The Gospel of Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. It tells about the life of Jesus and His teachings. In particular, Chapters 24 and 25 contain some of the stories told by Him. In this paper, we, utilizing the questions offered in Duvall and Hays’s book (Duvall & Hays, 2008, p. 108), will try to find out what these stories tell about Jesus and what the Gospel writer attempts to say to his audience by putting the parables together.
The Central Message of the Parable about the Wicked Servant and What It Tells about Jesus
In the small story told in the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 24:45-51 New International Version), Jesus shows the importance of faithfulness and obedience to God (Strohman, 2015, p. 529); a good servant is faithful and is always prepared for their master’s return. In particular, it is explained that one who is trusted with power should use it wisely and to do good, and they will be rewarded; otherwise, they will eventually be punished.
However, if the context (the two passages near this story in particular (Matthew 24:36-44; Matthew 25:1-13)) is to be taken into consideration, it becomes evident that Jesus speaks about His return, which will be sudden, and after which there will be no time for anyone to repent.
Therefore, the central message of this passage is that one needs be prepared for the Lord’s coming, for it will be unexpected (Burge & Hill, 2012). Burge and Hill (2012) elaborate that the main lesson to be taken from both the preceding passages (Matthew 24:36-44) and the following story (Matthew 25:1-13) is similar: one must always be prepared to Christ’s return.
The parable about the wicked servant is told by Jesus (Matthew 24:45-51). The story, however, does not tell anything about Jesus directly, except that His future reappearance will happen suddenly (Burge & Hill, 2012). Still, it is evident that this passage characterizes Jesus as loving and just.
He loves all His people; this is why He (symbolized by the master in the parable) has to punish the ones who are wicked – in order to protect the rest (Burge & Hill, 2012; Mounce, 2011). However, the statement that He “will cut him to pieces” should not be understood literally, for, according to the next statement, the evil servant (or an unfaithful and disobedient person) will be placed with the hypocrites (Matthew 24:51). Besides, as we know, the main weapon of God is His word (Hebrews 4:12), which also is the case here.
The Common Meaning of the Three Stories and the Reason Why They Were Put Together
The stories in question (Matthew 24:36-51; Matthew 25:1-13) are put together in order to provide numerous examples of how one must always be prepared to face the consequences of their actions; they must be ready for Christ’s return and wait for it at all times, for He will return unexpectedly, and no one except the Father knows at which point of time it will happen (Matthew 24:36; Strohman, 2015, p. 528).
The examples provided in the stories indicate this; neither the people before the Flood knew what will happen and when, nor an owner of a house is aware of the time when a thief will come (Matthew 24:38-43). The wicked servant who was given power and uses it to abuse his fellow servants is oblivious of his master’s coming as well (Matthew 24:50).
A similar situation takes place when the ten virgins go out in order to meet the bridegroom; none of them knows when the bridegroom will come, but the five ones who were wise prepared to wait for him and took some spare oil for their lamps, whereas the foolish ones did not take any (Matthew 25:1-5). What is similar in this parable to the previous ones is that the unwise virgins were not prepared. This is why they wasted their chance to visit the marriage feast (Mounce, 2011).
Strohman (2015) emphasizes that, in the parable about virgins, the bridegroom symbolizes Christ, and the virgins symbolize all the people – both the ones who were ready, and the ones who were not (p. 532-533). Mounce (2011) points out the similarity of this passage to the closing parable of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which tells a story about two men, one of whom built a house on the rock, whereas the other one built his on sand (Matthew 7:24-27); in both cases there is a sharp difference between the wise and the foolish people.
As it can be seen, all the stories in question show the fact that no one can know when the time comes when they will be tested, and, therefore, must always be ready. More precisely, Jesus, while telling these stories, stresses that it is necessary to be ready for His reappearance, for the time of it is unknown, and there will be no chance for repentance once Christ returns (Burge & Hill, 2012). The stories are put together in order to emphasize this fact and to show that the only way to always be ready for Christ’s return is to obey the Lord and always remain faithful to Him.
To sum up, it should be highlighted that, while the discussed parables do not tell much about Jesus in a direct way, they let the reader see how loving and just He is. The stories themselves are meant to illustrate the need to be prepared for Christ’s second coming, and they are put together in order to place emphasis on this need.
Burge, G. M., & Hill, A. E. (Eds.) (2012). The Baker illustrated Bible commentary [Google Books version].
Duvall, J. S., & Hays, J. D. (2008). Journey into God’s word: Your guide to understanding and applying the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew: Understanding the Bible commentary series [Google Books version].
Strohman, J. M. (2015). Application commentary of the Gospel of Matthew: 2015 revised edition. Pierre, SD: Cross Centered Press.