Advent-ure Day 23: Matthew 25 – Be prepared

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Today’s reading:

Matthew 25

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The Sheep and the Goats

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

 

Be prepared

I never realised before that these three parables are alongside one another in Matthew chapter 25. They are hard words from Jesus. A lot of what Jesus says, far from making us feel warm and fuzzy, actually makes us feel uncomfortable. I’m not sure I’d have liked to have been there the day Jesus preached this sermon!

This passage is part of this Advent reading plan because it’s about preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. The Second Coming is something I find quite hard to get my head around as a Christian. How are we supposed to prepare?

Well, in this chapter of Matthew, Jesus gives us three different areas of our lives we can focus on to prepare: 

 

Relationship with God

The first is the story of the virgins and their oil lamps. I think this is about our relationship with Jesus: ‘Truly, I tell you, I don’t know you’. I think the oil represents our spiritual lives, the discipline of prayer and worship. Although we don’t live in a world where we use oil lamps any more, the metaphor is easy enough to understand. We all know what it feels like when we’re running low on oil. It reminds me of the verse in Ephesians 5:18 that says:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.

A pastor once told me that the Greek verb used should really be translated as ‘be being’ filled with the Spirit – that is, keep on being filled. It seems we can run out of it! I think that is true, we are saved, we can be sure of that, but if we don’t keep returning to the ‘author and perfecter of our faith‘ we are going to fall asleep.

 

Use of our gifts

The parable of the talents is well known. I hadn’t really noticed before, however, quite how angry the master in the story is with the man who buries his gold. It is in this parable that Jesus says those famous words ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’ – it’s a bit scary isn’t it? Are we truly becoming the people God intends us to be, or are we ‘hiding our light under a bushel‘? If we use what God has given us, the blessings are in abundance (v29).

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Lucy and the book of incantations in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Image source

It makes me think a little of the story of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader – the film of which I saw the other day. There is a scene in the film in which Lucy wishes she were more beautiful than her sister – Aslan challenges her about this. Lucy then shares the lesson she learned from Aslan with a little girl on the boat. The little girl says ‘when I grow up, I want to be just like you’, Lucy replies ‘when you grow up, I want you to be just like you!’

Don’t waste your life not being the person God has made you to be!

 

Caring for others

The final parable we looked at in a bit of detail on Day 8 of the Advent-ure Calendar. It is clear here, that one way in which we can prepare for Christ’s coming is by finding Christ in the ‘least’ around us – those sick, hungry, in prison and in poverty.

 

As you’ve been reading this, maybe one of these 3 areas has stood out for you. Set aside some time now to talk to God about whatever this reading has brought up for you, asking Him for help in preparing for His coming again.

 

 

Keep us, O Lord, 

while we tarry on this earth, 

in a serious seeking after you, 

and in an affectionate walking with you,

every day of our lives; 

that when you come,

we may be found not hiding our talent,

nor serving the flesh,

nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished,

but waiting and longing for our Lord,

our glorious God for ever.

Amen

 

(Richard Baxter – 1691)

 

 


 



 

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