Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Matthew

Three Parables of the Resurrection

Matthew 24:45 - 25:30

Lesson audio

I do not know why, but the resurrection of the dead seems to have faded from the list of popular sermon topics. This is all the more strange considering our fascination with end time prophecy. Perhaps it is because we like to hear stories with happy endings, but perhaps not so anxious to be warned concerning what we need to do about it.

On Your Watch

Mat 24:45-51 NASB "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? (46) "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. (47) "Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. (48) ''But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' (49) and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; (50) the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, (51) and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There is an old precept: the man in charge is responsible. As they say in the service, “it happened on your watch.” How then is a steward of the things of God to behave – since he will be held accountable?

The difference, I submit, is the difference between authority and tyranny. Authority in the faith comes from responsibility, and is to be exercised in servant leadership. Tyranny is the abuse of that authority, for the purpose of one’s own pleasures. All of us are sinners, and the warning against being a tyrant is a necessary one.

The warning is a very simple one: the day of reckoning is coming. It may not be in your lifetime, but it will come. For the good steward, reward. For the evil steward, fate.

The good steward

It is to be noted that the good steward is to be both wise and faithful. The ancient church quickly noted that the union of the two is relatively rare; it seems that if you acquire wisdom there is a tendency to exempt yourself from it. Perhaps it is better to encourage the faithful to such tasks, knowing that wisdom is readily available.[1]

What, then, is demanded of the good steward? He is the one who provides food at the proper time. This may be taken in two ways:

  • It can be taken literally. The church is to provide for the poor, to feed the hungry. But note the phrase: “at the proper time.” I submit that the proper time is when the poor are hungry – not just at Thanksgiving. The food pantry should run year-round.
  • It can be taken figuratively, as our Lord often did. It carries a warning to the leader in the church: you are to provide spiritual nourishment at a time that wisdom commands. It is of no use providing a sermon of pious platitudes which fill no one. We feed the Christian so that he might grow. Junk food is easy.
The evil steward

It is quite true: a price must be paid for evil. Unfortunately, the price paid in this life is usually paid by the flock assigned to the evil steward. But there is a day of reckoning; the price will be paid – and bitterly.

See, if you will, the two fold sin:

  • The evil steward fails to feed the flock of Christ. He starves them of spiritual nourishment, and they suffer for it.
  • The evil steward also abuses his authority, and turns his responsibilities into a platform for his own vices.

The greater the crime, the greater the punishment justice demands. The phrase translated “cut in pieces” actually should be translated “cut in half” or bisect. The ancient church held that this meant the sinner’s life and soul would be cut away from all spiritual gifts, which would return to God who gave them – and thus the sinner would face eternity without a single gift from God. Self-reliance, at last.

Wise and Foolish

Mat 25:1-13 NASB "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. (2) "Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. (3) "For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, (4) but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. (5) "Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. (6) "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' (7) "Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. (8) "The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' (9) "But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' (10) "And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. (11) "Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' (12) "But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' (13) "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

One of the reasons, I suspect, that we preach so little on the perils of the coming of Christ is that our practice of the doctrine of marriage has greatly declined. The early church would have instantly understood this to be the wedding of the Christ and his bride, the church. As such, they would have seen that this would apply to all of us.

It was, to them, a homey picture of wedding customs of the time. Weddings were celebrated over a week to two week period. The real beginning of the festivities came when the bridegroom banged on the young lady’s door and “kidnapped” her. It was considered good luck if the bridegroom did so at a time when the household was asleep – usually in the middle of the night. The bride and her wedding party would then go to the bridegroom’s home (usually his parents’ home) and the party would begin.

Oil

The oil referenced here would be well understood by Christ’s hearers. They would see it as a reference to many good things, in particular the “oil of gladness.”[2] The church would later see it in a different way:

  • Oil is burned to bring light – and Christ told us that we are the light of the world.[3]
  • But in that same sermon, Christ tells us to let our works shine before men.[4]

Kindly note: the difference between these two groups is not holiness, in the other sense used for oil, the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Holiness is God’s gift to us. Preparation for His return is our gift to Him.

Awake!

The wedding guests awake from natural sleep; the guests at the wedding of the Lamb awake from the sleep of death. Their lamps are trimmed – and we discover that some have nothing left to burn. They have prepared the catalog of their good works on earth, and found that all the benefit was received in their own lifetimes – there is nothing left for the wedding.

Do you not see it? Both groups were virtuous, righteous people. But only the wise coupled them with the good works which should flow so naturally from the Christian’s hand. The foolish did the minimum necessary; the wise overflowed. Do not just prepare for His coming; prepare abundantly.

Too late!

Do you notice that the foolish ones still call Him, “Lord, Lord?” Such He is. But it’s too late to claim Him; He sees no fruit in the life, and therefore such a branch must have been cut off from the True Vine. The resurrection is His, and we shall participate – for which we need to anticipate!

Talents

Mat 25:14-30 NASB "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. (15) "To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. (16) "Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. (17) "In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. (18) "But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. (19) "Now after a long time the master of those slaves *came and *settled accounts with them. (20) "The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' (21) "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' (22) "Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' (23) "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' (24) "And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. (25) 'And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' (26) "But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. (27) 'Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. (28) 'Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.' (29) "For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. (30) "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This might be called the parable of the fearful servant, or the parable of the selfish servant. Whatever the cause, this is one who takes God’s gift – and does nothing with it.

Have you ever had a white elephant gift? One that you must keep to avoid giving offense to the giver? The orange and lavender scarf, hand knit by Aunt So-and-So? You fear to give it away and offend her; you fear to wear it and offend the rest of the planet.

Fear

So what is this man afraid of? I suggest to you that he is afraid of the comparison with the other two. They obviously started with much more, and he knows his Master is one who demands results. How can he possibly compete? Better not to play at all than lose for certain, right?

This neglects the starting point. I suspect the Master gave him less because he knew he wasn’t capable of handling it. We often forget that we cannot compare ourselves to others; our gifts are different. My pastor is famous; I am not. He travels the world for Christ; I’m stuck where I am. But the question is not about him; it’s about me – what am I doing for Christ’s sake?

There is a secret in this: “perfect love casts out fear.”[5] If I work for the sake of comparison, if I work for fame, then fear enters. But if I work for the love of Christ, what should I fear?

Wicked, lazy and worthless

Let’s suppose that God has given you the gift of being able to get rich – and nothing else. God’s command is simple: be generous. You may not be able to teach or preach, sing or otherwise serve, but you have a checkbook. If you use it wisely for His kingdom, even if that means simply giving to Christian charitable organizations, you will be rewarded for that. But if you say, “I can’t keep up with all those other people; I have nothing of real value, I will do nothing,” you yourself can see that this is wickedness. At least buy some church building fund bonds! This is obvious.

What’s not so obvious is that if you are a “one talent” Christian with some other gift, you are equally wicked if you refuse to use that. With money it’s obvious; maybe your gift of calming small children it’s not so obvious. But the reasoning is still the same. The reckoning is not immediate – to allow you time to repent.

Well done, good and faithful servant

That’s what I’m trying to achieve: that He will pronounce me both good and faithful. Whatever my abilities might be, it is my intent to use them for Him – so that I might deliver results, not excuses. I know how He rewards the faithful – for little, He gives much. Keep your eye on the prize, folks.


[1] James 1:5

[2] Psalm 45:7

[3]Matthew 5:14

[4] Matthew 5:16

[5] 1 John 4:18

Previous     Home     Next