Matthew 25:31-46 (Basic Bible Commentary)

January 7th, 2014

The Judgment (25:31-46)

The three parables of the apocalypse all end on a note of judgment. Accounts are to be rendered; in the case of the wide and foolish maidens, some entered the house, while others were excluded. Now we come to the parable that stands at the epitome of the Gospel teaching about judgment.

Because Matthew chose this parable as the culmination of Jesus' teaching ministry, and placed it immediately before the beginning of the Passion narrative, we infer that it has unparalleled significance for Jesus and in the understanding of the early church. The parable reveals several things of central importance to the Gospel.

Nowhere are the priorities and commitments of Jesus' life and ministry shown with greater clarity than in the imagery of this parable. The compassion pictured here is expected of every follower of Jesus.

The people will be judged at the end time by how they responded to the needs of the least of those whom Jesus embraced as brothers and sisters. So the lives we now live become in fact our judgment at the End.

The parable is ambiguous about Jesus and the Son of man. He does not say, “I am the Son of man.” But the one whom he announces as the heavenly figure coming in glory the Christians following the Resurrection readily identified with Jesus the Christ.

The righteous did these things not because they expected to be rewarded, but out of compassion. They did not know that the Son of man (or Jesus) was manifest in the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner, or the stranger.

The Message of Matthew 24—25

These chapters have been grossly misused by Christians across the centuries. People have made it a hunting ground for texts supposedly forecasting apocalyptic events in every age since the Resurrection. We abuse the Scriptures when we make them a horoscope of predictions. Chapters 24 and 25 are rather a warning and an invitation. The Gospel warns us about the consequences of infidelity or indifference, and invites us to choose faithfulness and compassion, and to enter into opportunities and responsibilities of the community of faith.

One word catches the essential meaning of these two chapters (at least up to the parable of the Last Judgment): Watch! No one knows, not even the Son, when the end time may come. For each of us there comes an end time beyond which lie no tomorrows in this life. Ahead for our nation lies some judgment of history. And for the world, a cataclysm will come from which none may hide. But Jesus bids us watch. And the Gospel tells us how to wait and be ready.

Lord, open to us. The cry of the maidens shut out of the marriage feast haunts us, because it reminds us that no one improvises a faith in the moment of crisis when it is needed. No one suddenly fills a life with compassion and Christian witness when the account must be rendered.

The parable of the Last Judgment shows us the imperative of love's expectation. It tells how we are to live in response to the love that we know God has for us.

excerpt from: Basic Bible Commentary in the Ministry Matters Library

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