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133. The ten girls (Matthew 25:1-13)
Matthew 25:0 records three stories or pictures from Jesus, all of which illustrate the teaching he had just given. He would leave the world for an unknown length of time, then return. Those who prepared themselves for his return would enter his kingdom with joy; those who did not would suffer loss. The three passages show three reasons for people’s failure - thoughtlessness, laziness and indifference.
A Jewish marriage followed a period of engagement that was almost as binding as marriage. At the marriage the bridegroom, with his friends, went and brought the bride from her father’s house to his own house, where the feast was held. This was the procession that the ten girls in the story went out to meet (Matthew 25:1).
Some of the girls, however, were foolish, for they did not consider the possibility that the bridegroom might not come at the time they expected. When his arrival was delayed, they were unprepared (Matthew 25:2-9). In due course the bridegroom came, but there was then no time to make preparations. The foolish girls were locked outside the house and had no further chance of going in to the wedding feast (Matthew 25:10-12).
In the same way, because of carelessness, many will not be prepared when the Son of man comes. Consequently, they will miss out on the blessings they had hoped for in his kingdom (Matthew 25:13).
134. The three employees (Matthew 25:14-30)
In the second story, a businessman who went away on a journey left his business in the care of three trusted employees. He gave money to the three men, the amounts they received varying according to their business abilities. Two of the men worked well and made good profits, but the third was lazy and did nothing (Matthew 25:14-18).
When the owner returned, he was pleased to see that the first two men had worked well, and he rewarded them by giving them added responsibility (Matthew 25:19-23). The lazy employee tried to excuse himself by saying that he feared he might trade at a loss and so anger his employer. He received the reply that if he thought his employer was so hungry for money that he looked only for profits and had no interest in honest work, he should have put the money in the bank. Then he would have at least gained some profits through the interest that the bank paid (Matthew 25:24-27).
The meaning of the story is that God gives people different capacities and abilities, and they are to use these in the business of expanding his kingdom. Those who use their gifts will be rewarded with increased capacity and ability, but those who neglect their gifts will become useless. The day of reckoning will bring joy for some but disappointment for others (Matthew 25:28-30).
135. Sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
Jesus’ third example opens with a description of his return in power and glory to judge the world. His judgment reveals that, no matter what nation a person may come from, there are only two types of people in the world, compared in the story to sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-33).
The ‘sheep’ are God’s people, who give proof of this by the practical love they show to others, often at the expense of their own convenience and comfort. Because they are unselfish, they may not be aware of all the good they do or the appreciation that others have of their kindness. But Jesus notices. He has so identified himself with the needy that he sees any kindness done to them as kindness done to himself (Matthew 25:34-40).
The ‘goats’, by contrast, are those who think only of themselves. Their lack of interest in the misery and suffering of others shows their lack of love for Jesus. They know nothing of his character and have never learnt to deny themselves for his sake. There is no place for them in Jesus’ kingdom; their punishment is certain (Matthew 25:41-46). As in the stories of the ten girls and the three employees, people are condemned for their failure to do good rather than any deliberate wrongdoing.
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 25". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany