TODAY’S READING: Matthew 25
Directly after Matthew 24 and just before Matthew 28 (the Great Commission), Jesus told three parables that have to do with His return, all missionary in nature.
The wise virgins were those who would not give their oil away at the cost of the light for all. When asked to share of their oil, they surprisingly stated: “No, lest there should not be enough for us and you” (Matt. 25:9). Jesus commissioned us to be His light in all the world, to every people. If we spend ourselves so that we have no light left, we offer no service to the world. A central principle of missions is that when it comes to intimacy with Jesus, the Spirit, and Father, no service, no giving of ourselves, no spending or sacrifice is wise if it extinguishes our lamp. If we are to be of any use to the Master and of any use to the lost, we must guard our oil so there is enough for “us and you.” Intimacy with Jesus, the oil He provides when we guard our time for Him, is the only hope for both us and the nations as we wait for His return.
Secondly, the parable of the talents was not about gaining more money, education, or natural talent. In the direct context of preaching the gospel to every nation and making disciples of every nation, “talents” refer to making disciples. Investing our talents directly means using whatever capacity we have to make disciples. Jesus knows we have different capacities and that some will make more disciples than others. He is good with that; in fact, He set that up. What He is not good with is if we don’t make any disciples at all. The “good and faithful” pronouncement (v. 23) that will gladden our soul forever is not connected to the number of disciples, but to whether we made as many disciples as we possibly could. The reward for making disciples is more disciples (v. 29), for the currency of God’s realm has ever been and ever will be people, and discipleship is so beautiful that it will go on forever.
Thirdly, when the Son of Man (the Lord of all peoples) comes in His glory, all the nations will be brought before Him for judgment, and we see that some will be sheep (enter into heaven) and some goats (sent to hell) (vv. 31–33). The joy is that we are guaranteed some fruit (disciples) from every people group, so we labor in hope and believe for that reward. The agony is that there will be some sent to eternal hell from every nation. What is intriguing is that the judgment of the nations will be linked to how they treated missionaries. Jesus expressed this shocking reality with an explanation regarding the provision of food, drink, shelter, and hospitality, that the righteous are the nations that serve His brethren (v. 40).
Two realities have been lost from this text: One that the service is done to the poor and two that the nations of the world perform the service (or don’t). Logically then, if the nations of the world are the ones to serve the brethren of Jesus, this act must be happening among the nations. What wonder! The peoples of earth that love on missionaries and receive their message of repentance will be the sheep of God that forever enjoy heaven with our Good Shepherd.