This is a look at the last public teaching that Jesus gave before going to the cross. He did this, like usual, through the use of parables. And in many cases, Jesus used multiple parables to teach the same principle. He did this with the parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and the prodigal son. We see Him doing it again with another trifecta of parables. In your Bible they are probably labeled as the parables of the 10 virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. Before we start breaking these down, let’s take a little more look into the context of these teachings.
As I mentioned before, this is the last public message that Jesus taught before the last supper and his eventual betrayal in the Garden. Jesus delivers them following His return to Jerusalem. Starting back in chapter 21, Jesus goes into the temple and cleanses it from the ungodly practices of all the Passover vendors. After leaving, He would return to the temple in order to address the leaders and religious members of society. This is where He called out the hypocrisy of the teachers and pharisees of Israel and warned the people not to follow in their example. Once again, Jesus leaves the temple and begins His discourse on the end of the age. Also referred to as the “end times” or “second coming”. It is at this point that Jesus delivers these three connected stories.
In each illustration, Jesus divides people into one of two groups. There’s the Wise Virgins and the foolish virgins in the first parable He teaches. In the second, people are divided into the Good and Faithful Servants or the Wicked and Lazy Servant. And in the last parable He teaches the two divisions are the Sheep and the Goats. Let’s look at the distinction between them now.
1-Prepared vs unprepared: The wise virgins had enough oil. They were fully prepared and anticipated meeting the bridegroom. Same with the Good and Faithful Servants, who did the work and invested their effort to bring a profit to their existence that would please the master. For the sheep, Jesus provides specific examples of what it looks like to be prepared for His arrival, and how we can invest our faith to benefit others for His glory. They all included looking for the needs in others and doing our part to fill them. We have an abundance of hurting and broken people around us. We don’t have to look too far to find someone in need, physical or emotional. To be prepared is to live like Jesus did. To seek the lost and to give our lives away for the benefit of others. Oil is often used as a representation of the Holy Spirit. To be prepared then is to be filled with the Spirit and to live according to the spirit.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:5-6 ESV
2-Active vs. inactive: One key distinction between those who are looking for the return of Christ is how active they are. Life can easily get in the way but Jesus doesn’t take that as an excuse. No matter how busy we are, we are meant to do “everything” unto the Lord. Whether in word or deed. Family, work, hobbies…they shouldn’t get in our way of doing the things of the Lord, they should be all about doing the things of the Lord. That doesn’t mean we have to all be preachers, but we should all be preaching the gospel through our way of life and our words. We display Jesus at home, at work, and at play.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Colossians 3:17 ESV
3-Bigger mission vs. self-centered mission: The wicked and lazy servant operated out of fear. The foolish virgins cared more about the load they carried and their convenience rather than being prepared. The Goats were doing everything to promote their own religiosity. God knows when we do things for Him and when we do things to promote ourselves. Jesus said to let our lights shine before men so that they will see them and glorify God in heaven. But so many do things so that they themselves will be glorified on earth. Fear won’t be an excuse. Convenience won’t be an excuse. And self-glorification certainly won’t be an excuse.
“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Acts 20:24 ESV
4-A knowledge of Jesus vs. not really knowing Him: Paul said to live as wise and not as unwise, knowing the things that are pleasing to the Lord. Jesus wants us to be watching for Him and investing our lives in the lives of others. He wants us to live in a manner that points others in His directions. We all need to live less for ourselves and more for Him. Jesus tells each of the people in the negative category that He does not know them. Those are fearful words that none of us should ever want to hear. We all need to live for the future hope by leaving the best possible legacy now. We all need to pick up our cross and follow Him. He has made it possible for us to know Him. The question is, are we walking full on into His invitation?
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV
What is the overall purpose of these last few parables that Jesus teaches us? What is Jesus trying to get us to see? I believe He wants to leave us with a clear message of how to be prepared for His eventual return. These words are a gift to us. It’s His final reminder before He departs. It reminds me of the farewell address given by Moses at the conclusion of giving the law and before he went up the mountain with God to die. Laid before us is life and death. Jesus’ use of contrast imagery drives home the same message. The world’s only divided into two groups of people: those who know Him and those who don’t. In the end, that is all that will matter. Our socioeconomic status doesn’t matter. Nor does our bucket list. Our career path, net income, and accomplishments all fade away in light of what Jesus is really looking for in you and me. He wants to know us and be known by us.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28 ESV
He entreats us all to take the time to listen. Hear His voice calling you by name, telling you that you are loved, inviting you into His pasture, into the abundant way of life. Listen to the good shepherd guide you to the life of love and legacy.
Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.