“If it was Jesus’ pee and poop on the ground I would clean it up for him”.
A dear friend of mine once said that to me when she was struggling with some care taking duties for an elderly relative. If it was Jesus’ pee and poop I would clean it up, becasue it’s Jesus and look at what Jesus did for me! This little realization actually helped her quite a bit to keep going as a caregiver and help take care of her loved one.
But as good as this might be, this little helping phrase is almost the exact opposite of what the sheep say in the parable that Jesus teaches about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. Take a second and read it through.
When Jesus praises them for their good works, someone was hungry and they fed them, thirsty and gave them drink, naked and clothed them, imprisoned and visited them. To be sure, this is not an exhaustive list of good works but a summary of helping to meet human need in the midst of suffering in this world. But Jesus says to their shock, that when they did these acts of charity to the needy in the world they were doing it to Jesus directly. The sheep were amazed and had no clue that this was happening through their acts of charity. They didn’t see Jesus there.
But, just so we don’t get confused. Before Jesus speaks about commendation and condemnation to the people about their good works and welcomes them either into the Kingdom of Heaven or away into the eternal punishment prepared for the devil and his angels, Jesus divides the people between the sheep and the goats, between those that are saved through faith in Jesus and those that are not—who are apart from Jesus. Before the throne of God, the people from every nation, time, and place are not justified by their good works but by the saving grace found in Jesus, they were not condemned because of their lack of good works but because of their rejection of the saving grace found in Jesus. It is only after this separation occurs, only after, that any conversation about good works happens.
So when we think about applying this passage to our lives, we absolutely cannot take it as a passage that teaches us to do good works and you’ll go to heaven. At it’s very heart it simply teaches us where salvation is found, that is through faith in Jesus, and damnation is found apart from Jesus. But then this parable asks us to reflect on what Christians look like, and that is a life filled with goodness, not for the sake of reward but because that is who they are.
We get that difference in how the two groups of people react to Jesus’ statement. The first group, the sheep, have been simply doing what they do, living a life that cares for others like they have been cared for by Jesus. But when Jesus says, they we’re doing all of those good things to Him directly, they are kind of floored by the statement. It’s like obviously, if you were actually there, we would treated you great, but you weren’t. Jesus says, no, I was and everything you did you were doing it to me. But then the goats have a different reaction, there like, Jesus if we knew it was you we would have treated you great, but you weren’t there, so we treated everyone else like less important and not good enough, but obviously if it was you…
This parable is kind of like being in one of those hidden camera tv shows, when the boss is walking around the workers are all doing the right thing but when the boss is not around some of the employees keep doing the right thing and some do whatever they want.
The sheep already know Jesus but cared for others without knowing he was there because that’s who they are, Jesus is there boss and they follow Him whether they can see Him or not. But the goats did not acknowledge Jesus as their boss and shepherd and now that the boss is revealed on the last day they regret it now that the video recording is being played and they can see Jesus clearly.
Many sermons have been written about the forgetfulness of the sheep and treating others right but somehow ignoring or “forgetting” that Jesus said He would be there as well. I’m not really sure how to forget that though, now that Jesus has told us when we do good to others we are doing it to Him. Instead, I think Jesus actually has given to us a way of encouraging the good works in our lives, especially when we don’t want to do them.
Because sometimes we need the extra encouragement. As Christians, I think we know who we are and that what we do is a reflection of what Jesus has done for us and that we don’t get into God’s good graces by doing good stuff but by the good stuff Jesus has done for us. But still, it’s hard, often, to do good to others, becasue that reward or earning part simply is not in there. Sometimes, we simply don’t want to or I have bad feelings about that other person or it feels just do too hard. These feelings can keep us from doing the good God has called us to do. Sometimes, we need a new perspective than our sinful eyes and heart and mind can give us. We need to see Jesus.
We need to see Jesus in the person next to us. We need to see Jesus in the person that we don’t like. We need to see Jesus when we don’t want to help and it feels too hard. We need to see Jesus standing right there, the one who was crucified and died for you, who moved heaven and earth for you, that is Jesus right there. But what if the person is acting the farthest from Jesus-like? Maybe they need to see Jesus in you and first by prayer as Jesus commanded and did himself, pray for your enemeis. But also by not cursing or hurting them even though they may have done so to you, and maybe the grace of God they will see Jesus when they see you and believe.
Seeing Jesus in the people around us gives to us a new perspective on life and a new reason to live a life filled with good works for others. I think, Jesus does this for us on purpose, so we can be encouraged to do the good we are suppose to do.
So, if it was Jesus’ pee on the ground I would clean it up because that’s what Jesus would do and that’s who you and I are in Jesus. “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40