As I was singing some Christmas songs – I had this Bizarre picture. A picture from 2000 years ago, of a heavenly baby shower. As the universe waited expectantly for the most important baby of all time to be born.
“ Just compare the expected reception of any baby, a baby loved and anticipated. Room decorated, baby clothes laid out, names chosen – to the reception that was waiting for Baby Jesus. No place to be born – rejected by everyone except those closest to him. Born into a hostile environment with a foe determined to annihilate him before he grew up. Destined for a life of poverty with a small band of friends who ultimately would also desert Him at the time of His greatest need. No transport except feet on dusty paths and an occasional donkey. ‘Unfair’ you cry! Stop and think. Why was he coming? Because of sin. You easily under estimate the evil effects of sin. That is what devastated the world and continues to do it. Take stock now as Christmas approaches that you fully appreciate the power of sin and understand and appreciate the coming of this Baby – our Saviour from the evil of this all pervading scourge called sin.”
As we come to Matthew 25, I remember the greater context. The greater context of the breaking in of the kingdom of God into this world, as Jesus explained from the beginning of The Sermon on the Mount. This action of God through Jesus was rapidly approaching fulfilment as the cross loomed ahead. Against that background are these last parables which have a common theme. They are highlighting various aspects of the urgency of the times, then and now.
The key vs is 24:44 “This is why you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect.” Then again in 25:13 “Therefore be alert, because you do not know either the day or the hour”.
How does this play out? Ch 25 sets out 3 parables showing various aspects of what it means to “be ready”.
They are well-known stories. Perhaps so well-known that we may read through them quickly and say to yourself, “Oh yes, that is what it means”. I meditated on each one this last week and realized a few things which I thought were important for me to understand, that I will share with you.
Firstly, “the ten virgins”. What does the oil represent? I have often heard that it represents the Holy Spirit. After all, the Holy Spirit is often referred to in terms of oil. However there is a problem. There are 5 virgins who have some oil, not enough, but some, which would indicate they are Christians, because the presence of the Spirit is surely a sign of being a real Christian. The key seems to lie in vs 12, though. “I assure you I do not know you“. So these ladies had some knowledge of Christianity, but had never come to know the Lord personally. What demonstrates that one is a real Christian? You have a vibrant and living relationship with God through Jesus. That is what Jesus has called us into and why He saved us. So the fact that the wise virgins have enough oil in reserve says to me that that demonstrates a real relationship and a constant replenishment of the Spirit through this relationship. There is no place to be lazy in the kingdom of heaven.
The second parable focusses on using the opportunities and abilities that the Lord gives. Those who have been given 10 talents are not necessarily of greater value than those with 5. They have both used their opportunities equally effectively. What is important is the principle lying behind this parable in vs 29, “For everyone who has, more will be given“. This parable is parallel to the one of the sower, who sowed on good soil. God is looking for fruit in His servants and for those who produce fruit, more and more opportunities will be given to them.
Finally the parable of the sheep and goats. Once again I don’t think it is the actual act of feeding the bretheren who are hungry, as such that commends them. It speaks to me of a totally different attitude in those who are saved. One best described as being ‘other people centered’. Notice the focus of care is firstly on, “these brothers of mine.” (vs 40.) As a family, we Christians firstly have a responsibility towards one another. I would hasten to say that it does not stop there, but that is our first responsibility. Remember, some of the early Christians sold land and other possessions to help those in need. That demonstrates a converted heart and I dare say that is what the Lord is looking for.
So friends this all boils down ultimately to the genuine change that happens when we are born again and that being nurtured by building on the relationship that arises from there. Jesus is helping us all the way, as long as we remain in the vine.
May God bless you as you anticipate celebrating that Birthday.