Be authentic followers of Jesus (Matt 25:31-46)

We’re now at the end of this series of parables about Christ’s return. We’ve seen that it will be unexpected, so we need to be ready. That, despite the delay, we need to make adequate preparation. That being prepared means being productive for the kingdom. And we ended yesterday with the principle that our actions are evidence of our faith – something which is taken up more explicitly in this final, extended story.

Matthew 25:31-33 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

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Be productive while we wait (Matt 25:14-30)

So far in this series of parables about Christ’s return, we’ve seen that it will be unexpected (like the flood, or like a thief in the night) – so we need to be ready. Yesterday, we saw that, despite the delay, we need to make adequate preparation – like the wise bridesmaids who brought extra oil for their lamps. But what does it look like to be prepared? That’s what today’s parable is about.

Matthew 25:14-15 Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 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.

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Be prepared for Christ’s return (Matt 25:1-13)

Yesterday, we looked at the unexpectedness of Jesus’ return. No one knows the day or hour – not even Jesus himself knew while in human form. It will be sudden, with catastrophic consequences: like people going about their business before being swept away by the flood; like a thief doesn’t phone ahead, but turns up without warning to steal your stuff.

So what should we do? Be ready, keep watch, says Jesus. Despite the delay, act like he could return at any moment, and be found doing what is right. In fact, in today’s story we’re told to make adequate preparation for Jesus’ return.

Matthew 25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

 

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The coming of the Son of Man (Matt 24:36-51)

We’re continuing in our look at Matthew 24, where Jesus is answering his disciples’ question about (a) when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, and (b) when Christ would come, and the signs of the end of the age. (If you’re just joining us, see the previous four posts for the full story.)

If you were wondering whether we’d ever get to the personal return of Christ, today’s the day. I mean, that we get to it in the text of Matthew 24. Because we won’t know the day. Or the hour. Which, if we’re being honest, is the but I’m not looking forward to about the return of Christ – the whole “being startled” thing. I’m not good with it.

That’s why I don’t like watching horror movies. It’s not the violence or gore that bothers me – I can sit through a good dismemberment as well as the next person – but it’s the jump-scares that freak me out. I can’t handle being startled. Yet that, says Jesus, is how it will be with his return. Whereas the destruction of Jerusalem would have warning signs accompanying it, not so with ninja Jesus:

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The sign of the Son of Man (Matt 24:29-35)

We’re continuing in our look at Matthew 24, where Jesus is answering his disciples’ question about (a) when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, and (b) when Christ would come, and the signs of the end of the age. (If you’re just joining us, see the previous three posts for the full story.)

So far we’ve seen Jesus give an answer that seems to deal with the first part of the disciples’ question: there will be some bad stuff, but they’re just the beginning of the birth pangs, so take a chill pill. (The gospel has to go to all nations before the end happens!) Jerusalem and its temple will be destroyed when you see the “abomination of desolation” set up – some kind of defiling of the temple, like in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes a couple of centuries prior. So when you see that, get out and leave Jerusalem to its destruction! (And don’t be fooled by other messiah figures claiming to be from God; the next thing God does won’t be some hipster preacher in the desert, it’ll be big and unmissable. Kind of like a big army of eagles swirling around…)

Today’s passage is a tricky one, as it’s harder to tell whether it’s still referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, or has moved on to the second question. Read it now, then we’ll discuss.

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The abomination of desolation (Matt 24:15-28)

We’re continuing in our look at Matthew 24, where Jesus is answering his disciples’ question about (a) when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed, and (b) when Christ would come, and the signs of the end of the age. (If you’re just joining us, see the previous two posts for the full story.)

At the bible college I teach at, the staff kitchenette is essentially an altar to fine coffee. (Our Old Testament and Christian Thought lecturer is its high priest, who alone is worthy to plunge.) So you can imagine the horror when one day we discovered that someone had put some sachets of International Roast brand instant (alleged) coffee. It quickly became known as the “abomination of desolation set up where it ought not to be” and necessitated a cleansing ceremony before the kitchenette could again be used for its holy purpose.

Ah, the shenanigans.

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The beginning of the birth pangs (Matt 24:4-14)

Yesterday, we saw Jesus predict the destruction of the temple. His disciples asked what they thought was a simple question (24:3 “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”) and Jesus gives anything but a simple answer. He seems to make a distinction between the first part of the question (when will the temple be destroyed?) and the second part (when will he return?). But in true prophetic fashion, those two horizons tend to merge. If you’re just joining us, it would be better to start with yesterday’s post to get the full explanation.

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The End… of the Temple (Matt 24:1-3)

Over the past five days we’ve looked at Matthew chapter 23, in which Jesus took the Pharisees to task for their hypocrisy – and their failure to recognise the kingdom of God when it turned up in their midst. It ended with a mic drop moment in which Jesus spoke of their “house” being left desolate (23:38) and hinted at the fact that the cornerstone they’d rejected was heading off to build a whole new house (23:39, echoing Psalm 118). So how and when was this going to happen?

That’s what chapter 24 is all about. Starting off when Jesus – the glory of God – leaves the temple and heads to the Mount of Olives. Just like as it did back in 587BC (see Ezek 11:23), when God abandoned it to destruction by the Babylonian army.

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A desolate house (Matt 23:34-39)

In our final installment of Matthew 23, Jesus tells of the judgement that was to come on the Pharisees – and, indeed, all of Jerusalem – because they rejected the offer of God’s kingdom, and they rejected Jesus, God’s Messiah.

Matthew 23:34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.

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Seven woes – Part Two (Matt 23:25-33)

So far in Matthew 23 we’ve seen Jesus take aim at the Pharisees for their hypocrisy:

  • Adding their own extra regulations to God’s law, making them the focus – and imposing them on others.
  • Using this to enhance their own status as lawmakers and interpreters for others.
  • Stopping others from entering the kingdom by (1) their focus on outward behaviour rather than inward transformation; and (2) rejecting Jesus, the Messiah.
  • Getting hung up on the small stuff – like tithing their spices – while ignoring the main themes of the law, like justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Today, Jesus continues with the last three of his seven woes: announcements of judgement against the Pharisees:

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