Matthew 23-25
(People Get Ready)
October 10th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry

Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

-Matthew 25:13 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

The tone becomes very serious in these three chapters as Jesus tells his audience to get ready for the day of the Son of God. Chapter 23 is mostly dedicated to a critique of the Pharisees by Jesus, who issues series of woes that describe various shortcomings of these leaders (1):

  • Shutting the door of heaven for others (23:14)
  • Converting people away from God to be like yourselves (23:15)
  • Blindly leading God’s people to follow man-made traditions instead of God’s word (23:16-22)
  • Involving yourself in every last detail and ignoring what is really important (23:23,24)
  • Keeping up appearances while your private world is corrupt (23:25,26)
  • Acting spiritual to cover up sin (23:27,28)
  • Pretending to have learned from past history, but your present behavior shows you have learned nothing (23:29-36)

In the next chapter, Jesus describes the end of the current age and prophesizes regarding the future suffering of those who follow him. He quotes Daniel and Isaiah as he describes his second coming. Jesus warns the people to be prepared because no one knows with certainty when the day of the Lord will come. On that day the faithful will be rewarded and the wicked will be cast aside to gnash their teeth for eternity. Therefore, we must be ready at all times:

    “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of God will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

    - Matthew 24:42-44 (NIV)

In chapter 25, Jesus offers the parable of the Ten Virgins and parable of the Bags of Gold to illustrate the importance of being prepared for the Day of the Lord - which could come at any time. He then described how the Son of Man will separate the people on the day he comes in glory – like the way a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep will be welcomed into the place made ready for them because they honored God in their heart, as demonstrated by their care for the least of their brethren:

    “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ ”

    - Matthew 25:37-40 (MSG)

Reflection and Application

We have read a lot about the Pharisees recently, so it's worth taking a moment to define them. The original Pharisees emerged around 175 B.C. in response to attempts to force the Israelites to observe Greek religion and practices. Their name means The Separated Ones because they wanted to separate themselves by strict adherence to the law recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (2). Jesus acknowledges their roots when he says "The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses seat (Matthew 23:1 -NIV)." But in the next sentence he warns people to do what the Pharisees say and not what they do.

Part of the problem is that the original Pharisees had their hearts in the right place, but their minds got carried away over the years as they became obsessed with legalism and forgot about the underlying meaning of all the instructions. Jesus and many of his contemporaries observed that the Pharisees were hypocrites in that they studied the law and taught the law, and carried the law on their heads and hands in little boxes but did not seem to accept it in their hearts. They were in positions of leadership that apparently led to the inflation of their egos. They found it hard to be humble and hard to forgive or accept those they deemed as sinners.

Jesus must have startled the Pharisees by saying “The greatest among you will be your servant (23:11 - NIV).” This was a warning to the Pharisees and also to the disciples who had been arguing about who should be the greatest. None of us can become perfect in the law, but we can attempt to emulate Jesus by serving one another in humility and love. This is one of the ways that we use the talents that God has given us.

One of the more confusing passages of the Gospels appears in chapter 24. Jesus said: "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (Matthew 24:32-34 - NIV)." He followed this statement by declaring that no man knows the hour or day. We know that it did not happen during the lifetime of his audience and we know that Jesus has divine knowledge, so how do we reconcile all of this? One interpretation is that he was referring to the forthcoming fall of Jerusalem, which he had been describing and which was predictable by current events and was experienced by those in his audience. In either case, we should ensure we are prepared.

In chapter 24 Jesus offers the analogy of servants caring for the house in the master’s absence. They do not know the exact hour when he will return, so they will be wise if they are always prepared for his arrival. In the same way, we should always be prepared for the arrival of our Master in heaven, because we do not know the exact hour when we shall see him. Some people have tried to guess the time and then rally others to their thinking, but are always proven wrong. Our preparation should include focusing on Christ, seeking forgiveness and honoring God with our time and attention.

For additional insight regarding the first part of chapter 24, we recommend the following audio recording:

"The NEXT Triumphal Entry of Jesus,"
Matthew 24:1-14, sermon by Rev. Sam Schreiner, April 13th, 2014

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. The man in the parable who only had one bag of gold hid his bag in the ground. What types of things of yours have you hid for safekeeping?
    2. How do we keep ourselves focused on God and his word and not the objects of religion?
    3. What do we need to do to make use of the gifts that God has given us?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, we know you will return one day unannounced, at a time of your choosing. Help us prepare wisely.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Jewelers and Gold Merchants


    (1) Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 p.1703
    (2) Barclay, William, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2, John Knox Press, Louisville, London, 2001p320

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Matthew 26 (Betrayal and Conviction)

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