In my personal devotions this morning I was forcibly struck by the text - it was the section towards the close of Matthew that deals with the Judgment of Christ, namely 24:1-25:46.
Confused but Comforted
As I struggled to get my head around the destruction of Jerusalem and desecration of the Temple (23:37-24:2, 24:15-26), together with false Christs (24:23-26), global convulsions (24:29), and mundane conditions (24:37-39), I was comforted that our Lord (in his humiliated state) was kept in the sinless dark regarding the precise day or hour. What is even more striking is that, despite Christ's predictive imprecision, he had concrete certainty:
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away - Matthew 24:34-35.
I resolved, in my heart, as I think we must, to be content with heeding this passage's practical thrust. That seems to be the point of the three parables that follow, which I suggest are best taken (or given) in one fairly potent sermon, in 25:1-46. What then do they teach?
Alerted and Activated
This is the section that really hit me like a ton of bricks! Let me outline the punchy lessons that these single-point parables teach!
We could call the Parable of the Ten Virgins, in 25:1-12, the 'Boy-Scout' Parable: it seems clearly designed by the Judge, if we don't know day or hour, to make us well-prepared. The message of twenty virgins is undoubtedly READINESS!
The Parable of the Talents comes next, in 25:14-30: as we review gifts and graces which King Jesus has lavished on the saints, pastors in particular, are warned by the Master of the need for diligence. We aren't all the most talented. Abilities range from small to large. The sad case of the worthless servant, cast out to darkness with hypocrites, is a call to FAITHFULNESS - this is the way to avoid weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Parable of the Flock is a 'shock-tactic' of the Good Shepherd, 25:31-46. All the sheep are assembled to assess their practical faith. How easy it would be to write-off God's Word to us by a quick, dismissive, side-swipe at liberal interpretations of this text! It is salutary to realize that, in this narrative, Christ tugs at disciple heart-strings first and foremost. This is not a word that pastors and elders, in particular, can afford to ignore! Are we not examples to the flock that we feed? Should we not be at the front of the queue in visiting persecuted believers, tending the sick, clothing the naked, welcoming immigrants, supplying hungry Christians, or helping those who struggle while engaged in Kingdom business? Yes, of course, the Word and Prayer come first as teachers in God's House - yet we must not neglect their practical outlet. The 'Schism' Parable aim, I suggest, is to summon God's fold (particularly Under-Shepherds) to compassionate, loving, church SERVICE!
If you remain hazy about the Matthean Apocalypse, please don't miss the challenge of Final Warnings of Final Judgment - believers BE PREPARED with READINESS, FAITHFULNESS and SERVICE. Use the 'Second Coming Alarm Clock' to be a spiritual activist, before the solemn separation of spiritual sheep and goats! Christ suffered on the Tree to regenerate His sheep and justify them through faith - the proof and fruit of saving grace is sanctified hearts in ready, faithful, servants. So, children of God, in pulpit or in pew, if King Jesus is Coming Soon, heed His trumpet blast - READY... STEADY... GO!