In today’s chapter, Jesus talks about agriculture from a boat.
If you like parables, then good news: by popular request, we’re returning to Matthew 25 for the Parable of the Talents and the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. And by “popular request,” I mean that one person requested it. If you don’t like parables, then I don’t know what to tell you.
In junior high, I somehow came by a compilation album titled Right from Wrong. I think it may have come with my parents’ copy of Josh McDowell’s book Right from Wrong, which of course I also read, because it was a book and I was myself. But the CD Right from Wrong collected several songs from such Christian bands as the Newsboys, DC Talk, and Audio Adrenaline, built around the theme of countering moral relativism. One of the tracks on this album, by perennial Christian hard rockers Petra, was “Midnight Oil,” about the Parable of the Ten Virgins. And today’s chapter, Matthew 25, begins with the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Now you see where I was going with this. Bam, relevance.
We’ve seen the sorts of parables Jesus tells to the general populace and to his disciples. But what sorts of parables does he tell to the Pharisees? Apparently, he tells parables about people who disrespect the servants of those in power and who, as a result, face the master’s wrath when he learns of their misdeeds.
The last chapter ended with Jesus reassuring Peter that the sacrifice of discipleship is worth it. In the age to come, he promises, the disciples “shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28), and anyone who has to leave their family and their world for him is stepping into a bigger family and a bigger world. So, today’s chapter turns to matters of the kingdom of heaven, and it opens with a parable in the vein of chapter 13’s.
We all know we’re going to die someday, but life goes on. And in today’s chapter, although Jesus is well aware that he’ll meet an untimely end at the hands of his enemies and has said as much to the disciples, he goes on teaching and telling parables. Facing our limited lifespans has a way of making us prioritize what we do here on earth, but Jesus…kind of takes an interlude here to tell his disciples stuff about sheep and debts and stuff.
If you’ve ever wondered what the kingdom of heaven is like, you came to the right chapter. Matthew 13 is over 90% parables by verse, each one a simile comparing the kingdom of heaven to something else. So what is the kingdom of heaven like? It’s like a sower sowing seed, a man whose enemy sows weeds in his wheat field, a mustard seed, leaven, a treasure hidden in a field, a merchant seeking fine pearls, and a dragnet. Need an explanation? If so, you’re in good company, because the disciples ask for one as well.
The first two chapters of the Sermon on the Mount are easy enough to summarize. Matthew 5 deals with good and evil, suffering, and forgiveness; Matthew 6 concerns preoccupation with wealth. But how would I sum up chapter 7? I’m tempted to call it “a grab-bag of Jesus’ clever metaphors, sayings, and one-liners.” If there’s a single thread running through them, it’s beyond me to find it. But I can always hand-pick a few verses throughout that got my attention. That’s what we’ve got today, folks.
At this very moment, I’m looking at the physical page, and dang if that thing isn’t 99% red. Literally the only words in this chapter that aren’t the Words of Our Lord are a “then-Jesus-said” to open the chapter and, later, “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him” (14). (Of course it’s a dunk on the Pharisees.) Everything else? Jesus’ teaching.
For a guy with a contentious relationship with the Pharisees, Jesus sure gets invited to their houses a lot. Today’s chapter opens with him having a meal on the Sabbath with a prominent Pharisee and his peers, and to be honest, it’s as if Jesus is playing a game with himself to see how provocative he can get without actually getting kicked out.