This week, the Narrative takes us through the vision of the sheep and the goats, a riff on Ezekiel’s vision of sheep. Matthew continues to lay out glimpses of what the kindom of heaven will be like, and what the return of the Son of Man will reveal.

Working Preacher Commentary is here.

This is not an easy passage for many of our ears. We do not spend much of our time or energy, perhaps, contemplating the return of the Son of Man. Perhaps we still need to ‘keep awake, therefore’, as instructed last week.

The idea of judgment is also a difficult message to hear. We don’t want to be judged harshly, but perhaps more than that, we don’t want to be found out as having let God down. I sometimes think I could bear God’s anger better than God’s disappointment.

This is unambiguous GOOD NEWS for the “least of these”, who clearly can hear the message of God’s solidarity with and for them. In this story, there is not confusion about God’s concern for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the stranger.

Another part of the good news is that neither the good sheep nor the bad goats knew what they were doing. The good sheep weren’t good so they’d pass the test. They were doing the right things because being with and for the poor is where God calls us to be.

In many parts of the world today, including here in the US where I serve, there are plenty of illustrations of how both governments and individuals are ignoring the lesson of this passage.

Along the Southern US border, the number of people trying to seek shelter in the US is far surpassing the current capacity of immigration officials to handle. (The issue of why we are not equipped to handle a group of people who have been slowly and publicly walking our direction for months is another issue).

From the New York Times:

“This place looks like a concentration camp and we’re not supposed to have that in America,” said David Casillas, 44, a disabled veteran who tried to donate baby food on Friday to the hundreds of migrant families peering out through the fence. Border Patrol agents turned him away.

The makeshift encampment under the bridge, where immigration officials are detaining hundreds of migrants in a military tent with little hot food, was set up last week after the main border processing center in El Paso reached up to 400 percent of its capacity in the largest influx of migrants to the United States in years.

Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?

We can try to not be political all we like, but this gospel passage is playing itself out on our very shore, at our very border. And in our towns, cities, and maybe even congregations.

Where else around the world do we see either positive or negative illustrations of this passage?

The agencies, cities, and individuals who are responding to the crisis with food, money for bus tickets, shelter, clothing–for all of the bad goats, there are plenty of people showing us how to be good sheep.

The truth, in my experience, is that some days we’re sheep, and other days we’re goats. And that’s also true about our worst enemies that we’re convinced are full time goats. It’s also true about our heroes we think are sheep of the year. To be human is to be spectacularly generous and wonderful. To be human is to err, and to not do the things we know we want (ought) to do.


How God works that all out in the final judgment is not my job, thank goodness. I’m grateful to know that God does care about injustice, and about the ways we ignore the needs of our neighbors. It matters to God.

That challenges and inspires me to be sure those things matter to me too.

Where is the text taking you today?

Liturgies to share? Ideas for the children’s time? Please share them here.


Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the boards of the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood, Covenant Network,  and the Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).

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5 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:31-46)

  1. Would you mind if I printed this quote as the “words of inspiration” in our bulletin, with proper credit?

    “The idea of judgment is…a difficult message to hear. We don’t want to be judged harshly, but perhaps more than that, we don’t want to be found out as having let God down. I sometimes think I could bear God’s anger better than God’s disappointment.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been all over the map on this text. The placement of it in the narrative lectionary … that both the sheep and the goats were surprised … the parallels with what Jesus would experience in the week ahead … the judgment …

    Sometimes I think too much …. so here it is Saturday night … and I wait … and I pray and I continue to live in hope and give thanks for the people I will face in the morning.

    Blessings to you as you proclaim the good news tomorrow .


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