Yesterday we dealt with the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, which deals with end of time issues. Jesus, then tells three final parables before he is arrested. These three parables can be found in the twenty-fifth chapter. The parables are: The wise and foolish virgins, the use of talents, and the final judgement (separation of sheep and goats) While each parable is unique there is a common theme that runs through each; judgement. The Parable of the Virgins takes place at the midnight hour. The five wise virgins went to meet their bridegroom with oil in their lamps, while the foolish virgins did not have enough, therefore they ran out. "The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are goin out.'" (Matthew 25:8) The wise virgins refused to help because, if they did, they too would run out. This certainly is a warning to each individual to be mindful of his/her own salvation and relationship with God. We can not rely on the faith of others. The foolish virgins were left out of the wedding banquet and Jesus issued a stern warning: "keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour." (Matthew 25:13) You have heard the expression: So and So would be late for his/her own funeral? Well, Almost every time I perform a wedding we have to delay the festivities due to "the sister of the groom, or...." being late. Jesus is not necessarily talking about being late here. In ancient times after the wedding proposal (in our terms) was made and accepted the bridegroom would return to his father's house to prepare a place to live. Once the home was built the bridegroom at the approval of his father would go get the bride. The bride had no idea when this would be. Her, task? Be ready for the bridegroom at any time.
The parable of the talent deals with the wise usage of one's talent. This does not necessarily mean the ability to sing, or do other things. (although it may very well apply to your God given talents) The talent here could simply mean "time." How do we make use of what God has given us? Two servants used their talents wisely and increased what they were given. The other, buried his talent. "You wicked, lazy servant!" (Matthew 25:26) That didn't sound good. The moral of this story is: Whatever God gives you, use it!
The final parable deals with the separation of the sheep and the goats. Jesus puts the sheep on his right hand and the goats on the left. This is the parable where we hear Jesus say to the sheep: "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mat. 25:40) And, it is where he says to the goats: "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Mat. 25:45" What was it they did or did not do? Well, the either did or did not feed the hungry, give a drink of water, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and care for the sick. Wow! Notice, these are not necessarily religious matters. Jesus is only asking them, and us to do that which non-Christians do. We just do these things as we were doing them for the Lord.
Well, there is a lot to say about each parable, but I want to look at the overall picture. Matthew is instructing the reader to live mindful of the final judgement. Now here's something interesting. When we look at Mark's account of this discourse we will notice a sense of urgency. But, we will discover that for Mark, there is always urgency. Even though Jesus is Matthew is calling for the reader to be mindful, there is not necessarily a sense of urgency. No, the virgins were to do nothing hurriedly, the servants were to only make good usage of their talents. The sheep and the goats (people actually) were to be mindful of the needs of others. Matthew is not warning us that the end will come soon, but he is warning us to live vigilantly as though the Lord could come at any time. In other words, Just be ready! There was a preacher who paid a visit to a local farmer. "Hey, sir!" said the preacher, "let me ask you a question." "Well, go ahead," answered the farmer. "Sir, are you ready for the rapture?" asked the preacher. "Well, I don't know. When is it?" asked the farmer. "Well, sir, it may be today. It may even be tomorrow." replied the preacher. The farmer looked at the preacher and said, "Well, please don't tell my wife. She'll want to go both days."
Well, while the foolish virgins are simply left out, and left behind, the others who failed in their task face darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and eternal punishment. (Mat. 25:30,46) But, I want you to notice something very interesting: What the servant did or did not do, nor what the sheep and goats did or did not do, were matters of faith. "Oh, all you need to do to go to heaven is...BELIEVE!!!!" Well, my friend that is not what Matthew is saying. You can read this passage frontwards and backwards and that is not what it is saying. Jesus is saying that our faith will lead us to doing.
Well, join me tomorrow as we look at the plot to kill Jesus.