Today we reach the final passage in the Oliver Discourse, the parable of the sheep and goats. In this parable, Jesus is painting for us a picture of His return, and the assembling of all people for judgment. They are divided into two groups “as a shepherd would divide the sheep from the goats.” This language from verse 32 underscores the figurative nature of the parable, and once again I must remind you that this is not a literal passage.
The king, representing Jesus, says to sheep, representing His people, that they are to enter into His Kingdom which is prepared for their inheritance, representing eternity with Christ.
“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. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Jesus tells them they are “in” because of the things they have done for Him, and yet they have no knowledge of having done them. In verses 37-39 they ask when it was that they did these things for Him, and He drops the bomb in verse 40:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
To fully appreciate the gravity and significance of this statement, recall the lessons of the first two parables in this chapter. Half of those 10 virgins were “ready” when the bridegroom came for them, and they entered the wedding feast. When the master returned from his journey, two of his servants had used the money that he had left with them for the master’s benefit, and they were rewarded richly. Add to these our question in the last post about the commands Jesus gave us: Love God, love your neighbor, love you brothers and sisters, forgive one another and make disciples. Putting these things together, we have an amazing picture.
The things the king will say the righteous have done, are those things Jesus has commanded us to do. We love God, He loves us, and He loves our brother. Thus we love our brother because we love God, and show God’s love in us when we care for our brother… and when we do that, we are expressing our love for God. Thus, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
In the remaining verses, the goats are condemned because they did not do these things for the king. They appeal to the king, “When did we ever see you in one of those situations?” And the king replies that if they didn’t do it for the least of these, they didn’t do it for Him!
Now we have the whole picture of what will be necessary for us to be ready when He returns suddenly and without warning; it’s all about the way we live and interact with others. If He should return today, will we be ready?