Today’s passage is about the end time. Time, in the origin of word, is called eschatology. So eschatology is about the end time. At the end of time comes our Lord Jesus. He will come again to this world and gather all people and he will judge. He will separate the sheep from the goats. That’s what today’s text says. Then my question is: who are the sheep and who are the goats? Who will go into eternal life and who will go into eternal punishment? Who are they? What kind of criteria is used to separate the sheep from the goats? Is it going to be whether you did some good deeds and actions that is so important? What do you think? Doing some good deeds, is it really important to go into eternal life? I would say for now, yes and no. Let’s explore it more.
The Sheep and the Goats
On the surface, it looks to me that the sheep were the ones who did serve the people in need. And the goats were the ones who did not serve the people in need. Then the sheep were saved by their actions, not by their faith through grace. That is what we believe. According to the apostle Paul, we are justified by faith through grace, but not by actions. What do you think?
I think there’s a more fundamental and spiritual principle going on underneath. Interestingly, both the sheep and the goats ask the same question to Jesus. When was it? We can see who they are from their questions. We can see what kind of people they are from their questions to Jesus. The sheep asked, “Lord, when was it that we saw you were hungry and gave you food?” They didn’t know that. They didn’t see Jesus. The goats asked, “Lord, when was it that we saw you were hungry and did not take care of you?” They were looking for Jesus. As if if they saw Jesus, they would serve him. But they didn’t. They couldn’t so no service, no good deeds. That’s what they say. Then what does it tell us about them? Both did not see Jesus in their actions or not actions. They did not see Jesus. The sheep did not even think about Jesus, but served the needy people. Whereas the goats did think about Jesus, but did not serve because they couldn’t see Jesus, find Jesus. So from this, we understand that the real issue here is not the action itself, whether they did or they didn’t do, but something else much deeper.
Condition of the Heart
The real issue rests upon the questions like this: why do you want to do those actions? Why do you want to serve? Or what are you looking for? What is your goal in your life? And what are you trying to achieve from all these good deeds, serving and all that? My friends, it’s about the difference between doing and being. I love this phrase. The importance of this difference cannot be emphasized enough. Doing some action is great, but not always. What’s more important is who we are before we move on to the actions. Who we are as our existence, who we are as the condition of our hearts and so on. Those are far more important than any activities we are busy with.
As I’m getting old, you know, I’m turning 51 this year and I’ve faced a lot of life struggles and knowing about myself, my weaknesses, my strength, and all kinds of stuff. One realization, it’s about my heart condition. I cannot fake it and we must cultivate our heart. That is my realization. We can do many things. Outside things, activities, functions, programs and performances. But the condition of the heart, it doesn’t show. It doesn’t show. But unless we cultivate our hearts, we will fall into the cracks. There will be no fruit. Broken relationships, struggles and conflicts, inconsistency.
What’s more important is who we are. Who we are as our existence, who you are. But in reality, we have a tendency to choose the easy way out. We spend time and energy on the things of actions and performance by which people will evaluate us. And thus, we spend less and less of the things of inner being. We pay less attention to the things of our spirits and souls, neglect the conditions of our hearts. We become strangers to ourselves. We do not know why we say such things at that moment. And we don’t know why we feel such a way at that particular moment. We become strangers to ourselves. We become lonely because we detach ourselves from the core existence, core values, even though that’s unseen but so important. It is all because we pay too much on outer things and the actions, not the things spiritual and things of our core existence.
The Difference Between Actions and Existence
As I mentioned to you before, I love and admire what Abraham has shown, has to say on our condition human condition. There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have, but to be. Not to own, but to give. Not to control, but to share. Not to solitude, but to be accord. Life goes wrong when the control of space, the acquisition of things of space becomes our sole concern. The more we do everything in terms of space, not time, we do not only lose the connection with God, but also to ourselves. Just like the comparison of space and time, we need to understand the difference between actions and existence. Please refer to the chart on the screen and explore where you are right now.
