PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS 3-25 (continued)
6. Last Ministry at Jerusalem 21-25
25, 1-13: Parable of the Ten Virgins.
Only in Matthew; but cf. the little parable of the "master's return from the wedding" in Luke 12, 35 f. In
order to understand this parable it is necessary to know something of the wedding customs of that time, which Christ
supposes are well known to His hearers. On the day of the wedding the bridesmaids assembled at the house of the bride.
After sunset the bridegroom, accompanied by his male friends (the "friend of the bridegroom" and the "sons of the bridal chamber";
see Commentary on 9, 15), went to the bride's house, where they were greeted by the bride and her bridesmaids, and
then both parties returned together in a joyous procession, that was illuminated by lamps or torches, to the wedding
feast in the house of the bridegroom.
1. In the parable ten virgins
or bridesmaids are mentioned because this was the regular number at an ordinary Jewish wedding, as certain other accounts
would seem to indicate. The words and the bride are not in the best Greek manuscripts; they were added by some
copyist who did not understand the customs of a Jewish wedding. With her friends the bride awaited the arrival of the
bridegroom. She, of course, was ready when the bridegroom arrived and therefore she is not mentioned in the parable.
The words who went forth to meet the bridegroom must be considered either as a preliminary statement of the
meeting which is told more in detail in 6-10, or in the sense, "They took their lamps and went forth from their own homes
to the home of the bride, in order to meet the bridegroom when he would arrive there." 2.
Foolish and wise: here in the sense of "improvident" and "provident." 3 f.
The foolish virgins did not take extra oil with them: but the wise took extra oil in auxiliary
vessels besides the lamps. 6. A cry arose: probably one of the
friends of the bridegroom went a little ahead of the bridegroom's party in order to warn the bride and her maids that the
bridegroom was approaching. 7. While the virgins slept, all of their lamps had burned
low. 10. The foolish virgins probably tried to arouse some of the neighbors in order
to buy oil from them. Went in with him to the marriage feast: in the house of the bridegroom, not of the bride.
This verse shows that the principal lesson intended by Christ in this parable is that His disciples must always be ready for
His unexpected coming. But many of the details of the parable fit in so aptly with this leading thought that we may
rightly conclude that these also were intended by our Lord to signify a spiritual truth. The bridegroom is
Christ (see Commentary on 9, 15). The bride is His Church (cf. especially Apoc. 22, 17 where the bride
longs for His coming). The virgins, the friends of the bride, are the members of the Church. All Christians
are virgins spiritually, inasmuch as they are not contaminated by heresy (cf. Apoc. 14, 4 f); but in the parable
no stress is laid on their virginity, for bridesmaids were always unmarried and presumed to be virgins. That half of
them were not found ready at the coming of Christ should not be taken as an answer to the question in Luke 13, 23;
but this parable reaffirms the truth that not all the members of the Church are saved (cf. the parable of The Weeds and the
parable of The Net, 13, 24 ff.47 ff). The lamps which all the virgins had, may signify faith which
all Christians have; the extra supply of oil would then be perseverance in good woks. The bridegroom was long
in coming. He would normally be expected to arrive shortly after sunset, but it was only at midnight that he
came: a warning to the early Christians who hoped for a speedy return of the Savior (cf. also 24, 48). They
all became drowsy and slept: even the good succumb to a certain amount of indifference. But the important thing
is that they are found ready; they are in the state of Grace. The last-minute efforts of the others are of no avail.
The door was shut: death and Judgment seal the fate of every one for all eternity. 11 f.
Cf. 7, 21-23; Luke 13, 25-27.
25, 14-30: Parable of the
Talents. The parable of the Gold Pieces in Luke 19, 12-27 is similar but distinct. This parable,
like the preceding, teaches that Christ's Second Coming may seem long delayed; however, it does not stress its sudden and
unexpected character, but rather the judgment that will accompany Christ's return. This forms, therefore, a natural
transition to the last section of the discourse, the Last Judgment. 14. The man
going abroad is Christ, who deprives His disciples for a while of His visible presence. His servants are
all Christians. His goods are the spiritual benefits and graces that He won by His Redemption.
