"I am the vine, you are the branches"
The Second Coming, Part 4
Serving the King
Last month we looked at the first three parables that follow Yeshua's end time dialogue in Matthew 24. We saw in Matthew 25 from the first three parables that we must be prepared, for we do not know the day or the hour that Yeshua will return. We saw that we have a responsibility to do the Master's work and we need to do the good works that God has prepared for us to do. Now we want to look at the last three parables.
The Parable of the Talents
Yeshua continues His teaching on the kingdom with the parable of the talents. He tells the story about a man who goes on a journey and entrusts his slaves with his possessions. To the one he gives five talents and to the next he gave two talents and to the last he gave one talent, all according to their ability. Now when he returns from his trip after a long while, he finds that the slave that had the five talents had multiplied his talents to ten, the slave who received two multiplied his talents to four, but the slave who received one talent gave him back his one talent. Now the master of the house praises the two slaves that multiplied their talents. He tells them, "Well done good and faithful slaves; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master." But to the slave who gave him back his one talent he says, "You wicked, lazy slave. Take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has shall be given more, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that we are the Lord's workmanship created for good works, which God prepared beforehand; we should walk in them. So you see that just because we are good people and do good works, we must also walk in the way that God has called us to walk. Good works and keeping God's commandments go hand in hand. We saw in the illustration of the vine and the branches that every branch that does not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the furnace and even those branches that do bear fruit will be pruned to bear more fruit. Now tzedakah, which means righteousness, is our good deeds, the righteousness that comes by faith. "Show me your faith and I will show you my works," James writes. But these works can not be just any old works, they must be God-ordained works. You see, the master gave the slave an amount of talents according to his ability. Paul writes to the Romans, "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." Again he tells the Corinthians, "Now there are a variety of gifts, but one Spirit. And there are a variety of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are a variety of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one He has given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effects of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues... For the body is not one member, but many."
So God has given each one of us the ability to do something for His kingdom, and it is our responsibility to use those gifts and talents that He has given to us to further the kingdom and bear fruit; in fact, we are told to pursue and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. We are to serve the Lord with diligence, fervent in spirit, serving Him with joy and gladness. Those that do not use their gifts and abilities for the advancement of His kingdom and to bear fruit are like the slave who buried his talent and was thrown into outer darkness.
The Sheep and the Goats
The next parable that Yeshua tells also is in the lines of service. Matthew does not record Yeshua's parable, only the interpretation, even though Yeshua gives another strong example of judgment. Yeshua begins by saying, "When the Son of Man comes in all of His glory and sits on His throne, He will gather all the nations before Him. He will then separate the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'" Now I just want to stop here for a moment. Some commentaries call the sheep Israel and the goats the nations. I have even heard that the sheep are the people who treated the Jews kindly after the Church was raptured. But looking closely at this dialogue, we see that God is speaking to all the nations who are on the earth at the time of His coming. "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me." Yeshua tells these people that they are blessed of the Father and that they would now inherit the kingdom which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. That sure sounds like Paul who says in Ephesians 2, "We are God's workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Then the righteous (the tzedakah) will say, "When did we do these things?" and the King will answer, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me."
The sheep are those who heard the voice of the shepherd. Yeshua said, "I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me and follow Me." Yeshua once again says that His sheep know Him. In Revelation, Yeshua says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." When we hear the voice of the Master, we listen and follow Him and in so doing we keep His commands and do His works which He has predestined us to do. But those who do not listen follow after their own desire; they go about doing their own thing. They show partiality. James writes, "If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there comes also a man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘Sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,' or, ‘Sit down by my footstool,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves?" James also writes, "If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?" John writes, "But whoever has the world's goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in Him?"
The goats are the ones who see the need but never go out of their way to alleviate the problem. They would never think to visit a jail or volunteer their time at a nursing home or hospital. The Bible tells us to take care of the widow and the orphan, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be hospitable and to be a cheerful giver. Think about the opportunities you have missed that you could have reached out to Yeshua but your attitude or prejudices, even your apathy or laziness stopped you. Yeshua says to the goats, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me."
The Parable of the King Disguised and Unmasked
Now the parable of the disguised king and the parable of the sheep and the goats became one parable. Yeshua first starts to say, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory..." and then He begins to refer to a king who was not recognized by his subjects. We see this by the response of the sheep and the goats when they say, "When did we see You to feed You and clothe You, etc.?" As we go about our daily lives, we do not think about the things we say and do. The Bible tells us that everything we say and do we are to do to the glory of God. When we are confronted with a situation, we react not on the basis of thinking, "Ah, this is God to whom I am speaking to (or to whom I am showing partiality or loving kindness)," but instead as, "This is my friend (or enemy)." We generally react by what's in our hearts, good or bad. There have been times in the Bible when people disguised their true identity, like Joseph with his brothers and Yeshua on the road to Emmaus. We see by these two stories as they unfold and when they discover the true identity of Joseph, the brothers were frightened, but the disciples were excited and glad. This is the same results of the sheep and the goats. Now, the original parable of the sheep and the goats has been lost. Matthew only records the explanation of the parable. Many of Yeshua's parables were taken from stories of His day. But there is a legendary story that the parable of the disguised king could have been the basis for.
The Exile of King Solomon
The story goes like this: King Solomon was punished for his pride and arrogance by the demon prince Ashmedai. He is exiled from his kingdom while Ashhmedai takes on his appearance and assumes his throne. Solomon is forced to beg from house to house. He wanders through the earth, from city to city begging for food. Though he claims that he is the true king and that the man on his throne is an imposter, he was considered as one who was not in his right mind. After some time, the Sanhedrin (the official ruling court of Israel) became suspicious and began to investigate the matter. Realizing what had happened, they restored Solomon to his throne and banished Ashmedai. Once restored to his throne, Solomon was in a position to reward those who had shown him kindness and punish those who had mistreated him.
As we have looked at these six parables, we have seen that it is not enough for us to just call ourselves Christians. It is not enough for us just to sit in a pew every Sunday. We must have a relationship with our Father through Yeshua; we must be one that calls upon His Name and gives glory to His Name daily (Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God), one who seeks Him out and obeys His voice daily (Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted), one that yearns to feed on His Bread, the Word of God (Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied), one of true repentance, searching deep within our hearts (Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God), one that forgives debtors in love as He is love (Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy), one who does acts of kindness (Blessed are the gentle for they shall inherit the earth), and one who lives in peace with his neighbor and his God (Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God).
We must walk as He walked, we must crucify the flesh and say "No" to the world's ways and pick up our cross in obedience and follow Him, running the race to win the imperishable prize of Yeshua. Then we will know Him and be known by Him so that on that day, He will not come as a thief in the night, but as the One whom we are waiting for, our Bridegroom, for we have prepared ourselves for the marriage and the celebration of the wedding feast prepared for us on that day when the King will say, "Come you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."