Today we will examine a teaching from Jesus, shared with His disciples in the last few days of His earthly life. Earlier He had been arguing with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees because of their hypocritical lives and legalistic religious system (Mt 21:23-23:39). After this He left the Temple and went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives. He knew He only had a little more precious time to spend with them before He would be snatched away to die a terrible death. Then the disciples would be facing the fact that they could be next on the list.
During this special time with them He talked to them about two themes:
1. In chapter 24, He talks about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and signs of the end times. This chapter ends with the theme of being watchful, being wise and being warned because we dont know when Christ will returnnot watching like waiting at the door but rather faithful stewardship until He comes.
2. In chapter 25, He outlines our responsibilities as disciples (all of Gods faithful people) until the end of the age. In light of our understanding of the end times, there are three things we should consider.
I. Till He ComesBe Ready (and Stay Ready)
Matthew 25:1-13: The Necessity of Continual Readiness for Christs Return
The first parable is the well-known Parable of the Ten Virgins. Everyone knew the day of the wedding, but the exact hour was unknown.
1. The wedding is depicted as a joyful occasion that everyone was looking forward to.
2. All ten virgins were waiting for the festivities to begin. All ten were taken by surprise by the cry going out into the dark silent night that the bridegroom was coming.
3. Five found that when they went to light their lamps, they sputtered and went out. They had taken empty lamps! They were totally unprepared, and there were consequences for their negligence and shortsightedness that could not be averted at the last minute. The delay caused by their actions was fatal.
4. Five virgins were ready for the unexpected delay. They took an ample supply of oil in their vessels, which demonstrated their careful planning. In this parable the oil represents true faith (salvation) and the presence of the Holy Spirit in that relationship.
The important key to this parable is in verse 13 when Jesus instructs us to keep watch (used three times). We are to be eagerly and constantly waiting for His return. Hanging around with the wedding party is not enough. Staying ready takes persistence and dedication. We need to maintain a constant sense of urgency. Once we die or Christ comes back, there will be no second chance. This parable points out the need for us to be constantly examining our own spiritual condition in light of Christs coming (see Ps 24:3-4; 101:3; 106:13-15).
II. Till He ComesBe Faithful
Matthew 25:14-30: Faithful Stewardship is Required
We are struck by several similar facts in these parables. In both someone is gone much longer than expected, and in both we see that importance was put upon the fact of what normal people did in the meantime.
The Parable of the Talents is used to illustrate what readiness means. In Jewish thought, Gods creation of the world makes every person a caretaker of what really belongs to God. A talent represents our abilities, time, resources and opportunities to serve God (and others) while on earth. Proverbs 3:9 says, Honor the Lord with your substance. All of the servants were given something. All had the same amount of time but different measures of responsibility in what they were capable of handling. A talent was probably equivalent to an average years wage.
1. Being faithful does not mean just sitting around and waiting. It is our responsibility to use our abilities, time and assets in the wisest way possible.
2. God is the one that gives out the gifting and responsibilities; we are responsible to develop and use those talents or assets for Him. Our relationship with Him determines what we are willing to do for Him. The good servants trusted in the goodness of their master and as a result were willing to take risks in order to achieve a maximum return for their master.
3. The third servant that buries his masters money opted for safety and inactivity rather than service. He could have received at least 6% interest if he had invested it. He also demonstrates that he does not love His master by blaming him and excusing himself, calling him a hard master (this was an incorrect judgment). The word used shows this servant felt his master was harsh, rough, stern and not generous. The other two loyal workers did not share this impression. His act of making excuses convicted him.
4. The reward for being good and faithful and diligent in Gods Kingdom opens the doors to more opportunities of doing further work for God and sharing in His joy here and forevermore. The two faithful servants were invited to share in their masters feast. Faithfulness to use what you have been given seems to be the main point as can be seen in verse 29.
III. Till He ComesGive Loving Service to All
Matthew 25:31-46: There Will be a Day of Accounting
We are free to live our life in any way we please, but in the end we will have to give account to the one who gave us life. The language used in this section comes from Daniel 7:9-14 and Joel 3:2. Our outward service demonstrates the inward righteousness of Christ in usa righteousness that comes from the heart.
Proverbs 14:31, He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Anyone who mistreats or takes advantage of a poor person offends God and shows hatred for Him. True Christian character produces good works of love, mercy and generosity. The works we do are the evidence either of the grace of God at work in us or of our rejection of that grace. Christ requires that His servants value other humans, especially those of the family of faith (Gal 6:10). We are to respond to others the way that Christ has responded to us.
One of the primary ways we can serve God is to show kindness to the least of these. Thus, true service to God often takes place in the more routine and unassuming areas of life, when no one else notices. But God always notices when we do something for Him or others, and He will reward us accordingly on judgment day. When we fail to place proper value on others, we decrease our own value and merit in the eyes of God.
This teaching of the second coming of Jesus is of great importance in the life of a Christian. We believe that He is coming with great glory and as the royal judge of the nations. There is a lot to be done while we are waiting for His return. We must remain ready and vigilant so that the pull of our flesh or the pressure of our culture does not compromise our own relationship with Christ. We should be faithful to use our abilities and assets to minister in whatever situation we find ourselves.
In all these stories it is clear that what we do in our own lives and how we treat others is the true test of discipleship.
1. How am I demonstrating that I am ready for the Lords return?
2. How am I faithfully using my God-given abilities and assets for Him?
3. How am I demonstrating Gods love in tangible ways to those in my path?