Sunday Message for 11-22-2020
Occasionally, I turn on Antiques Roadshow just to see the various items people bring in and the supposed value.
They are always surprised by the value of the items they bring in. I have items at home that are family heirlooms
that one day, I may like to know the value.
There is a story about a man in England who found an old blue and white vase in his attic. Thinking it might
have some value as an antique, he took it to an auction to see what he could get for it. To his utter amazement, he
sold the porcelain item for the fantastic sum of $324,000. The buyer had recognized it as an original piece of 15th
century Chinese art from the Ming dynasty!
So often we do not recognize the value of what we have, what we do, or what we say, but Jesus does! Our kind
words and our good deeds, we may consider insignificant and worthless, and yet they will be praised by the Savior
as having eternal value. This is our theme this morning – the love of Jesus Christ shows forth in our daily lives and
Our Gospel lesson this morning is a disturbing story for it speaks to us of judgment. It reminds each of us that
yes, there will be a day of judgment when we will be held accountable to the Lord for the life which he has given to
The scene is before us - Jesus separating the people into two groups those who shall share in his glory and
those who are told to leave, to depart from him, to exit into eternal separation from God. The standard, it seems, is
one of showing care and concern for the Lord. And both groups, those who are saved and those who are forever
cast out, act confused. They both ask, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked
Picture the scene in your mind, the crowd pondering the question, "When did we see Jesus hungry? When did we
see Jesus sick? When did we see Jesus without clothes?" When? When?
It is like walking into a store and seeing a familiar face and trying to remember who it is and where you know the
person from. Those who are being judged are trying to remember when they saw Jesus hungry or thirsty or naked.
Let us leave the people who are pondering their fate as they search their recollections of when they saw Jesus in
need ... and turn to the one upon the judgment seat. It is the Christ: The King of kings. The Lord of lords. The
son of the Living God in all of his glory and splendor. Yes it is the Christ, the one who was crucified for the sake of
humanity; the one who walks with us and talks with us and lives among us; the one who rose from death to new life.
It is the Christ who is upon the judgment seat looking at each of us, separating us - the faithful and the unfaithful, the
sheep and the goats.
Several years ago, when preaching on this text, a visiting pastor stopped and saw my sermon title, Sheep &
Goats, and asked me, as he looked at the sanctuary, which side was for the sheep and which side was for the goats.
We laughed together.
In Palestine and the Middle East, it is a fairly simple matter to separate the sheep from the goats, for the sheep
were white and the goats were black. Even in the fading light of dusk, a shepherd could easily distinguish between
the sheep and the goats. But in our modern day world, we are not able to tell the difference. Zachary Coleman
once said, "I never, hardly, ever see a pure bred, either sheep or goat." In other words as we look around the world;
as we look around our community; as we look around our church; we are not able to see the same way Jesus sees
for the sheep and the goats are not pure bred - they all seem to have some white, they all seem to have some
black. We are a mixture.
For we must remember that even the greatest saint in the life of the church is still a sinner for the Apostle Paul
says that all fall short of the glory of God. At the same time, we also must remember that the worst murderer and
rapist were created in the image of God. The reality is that we are not pure, we may be good people but still
sinners, so how can we tell who are the sheep and who are the goats?
We must remember that it is not our position to judge. We are not able to see the way the Judge sees for the
judge is none other than the King of kings, Jesus the Christ, who is able to look and see unerringly into the main set
of our souls, of our lives. For we realize that no person can face two directions at the same time.
Jesus knows the direction we face; Jesus knows the dominant motive in our lives. Jesus sees and knows our
hearts. And if our motive in living life is right with the Lord, if our heart and our love is right with God, then Jesus
sees, without a shadow of a doubt, a sheep and then He will say to us: "inherit the kingdom prepared for you". That’
s good news.
But if our motive in living life is focused on me, myself, and I; if our heart and our love for God is really focused on
ourselves, and what we can get out of the church; and what we can get out of others, then the blackness of our
heart shines forth, and Jesus sees, without a shadow of a doubt, a goat and then Jesus will say, "depart from me
into the eternal fire."
We cannot see the way the Judge sees. We cannot look into peoples' hearts and determine if they are sheep or
goats. All of us want to be sheep. All of us probably think that we are sheep. But what we must examine today is
Jesus' criteria in judgment.
