The Lunar New Year in 2015 is the year of the Goat or Sheep. Many traditional Chinese celebrate the year of the Goat rather than the Sheep. However, this Lunar New Year is a special one as Ash Wednesday falls on the eve of Chinese New Year. This means the year of the Goat or Sheep marks the beginning of the season of Lent. For the Christian, the year of the goat this year carries a special meaning when we are reminded in the season of Lent to “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” In fact, the Chinese character for “righteousness” is depicted by the word picture of a “lamb” over “me.”
Goat and sheep are used by Jesus in the description of the Last Judgment in the gospel of Matthew 25:31-46. We read that the people will be divided as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The righteous ones are the sheep who have shown mercy to the poor, the sick and the oppressed. The unrighteous ones are the goats who have failed to show mercy to the poor, the sick, and the oppressed. The most striking point of the parable is that the sheep were not aware of the good deeds that they have done and the goats were not aware of their failure to do the good deeds.
The parable of the goat and sheep is to teach us that what is in our hearts is the most important thing. The goats represent those who are living only for themselves and who are trying to be the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T). The sheep, on the other hand, are those who are living beyond themselves, seeking the good of others and the Kingdom of God. They are the people who Sees Heaven Everyday in Every Person (S.H.E.E.P.)
The feasting of the Lunar New Year may also appear to be in stark contradiction to the discipline of fasting in the season of Lent. But the prophet Isaiah warns us against the ritualistic practice of fasting as a way to please God. We read of God’s judgment against Israel in Isaiah 58:3-4:
“’We have fasted before you!’ they say. Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ ‘I will tell you why! I respond. ‘It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. “
True fasting that God wants is described in Isaiah 58:6-7. It is to overcome oppression and injustice and to care for the poor and needy. But these are not things that we have to do - they are the marks of those who are a new creation in Christ Jesus. The good news is that we have been set free from the bondage of sin and from living by the letter of the law. We are to live by the Spirit in the truth that Christ is in us. As we do so, our lives will bear the fruit of our loving God with all our hearts, our souls and minds and loving others as ourselves.
Jesus gave us the Last Supper so that we can turn our feasting into times of remembrance of His sacrificial death on the cross for us. The eyes of Cleopas and his friend were suddenly opened when Jesus broke bread with them in their walk to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-34). It has been said that sometimes the greatest miracle is just a perspective change. We are spiritually blind by the things of this world and by the desires of our flesh.
Let us change our perspective from looking at the world to beholding the Lamb of God, from living under the sun to living with the Son of God. In this special season of Lent in the Lunar New Year of the Sheep, let us pray that we may be healed of our spiritual blindness caused by the spiritual cataracts of G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). May we be S.H.E.E.P – seeing heaven every day in every person by cultivating the discipline of waiting on God and paying attention to our Shepherd as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the wonder of Easter.