Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Sheep and the Goats. . .

I greatly desire to spend eternity with Jesus.  Above everything else I want to make my home with him.  At one point in the Bible the Lord said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant"  Who is a good and faithful servant?  How can I know whether that phrase fits me?  Those words were said in a parable that Jesus was telling his disciples in Matthew Chapter 25.


In Matthew 24 the disciples had asked Jesus about the end of the world:  

Matthew 24:3  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  

Jesus answered the first two questions: "When shall these things be" and "what shall be the sign of thy coming" in chapter 24.  He gives the signs of the end of the world, but then He then asks a question of his own, a more important question than the questions that his disciples asked Him:

Matthew 24:45  Who then is a faithful and wise servant?. . .

Jesus spends the remainder of chapter 24 and all of chapter 25 giving us the answer.  He first begins:

Matthew 24:45-51
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?  (46)  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.  (47)  Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.  (48)  But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;  (49)  And shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;  (50)  The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,  (51)  And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus is talking about servants.  Servants are not strangers.  Servants are those who are in the household of the master.  Servants do the bidding of the master, but to be a faithful and wise servant,

A servant must be:
1.  Taking care of the responsibilities that the master gave him.  He cannot slack off from his duties and do evil and think that he will get away with it merely because his master has been gone for a long time.

Jesus continues:

Matthew 25:1-13
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.  (2)  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  (3)  They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:  (4)  But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.  (5)  While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.  (6)  And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.  (7)  Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.  (8)  And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.  (9)  But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.  (10)  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.  (11)  Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.  (12)  But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.  (13)  Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

He reiterates and expands on what He said in chapter 24.  Now we are given the parable of the 10 virgins.  We have 10 pure and undefiled ladies, holy in their ways.  All 10 have the source of light with them.  Their lamps are able to cast light for illumination, but 5 have neglected the fuel for their lamps.  In every other respect they are acceptable to the bridegroom and worthy of Him, but they are rejected for their unpreparedness.  From this we can learn that

A servant must be:
2. Always prepared.  His lamp must be continually filled with the fuel that allows illumination as no one knows the time of the bridegroom's return.

Jesus continues with another parable.  We are now given the lesson of the talents:

Matthew 25:14-30
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.  (15)  And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.  (16)  Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.  (17)  And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.  (18)  But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.  (19)  After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.  (20)  And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.  (21)  His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.  (22)  He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.  (23)  His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.  (24)  Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed:  (25)  And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.  (26)  His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed:  (27)  Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.  (28)  Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.  (29)  For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.  (30)  And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Again Jesus speaks of servants.  Again these are not strangers.  They are those who have a relationship with their master.  Servants receive benefit from their master and are thereby obligated to uphold their Lord's interests.  The Lord has entrusted each servant with varying amounts of treasure.  Each servant was given treasure according to his ability to manage and utilize it.  For not tending to his masters interests that servant was sent out into the darkness and despair.  We learn again:

A servant must:

3. Utilize what his master has given him, to the master's benefit.  By not using what you are given, you are not conserving it, you are losing it and will be held accountable for the loss. 

Now Jesus leaves the parables behind and speaks directly and prophetically to the happenings of the end time:

Matthew 25:31-46
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  (32)  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  (33)  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  (34)  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  (35)  For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  (36)  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  (37)  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  (38)  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  (39)  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  (40)  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  (41)  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  (42)  For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:  (43)  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  (44)  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  (45)  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.  (46)  And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

All the nations shall be gathered before him.  The Greek word translated 'nations' in verse 32 is 'ethnos'.  Jesus is not speaking of the divided countries of the world.  He's not talking about the various political divisions of the earth but rather of tribes and families and individuals who will stand before Him.  

In verse 40 where He says, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren. . .", the Greek word translated 'brethren' is a compound word: 'a-delphos'.  The first part of the compound 'a' is the first letter of the Greek alphabet.  The same word alpha that is used for Jesus in his being the Alpha and the Omega. 'a', the primary, the first, the most significant.  The second part of the compound word 'delphos' means womb.  So the word translated 'brethren' means from the primary womb, from the most important womb. . . to paraphrase: "Inasmuch as you have done it to one of my least important of my womb-mates then you have done it to me. . ."

What womb is Jesus referring to?  Jesus was not of Eve's womb.  His was not the womb of all mankind.  Jesus came forth from the womb of Mary.  The Spirit of God entered into the womb of a virgin, a woman untouched by man. . . and by a miracle was he born of a virginal woman and the Spirit of God. . .

Who then are the womb mates of Jesus?  Those who have been born, not of the womb of a woman, but reborn, born again of the water and of the Spirit.  The womb mates of Jesus are the brethren of His rebirth.  Jesus came up from the waters of His baptism and immediately the Spirit of God alighted upon Him after his second birth.

In another verse, Jesus is even more explicit about who His brothers are:

Matthew 12:50  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

The word translated brother in this verse is the same, 'a-delphos' that is translated as 'brethren' in Matthew 25:40.  Jesus defines 'brethren' specifically, as those who do the will of God, they are His brothers.  Jesus is not talking about unbelievers here.  He is not talking about strangers, but His brothers are those who do the will of His Father, those with whom He has shared a womb. . .Jesus places huge importance on how the least important of his brothers in His kingdom are treated:

Did you act on your womb-mates hunger?
Did you act on your womb-mates thirst?
Did you act on your womb-mates having no friends?
Did you act on your womb-mates having no clothing?
Did you act on your womb-mates illness?
Did you act on your womb-mates being imprisoned?

Based upon those questions, He separates His flock into sheep and goats. . .One interesting difference to note between them, is that sheep are continually producing something of value for the shepherd, every day they are growing wool, while goats are not as consistently valuable to the shepherd. . .

So the 4th lesson we can learn about being a good and faithful servant,

A servant must:

4. Be continually aware of and seek to serve the needs of his womb-mates, his fellow servants.

Scriptures will often have an immediate meaning at the time for which it was written and very often yet another meaning for people down through the ages.  Jesus here in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 gave one of the longest recorded lessons in the Gospels, second only to His Sermon on the Mount.  These lessons, these talks were given to his disciples and his disciples alone.  There were no large crowds present.  This was a private conversation between He and His disciples.  Chapter 24 begins by saying that His disciples came to Him privately.   Jesus spent all this time preaching and teaching on being a good and faithful servant to his disciples. . .He preached on being a good and faithful servant to Judas who betrayed Him in the very next few verses.  Do you think that only coincidence? Or was the Lord was trying to reach and save Judas with these lessons. . . Thank you my Lord. . .

To summarize and to personalize what we have learned by this study:

1.  Take care of the responsibilities that the master has given you.  We cannot slack off from our duties and do evil and think that we will get away with it merely because our master has been gone for a long time.
2. Always be prepared.  We must be wise and prepared.  Our lamp must be continually filled with the fuel that allows burning illumination, for we do not know the time of the bridegroom's return.
3. We must utilize what our master has given us, for the master's benefit.  If we do not use what we are given, if we are not conserving it, we are losing it and we will be held accountable for the loss. 
4. We must be continually aware of and watch out for and serve the needs of and lift up our womb-mates, our fellow servants.

This study has been a tremendous learning experience for me.  When I first started reading about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, I was not at all clear as to what Jesus was saying. . . I have learned greatly during this study. . .

Thank you my Lord. . .
Thank you my God. . .

Dave 

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