31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 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.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dear Nikko, today you are Baptized. Today, God has placed His name upon you – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has made you His child and heir. God has made you to be His sheep. So, Nikko, today you begin a life of service to your Savior. But what does this mean? How do you go about serving the God who created everything? What can you offer Him?
These are questions that we, your brothers and sisters in Christ, continue to struggle with. But the answer Nikko, and all of you here, is given to us by Jesus in this text.
But t’s not an easy text. Now, let’s be honest. If this was the only word that we had received from Jesus, then a religion of works and salvation by human effort would be the logical conclusion. Sheep do acts of kindness, and they receive heavenly praise and eternal rewards. Goats don’t, and get hell.
But Scripture is clear. We do not earn our way into God’s good graces. We don’t buy our way into eternal life. And even this text agrees. Notice, Jesus’ first words to the sheep, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
The sheep are sheep because God has made them sheep. They are chosen, predestined, elect. They are not sheep because they did acts of kindness or because they made a choice to be a sheep or because they worked hard to become a sheep. They are sheep for one reason – God has done it. God makes them sheep. God makes them righteous. And then, these sheep live like His sheep.
They go out into God’s creation, out into their ordinary lives, and they take care of those around them. They help the sick, feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned, and clothe the naked. They do sheep things. God’s sheep act like sheep.
And the goats? Well, the goats choose what God never planned. They choose to ignore the call of God and the cry of their fellow creatures. They reject grace and choose death. And so, in return, God gives them what they choose. They share the unintended and unsought fate of Satan and his hoard.
But not you. You are a sheep. At the Font, God made His claim on you, gave you His Name, and made you His sheep. You belong to Him.
And so you, His sheep, live like His sheep. You go out into God’s world and meet the needs of fellow creatures who cry for your help. That’s what sheep do. And when sheep do what God gives them to do, they are serving the God who made them sheep. That’s the point of the text.
The point is that what sheep do as sheep is never wasted and never lost. Because you are God’s sheep, your work, your normal daily work, is transformed. Whatever you do for the sake of those around you who need your help, whatever you do in fulfillment of your God-given vocation, whatever you do that God has given you to do is exactly the work you should be doing, and that work is never wasted and is never lost.
It’s not what makes a big splash. It’s not what makes others applaud. It’s not what earns financial perks or accolades or A’s. It’s not what makes you feel good. None of these things determine the value of the work you do. The only thing that counts is that you are doing what you have been given to do in service to others. And so, know that whatever it is you are doing, you are doing it as God’s sheep. And whatever you do as God’s sheep is holy work.
So, you get up and go to work and put in your eight, ten, or twelve hours. You prepare another report, meet another deadline. You clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, and scrub the toilet. You sit through another lecture. You study for another spelling or history or science quiz. You make your bed, clear your dishes, and straighten your shoes and coats in the entryway. You change the day’s eighth dirty diaper, prepare the days’ fourth bottle, and you wipe your child’s snotty nose because it is holy work.
As God’s sheep, all the work you do is done in service to the one who needs what God has put you there to give. God has put that needy person in your life – even if their need seems inconsequential. Everything you do can be done with a sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude at the sheer holiness of the work you are doing.
You don’t need work that is more meaningful. You don’t need a vocation that is more prestigious. You don’t need to do things that will impress those who watch or grade or evaluate. No, you just need to do what you have been given to do to care for those around you who need it. And when you do that, you are doing an incredible, holy work.
Notice, the sheep are totally unaware of all the holy works they had done. They ask Jesus, “When? When did we do all those things?” These sheep appear before Jesus with hands empty of good works. But Jesus praises and rewards them anyway.
Also notice, the goats were shocked. They ask Jesus, “When? When did we not do all those good things?” They appeared before Jesus with hands full of what they thought were their good works. But since their hands are full of their own works and merits, they had no room to receive the mercy, grace, and forgiveness Jesus freely gives.
So, when are you doing your best works? When are you serving the God who has created, redeemed, and sanctified you? When you don’t even notice because that work seems so inconsequential and insignificant.
So, see the need of those around you. Step up and you meet that need. Parents, children, students, employers, neighbors, strangers – give them what they need from you, and you fulfill your righteous vocation.
Sheep are righteous twice. Righteous before God in your election, and righteous before creation in your vocation. You are a sheep. You live without futility because you know that your labor is never in vain. No deed is insignificant. No act is forgotten. God saves you and your labor. Neither is ever lost.
You may feel that your work is insignificant and meaningless. You may feel like what you do goes unnoticed. But it is not. You, you are a sheep. And that changes everything – everything about you and everything about what you do forever. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 This sermon was taken largely from a sermon by Dr. Joel Biermann on this same text (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/matthew-25-31-46/id463450793?i=105495219&mt=2).