Expository Sermon on Matthew 25
Bellevue SDA Church 8/25/2018
©2018 by Maylan Schurch
To hear the audio for this sermon, click the white triangular “play” button on the line just below.
Please open your Bibles again to Matthew chapter 25.
Yesterday afternoon Shelley and I made a quick stop at a Christian bookstore in the South Center area. I parked in front of the store, and after she went inside, I got out my sermon notebook.
All of a sudden, a large pickup truck drove up a couple of spaces to my right. And I’m thinking somebody else must have driven up too, because a large family appeared. A couple of the adults went into the store, another adult opened the hood of the pickup and started tightening something with a wrench, and four little boys played in front of the store.
Soon, the oldest of the boys, who was probably nine or 10, also went into the store, and I saw him sitting in an armchair by the window. That left three little boys out front, and they immediately began playing around a large pillar in front of the store.
The pillar was about three feet square, and the oldest of the three began to explain that they would be playing tag. And he and the second oldest boy began to creep around the sides of the column to see if they could tag the other. The youngest boy, who looked like he was about two or three, stumbled around the column after them, not quite sure what was going on, but having a good time.
They seemed like great little kids, very cheerful, able to make their own fun, while the grown-ups were in the store. They seemed to know how to wait in patience until the adults returned.
One thing that was interesting to me as I studied Matthew 25 this week was this. Last Sabbath we looked at Matthew 24, and as you probably know, that is the chapter where Jesus talks about signs that precede His coming.
And then, along comes Matthew 25. As it turns out, Matthew 24 gives us some essential information about Jesus’ return. And Matthew 25 gives us three basic things we can do while we wait for him, just like the little kids decided to play tag while they waited.
As you know if you’ve been attending here this year, ever since January we’ve been looking at literal words Jesus really said. And this chapter – if you have a Bible with the words of Christ in red – is almost totally red print. What we’ll be reading are direct quotes from Jesus Himself. And as you’ll see, He is going to tell us exactly what to do while we wait for His return.
So let’s get started and discover what we need to do while we wait. And first we start with a very familiar parable.
Matthew 25:1 – 13 [NKJV]: “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
So, what’s the first thing we should do while we wait for Jesus’ return? Well, we should definitely “watch and be ready,” as our closing song will remind us. But notice that this is not all that the five wise virgins did.
In fact, taking this whole story into account, here is the sermon point I came up for it. This is Sermon Point One in case you’re taking notes. As we look toward Jesus’ return, what shall we do while we wait? Here’s what I came up with.
You and I must keep fresh what we need to light the bridegroom’s way.
You see, all those 10 young ladies weren’t just supposed to sit and watch. They had brought lamps with them, and the idea seemed to be that they would accompany the bridegroom when he showed up, and maybe use those lamps to help light the way to his destination. And all along the streets, when people saw them coming, they would say, “Aha! Look at that! There’s a wedding happening in town!”
Back when I was a kid on our South Dakota farm, I remember dad coming home one day with an old kerosene lantern. It was a little over a foot high, and it was old and rusty, and had a wire handle on top.
I was really intrigued by it, and asked Dad how it worked. He had some kerosene somewhere, or maybe went into town to get some, so he filled up the lamp’s little tank, and lit the wick, and pretty soon there was a bright yellow flame.
I thought it was really interesting the way my parents reacted to this lamp. Dad had brought it home in case the electricity went out, but mom wasn’t so sure it was really going to be that useful. The bottom line was that they had both grown up in prairie farm houses which had absolutely no electricity. They had radios, but those radios were operated by wires which led up from battery boxes in the basement. And they had kerosene lamps just like this one.
So mom and dad looked on this lantern not as a nostalgic antique, but as a device they once had to use because they didn’t have anything better. It’s probably the same with people (like me) who first used manual typewriters, and now use computers. You never want to go back.
I don’t ever remember us having to use that kerosone lamp in an emergency, and pretty soon it got tossed out.
But here in Jesus’ parable, these 10 girls bring their lamps along because those lamps will be needed. And as we just saw, five of the girls were foolish, and five of them were wise. The wise girls brought along extra lamp oil in what must’ve been pottery jars, because they needed to keep those lamps burning, to be ready at a few second’s notice, to jump to their feet and greet the bridegroom with a happy blaze of light.
