Matthew 25

 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

In Chapter 24 we saw Jesus describing what will precede His coming and what things will happen in the end days.  He continues in warnings and describing what His coming will be like in this chapter, emphasizing that we need to be ready, even while we don’t know the time of His arrival. He also describes what His kingdom will be like, and those who will enter- and those who will not.

In ancient Jewish wedding customs when a couple is betrothed or engaged, the betrothal period was to last for one year. During this time the couple was considered married, but did not have sexual relations and continued to live separately until the end of the betrothal. And part of the groom’s responsibility was to go and prepare a place for his bride. His father of the groom would make the determination of readiness before giving the go ahead to receive his bride.

For the bride, preparations were made through the betrothal time, mostly making and preparing holy garments for the wedding. The period of the betrothal was a time of anticipation, and the time of the groom’s arrival was always to be a surprise.

The virgins here as in traditional ceremonies were to wait on the groom, and be prepared to light his way to the house.  As much excitement and joy that would come, one would be expected to be prepared, or miss out. If one can’t be ready, it shows lack of care or honor on the virgin’s part.

Five were considered wise, and five, foolish.  As wise, Christians are sincere, looking forward and ready for Christ’s return, yet still shining the light of His Gospel and occupying our time while we wait.

They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them...”  They didn’t care enough, didn’t plan and spent time foolishly.  Hypocrites, expecting others to give what they want, because they are wise and important in their own eyes.  That could represent a lot of our society right now.

While in this life, the fable of the ant and the grasshopper has changed to show today’s entitlement mentality, unfortunately for when Christ comes, people will realize that entitlement doesn’t work in getting into the kingdom, or the Groom’s house.

Faith is important, as is loving our Lord, but that doesn’t come cheaply with an “I deserve it” attitude. We don’t deserve what He has given freely, or the things He’s promised.  Straight and narrow is the way, and too few are finding it because their lamps aren’t lit and the broad meandering way is full of fellow thinkers who praise each other instead of their Savior .

They slept.  Sounds like a whole long period of the church age as well.  Maybe if past generations had kept their lamps lit, and actually stayed attentive, the church wouldn’t be full of empty pews or faith.  People expected Jesus to come immediately.  And we still hope He comes very soon. That’s understandable- but He does warn to occupy and do as we wait. To be ready, but be awake, be beacons of light.  His timing might not be ours, but it’s always right.

I have heard pastors say from time to time that we ought to be grateful that Jesus tarries, as there are so many out there who still have a chance to enter into His kingdom. That He tarried for as long as He has, because many of us now have a chance to enter into His kingdom.

The cry came at midnight… He will come when we least expect Him. Will we be ready?  I sure hope so.

Give us of your oil…

Reminds me kind of of the story of the rich man who died and went to hell, and his servant Lazarus who went to heaven.  “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”  He expects and wants what Lazarus has now, but didn’t care for him when he had breath of life. It will be much the same for those who mock and vilify Christians now, but will want ‘ours’ when they realize they missed out eternally.

The doors were shut to them- seems kind of harsh when one reads that for the first time.  But once we realize just how many opportunities the Lord has given… again, they don’t want what He has now while they have a chance. Why would they want it later?  God is a gentleman- and He never forces His company on those who don’t want Him around.

One more thing on buying oil vs. having it. Matthew Henry puts it this way,

“While they went out to buy, the bridegroom came. Note, With regard to those that put off their great work to the last, it is a thousand to one, that they have not time to do it then. Getting grace is a work of time, and cannot be done in a hurry. While the poor awakened soul addresses itself, upon a sick bed, to repentance and prayer, in awful confusion, it scarcely knows which end to begin at, or what to do first; and presently death comes, judgment comes, and the work is undone, and the poor sinner undone for ever. This comes of having oil to buy when we should burn it, and grace to get when we should use it.

The second parable is much like the first, wise servants and foolish ones. Those who trust their master, and those who do not.  But this parable focuses on works, not just faith in His return.  What we do with the “talents” and gifts He gives us, has a lot to do with what we will be doing in His kingdom, and what rewards we might be given.

This is another time when people could view as harsh, that last servant’s treatment when the Master comes back.

People don’t consider that Jesus is the maker, the owner, the creator of all things. He is the potter, and can do whatever He pleases to the clay. Whether in life, choices and experiences bring on more pounding, shaping and refinishing, or comes out just right the first time, we are being made into what Jesus wants us to be.  It is His absolute right to give, and yet appreciate usefulness out of the gifts He’s given, not only to enrich our own lives, but those around us.

