Jesus' Olivet Discourse
There are certain passages of Scripture that are vastly important, messages of Christ that the believer needs to understand. Scriptural passages such as, the Sermon-on-the-Mount, or Jesus' upper room message – called "The Holy of Holies" of Scriptures – found in John 13 through 17, and Matthew 13, where Jesus gives His illustrious parables of "The kingdom of Heaven."
In the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew, Jesus gives His "Olivet Discourse," answering urgent questions asked by His disciples concerning His return to earth and the end of this age.
Matthew 24:1 tells us:
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the Temple: and His disciples came to Him for to shew Him the buildings of the Temple."
Notice the setting, Jesus was leaving the Temple and was walking away when His disciples came up to Him to call His attention to the beautiful Temple buildings. Why? Why would they draw His attention to the Temple? They had been in and out of it many, many times!
The reason was because of what Jesus had just said. Let's take note of what Jesus says in Matthew 23:37-39:
"O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you, say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
Jesus' disciples were saying, in essence, "There is nothing that indicates desolation here." See the beauty of the Temple, its strength and sturdiness. The appearance of the Temple seemed to contradict what Jesus had just said.
Verse two, "And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Jesus gives a definite, positive prophecy that was fulfilled a generation later in A.D. 70.
Jesus and His disciples walk silently out of the city of Jerusalem and pass on to the Mount Olive.
Verse 3, "And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying,' Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
The disciples ask:
1. "Tell us when these things will be?"
2. "What shall be the sign of Your coming?"
3. "What will be the signs of the end of the age?"
First, the disciples were asking about the destruction of the Temple, however, they then asked about the "presence" of Jesus, Himself.
We must not take this text out of its setting, or interpret these questions just to make them fit our belief about prophecy. It is true that Jesus' answer leads to a much larger area of prophecy then their questions, however it is important to remember that Jesus' answer began with these questions. It was these three questions of Jesus' disciple that prompted and initiated Jesus' response in this Olivet Discourse.
[Editor's Note: We are skipping to today's lectionary passage.]
The Church's Responsibility
Beginning with verse 45, Jesus changes the subject matter from future prophetic events to ask a serious question, thus begins a second part of His message. In this section Jesus commences with the question, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant?" and ends, speaking of the Church's present responsibility, in the 30th verse of chapter 25.
In this passage of Scripture, (Matthew 24:45 through 25:30), Jesus does not once refer to Himself as "the Son of man" (The King James does mention the title in 25:13, however, it is not in the original, and other translations have left it out). The point is: The title, "Son of man" was the one by which Jesus most often described Himself in the days of His earthly ministry. He never called Himself "the Son of God," except when it was necessary in order to answer to criticism, or inquiry, or investigation concerning the deepest truth concerning Himself. This title, "Son of man," was one that indicated His relation to the purpose of establishing the heavenly Kingdom on earth.
This was the purpose included in the mission of Christ and does not, for a moment, to deny the fact that Jesus came to seek and to save lost men individually, to change men, that when this probationary life is over, they shall enter into the home, the joy and the rest He promises to all believers.
However, if anyone thinks of the mission of Jesus as one simply of saving men here on earth, in order that they may be ready for the life beyond, then they have misread all that He ever said, all He ever did and taught us to pray for. He taught us to pray, "thy Kingdom come, and thy will be done, on earth as in heaven."
It is very significant that this title, "the Son of man" drops out of use in the writings of the New Testament and is never found in the epistles, and is not referred to in all the rest of the New Testament, until this title, "the Son of Man," comes into sight again in the book of Revelation, where the title, "Son of man," re-appears.
Here in Matthew, chapters 24 and 25, the title, "the Son of Man," appears in the first part, again immediately at the 31st verse of the 25th chapter, in the third section of the Olivet discourse, when Christ states, "When the Son of man shall come in His glory!"
This second section of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:45 to 25:30) has no references to Prophets, the Temple, the Sabbath day - no references to any of those sacred signs and symbols of the old economy, which indicated the truth concerning the government of God in the world during the days of the Old Testament. The time of the employment of these means passed forever away with the beginning of the age of His redeeming reign.
This passage consist of three parables, indicating the responsibilities resting upon those whom Christ was leaving in charge during a period in which He (as to bodily presence) would be absent from them.
Let's now read this passage, Matthew 24:45-25:30, and then I want to share what I believe to be insight into what Jesus was teaching here.
Keep in mind that in the midst of this Oliver Discourse, (Matthew 24:45), Jesus asks this essential and crucial question, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?"
Keep in mind that Matthew 24:36, through 44, Jesus deals with the immanency [that His coming will be unexpected – any moment] and the important theme of the believer being ready.
Jesus had been speaking of the "people of earth," however He then changes, in Matthew 24:45, from the prediction of future events to give a revelation of the present responsibility of the Church. From the question in 24:45, through chapter 25:31 is a prophecy that deals with the Church's responsibility during this present age.
After characterizing two kinds of servants, beginning with Matthew 24:46 and running through the rest of the Olivet discourse, He gives three parables:
1. The Parable of the Household
2. The Parable of the 10 Virgins
3. The Parable of the Talents
Jesus tells of the manner of His coming in 24:44, "So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." He speaks of days that are to come when the Son of Man shall be manifested. However, now, in this day, He is still a "servant."
