Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Remain In Me

Jesus uses a series of parables (starting in Matthew 24: 45 and running through the end of Matthew 25) to teach his disciples a very sobering lesson.

First, he moves from a discussion about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD into a parable that is then repeated three more times to drive home the point.

Jesus uses the Parable of the Virgins to warn us to keep watch and always be prepared for the Lord’s return (Matt. 25:1-13). Next he uses the Parable of the Gold Talents to warn us to love God (the greatest commandment) and bear fruit (Matt. 25:14-30). Finally, he closes out the series of parables with the Sheep and the Goats illustration to warn us to love others (the second greatest commandment) as we love ourselves (Matt. 25:31-46).

All of these parables follow a basic pattern: The Master is away. He expects his servants to be waiting for him, and to bear fruit, and to obey His commands so that when He returns the faithful servants will be rewarded and the unfaithful servants will be “cast into outer darkness.”

The bottom line is that Jesus expects his disciples to obey him. Over and over again he said that those who love him will obey him and that those who do not love him will not obey him, (John 14:15; 14:21-24; 15:10; 15:14).

Looking specifically at the Parable of the Gold Talents, we see that the emphasis is on bearing fruit. The three servants are each given a treasure of silver and are all expected to bring their master some return on his investment. It bears emphasis that this is not a parable about “talent” or skill and ability, but about being faithful to obey our Lord in all things. (The word "talent" is a measure of weight and currency, much like the English "pound"). If this parable were about our abilities and talents (i.e. - to play guitar or yodel or juggle Frisbees) it would make the end of the parable quite cruel for those who failed to use said talent for the Kingdom ( i.e. - being cast into outer darkness for not yodeling for Jesus).

The simple point is that we’ve all been given a treasure and God expects us to be good stewards of the treasure we’ve been entrusted with. More than about simply “winning souls”, (since not everyone has the gift of evangelism; see 1 Cor. 12:27-31), the parable instead urges us to bear fruit for the King. How do we do that? We remain in Christ:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” – John 15:4

“The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” – 1 John 3:24

Our emphasis then should be on remaining in Christ, not on “bearing fruit.” If we remain in Christ then we will bear fruit because He will make us into the kinds of people who naturally bear good fruit.


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