Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 22, 2020
“Two Types of People”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our Good Shepherd Jesus. The basis for the sermon is the Gospel lesson read from Matthew 25 – Jesus’ narration of the day of final judgment.
My dear friends,
The brilliant poet Robert Frost once said, “There are two kinds of people: some willing to work and the rest willing to let them.” Do you agree? Would you agree that there are two kinds of people in the world? I would anticipate that some of you will accept that statement, and others will not. Which, I guess, just goes to show you that there are two kinds of people.
For example, there are people who think that salvation is a free gift from God, including myself. Then there are others who would say, “No, salvation is something you can earn.” Take today’s Gospel for instance. One group would analyze Matthew 25:31-46 and say, “See! You can get into heaven by the things you do! That’s what Jesus is saying as the basis for why He separated the sheep from the goats.” That collection of people is free to say that, I guess. They’re wrong…but they can still say that.
That group of people is wrong because they fail to understand the real reason for the separation of the sheep and goats. Did you notice that, at the final judgment, neither the sheep nor the goats – the righteous vs. the damned – are surprised by the fact they are sheep or goats? No…they are surprised by the reason that Jesus gives. The sheep know they are sheep because they are God’s people called by faith. Those called by faith do what the faithful do! The people of God serve our neighbors for the sake of the neighbor; our single motivation is the need of the neighbor. Sheep serve our neighbors because we love our neighbors serving them for the neighbor’s sake. The sheep don’t serve because they perceive Jesus standing over their shoulders. Sheep are motivated by a faithful heart; the goats were not motivated from the heart. Their hypocrisy and their apathy towards Jesus are what condemn them, not their “inferior” works. Salvation is a matter of the heart, then the hands and not the other way around.
You know what I find interesting? This lesson is the end of Jesus’ long narrative about the end of the age. And what happens next in Matthew’s Gospel? The events of our Lord’s passion are set into motion: Passover celebration preparation, His anointing, and Judas’ betrayal. This final judgment narrative is Jesus’ last public teaching session…and His topic is the end of the world. Why? Because very soon one group of people will be crushed by the events of Jesus’ passion that end in His death and another group will be indifferent. It’s just like I said…there are two different types of people in the world. And perhaps you’re confident that I’m going to tell you that God also thinks there are two kinds of people in this world.
And if that’s what you’re guessing, my friends, you are wrong. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. God believed there is only one kind of person in this world: sinners who are helpless, lost and condemned to hell. There were no exceptions.
Of course, while that may have been true at one point in time, thankfully it no longer is. This means God believes there are three kinds of people in this world. What! Two kinds, then one kind, now three kinds! Pick a lane, Pastor! Ok…I will. First, there are the lost. Once upon a time all of us were on that list. Then something happened to change the makeup of that list. A second kind of Person came into this world. That second kind of Person was the Second Person of the Triune God…Jesus Christ.
Born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is unique in the history of humankind. His perfection, His godly qualities, His dedication to giving His life for others, make Him an individual who is head and shoulders above anyone else. Jesus fulfilled both prophecy and His Father’s lawful will. His life was lived without slip or stumble – the only PERFECT person. Type #2.
So, to recap. First, we have the lost. Second, we have the perfect – Jesus Christ. He’s the only One in that category. This, of course, takes us to the third group of people. The third type – these are those who have been given faith in Jesus as their Rescuer and have had their sins washed away in the blood of the Lamb. The redeemed – the sheep – have a righteousness of the heart given by God, fed and nourished by His life-changing Word and soul-sustaining Sacraments. God desires that all people fall into this last category (1 Timothy 2:4), but the goats are there by their own choosing, and that, my friends, is tragic.
Do you know any “goats?” Are you okay with the fact that the goats will be cast into eternal punishment after hearing Jesus say “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (25:14)? Scary thought, right? How will your prayers and attitudes and behaviors be different knowing that your neighbor is destined for eternal damnation?
This is the end of the church year and many times at the end of the year, people reflect on “big ticket” issues like life and death (Charlie Crowder, COVID-19). Do you ever wonder what people will think of you when you’re gone? What will your legacy be? Did people “see” Jesus in you? Will you be remembered as one who fed and welcomed and clothed and visited? If your faith was examined in a court room, what evidence would be used to make a case one way or another? Do people already know you’re a sheep? How come? Why not?
On the Last Day, Jesus will make a final separation into two types of people. True believers – sheep – will be welcomed into heaven. The other group – the goats – are condemned. Live this upcoming church year and the rest of your days confident of what type of person you are and allow that to reflect in your daily living until that glorious day of deliverance.