Last week we heard Jesus describe the signs that would indicate His coming again was near. Today we'll read on and discover Jesus did not stop His teaching after listing these signs but went on to describe in four parables how He will judge His church and the world when He returns. His point in the first three of them (Mt 24:45-25:30) was to warn His disciples they would be held accountable for how they conducted themselves while He was gone. If they remained faithful they would receive a great reward, but if they became lawless, unbelieving or lazy they would be judged as hypocrites and would not be welcomed into God's kingdom.
Jesus' actions on Palm Sunday (two days before) and with the fig tree (the same day) were not only prophetic symbols of His judgment of the nation of Israel at that time, but also picture what He will do when He returns at the end of the age. Once again He will look to see if His people have produced the fruit of true faith. Let's review these parables to see specifically what He'll look for: 1) the faithful servant (Mt 24:45-51); 2) the ten virgins (Mt 25:1-13); 3) the talents (Mt 25:14-30).
A. Here are the attitudes He warns us to avoid:
1) (24:48) "my master is not coming for a long time"
- No fear of being held accountable because Jesus is not expected to return (lawless)
- "Jesus is gone and won't see the way Im abusing those He's put in my care" (pastors, parents, teacher, managers
2) (25:3) "...they took no oil with them"
- They let their faith die while waiting
- "I dont need to exert any effort to nurture my faith while waiting for Jesus." (faithless)
3) (25:24, 25) "...I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed, and I was afraid..."
- He resented being asked to labor for Jesus, so he did nothing (fruitless)
B. Warning against hypocrisy
This message of accountability is unfamiliar and confusing to the ears of American Christians. We are incessantly told that being saved by grace means what we do doesnt matter and are assured that once we are saved we cant lose our salvation. So how could these parables possibly apply to us? The answer is that while my deeds do not save me, only the blood of Christ can do that, they do over time reveal the true attitudes in my heart just like a species of tree can be recognized by the fruit it bears.
1) Matthew 7:16-23
2) The activities of our lives reveal our deepest desires: either we believe in Jesus and desire to serve Him or we don't and desire to serve self.
3) A changed life reveals a changed heart.
4) This is why the Lord will look at our deeds at the Judgement, they reveal the true orientation of our heart. They will either expose our unbelief and rebellion, or our faith and submission to Jesus Christ (Jn 5:28, 29; Rev 20:12, 15)
C. Warning against passivity
These parables not only warn us against hypocrisy, they also warn us against spiritual passivity (assuming I need do nothing because God does it all)
1) Grace does not mean I can neglect those God has put in my care (Mt 24:45)
2) Grace does not mean I have no obligation to use the resources God makes available to keep my own faith in Christ burning strongly (Scripture, prayer, worship, fellowship, communion, etc.) (Mt 25:3)
3) Grace does not mean I have no obligation to work to further God's kingdom. (Mt 25:14)
Waiting for Jesus puts a particular stress on our faith. We can begin to doubt that we'll see Him again, or fall asleep spiritually, or resent being asked to work for Him. If we let these forces go unchecked they can destroy our relationship with Him to the point that it doesn't really exist anymore.
The solution, if we recognize one or more of these negative tendencies in ourselves, is not to rush out and try to do works to prove our faith is real, but instead to focus on restoring our relationship with Jesus. When were attached to Him like branches to the Vine we automatically bear fruit (Jn 15:5,6).
1) Who has God put in your care to "give them their food in the proper time"?
2) How do you keep faith burning in your heart?
3) How are you working to further God's kingdom?