The ‘parable’ of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 video discussion

The gospel reading in the lectionary for the last Sunday before Advent (now known as ‘Christ the King’) is Matthew 25.31–46, the so-called ‘parable of the sheep and the goats’.

But it isn’t actually a parable (since there is no suggestion that ‘the kingdom of heaven is like this’), and isn’t really about sheep and goats (as we shall see). However, it is very well known, and is most commonly interpreted as an encouragement for followers of Jesus to care for the poor—which it isn’t.

James and Ian discuss how to read this teaching well, and what it really points us to. Come and join us!

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6 thoughts on “The ‘parable’ of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 video discussion”

  1. Well, I listened. I have to say after 30 minutes I was entirely unconvinced. Really serioulsy over thought on first hearing. Just by way of feedback I thought most of the first half was wasted (you just too too long to get to the point). However, far from being inspired by your new “reading” I was left flat and disappointed – this was such a small, exclusive reading of the gospel for me, like we all belong to a club or something. The unconditional conduct of good works to anyone we find, and finding Christ in everyone (not just the self declared Christian) seemed to be dismissed. If I can find another 30 minutes (or maybe just the last 10) I promise I’ll listen to it again in case I haven’t understood. All the better for being challenged, I enjoy that, butm as they say on Strictly, not your best dance. And James, you need to interrupt more……

    • Thanks for the feedback! If you want to think through the argument in your own time, you might like to read the accompanying article here:

      The reality is that the popular, contemporary, reading is the minority one in the history of interpretation.

      I cannot think of a single verse in all of Scripture which suggests ‘we find Christ in everyone’—and much in scripture that contradicts this.

      • 1850 you say, when the modern interpretation became popular? That was about the time schools began to be free and Sunday schools began to be popular. Perhaps ethical interpretations became popular as a way to teach morality? Children are still inculcated in ‘biblical’ ethics. Perhaps if your interpretation was taught to children in the first place they would not have to graduate to an adult view. ‘teach a child…’ etc

  2. Of coarse this is the last part of the Olivet discourse ,a part of the whole.
    There is no sense of equality in the Kingdom of God or apparently in the rewards of heaven. We are all working towards a *degree* of awards/ rewards; hence
    Galatians 6:4 – But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.
    That the common goat faces a devastating reward is awesome.
    But what of the Goat-Herders? It augers not well;
    Jam 3:1 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation or in context;
    2 To show that a Christian man must govern his tongue with the bridle of faith and charity, he declareth the commodities and mischiefs that ensue thereof:  and how much man’s wisdom differeth from heavenly. My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. GNV
    Lamentations 3:40 – Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!
    1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
    2 Corinthians 13:5 – Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

  3. Hello!
    I am really struggling to understand this passage. If those who reject Christ are the goats it does make sense that they would be surprised at the judgement… the heart of man is deceitful above all ( Jer 17 v 9) but then the sheep would be those who accept Christ… surely they would recognise their shepherd and would be overjoyed but not surprised at the pronouncement of the King?
    What am I missing?
    I feel as if I am focusing on the wrong thing here.
    Can anyone help?


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