You may say Jesus left the best for last! — “I am returning, but to judge.” From this story onward, Jesus will be going through the last chapter of his life on earth. Matthew said, that when Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “as you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matt 26:1-3).
Today, Jesus tells us what is going to take place when he returns. When Jesus comes, the Kingdom comes with him; he comes to separate and judge. Just try to envision the court room and the proceedings. You can feel the intensity, the silence of the multitude around the throne and the smell of fear as the judge proceeds to sentencing. King Jesus will be sitting on his gracious throne. He will not be rude but gentle. Nations will gather anxiously for the hearing session. But you may ask, how would someone know who is a sheep and who is a goat? Good question, but I do not have a straight answer either. Yet, three things stand out in this passage and Jesus wants to convey that
1st Good works and charities do not have any place in our salvation— (the sheep did not know they did it to the Master)
2nd You and I were once goats, but when Son of man came:
a. He found us lost, naked, and he clothed us with love (Luke 15:1-10)
b. Jesus visited us while in our prison of sin and disobedience (Romans 5:8)
c. You and I were hungry and thirsty for truth and Christ gave us grace and mercy (Matthew 9:31)
d. You and I were strangers and refugees on earth, but Jesus called us friends (Ephesians 2:3)
3rd Transforming Grace—Though we were sinners, You and I are born again in Christ through the love of God. The good works in this passage are simply the outpouring of grace. We do good works freely and without expecting to receive a payback. Jesus did it first and now we are encouraged to pay-it-forward (not payback). Remember, the Sheep did not know when they had done so to the Master.
Therefore, your charity, love and compassion for others are the overflowing of grace. Your generosity springs from God who gave his son freely, from King Jesus who surrendered his authority to the cross and was humiliated for your sake and atonement (Philippians 2:5-11).
As Christians, the “Will” to serve others is in your loving DNA (Sheep). The sheep did so not for self-glory, neither for self-righteousness nor fame, but as an action of their faith. They did so as an outpouring of praise and thanksgiving to God. This simplicity of life and good works happens when we are created anew in Christ, renewed through the power of the Holy Spirit, and transformed in God’s love. In this new birth of our baptism, a new relationship is established, a new identity is formed, and a new name is given— a Sheep not a Goat.
What make sheep different from goats is not their features. You cannot distinguish between Christians and non-Christians based on their outfit or hairstyle. It does not depend on the fact that goats have beards, neither on sound of their voices. It is not because goats have ears sticking out and hear more. But because goats disobey. Goats run away. Goats are stubborn. They claim to be independent and active in their own world. They brag on their efforts and say they do not need any help from the master. Goats are sneakers and like to put their shepherd in trouble. There is a lot we can say about goats, which are non-believers according to our passage.
On the contrary, sheep listen and follow their shepherd; they depend on the provision and compassion of the shepherd—the shepherd leads to still waters (Psalm 23). Sheep cannot stay in the bush by themselves when they are lost and are easily attacked by enemies. Sheep trust their master, but goats do not. For this reason, eternity will be the last blessing for the sheep. For they have passed through hardships on earth (Revelation 7:10). The King will say to them, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” For those on the left, they “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
Therefore, Jesus tells us today not to “leave anyone behind” while he is returning. King Jesus encourages us to help, and support others with little things we can do. It could be a meal, a bottle of water, a warm blanket, lifting the spirit of a sick person and talking to a stranger on the sidewalk.
Help without expecting a pay back—those at the right, did not even think they were helping Jesus when they did so. They did it only because they could. Doing good works was natural to them and we should do the same from our hearts. Paul said to the Corinthians, “you must each decide in your heart how much to give. And do not give reluctantly [not with regret (GNT)] or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (2 Cor. 9:7). “Whereas on the other hand, the attitude of those who failed to help was; “if we had known it was you, we would gladly have helped; but we thought it was only some common person who was not worth helping,” said William Barclay.
Yahweh tasked his people Israel to look after the disadvantaged and foreigners among them and not to glean their harvest but to “leave [some produce on the ground] for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:22). You and I are given same responsibility to look after and be our fellow-human-keepers. We are called to love others as King Jesus first loved us. And when we give generously and freely, we are rewarded with the gift of joy. As Sheep we will rejoice in life eternally with Christ and with the angels of Heaven in the Kingdom of God.
Now, I leave you with this message as Paul said to the believing community in Ephesus: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” Amen!