This morning while attending a Uniting Church with a client, the topic was "The Second Coming." During the sermon, the minister said, "You all know Dave because he joins us every second Sunday. Dave has a Seventh-day Adventist background. Seventh-day Adventists have the second coming right in their name - so they have a lot to say about it, I'm guessing." Then, looking up at me, he said, "Dave, If you'd like right of reply, I'd love to have you unpack the passage I'm struggling with in this sermon. I'll do my best and you can do the rest. If you are willing, at the time."
The minister then powered into unpacking Matthew 25:14-30.
When he got to the end of his sermon, he said, "Dave, do you have something to say to help us with this passage? Only if you are comfortable."
The verse "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15) went through my mind... And I did.
During his sermon, I dug into the passage and the surrounding context. (Have a carefully read of Matthew 25:1-30 before going any further) I was looking for a positive way to reveal Jesus and his end time mission for disciples.
When the minister invited me to join him at the mic, here's what I said, more or less.
First, we need to ask, “What is the context of this story.” At the beginning of the passage, it says, “Again, it will be like a man” .... What is the “it” in the “it will be like”? Reach back to the previous passage and Jesus says, “At that time, the Kingdom of Heaven will be like”. So, the topic in question is the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the starting point. The finish of the story is “celebration" with God or “the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.” So, this is a story about the Kingdom of Heaven and how it relates to those entrusted with its wealth.
Q. What is the primary focus of the Kingdom of Heaven?
The only people Jesus ever gut-punched were the religious leaders who misrepresented God to the people. These were the light on a hill people, Jerusalem’s leaders. They had taken the Kingdom of God and buried all of its glory and all of its truth under a mountain of laws and self-righteousness. Jesus had words with these leaders. Strong words. And often. The Kingdom of God was meant for everyone and Israel was meant to be the servant that spread that story. Instead, they buried it.
In the middle of Jesus’ ministry on Earth, we have the story of Jesus sending out the 72 to prepare for His arrival in unsuspecting towns. Jesus advised his disciples to enter a town and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is Near.” Jesus also said, “If they invite you into their homes, go in. Lodge there. Eat there. And tell them I am coming soon and to be ready for my arrival.” Then he turned the tables, “If nobody in that town welcomes you, even after you declare the Kingdom of Heaven is near, shake the dust off your sandals and leave town. It will be better for that town at the end than for Sodom and Gomorrah.”
This story is a picture of God shaking the dust off his sandals. The wealthy landowner ousting the servants who didn’t make use of what they’d been given is Jesus’ way of saying to the religious leaders, “You know that rubbish tip outside the city? The one that just keeps burning and burning. The one where the rubbish gets dumped from Jerusalem? That’s where rubbish goes. Yeah, you don’t want to go there.”
Yes, it’s harsh. But, it is not a parable about you. It is not a parable about your family members who aren’t using their spiritual gifts. It's Jesus talking to the religious leaders. It is about those entrusted with the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven who choose to ignore it rather than ignite it.
When Jesus died on the cross, the temple curtain tore from top to bottom and God got out of the box! The message about God, His love, and the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven is no longer entrusted to one select group of people. God left that idea in the dust. The Holy Spirit now reaches out to every heart drawing all people toward God’s Kingdom. And once you welcome it in, you are the storytellers. You are the message bearers. You are the light on a hill. So shine!