On that Day of Judgment, when we stand before the Lord our maker, we will not be asked whether we were
Presbyterians or Baptists. We will not be asked to recite the creed. We will not be asked how many times we have
been in worship. Peter will not check our stewardship record to see if we have faithfully given our tithe. We will not
be asked about our position in the community. These are all immaterial to Salvation.
No, we will be asked about the way we lived our lives. Do our lives show forth that Jesus Christ was truly Lord of
our lives? The king of kings will want to know about our love, our care for people. We will be asked about what is in
our hearts which shows forth God's redeeming love and care for all people, which shows forth that Jesus Christ is
The people that Jesus raises up in his criteria for judgment – that is the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, the
naked, the homeless – these are people that are not able to give us anything in return for what we do on their
behalf. They are not able to do anything more than say "thank you" and many don't even say that.
As we see people in need, how do we respond? Is there a quickening in our hearts by God? Do we feel an urge to
respond…or not? Do we desire to share God's unconditional love with them… or not?
Motive is the real issue. Why do we do what we do? God is not going to keep a record of how many cans of food
we give out at Thanksgiving and Christmas. God is not going to keep a record of how many times we have given a
dollar to a beggar. No, God's criteria are greater than mere charity. God's criteria are the direction and the focus of
our lives. Do our lives resemble the life of Christ?
The issue is motive. Why do we do what we do? If our acts of charity are only because we want to score points
with God, only because we want to look like good people to friends and neighbors, then our faith will languish and
die showing forth the true color of our hearts - black. This is works righteousness and we are saved by faith and not
But if our acts of charity, if our acts of caring spring forth form the love which is made known in Jesus Christ, the
love of Christ which is in our hearts, then our faith will grow. Then our acts of love and compassion will grow. And
when we stand before the throne of God, the judgment seat of the Christ, awaiting the word of judgment to be
proclaimed ... we will be astonished that our day to day, the lowly acts of care, the lowly acts of kindness, were in
actuality a service for the LORD.
We will be amazed that these simple acts of love and care which we have done all of our lives is worthy of such a
grand and glorious reward. The key is what is in our hearts, actually who is in our hearts, and how that person,
Jesus the Christ, leads us to live our lives. Once again, motive – why do we do what we do?
This is the key to the sheep. The service to God was a part of the life one lives in Christ. They may never have
realized that the love they shared was actually Christ’s love. They may never have realized that the ministry to
people was actually Christ's work. It was just a part of who the sheep are and what they did as they lived their lives
for the Lord.
The reality is that judgment is coming for all of us. Salvation is not easy. Salvation is not cheap for it cost God the
life of Jesus the Christ. Salvation is more that having the right creed - Jesus is Lord - it is living that creed, living with
the Lord dwelling within our hearts ... and enabling the Lord to live and work through each of us.
Judgment is coming. Are we sheep or are goats? We are not able to tell by looking at each other. Yet the Christ
is able to take a glance and see immediately the color of our hearts. Some will be black and they will be told to
depart from the Lord forever. Others will be white, as white as the pure driven snow, for it will be the heart of the
Christ beating within us.
I pray that the Christ is a part of our lives today and everyday. I pray that his love fills us with love for our neighbors,
especially those who may be in need – the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the lonely, the dying. And I pray that as we
look at the world around us, as we look at the people whom we may hate, as we look at the people whom we may be
angry with; as we look at the people whom we may despise, let us see the person of Jesus Christ in them. And let us
reach out to them in the love of Jesus Christ.
The way to salvation is through the love of God made known in Jesus Christ. It is more than saying Jesus is
Lord; it is taking this love into our own hearts and sharing it with our neighbors - the neighbors who may live in our
community, the neighbors who may live thousands of miles away, let us share God’s love made known in Jesus
Christ. Let us share this love with all the people of the world; all the people, even those who are totally unlovable...
even those we may not even like, for they too have been created in the image of God. Jesus loves them as much as
Jesus loves us.
Let us love one another in all that we do... Let us show forth Christ’s love which is in our hearts so that we, too, may
live in the presence of the Lord for all eternity. This is the Good news.
Let us pray: