Why does Jesus Hate Goats?

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24    
Psalm 95:1-7a    
Ephesians 1:15-23     
Matthew 25:31-46    
Christ the King
November 26, 2017
Why does Jesus Hate Goats?
    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

    It would appear that our Lord has a thing against goats.  Clearly our Lord has never spent a lot of time with sheep or he would have changed this parable. Being a Rural pastor for 4 years, I learned that there is a big difference between sheep and goats.  Sheep are dumb, require constant supervision, will walk off and get lost, and are not that tasty.  

    Goats are smart, almost too smart at times.  Most goat farmers will tell you the way you keep goats in a field is that you put them in the field that you don’t want them in so that they will jump the fence and go into the field you want them to be in.  Goats are sometimes known as a sacrificial animal.  Those fainting goats were actually bred to stay in the field with more expensive livestock so that when a wolf would get into a field, they would go after the easier of the prey, I.e. they would faint so that the cattle could get away.  They were useful in more ways than one.  And speaking of cattle, ideally it is one cow per acre of land so if you have a 500 acre farm, you can only have about 500 heads of cattle.  But imagine how much hay and grain you have to grow to feed them in the winter.  You need a lot more than 500 acres to grow all that feed.  You can put goats a lot of goats on a 30 plot acre of land and when they graze, they eat all the bad grass like thistles and weeds.  And they taste good.   Personally, I think goats are the wave of the future.  They are more ecological friendly and more cost effective.  Yet, it seems our Lord has cursed them as God cursed the snake in the garden.

    Goats get the raw deal, or so we think.  One thing that I have come to learn about Jesus is that he hates it when we draw lines.  A Gettysburg Seminary Professor (I believe it was Robert Jenson) is quoted as saying, “Whenever you draw a line in the sand to say who is on the inside of the kingdom and who is on the outside of the kingdom, Jesus is on the outside - Jesus is always with the outsiders.”  
So, I think we need to be careful when we say, “Jesus hates the goats; the goats are on the outside” because Jesus always goes to the outsiders.

    The parables are set up this way to show favoritism to the last, lost, least, little and lifeless - essentially the outsiders.  This parable from Matthew 25 illustrates this quiet well.  And quiet frankly with Advent right around the corner - the parable also does a great job explaining Jesus birth name - Emmanuel, God with us.  After the angel tells Mary and Joseph to name Jesus Immanuel, nobody ever calls him that but yet the entire gospel has been structured to show what it means to have God with us.  

    Christ is with us in the hungry beggar that we walk by on the street, Christ is with us in the child thirsty for a drink of clean water, Christ is with us in the visitor who beckons our door for the first time, Christ is with us as we visit the sick in the hospital room or at home, Christ is with us when we visit the prisoner sitting on death-row awaiting his or her fate.  These are all activities that we most certainly avoid.  We might not think twice about giving a child a glass of water in our neighborhood but think about developing countries where many walk miles to get water for the day.  Imagine the freedom that could be given to everyone, children included, if running water could come to their villages.  Imagine children no longer having to choose between daily substance and education.  Every time we ignore pleas from these countries to help in bringing aid in the form of running water, we ignore an opportunity to meet Christ in our midst.  

    This is what eschatological living looks like.  We talked about this two weeks ago.  Eschatological living means we are are ready for Christ’s return, we are watchful for his coming and we are prepared for the day when world will cease to exist as we know it and the Lord’s day is ushered in.  Eschatologically speaking then, being ready for Christ means we watch for his return in the most minuscule ways, we watch for Christ in the most unlikely places, we prepare for Christ by caring for the least of our brothers in sisters.  Because here’s the thing - Christ is not absent as we might think he is absent.  Christ is present, he never left us.  For Matthew, the kingdom of God is not as distant as we might think of it.  God is present with us.  Emmanuel doesn’t mean that Jesus was here and then left us.  Emmanuel means that Jesus is here now, with us.  Jesus never left us.  That is very much a Matthean theological claim that none of the other gospels make and that we so often forget.  

    This parable is more than just a plug for social justice ministries.  Living out your faith is far more than just charitable actions.  This parable highlights the need for us to be in relationship with all of God’s people.  Not just those sitting next to us in the pew but in those sitting outside our four walls.  John Chrysostom once said, “If you can’t find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will never find him in the chalice.”  How are we in relationship with those around us?  
As Jesus asked in the parable, “Do you know me?” Are we simply just serving our neighbors when we feed them or are we suppose to get to know them on a more deeper and spiritual level?  I think the parable argues for more than just care.

    This is what it means to be a king.  A king is not just someone who protects the people but gets to know the people whom he or she is charged with serving.  Real, Christly leadership means we remember that those whom we are called to serve have names and stories.  We are called to feed, care, and comfort those least in our society, but we also are to know them because Christ is present in their lives, in their faces, in themselves.  And we are also not tasked with separating out the good from the bad because when we do this, we almost always fail at seeing who is really blessed and who is really cursed. We are not called to separate but to love.

    And we fail at this every day.  None of us live up to what Christ our King has asked us to do in this parable.  I have been listening to a book called, “The President’s Club.” Every, single President has had real strengths and real failures.  None of them have been able to be a great president - none of them have ever been a savior to the American people as Christ was a savior for us.  We fail at recognizing Christ in our midst every day; every, single day.  What we can do, what should do is strive each and every day to not draw lines.  We recognize the power of having the last, lost, least, and lifeless in our midst.  Because in welcoming all who cross our door in from the cold, we will see Christ is not distant but is present in the faces of all people.  

And if I see the Christ in you, and you see the Christ in me, and if we see the Christ in each other - imagine what this world would like.  The kingdom of God would become a reality. In a world where dictators and tyrants, kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers fail at being true servants of the people - we should see that none of that really matters. What matters is that Christ is present right now, right here, in the flesh; changing lives, changing hearts, changing minds—Changing the world.  
See, the world will never change by people simply coming to church.  You can’t just check the day off the list. The world will change when the church no longer sees sheep and goats, but sees Christ as the ultimate head over all the world, that we not attempt to divide them or judge others but welcome all the sheep and all the goats to the table.  Because that is what our King did for you and me.  Unworthy, miserable creatures that we are, we found forgiveness from the king over all the universe.  

    In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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