WHO ARE THE PLAYERS IN THIS WEIRD TALE?
Jesus and his disciples. And a bunch of metaphors!
WHERE IS THIS IN THE BIBLE?
Matthew 25: 31-46
WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY?
The disciples have asked Jesus when will the End of the Age come, and what will the sign of Jesus' return be. (You would think that Jesus reappearing would be sign enough, but the disciples, as most of us today, are not that bright.)
Jesus has replied, in his lovable Jesus way, not by directly answering the question (because that would be too easy) but by telling them a series of stories. First, he talks about what will probably happen during that time - people claiming to be him who aren't, wars, famines, earthquakes, etc., and nope, I'm not gonna give you a day or hour, because you should be prepared and live every single day of your life as if it was your last - not in a drunken orgy kind of way, but in a Daddy Jesus Is Coming, I'm Gonna Be GOOD and I'm so EXCITED to see him again kind of way.
Jesus then talks about the parable of the ten virgins (always be ready for Jesus' return, and skip over the part where one husband has ten bridesmaids waiting for him), and the parable of the talents (If you're not going to do anything with your money, at least put it in a bank where it'll earn interest.)
AND NOW OUR STORY BEGINS!
Well, let's just go right to the source, shall we?
31"But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. 36I 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 a drink? 38When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?'
40"The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' 41Then he will say also to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you didn't give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43I was a stranger, and you didn't take me in; naked, and you didn't clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
44"Then they will also answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn't help you?'
45"Then he will answer them, saying, 'Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you didn't do it to one of the least of these, you didn't do it to me.' 46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
In short, Jesus here is separating sheep (good righteous Christians who lived righteously and took care of those less fortunate than them) from goats (people, possibly Christians, depending on your interpretation, who didn't live righteously and didn't take care of anybody.)
But why use a goat as a metaphor? What does Jesus have against goats? Why couldn't he have used another metaphor, like separating recycling from regular garbage, or the one bad carrot in the bag of baby carrots, or brown M&Ms out of the big bag of other color M&Ms? It's not like goats were inherently bad - people in the Bible ate both, and sacrificed both on altars all through the Old Testament, so why make a scapegoat out of a goat, huh?
I mean, if you do research, you quickly learn that sheep eat everything close to the ground, so if you let sheep go first, they'll eat everything and leave nothing for goats. Sheep are more adept to stay in a group (and thus be easily herded by any Biblical shepherd), while goats are natural explorers and wanderers, stubborn, obstinate and don't group so well. If you wanted to be a spoilsport, you could easily point out that God/Jesus like sheep better because they're dumber, and easily to manipulate, where goats are independent thinkers so into the eternal fire with YOU!
BUT! Goats have been mentioned in the Bible as an example of leadership in leading flocks. Check out Jeremiah 50: 6 - 8 "“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place. Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, ‘We are not guilty, for they sinned against the Lord, their true pasture the Lord, the hope of their fathers.’ “Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock."
So you can't necessarily condemn an entire species just because Jesus put 'em on the left. I mean, THAT'S a whole other entry, how the right side is considered more valuable/important than the left side. I'm not touching that one, no thank you.
I think Cake has done a lot of thinking about this as well. Check it out: