These readings are all about sheep, the human kind. The Bible, Old and New, is filled with images of sheep representing humans; they are a parable of humans. We do not like to think of ourselves as being as dumb as sheep, but in the eyes of God we may be. What we most have in common is our need to be led. We get into a great deal of trouble on our own. We need a shepherd.
The similarity of Ezekiel and Matthew in these readings is beautiful. We should not forget that Jesus quoted the Old Testament and the familiar parables of his people, he seldom created new material. He often turned the quotations in a new direction, giving them not new but fresh meaning. He never said anything that was not already in the Scriptures; he did remind his listeners of what the Scriptures meant.
Ezekiel spoke of good sheep and bad sheep that the shepherd, David (meaning the Messiah), would separate them to protect the good. In Jesus parable the bad sheep become goats. Most working people ate goat meat once a week to once a month because of the expense. Sheep was far too expensive to eat except at Passover.
Yet when Jesus spoke of the goats as bad, the people at once knew what he meant. Goats have a mind of their own. They can be hard to live with. Both my parents had stories of goats attacking them. Besides, their meat is tough and stringy.
What did Jesus mean? The same thing Ezekiel meant. God has given his Messiah, his own Son, authority to decide who is faithful to his Word. The words of Jesus are chilling; whatever you did for one of the least of these…. NIV There was a strong tradition in Jesus’ day to be kind to strangers because you could never know when one of them would be an angel of God. Jesus took that familiar notion a step farther by saying it might be me.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was powerful and included the hope That God, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the all-glorious Father, will give you spiritual wisdom and the insight to know more of him: that you may receive that inner illumination of the spirit which will make you realise how great is the hope to which he is calling you—the magnificence and splendour of the inheritance promised to Christians—and how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. Phillips
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. KJV
Be righteous and do good.