Matthew 24:46-51 gives a picture of rebellious souls, rejecting Him, saying, "He delays His coming." They smite their fellowmen, and are drunken, but still He is patient. However, there is coming a day when His eyes will flash and He will descend from heaven in fire and flame, flashing glory. He will cast out all evil and take vengeance.
Jesus teaches that the purpose and mission of Christ in this day of God's grace – in this Church Age – is to seek and to save the lost. Today, we are living in a probationary period, but someday that time will be over.
If anyone thinks of the mission of Jesus as simply saving men in order to take them to a life beyond, they have misread what Jesus taught – and what He prayed for!
Jesus turns from the negative survey to a more positive one beginning with Matthew 24:46, running through 25:30. This passage consists of three parables, indicating the responsibilities that rest upon the Church. Christ's bodily presence would be absent from the earth, but He would be present through His Mystical body, the Church.
NOTE THE SIMILARITIES OF THESE THREE PARABLES
1st Parable: Matthew 24:42-51:
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his house- hold to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
2nd parable Matthew 25:1-13:
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."
3rd Parable, Matthew 25: 14-30:
"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"
THE SIMILARITIES IN EACH PARABLE:
(I) THE MASTER IS ABSENT
1. The master of the household, commits certain duties to his servants and then, he is absent!
2. The bridegroom is absent
3. The master (owner of goods) gives talents to his servants and then, he is absent
(II) THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE ABSENT MASTER
(with those from whom he is absent)
1. The servants represent his authority
2. The "waiting" of the virgins attest to their belief in his return
3. The servants prosecuted the master's business, with his goods
- the talents - which he gave to them - are all his goods - not their ability - not their capacity - the talents do not stand for quality, but for quantity in this parable!
(III) THE RESPONSIBILITY WAS ALWAYS TO THEIR MASTER ALONE
1. The servant's responsibility to the absent master
2. The virgins responsible to be ready at any given moment
3. The servants who received talents and their responsibility to the master
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PARABLES:
1. Pictures of the master's household's COMMUNAL responsibility
2. Pictures the INDIVIDUAL soul's relation to his master, showing the wise and the foolish
3. Pictures the responsibility of carrying out master's enterprise in the world.
We will not, at this time, take these parables in all its detail, but look at them as a "whole."
1. The parable of the Household gives the two examples, those who are faithful and wise and those who are called, "The wicked." This parable presents the Church as a household, over which Christ is Master.
2. The parable of the 10 Virgins shows our attitude toward Christ in the days of His absence.
3. The parable of the Talents show our responsibility of Christ's enterprises
First, let's look at the parable of the Household. Here, the church is Christ's household.
He is the Master Who has left us in charge of is household.
The Greek word, translated "household," is found only one other time in the Scripture. It's in Revelation 22:2, where it states, "the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." Note, here, that this same Greek word is translated as "healing."
What relation can there be between "healing" and "household?" This question can only answered by an understanding of what this word translated as, "household" really signifies. It is a word from which we derive our word "therapeutic." The basic idea of this word is healing.
This word "household" refers to those in the house that serve.
Look at Matthew 24:45 again, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant?" This word translated as "servant" is the word, "bond-slave," while the Greek word translated "household" also means " servant," it come from an entirely different word – a Greek word meaning "one who performs a loving service" – or, "one whose purpose is to bring about a healing in service."
This is a case of "metonymy," – meaning, "the use of a word for that of another to which it is related, to emphasize a concept." For instance, we say, "A man keeps a good table," when we are really referring to his food – or, we might use the word "scepter" when referring to sovereignty.
This word, "household," found in Matthew 24:45, is a parable suggesting the picture of a great house, with one Master. All those in the house are under His control. Their interests are constantly in His thoughts, while they are serving under His command.
Jesus uses the word that indicates the love principle in service – the tender healing ministry that only grows out of love. Thus, in a word, flaming and flashing with meaning, we discover our Lord's conception of His Church during the time of His absence.
His "household" serve, however, they serve by love – and their ministry is a healing ministry.
Note Matthew 24:45 carefully, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household?" This word, "household," must be interpreted by the consistent teaching of the Lord, that service is the condition of greatness!
The servant is "set over" – made ruler over; put in charge – he is a servant. Jesus taught "Whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant of all" (Mark 9:35 and 10:44).
This is not a picture of one in an official authority, but rather, it is a picture of one in the exercise of the ministry of healing – and of love!
SERVICE IS THE CONDITION FOR GREATNESS
We see the attitude of a faithful and wise servant. One who expresses an attitude of caring for all others while His Lord is away.
The attitude of "the evil servant" who says, "My master is staying away a long time" (delays his coming) and he turns to an evil course, instead of feeding and caring for the household. He "beats" them and, then, turns to companions of drunkards.
TWO RESULTS WHEN THE MASTER RETURNS:
1. The servant who was loyal is promoted and put in a place of authority.
2. The unfaithful servant is cut asunder and cast out.
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