Friday, August 7, 2015

What to do While Waiting for Him

     Matthew in Chapters 23-25 chronicles an interesting series of parables as we come to the end of Jesus' earthly ministry. 
     Jesus excoriated the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, warning the crowds and His disciples not to be like them in any way.  He mourned for Jerusalem, knowing what will befall it in the future.  His disciples, astonished that anything will come against the mighty City of David (after all, God's house is there!), asked Him to elaborate on the coming destruction and what will precede His return.
     He tells them the signs to look for and how the future will be similar to Noah's time.  People will be focused on their daily lives and will ignore the warnings until this future "flood" will come and sweep them away. 
     Jesus subsequently starts a series of parables, underscoring the preceding discourse.  He talks of the "faithful and wise servant" who serves his master faithfully, even though the master is not around.  He contrasts this with a "wicked" servant, whose self-serving behavior betrays his supposed love for his master. 
     He then talks of the ten virgins.  Five are completely prepared to meet the bridegroom.  He contrasts these with the five who didn't care enough to be ready for him. 
     If Jesus told the crowd and His disciples not to be like the Pharisees (who are the supposed local role models for Godly living) then who should they emulate?  These parables unpack that question beautifully:  Love and serve the Master and Bridegroom out of reverence and love, and act as if each coming day will be that Day!  Don't behave out of fear and duty. 
     Love is the calling card of this new Kingdom.  The older Kingdom with its Temple, sacrifices, and priests will be fulfilled by a new covenant.  This will be the New Covenant of Jesus' blood.  He will enter Jerusalem as the final sacrificial Lamb.  God will be fully satisfied by what His Son will soon do. 
     The Temple will be demolished by the Romans in 70 AD and the Jewish people will be scattered to the four winds.  But this New Covenant will sustain and supply the Kingdom of God will everything it needs:  faithful servants of God, empowered by His very own Spirit. 
     The Temple of God will be these new believers, as they come to be indwelt by His Holy Spirit.  The Sacrifice will be His Son.  And the priests?  Us.

     Next, Jesus talks of three men who were given talents, and were expected by their departing master to use them wisely, multiplying what they have.  The one fellow who buries his talents, because he considers his master harsh and unforgiving, is castigated for acting out of fear and selfishness. 
     Onto the next parable, the one about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46:
31 “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.
34 “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. 35 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, 36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “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.’
41 “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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.’
44 “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?’
45 “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.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”      The sheep are sheep because of how they acted.  They relieved the suffering of others, especially those whom the old order--the Pharisees--despised:  the hungry, the naked, the foreigner, the sick and the criminal.  While the Pharisees stood about, debating the minute details of the Law, dressed in glorious attire and sought to silence Jesus, those who really knew His Father were out and about, meeting the needs of the people who needed God the most.   
     The goats are goats because of how they acted.  They saw the need.  They weren't ignorant of the hungry or the naked.  What they refused to see was that their Heavenly Father wanted to use their hands and feet to push His Kingdom forward.  They were too busy debating, parading and masquerading as if the Kingdom was on their terms.  They could do what they wanted, when and with whom they deigned to be kind with, and that was good enough.  Right?
     All of these parables boil down to one key truth:  while you are waiting for Him to return, serve others.  Love others as you love Jesus.  Prompted by His Spirit, be willing to be His hands and feet in this needy world.  
     Know your Master well by reading His Word and spending time with Him.  Thus, you will serve Him out of reverence and love.  Duty and fear have no place in this Kingdom.
     You'll be so busy doing Kingdom work, His return will happily catch you by surprise.  


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