The Gospel of Matthew is distinguished from those of Mark and Luke by the presence of five great discourses. The final discourse, usually called “the Olivet Discourse” is found in chapters 24 and 25.
These five discourses are marked by occurrences of the closing phrase “when Jesus had finished all these words” (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, and 26:1). Thus, Matthew 25 continues unbroken from the end of Matthew 24 answering the questions his disciples had asked. It is not until Matthew 26:1 that we see the end of this discourse in Matthew and read “when Jesus had finished all these words.”
The content of Matthew 25 maintains the strong theme already seen introduced at Matthew 24:36: the disciples must be alert and occupied in the work Jesus had set before them, in. This theme continues into chapter 25 ending at Matthew 26:1. So our interpretation of each of these three parabolic narratives must contextually reflect what we see in chapter 24.
For example, it is important to see that the content of Matthew 25:31-46, the sheep and goats judgment, is part of the encouragement Jesus gave to the disciples to not give up. Look at the way Jesus continues to speak in a number of parables continuing to encourage those disciples and this fact must guide our interpretation. This is important.
So let’s look at the first two of these well-known parabolic narrative-pictures which Jesus uses to stress the importance of the disciples being about his business. In each we see two groups of people: the wise and foolish girls, the ‘well-done’ slaves and the ‘worthless, lazy’ slave.
V1. “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.
-the kingdom of heaven will be comparable: This opening phrase reminds us of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13.-virgins: Jesus paints a typical marriage scene with the custom of a group of girls (teenagers?) waiting for the coming bridegroom. The virgins represent those expecting the soon coming of the Son of Man.
V2-4. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take extra oil with them; 4 but the prudent ones took oil in flasks with their lamps.
-five were foolish, five prudent: Some will be prepared for the coming bridegroom but not all. The disciples are warned to be properly prepared.
V6-6. Now while the groom was delaying, they all became drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there finally was a shout: ‘Behold, the groom! Come out to meet him.’
-groom delayed: Some will ask where is he? Or say that He will never come. These will be ‘asleep’. This was played out e,g., see 2 Peter 3:4.-at midnight: The coming of the groom will seem delayed but he will come at an unexpected time, though imminent, for these girls–a few hours hence at the most! Certainly not a very long time. In fact they have been told that the Divine Groom will come within the lifetime of some of those listening (Mat 24:30-34).-the shout: compare with 1 Cor 15:51ff , 1 Thes 4:17-18.
V7-11. Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish said to the prudent ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 However, the prudent ones answered, ‘No, there most certainly would not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the merchants and buy for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy, the groom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Yet later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’
-on their way to buy: the disciples can be too busy, distracted by worldly matters & miss the groom.-and the door was shut: just like Noah and God shut the door.
vs12-13. But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ But be on the alert then, because you do not know the day nor the hour.
-truly: assuredly (amen), I do not know you: These are the foolish girls. But the true elect know the Lord. (Compare this with Mat 7:22-23 and Genesis 7:16)
-you: That is, the disciples he was addressing, not people ages away. This will be critical for them. It is not addressed to us today as that day has already long past.
-the day nor hour: He does not say ‘the decade or the age’ when he will come—it’s much closer.
Now let’s look at the second of the 3 passages of promises and warnings that Jesus gave his disciples.
V14-15. For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
– about to go on a journey: Of course, Jesus is the man soon to leave them and ascend to the Father
– entrusted his possessions to them: Jesus has taught them the Kingdom of God and commissioned his disciples to teach all peoples what he taught them.
-to one he gave . . : Jesus will also give various gifts, talents and tasks to suit each disciple’s ability
V15-18. The one who had received the five talents immediately went and did business with them, and earned five more talents. In the same way the one who had received the two talents earned two more. But he who received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
–went and did: risk taking no problem—he trusted the Master to supply and to bless obedience
-hid his master’s money: fear was in his heart lest he lose what was not his, so he had no intention of following his master’s orders. Disobedience.
V19-23. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have earned five more talents.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’ “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have earned two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’
-after a long time: but not centuries! Just longer than they expect! (see also 2 Peter 3:3-4)
-well done . . . : the master keeps his promise, the disciples are assured of rewards for faithfulness
V24-29. “Now the one who had received the one talent also came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed. 25 And I was afraid, so I went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you still have what is yours.’ “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You worthless, lazy slave! Did you know that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter seed? 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28 Therefore: take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
– money back with interest: this servant didn’t even have some earnings from interest to give back.
– worthless, lazy slave: the servant was severely castigated by the master
-take the talent away from him: he loses any small credit and another receives it.
29 “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 And throw the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
-buried talents: if a talent is not put to service, it is taken away—a warning to the disciples.
-outer darkness: this worker is deemed worthless and becomes eternally lost.
Thanks for reading so far. A future article will treat the rest of Matthew 25.