15. A talent was not a coin but a definite sum of money, amounting to twelve thousand denarii
or about one thousand nine hundred and twenty dollars. Many consider the talents of the parable to signify both the
natural and the supernatural gifts that God bestows on us. In the sense of natural abilities, especially of mental endowments,
the word "talents" has been taken from this parable into English and other modern languages. But this is not entirely
correct. In the parable the talents signify certain supernatural gifts and responsibilities which Christ gives
to each according to his particular ability, i.e., according to his natural endowments which he already has from
the Creator. On the apparently unequal distribution of spiritual gifts, cf. Rom. 12, 6-8; 1 Cor. 12,
4-11; Eph. 4, 7; 1 Pet. 4, 10. 16 f. These gifts are "given
to everyone for profit" (1 Cor. 12, 7). 18. Therefore this servant
does wrong in merely taking care that his gift is not lost.
a long time: cf. 5. The Judgment is a "settling of accounts." 20-23. Note
that both scenes are identical. Each of the good servants receives the same reward, because this is measured not by
the original gift but by the degree of co-operation. Contrast the similar parable in Luke, which considers the same
truth from a different aspect. There is joy in the words of the good servants, "Look, Master, I have doubled thy money!"
The reward consists in a sharing of Christ's own joy; but heaven does not consist in inactivity: I will set thee
over many things (cf. also Luke 19, 17.19). 24-27. The wicked servant
failed to use the talent that his master had entrusted to him: (a) because he was slothful; (b) because he had a
wrong idea of his master as a stern man; (c) because he was afraid: entrusting the money to the bankers
involved a certain amount of risk. Thus a Christian may fail to use the graces that Christ bestows upon him: (a) because
of spiritual sloth; (b) because he has an exaggerated idea of God's justice and a mean idea of His mercy; (c) because he is
spiritually timid and too proud to risk making a mistake. 28-30. The punishment of
the wicked servant. 28. God's grace is not given in vain (cf. Isa. 55, 10
f), if some one neglects or misuses it, it is taken from him and given to another (cf. Apoc. 3, 11).
29. Just as natural faculties become more perfect through use or become atrophied through disuse, so
also grace that is used leads to an increase of grace, whereas grace that is neglected tends to be lost; cf. 13,
12. 30. Cf. 8, 12; 13, 42.50; 22, 13; 24, 51.
31-46: The Last Judgment. Only in Matthew. While it is certain that all men, whether Christians
or not, will be judged by Christ on the Last Day, still it is not certain whether this description was meant by Christ to
be understood in such a sense, or whether this description is limited to a portrayal of the judgment that will be passed on
Christians alone. All the preceding parables (from 24, 42 on) are concerned with good and bad Christians only,
and this would seem to be the case here also. Not only those on the right but also those on the left address Christ
as "Lord" (37.44), i.e., they speak to Him as only Christians would. On the other hand this is a judgment of all
the nations (32); still this might mean only "the Christians of all the nations" (cf. 8, 11; 28, 19).
31. On the Last Day Christ shall come in his majesty as king (34; cf. also Apoc.
19, 16). And all his angels with him: these words are from Zach. 14, 5, where "the saints,"
i.e., "His holy ones," really means "His angels." Christ frequently mentions the angels as playing an important part
in the Last Judgment (cf. 13, 39.41.49; 16, 27; 24, 31). 32 f.
The little parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Because most of Palestine offers rather poor pasture land, goats are
often as common as sheep. During the day they all graze together, but in the evening the shepherds put the sheep in
folds apart from the goats. So also in the Church the good and wicked are not separated until the Last Day. The
goat is a common symbol of the wicked, whether from its vile smell or its "capricious" nature. The left has always been
considered the evil, unlucky side.
34-46. The criterion is the exercise of
Christian charity. This should not be surprising. The non-Christians are already condemned for not believing in
Christ (cf. John 3, 18). But the Christian's faith will not save him unless it is a living faith (cf. Jas.
