Burwell & Calvary United Methodist Churches
 Burwell & Taylor, Nebraska               308-346-4318
Christ The King Sunday
Exekiel 11 - 14   For this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep.  I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land.  There they will lie down in good grazing land and their they will feed on a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
Matthew 25: 34-36    Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.  I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.  I was a stranger and you invited me in.  I needed clothes and you clothed me.  I was sick and you looked after me.  I was in prison and you came to visit me."

     There are many images representing Christ in the Scripture.
     Ezekiel portrays Him as the gentle shepherd.  That is a familiar image, is it not?  It is used throughout the Bible.  Sheep and shepherds were always a part of Hebrew life.  In fact, sheep are mentioned about 500 times in the Bible.  When Jesus compared himself to the Good Shepherd, everyone in his audience could immediately relate to the analogy.  The people depended upon seep for their livelihood and the sheep depended upon the shepherd for protection.
     In his book, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, Philip Keller recounts his own experience raising sheep.  He tells how ewes, ready to bear offspring, when chased by dogs or other predators will lose their unborn lambs.  
     A shepherd's loss from such forays can be appalling.  One morning he found nine of his choicest ewes, all soon to lamb, lying dead where a cougar had harried the flock during the night.
     It was a terrible shock to someone new to the business of raising sheep.  From then on, he slept with a rifle and flashlight by his bed.  At the least sound of the flock being disturbed, he would leap from bed and, calling his faithful collie, dash out into the night, rifle in hand, ready to protect his sheep.
     In the course of time, he came to realize that nothing so quieted and reassured the sheep as to see him in the field.  The presence of their master and owner and protector put them at east as nothing else could do, and this applied day and  night.  The sheep look to the shepherd for protection.  The good shepherd knows his sheep and is known by his sheep. 
     There is an amusing story about a guide for a party of tourists in Palestine some years ago who was describing some of the customs of the Middle East.  "Now," said he, "you are accustomed to seeing the shepherd following his sheep through the English lanes and countryside.  In the East, however, things are different, for the shepherd always leads the way, going on before the flock.  And the sheep always follow him, for they know his voice."
     The party reached Palestine.  The tourists couldn't help but notice that almost the first sight to greet them was a flock of sheep being driven, not led, by a man.  The guide was astonished.  Immediately he accosted the shepherd. "How is it that you are driving these sheep?" he asked.  "I have always been told that Eastern shepherds lead their sheep."  "you are quite right, sir." replied the man.  "The shepherd does lead his sheep.  But you see, I'm not the shepherd, I'm the butcher."
     There is a difference between the interest of a shepherd and the interest of a butcher,  Jesus is described as a gentle shepherd, a shepherd who knows his sheep and is know by them.  A shepherd even willing to lay down his life for this sheep.
     Can you imaging the greatest man who ever lived laying down his life for a dumb, smelly sheep?  If you can, you know what it means to say "the Lord of all the universe laid down his life" for you and me.  The gentle shepherd
     But there is another image of Christ in the Scripture radically different from the Gentle Shepherd.  Our lesson from Matthew portrays Jesus as the righteous judge.  A few verses precedeing those that we read earlier speaks of  "all the nations being gathered in front of him.  He will separate them from each other, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."
     This is not a side of the Gospel with which we like to deal nowadays.  We want a Jesus  "Meek and mild"  We want a Jesus who looks over our faults, who is blind to our shortcomings, who deliberately ignores our orneriness.
     A newspaper conducted a poll of its readers which revealed that only four percent of the people believed that they deserved to go to hell.  Twenty percent, however, knew other people whom they thought deserved to go.
     We don't like to think of Christ as a judge.  After all, we don't want to scare people into becoming Christians.  We just don't.  What do you do, though, with those passages in the Scripture in which Christ says that on the last day people will be divided into sheep and goats?  The sheep will go to heavenly pastures.  The goats will not be so fortunate.
     Why are the sheep going to heaven?  "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.  I was sick and in prison and you came to visit me."  What do you do with such passages?
     You see, we can't really appreciate grace, because we do not feel the reality of judgment upon the way each and every one of us live!  We all have neglected the poor, the sick, the imprisoned.  We all, at one time or another, have passed by when we saw someone who was hurting.  We are all sheep who have gone astray.
     We are being urged to be obedient followers of Christ, not pretenders.  The real evidence of our belief is the way we act.  Jesus used sheep and goats to picture the division between believers and unbelievers.  Sheep and goats often grazed together, but were separated when it came time to shear the sheep.
     Paul tells us the day is coming when Jesus Christ will reign over everything that is.  Jesus is coming once again and is coming as "KING OF KINGS."  What will his kingdom be like?
     Judgment day is on Christ's mind here in Matthew 25:31 and following verses.  He is describing that fateful day soon "when the Son of Man comes in his glory".  All the angels will be with him.  Jesus will sit on a throne.  And before him will be gathered all the nations of the world.  There Jesus will divide the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the sinners.
     To the righteous, Christ will say, "Come."  To the wicked he will say, "Depart!"  The righteous will enter a "kingdom prepared".  "Eternal life".  But the unredeemed will be "cursed" to "fire" with the "devil and his angels".  And this punishment is "Eternal."
    I'm not making this up!  This is what Jesus said about it! And, yes!  They will call school off that day.  No one will be discussing weight loss or the weather.  None of us will be asking how the stock market is doing.  We won't care about the November elections.  For all of our attention will be focused on the Judge who is seated upon the throne!
     The seep and the goats.  Those to whom Jesus says, "Come!" and those to whow Jesus says "Depart!".  Those who are so self absorbed they live without God and with no service to others, and those who in humility become God aware, trusting and servants to others.  These are the two sorts of people in our world.  They are the two who will stand before God at the last day to be judged.  Which person are you?
     Our King is Not a king distant and removed.  He is a king here with us today.  We lack noting if we are his and he is ours forever.  To our Shepherd King be all honor and glory, now and forever.