Monday, June 15, 2009

Goats need love, too!

There once was a goat named Matthew. You might know him as a sheep called Matthew. This sheep wrote the book that is named after him- the book of Matthew. Matthew was not called a disciple until chapter 9, verse 9 of his own book and would not be fully born again until Acts chapter 2: 1-4. At that point, he became a baby sheep. As of chapter 9, verse 9 of Matthew, he was a sheep in process (still in the womb). Before that, he was a goat.

According to God's teaching in Matthews book (chapter 25:31-46). There will only be two types of people on judgment day- goats and sheep. The sheep will make it to enter into the kingdom of God, the goats won't. We all, like Matthew, start out as goats.

The question arises: How did Matthew know about what to write in chapters 1-9:9? After all, he wasn't there was he? The short and correct answer is "God told him what to write." I believe that there may be more to it than this. The early things about where Jesus came from, etc are by inspiration of God (some of which he leaned from listening during his travels with Jesus as well as from Mary the mother of Jesus).

However, when it comes to the specific teachings of Jesus, such as the sermon on the mount and such, you almost get the impression that he was there, in the background listening AND hearing every word the savior spoke. He was in the background because he was not popular at all, being a “sinful tax collector” and “turncoat” to the Jews

Matthew was a wealthy man, with servants, etc., but he was a lonely man. He had people that hung around him, largely due to what he could afford to do for them. Yet, there was very little, if any, real love and relationship in his life. Matthew had a very dry heart. When the murmurings of a "new prophet" began to reach his ears, he was compelled, I believe, to seek him out- looking for a real word, real love, and a real God.

The words of the master must have felt like cool water to a dry, hot, and thirsty heart! He must have followed Jesus at a distance, at first. Strangely attracted to this new prophet, but constrained by his position in society to stay back or be run off by the masses- (not much mercy around for a traitorous tax collector.)

Eventually, he must have, with a sad heart, given up on this. Following your only hope from a distance is as satisfying as a starving man peering through a restaurant window. It all looks great, but he's barred from touching it. So, sadly, he returns to his circle of influence to continue his well-off, if shallow, existence.

What he didn't know was that his life was about to change forever. The master, unbeknownst to Matthew, had seen the precious and starving little goat following him at a distance. He’d also noticed when the little goat no longer followed. So Jesus did a wonderful thing- he went after him.

One day, Matthew was going about his job of collecting taxes when suddenly a hush must have come over the ordinarily angry crowd at his booth (people didn't take paying taxes to Rome lightly or without complaint). When Matthew looked up to see what had happened, his heart must've caught in his throat. There, at HIS booth, stood the master- face to face with Matthew.

A million questions must have entered his mind: "What is he doing here? How can I charge HIM taxes? What do I do?" Jesus, the great shepherd and master, silenced the panic in his mind, reached through the pain in his heart, and offered love and a new life to the little goat named Matthew, by saying: "Follow me".

We're not told all that went through Matthew’s mind: astonishment and unbelief at first? Probably. But when he looked into the eyes of the great shepherd, he saw no condemnation. Rather, he saw love and a new start! Immediately, he left his unpopular job and began the process of letting the shepherd change him from a goat into a sheep.

Sometimes, it seems to us that people are "too lost to ever be found". However, as the Phillips, Craig, and Dean song says: "He believes in lost causes"! Just like the little goat named Matthew, these "lost goats" are outcasts by the church and feel hopeless. Just existing, they go through their daily lives without hope. What they don't know is that the great shepherd knows and loves them all!

If we, as God's body on earth, will simply let God speak to them through us in any way he wishes to (a kind word, a prayer, a meeting of a need), we would be as amazed as Matthew to see the change as God begins to work on changing them from a goat to a sheep- just as he's doing with us! Who knows? Maybe one day, they and us will hear those glorious words: “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter ye in…”