2, 14 ff) which proves itself in doing God's will. All the commandments of God can be summed up in the love
of God and the love of neighbor (cf. 22, 37-40). And the true test of sincere love of God is love of neighbor
(cf. 1 John 4, 20 f), which is shown in acts of charity (cf. 1 John 3, 17 f). This
argument is developed on these same lines in Jas. 2. From the particular acts of charity which Christ mentions
here, is derived the list of "the corporal works of mercy"; but this list should not be limited to these. Note how similar
yet diverse are these two judgments. The repetitions, interrogations, etc., are merely a literary device used by Christ
to impress this truth on the minds of His disciples; we need not believe that such conversations will actually take place
at the Last Judgment. Contrast blessed of my Father with accursed ones; the latter are cursed by the
good God only because they have damned themselves. Contrast the kingdom prepared for you with the everlasting
fire prepared for the devil; hell was not intended originally for men, for "God our Savior wishes all men to be saved"
(1 Tim. 2, 4). My brethren does not mean "all men" but "my disciples"; in the New Testament
brethren in this sense always means "Christians" (cf. Heb. 2, 11 f). While the New Testament teaches
the unity of the human race (cf. Acts 17, 26), the modern concept of "the brotherhood of man" is not found in it.
We must, of course, "do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Gal. 6,
10). The least of Christ's brethren are, in a sense, all of His disciples, who should all be humble and lowly,
but here are directly meant the most afflicted and despised of His disciples who would on this account be more easily neglected.
Christ does not say that He will consider what is done to these as though it were done to Him; He says simply that
it is done to Him. This should be understood in the light of the Mystical Body of Christ, the intimate union of Christ
Himself with each of His members.
Parable of the
Ten Virgins 1 "Then will the kingdom of heaven be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went forth
to meet the bridegroom and the bride. 2 Five of them were foolish and five wise. 3 But the five foolish, when
they took their lamps, took no oil with them, 4 while the wise did take oil in their vessels with the lamps. 5 Then
as the bridegroom was long in coming, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 And at midnight a cry arose, 'Behold, the
bridegroom is coming, go forth to meet him!' 7 Then all the virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish
said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' 9 The wise answered, saying, 'Lest there
may not be enough for us and for you, go rather to those who sell it, and buy some for yourselves.'
10 "Now while they were gone to
buy it, the bridegroom came; and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.
11 Finally there came also the other virgins, who said, 'Sir, sir, open the door for us!' 12 But he answered and said,
'Amen I say to you, I do not know you.' 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Parable of the Talents
14 "For it is like a man going abroad, who called his servants and handed over his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave
five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his particular ability, and then he went on his journey.
16 And he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more. 17 In like manner, he who
had received the two gained two more. 18 But he who had received the one went away and dug in the earth and hid his
19 "Then after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who
had received the five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Master, thou didst hand over to me five talents;
behold, I have gained five others in addition.' 21 His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; because
thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many; enter into the joy of thy master.'
22 "And he who had received the
two talents came and said, 'Master, thou didst hand over to me two talents; behold, I have gained two more.' 23 His
master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee
over many; enter into the joy of thy master.'
24 "But he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Master, I know that thou art a
stern man; thou reapest where thou hast not sowed and gatherest where thou hast not winnowed; 25 and as I was afraid, I went
away and hid thy talent in the earth; behold, thou hast what is thine.' 26 But his master answered and said to him,
'Wicked and slothful servant! thou didst know that I reap where I do not sow, and gather where I have not winnowed?
27 Thou shouldst therefore have entrusted my money to the bankers, and on my return I should have got back my own with interest.
28 Take away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has shall
be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him who does not have, even that which he seems to have shall be taken away.
30 But as for the unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping, and the
gnashing of teeth.'
The Last Judgment 31 "But when the Son of Man shall come in his majesty, and all
the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory; 32 and before him will be gathered all the nations, and
he will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and he will set the sheep on
his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 "Then the king will say to those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, take possession
of the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty
and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36 naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was
in prison and you came to me.' 37 Then the just will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and feed
thee; or thirsty, and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger, and take thee in; or naked, and clothe
thee? 39 Or when did we see thee sick, or in prison, and come to thee?' 40 And answering the king will say to
them, 'Amen I say to you, as long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me.'
41 "Then he will say to those
on his left hand, 'Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry, and you did not give me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did
not take me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also
will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did
not minister to thee?' 45 Then he will answer them, saying, 'Amen I say to you, as long as you did not do it for one
of these least ones, you did not do it for me.' 46 And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the just into