The first two servants received 5 talents and two talents. Most likely because they had higher positions which meant more responsibilities. They had abilities to do with that their Master entrusted them, to make a profit- because they worked at it.

The second may have started out with as much, but he still did something worth getting at least another two to add to the original amount.

The last servant “only” got one talent.  This part kind of reminds me of earlier in our Matthew studies the story of the laborers in the fields whom the field owner hired for the day.  He ended up paying those who had worked all day the same wage as those who had come late- and those who’d worked all day complained. And yet the field owner had set a wage which they had accepted, and had every right to pay whatever He wanted to everyone.

So this guy only had one talent, which if he had any sense or care, would have at least tried to earn interest on.  But he didn’t even do that. He believed his Master to be cruel. Hard.  He didn’t trust, didn’t have faith, and worse, he not only didn’t use what he was given, he buried it.  Jesus gives each of us irreplaceable and priceless gifts, none of which are deserved, but given out of pure love- whether they are one or many.  To bury them, put them away or to not trust in Him enough to use them is pretty much telling Him that His gifts aren’t good enough.

Each man was given back what he sowed. Both of the first two servants reaped exactly what they sowed and made back twice what they were given yet the last servant reaped nothing because he sowed nothing, and even the smallest portion would be taken from him because he cared not about that to begin with.

He not only made excuses for his laziness, but blames the Master for it. How often have we seen or heard that behavior from people who either say they don’t believe in God, yet blame Him for things that didn’t work out in their lives,  or from those who say they believe, and yet allow everything and everyone to hold them back from using the gifts He gives while making excuses?

Sometimes I find myself falling into that last category, and realize that even if things seem out of my control or beyond possible for the moment, there are still ways even if small, I can do to use the things He has so generously given me to work with.

The simple things that we should be and could be doing as we wait for His return cost so little, and yet have returns that we can’t even begin to imagine.  If we love and trust in Him, it will be easier to do even the simplest things, which leads us to another favorite part of the Gospels for me…

Make no mistake, those who enter the kingdom do so by inheritance, and not because of anything we can do to earn us a place there.  It’s purely by trusting and putting on Christ as our Lord and trusting in His Sacrifice for our sins.  When we become His, we learn to love Him by loving others as He loves.  We also become a family in Christ, and the least of these He refers to here, are mainly brothers and sisters in His spiritual family.

There are plenty of people who do care about others, who give to charity, give time helping others, but their good deeds don’t come with the same love as Jesus loves, because they don’t love Him, and don’t have Him in mind when they do acts of charity.

Jesus sees the difference not only in the giving, but of the motives and the heart of the giver and whether the giver gave to those who believe in Him.

And the righteous answer, when did we see you hungry and feed you?  It’s not that they deny things done out of charity and don’t good deeds, but in considering all that Jesus has done for us, whatever bits we do is such a pitiful thing and no comparing to the glorious charity of the Lord.  That the Creator of the universe should even consider the littlest things we’ve done or given is a wonder.

And that He is in all of it, every beggar, every widow, every orphan, sick, hungry, prisoner.. think of entertaining angels unaware, because in every circumstance, whether we are the giver or receiver, Jesus is present and in control.  The first part of this judgement, when Jesus says Ye have done it unto me; it shows a respect to the poor that were helped, as well as to the rich that helped them.

In the second part of the judgement towards the goats, “Ye did it not to me” Jesus reminds them that while they’d never admit they denied the Lord, when they persecuted, mocked and cheated believers, it was Jesus that they persecuted, mocked and cheated.  And when they ignored believers who were hungry, poor, without, imprisoned or condemned, they did nothing to ease their hunger, poverty and persecution.  I have a feeling that this will be a large part of those who come to faith in Jesus during the tribulation times (as well as many of the persecuted in other countries now). People who come to faith under the Antichrist regime will be ignored and even turned over to authorities by neighbors, former friends and family.  All because of Jesus.

The judgement for those who care about a legacy to honor their own name and remembered by their own good deeds will be a bitter thing, for not only will their legacy die when the present heaven and earth pass away, their deeds will be burned up, and they will be cast out of the Lord’s presence for eternity.

But for those of us who make Jesus our legacy, the judgement will be sweet for eternity.

Have a blessed Wednesday all