The sheep asked, “Lord, when was it that we saw you were hungry and gave you food?” We can see who they are from this question. To them, they serve all kinds of people with their compassion. For them, doing and serving do not belong to the realm of activities and realm of space. For them, such actions are just a natural overflow of who they are as compassionate beings. That’s why they ask, “When? When was it you were hungry?” To them, it doesn’t matter when to serve. It doesn’t matter. To them, they did not choose the people for their service. They did not calculate what they would get out of their service to the needy people.
For example, our volunteers who go to Parkdale, they don’t take anything from that food bank. They spend the time, they serve, then just come back home. Out of their compassion, they just serve the people in need. And this is very important to Jesus because of who they are as compassionate beings, they served. Period. No ulterior purpose. Because they had their existence anchored in time, not in space, they connected to the realm of God and lived and served. Their actions were not limited to a certain occasion or to a certain group of people. The relationship of actions and existence can be clearly understood. When we turn to the story of the vine tree in the gospel of John, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
To See Jesus in Others
Apart from me, you can do nothing. Let us meditate on this for a while. Apart from Jesus, we cannot do. We can do nothing. Only when our existence anchored in Jesus, we can produce fruit and do something. Jesus said to the sheep, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Compassion penetrates any political layers and makes us see people as they are and attend their needs. And the sheep did it.
Mother Teresa saw Jesus in everybody she encountered. And she said this, “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” What is amazing about this is that when we see Jesus in others and treat them like Jesus, the other person discovers Jesus in us. That’s the spiritual secret. It doesn’t matter if you and I will disappear. But when I treat you like Jesus, only Jesus will appear in that relationship, in that service. That should be the case. You and I, it doesn’t really matter. Only Jesus would’ve been lifted high. Would be present. Would be felt. Would be touched. That’s what our service is all about. Isn’t it? That’s the secret. All we have to do is serve others as if they are Jesus and they would feel the presence, the healing power of Jesus in our serving. I believe this is the grace and blessing for those who serve in the name of Jesus.
Today, as I said before, we are celebrating the first anniversary of Sorauren Food Bank. I know it is hard to pronounce it so we simply say Parkdale. It is so good to have our local volunteers, Jerry, and her friend, Margaret. Thank you for coming. Jerry comes every Monday and Tuesday, rain or shine, to serve at the food bank. And I would like to thank our members like Michelle, Ashley, Daniel, and Sarah Lee. Every Tuesday, Sarah Lee takes care of that part. You will never know how precious your service is to Jesus without any kind of judgment. As Michelle, Sharon, you have served everyone who came to the food bank.
Go Out and Serve With Vulnerability
I pray that what Jesus said in today’s text is something you will hear when you stand for and alone at the end. We are vulnerable. We are fragile, easy to break. We are all like that. But because of our Lord Jesus, we can embrace our weaknesses and overcome them. Because of the compassion Jesus pours into our existence, we too can be the channel of Jesus’ compassion for the world. We are just a vessel, just a tool. We just allow ourselves onto God’s hands.
We are still vulnerable. We will be vulnerable, but because of such vulnerability, we can go out to the world and serve. Paradoxical, isn’t it? But that’s the secret. When we are weak, God is strong. When we are weak, in that very moment God is strong. Those who have embraced their vulnerability can engage in true service for God. My friends, we are the ones Henri Nouwen once said, “The wounded healer.” We have pain in our lives. Hurts, broken relationships, failures, but there is reason behind this. We need to understand that God has and God will turn the wilderness into the wellspring of life.
When we truly believe in God’s faithfulness, God’s work in our lives, we will be able to offer ourselves up to God’s hands. We’ll be weak and we’ll be vulnerable always, but you are our God always. Please use me. That is our confession. Can you see that God wants to use this church for his glory? God wants to use you and I as a channel of his healing and reconciliation. Let God’s blessings overflow from this church. Let God’s compassion overflow from this church. The sheep in today’s text did not know that they were the sheep. He just found them. I hope and pray that all of us find ourselves in the sheep side at the end of time, when we stand before the Lord.
Let us examine our hearts and reflect on the condition of our being. Only when we examine the condition of our hearts can we begin to think about our actions and make them meaningful. Let us pray for compassionate hearts that see Jesus in others, and thereby enable others to see Jesus in us.