This week's gospel text is from the first few verses of Matthew 25. We are getting closer to the end, and the theme turns toward the end times.
The theme for the world today seems to be one of diversity. In sharp contrast to that is God's theme of eternal life. The basic idea of the Didache, an early Christian writing, is that there are only two ways: A way of life and a way of death. That certainly helps to simplify things.
Some would point out that it seems the Didache is teaching that when a person follows the commands, that is the way of life. So does Jesus become secondary then?
It is important to read this text in context with the other writings. I like the way the author references what we usually call 'Matthew'. When the Didache mentions the Lord's Prayer, it is described in this way: '... pray as our Lord commanded in his Gospel....'
First of all, the writer does not treat the Lord's Prayer as a suggestion. The need for help is a basic thing for the Christian. He also does not say 'Matthew' as the source of the reference. He does not even say, 'The Gospel of Matthew' or EVEN 'The Gospel according to Matthew'--its proper name. With all the options except the last one, there can be multiple gospels. But that is not the way the gospel (in the singular) is described. I also like the fact that the writer says that the Gospel according to Matthew is our LORD'S Gospel.
It is also important to remember that these commands could be understood in a Jewish way, that the commands are done as a 'way of life'. But they are certainly not the most important thing of life--Jesus showed what that was when he said that he himself was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. With that Truth, hopefully Jesus will never become a secondary thing.
In the text for this week, five of the virgins/maidens are foolish and five are wise. In the previous parable there were the wise and wicked servants/stewards. Whatever the role, there is a great simplicity in that some are going into eternal life, and some, into eternal punishment.
The idea of heading to a wedding is a beautiful picture. And the setting of the other people being involved with that is a beautiful one as well. It was a Jewish custom for the groom to dress in wedding clothes and go with friends to the house of the bride. There is a wonderful sense of anticipation when you know something good is about to happen.
I thought I would end with a stark contrast in the following verses. I recently noticed the similarities (and differences) with the following theme that is running through this gospel account. I am sure there are others. (All are in the ESV translation.)
Matthew 8:12 ... the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:41-42 ... [the angels] will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 13:49-50 The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them [i.e., the evil] into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 22:13 '... Bind him [i.e., the one without a wedding garment] hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Matthew 24:50-51 ...the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 25:30 '... And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
That sounds like a very bad place with all those things going on. I am glad that all of this is happening in only ONE place. And, thankfully, there is also another, MUCH better place.