So, if it’s true that we must keep fresh what we need to light the bridegroom’s way, what that mean? Well, something else I discovered for the first time as I studied through this chapter this week was that in each of the three stories we’ll be looking at, the most important thing seems to be your attitude toward Jesus.
In the first story, Jesus is the bridegroom. In the next story, He is a wealthy man who gives His servants opportunity to invest His property for Him. In the third story, Jesus plays the role of Himself – the Son of Man coming in His glory and separating the sheep from the goats.
And the plot of each of those stories turns on the attitude of the people in the story toward the bridegroom or the householder or the Son of Man returning in the clouds.
And sure enough, attitude is the key to these 10 girls’ reactions to the bridegroom. The wise set of girls know how important this wedding is to him, and how important their role is in it, so they think ahead and do what they can to make sure they won’t cause any sort of glitch in the proceedings. Whenever a couple asks me to marry them, I always tell them, “Have a good wedding coordinator, and make sure you plan everything out in exact detail.” I tell them, “If you do this, your wedding day will still have glitches, but they will be tiny ones that probably nobody will notice.”
And that’s what these five wise girls have done – brought along enough oil so that those lamps could burn for a long time, and shine brightly no matter what time of night the bridegroom arrived.
Okay, what does this have to do with us? How can we put this parable into practice?
Well, first, we need to check our attitude about Jesus. How much do we love Him? How anxious are we for Him to return?
And then we need to remember our role – to bring joy to Jesus the bridegroom, and to enhance His reputation for everyone who is looking on, so that they way, “Wow! That bridegroom must be really special! Look at all those people who are rejoicing with Him!”
Third, not only do we need to remember our attitude and our roles, but we need to plan long-term. The five foolish girls – if they even thought of it at all – were probably assuming that the bridegroom would show up in maybe half an hour. They just had not thought about the possibility of any kind of delay.
On the other hand, the wise girls practiced selflessness, centering their attention on the bridegroom, and what would be best for him. The foolish girls seem to have thought only of themselves, and didn’t go to any extra trouble, the way the wise girls had.
So what does the oil represent? Jesus doesn’t say. Other parts of the Bible use oil to represent the Holy Spirit, so that’s probably what the oil represents here. You and I need to be prayerfully reading our Holy-Spirit-inspired Bibles. We need to be attending a Sabbath school class, and studying those lessons and their scriptures ahead of time, asking the Holy Spirit to show us why we can be so proud of our Heavenly Father and His Son, and so overjoyed with allowing the Holy Spirit to use us for His work.
Let’s take a look at the second story in this chapter. Remember, these are the directly quoted words of Jesus Himself. This is what He wants us to know, and this is what He wants us to do while we wait. Get ready for one of the most amazing of Jesus’ parables.
Verses 14 – 30: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; [a talent, here, is not an ability, but money. One talent equaled 6,000 drachmas, and a drachma was one day’s wage for a laborer] and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.
After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
So here comes what I consider to be Sermon Point Two. What does Jesus want us to do while we wait for His return?
Not only must you and I keep fresh what we need to light the bridegroom’s way and enhance His reputation, but we also need to invest what we have for our Savior.
Once again, can you see how attitude plays such an important part in this story? For one thing, this amazing and extremely trusting householder is showing his attitude toward his servants. He himself is an enthusiastic and entrepreneurial investor, and maybe he wanted to give an opportunity to these three servants in case they might become interested in investing too.
And also this householder seems to know the abilities of these three men. The five-talent guy seems to be almost as enthusiastic and knowledgeable about investing as the householder himself. The second guy, not so much. And the third one – even as we’ll see what kind of person he turns out to be – this householder still gives the guy a chance.
But then, the householder finally returns – and this is another theme all three stories have. The bridegroom, the householder, and eventually the Son of Man Himself, are all away, someplace else. And during the story they return.
And sure enough, this householder comes back, probably very interested in how his servants have done with his resources. The five-talent servant comes rushing in, probably followed by a string of ten sub-servants each carrying a bag of gold, with the good news that he’s doubled the master’s money.
The two-talent man has the same good news—he also doubled his master’s money.
But as you remember the story, it’s the one-talent servant who has the attitude problem. Now, I myself am no expert in investment. I take care of my own money all right, but I would be terrified if someone asked me to invest some money for them. But even I would know to put the money into a certificate of deposit or some other kind of savings account so it could draw a little interest.
