Jesus obviously does not answer many questions from you or me. Which is why apologetics…is always such a questionable enterprise. Jesus just doesn’t argue.

Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Judgment, page 106.

Inclusion long before judgment

As I said, I taught on the four parables of judgment in Matthew 24:45-25:46. And while these parables are ostensibly about the final judgment and ultimately who is in or out of the kingdom, I was primarily struck by their inclusiveness.

All four parables start by explicitly including everyone: both servants are left in charge of the master’s household. All ten maidens are invited to the wedding, all of the master’s servants are given talents and the sheep and the goats co-exist in the same herd, presumably in close proximity to the shepherd.

Then, in each story, the Christ-figure is absent or hidden for a long time. Status in the kingdom for each group is determined by whether or not they faithfully wait upon the Lord. Or, as Robert Farrar Capon puts it, whether or not they accept their acceptance. In the parable of the talents, the master would have been happy with interest from the bank, even though the other servants doubled their money. It seems that Christ is bending over backward to let anyone into the kingdom. It’s as if he’s saying: “can you give me anything?”

But while all four parables start with inclusiveness, they end with a separation and seem to be saying there will come a day when the opportunity to have faith and be accepted will pass. The inclusiveness of Christ comes with an expiration date.

But if you’re reading this, it hasn’t come yet. He has invited you to the wedding. He wants to enter into a fiduciary relationship with you that generates fantastic wealth. He longs to shepherd you into a kingdom that was prepared from the foundation of the earth. But He only invites, He doesn’t compel. To accept that acceptance, is up to you.

(Reblogged from byrdcaleb)

'You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes,' he said (Matthew 10:23). This is very puzzling. It looks as though Jesus is talking about 'the Son of Man' as someone other than himself. He also seems to be saying that this cataclysmic event ('the coming of the Son of Man') will occur not just in their lifetime but within a year or two at most. What's more, we might assume that Matthew wouldn't have reported Jesus as saying something like this unless he thought it was true. So what is it about?

The answer, as we shall see more fully in due course, is that this is heavily coded political language. Jesus is alluding to the picture we find in Daniel 7, a very popular passage at the time. It was widely read as a revolutionary text, speaking of the ‘coming’ or vindication of ‘one like a Son of Man’ — this figure ‘coming’ not to earth, but to God, to receive power and glory. At the moment, all the bystanders would hear would be a reference to ‘the great event God has promised, through which his people will be vindicated’. Jesus would later show them there was more to it again than that. But for the moment they — and we, listening in — need to know that God’s purpose is going ahead and that we, caught up to our surprise within it, need to act urgently to play our part in sharing the good news of his kingdom.

NT Wright, Lent for Everyone (via cy2k)
(Reblogged from cy2k)
Matthew…[l]et us know that the Lord does not bestow on all indiscriminately the same measure of gifts (Eph. 4:7) but distributes them variously as he thinks proper (1 Cor. 12:11) so that some excel others. But whatever gifts the Lord has bestowed upon us, let us know that it is committed to us as so much money, that it may yield some gain; for nothing could be more unreasonable than that we should allow to remain buried, or should apply to no use, God’s favors, the value of which consists in yielding fruit.
John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke, Volume 2Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-28.
The dreadful sentence [in Matthew 25:12], “Amen, I say to you, I never knew you,” is simply the truth of their condition. He does not say ‘I never called you.’ He does not say, ‘I never loved you.’ He does not say, ‘I never drew you to myself.’ He only says, ‘I never knew you-because you never bothered to know me.’
Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Judgment, page 165.

Teaching Matthew 25

This Sunday, I’m teaching our adult Sunday School class and we’re studying the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. As you can see from some recent posts, I’m reading The Parables of Judgment, the third of Robert Farrar Capon’s trilogy on the parables of Jesus. I find his interpretation pretty convincing and he’s a joy to read.

I also listened to Randal Rauser’s podcast interview with Evangelical Universalist Robin Parry. I found myself completely agreeing that with his assertion that Christians should want universal salvation. I found his attempts to explain away scripture passages that contradict universalism and his reasons for evangelism if universalism is true pretty unconvincing. 

Anyone have thoughts or insights that they’d like to share? What was Jesus trying to communicate in the parables of the 10 Virgins, the Talents, or the Sheep and the Goats?

The mystery manifested in Jesus’s death forgives us now because it is as present now as it was on the cross; the mystery manifested in his Resurrection restores us now because it is as present now as it was when he left the tomb; and the mystery manifested in his judgment vindicates us now because it is as present now as it will be when he appears in glory.
Robert Farrar Capon, The Parables of Judgment, pages 70-71.