What do virgins, bags of gold, and livestock have in common? Read on and see…
2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share in the inheritance as one of the family [it’s what happened to the Gentiles who believed in Jesus as opposed to the Jews who didn’t].
The last teachings of Jesus that Matthew recorded are in chapter 25. In that chapter are three parables–actually, the last one is different than the other two in that it describes a specific future event. Let’s look at each one and see the theme that runs between them.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Bridesmaids)
Of the 10 bridesmaids, only 5 of them brought extra oil to trim their lamps. The other 5 were unprepared. So, I take the meaning of the parable to be, “Be prepared.” Preparation.
The Parable of the Bags of Gold
Of the three servants, two of them were faithful to invest their master’s gold in productive markets. The third servant did nothing with his. I take the meaning of the parable to be, “Be faithful to invest what the Master has given you.” Investment.
The Future Account of the Sheep and the Goats
The sheep lived according to the instructions given them by their Shepherd. The goats did not. Their reward was based upon their service. So, I take the meaning of the parable to be, “Serve your Shepherd according to His instructions.” Service.
Taken together, what conclusion can we draw from these parables?
- Jesus was nearing the end of His earthly ministry prior to the cross. These parables represent all that His disciples needed to do in His “absence” (He sent the Helper back to be with them after His ascension; see John 14:16-17).
- These three categories describe the Christian experience: Salvation (preparation), sanctification (investment), and reward (service).
- The persons that were absent in all three parables are: The Bridegroom, the Master, and the King.
- Taken together, Jesus was pronouncing Himself as the Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15, John 3:29), the Master (Matthew 6:24, 10:24, 24:50), and the King (John 18:36).
- The last parable really sealed the deal:
- He called Himself the Son of Man, referring to Daniel 7:13-14, thus claiming Himself the Messiah and equal to God.
- Jesus refers to His Return with all the angels with Him, which is another direct reference to Daniel 7:13-14.
- The throne is the throne of Israel. He is proclaiming Himself as the King of Israel.
- The fact that all the nations are gathered before Him indicates that He is Ruler of the entire world!
- The sheep will be blessed by His Father, God Almighty. Only God can rule the nations (Psalm 22:28).
- He claims eternal sovereignty: “(My) kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
- He is Lord over hell: “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Matthew was pulling out all the stops* in declaring Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. From that point on, it was about the Passion (Jesus’s Garden experience, arrest, trial, beating, crucifixion, and resurrection). We would do well to remember these three aspects of chapter 25: Preparation (are you prepared to stand before Almighty God? Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ?), Investment (are you using what God has given you to serve Him in partnership with the Spirit, holding nothing back, and committing your entire life to Him?), and Service (Do you serve for reward or out of gratitude? Is your motive right?).
Abba, I know that I am prepared to stand in Your presence through salvation, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I know that I am investing my life in kingdom works according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my daily life. I pray that my life of service has been, and will continue to be, with an attitude of gratitude. I look forward to the Day when You say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Anything else will be gravy. Amen.
* The “stops” in this instance originally refer to the stop knobs on a pipe organ, which are used to regulate the instrument’s sound by selecting which sets of pipes are active at a given time. Each pipe plays a note, and the organ’s pipes are arranged in sets (called ranks) according to type and quality of sound. An organ might have ten ranks, or it might have 100 ranks; in most cases, each rank will have a pipe for each note of the keyboard. (Some ranks have pipes that correspond to the organ’s pedals).
The stop knobs control which ranks will have air flow—that is, which ranks will sound. A key (or pedal) plays all of the pipes for that note in whatever ranks have been selected by the organist’s pulling out or pushing in of one or more stop knobs.
To pull out all the stops literally, then, is to pull out every knob so that air is allowed to blast through every rank as the organist plays, which creates a powerful blast of unfiltered sound.
“Bach was famous in his time not just as a great organist, but also as a great organ tester, and whenever he tried a new organ his practice was to start off by playing with all the stops pulled out, that is, with every rank of pipes on-line at once.”
— Miles Hoffman, The NPR Classical Music Companion, 1997