But the attitude of this third servant is so bad, that he evidently cannot even stand the thought of generating some extra income for the householder. And because he has this attitude, he has just shown himself to be a very dangerous person. If he can’t muster even a tiny bit of love and loyalty toward this shockingly good-hearted employer, then this third servant’s very presence will eventually cause a morale problem in the household, similar to the attitude Lucifer caused in Heaven.
So again, let’s get practical? How can we invest what we have for Jesus?
Well, first of all, it’s not all about money. True, God has done His best to make us very aware that money is a part of it. God doesn’t need anything we possess, or any of our money. But what we need is to turn from our natural selfishness and greed, and take a balanced and healthy stance toward money. Jesus warned against worshiping money, which a lot of people do.
So as we review Malachi chapter 3, we discover that 10% of what we earn already belongs to God, and it is our duty to return it to him. Our freewill offerings are important, too – yet not because God himself needs to pay His own mortgage the way a human landlord would.
No, our financial resources, given into God’s hands, are ways to enhance His reputation and advance His causes. And financial faithfulness, following God’s plan, is an amazing faith-strengthener. I’ve told you many times from this pulpit that I do not worry about money. Once in a while, I get a slight tingle of apprehension about it, but then I remember that I have been faithful to God in the way He has asked, and I know that He has promised to be faithful to those who follow His financial plan.
Somebody in our church board meeting this past Thursday night stated firmly, “God will provide.” And that person was speaking not just from theory but from decades of experience.
But investing doesn’t have to do with just money, as I said. Think of the three “T’s,” time, talent, and treasure. We’ve talked about the treasure, but God knows that we will be deeply enthusiastic when we see how He can use our time and our talents. So let’s consecrate our three “T’s” to Him again this week—time, talent and treasure.
Now let’s look at one final thing Jesus wants us to do while we wait for His return.
Verses 31 – 46: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
So what is Sermon Point Three? What else does Jesus want us to do while we wait?
Not only must you and I keep fresh what we need to light the bridegroom’s way, and not only must we invest what we have for our Savior, but we must care for the needy.
One of the highlights of each week for Shelley and me is our Wednesday night prayer meeting. Each time we follow the same plan. First we sing a few songs, then we mention things that we thank the Lord for – and often these are direct answers to things we’ve been praying about. Then we pray about these blessings, out loud.
Then after a short devotional thought we all mention our prayer requests, and we pray for these specifically, again, out loud.
And I’ve noticed that the people who come to prayer meeting are not only thank-ers and pray-ers, but they are also doers. Nine times out of ten, when they bring a prayer request, it’s about someone they are friends with, or are at a workplace with, or serve in our free clothing bank. Nine times out of ten, it’s someone they have personally helped or encouraged.
We need to take care of the needy. Of course, this does not mean that we should be irresponsibly lavish. Jesus didn’t command us to staple a wooden clothespin to the frame just outside the door, and clip a wad of twenty-dollar bills to it, for anyone to come by and take what they want.
We need to be thoughtful and responsible in our helping. Proverbs says over and over that people need to work for a living. None of Jesus’ parables, either in this chapter or in any of the other parts of the gospels, are about loafers, or what Proverbs calls “sluggards” or “lazy.” Jesus never healed anyone of poverty, but of that which would hamper them being able to support themselves.
No, the needy Jesus was talking about in this last story are people who can’t help themselves. Maybe they’re going through a financial crisis which isn’t of their own making. (Remember, there was no Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security in those days.) Maybe they’re disabled in some way. Maybe they are in prison and need encouragement.
Again—attitude is key here. What is our attitude to Jesus? Because when He eventually calls us all together and starts separating the sheep from the goats, the dividing principle will be, did we help people or didn’t we? If we did help them, we were helping Jesus, even unknowingly. And Jesus says that this is the attitude which will get us into heaven. This group of people just enjoys helping and sharing and listening and caring, just from their nature. And they’re astounded to learn that Jesus considers that they have been helping Him.
But if our attitude is coarse and selfish to those in need, we’ve effectively cancelled our heavenly condo reservation. That’s what Jesus says. And if we’re in that group right now, we need to ask for His forgiveness and His Holy Spirit to help us change.
Something to think about, right, while we wait? How many of you want to do some serious thinking about Jesus’ three prescriptions for waiting correctly?