- Parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13)
- Parable of the talents or minas (25:14–30)
- The Sheep and the Goats (25:31–46)
According to Jason Hood of the Journal of Biblical Literature, chapters 23 to 25 of the Gospel of Matthew “uniquely infuse Jesus’…teaching on discipleship, Christology, and judgment with the dramatic tension…throughout Matthew’s plot”. The three parables in Matthew 25 examine the procedure and preparation required to enter heaven.
Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1-13, New American Bible translation
1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3 The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them,
4 But the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
5 Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
9 But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
10 While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.
11 Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
12 But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
13 Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Parable of the Talents
Matthew 25:14-30, New American Bible translation
14 “It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
15To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately
16 the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five.
17 Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
18 But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.
19 After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
20 The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
22 [Then] the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’
23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
24 Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter;
25 So out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’
26 His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter?
27 Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
28Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
29 For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
30 And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Commentary on the parable
The good servants are considered “good” by their master because they felt the responsibility of their assignment and went to work without delay. As a result of this work, the master increased their responsibility. It seems as though a part of the good servants’ reward included a share in the master’s joy for their work. This sets the good servants apart from the idle servant. The good servants diligently worked even in the absence of the master. The third servant is shamed by his master because his irresponsibility demonstrates his lack of love.
Parable of the Judgment/The Sheep and the Goats
Matthew 25:31-46, New American Bible translation
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43 A stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
44 Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’
45 He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’
46 And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Commentary on the parable
Sigurd Grindheim from Catholic Biblical Quarterly suggests that this parable connects to the Sermon on the Mount because it shows the importance of right attitude leading to right action. Several Christian scriptures are addressed in this parable. Biblical scholars believe that “least of my brothers” refers only to Christian believers and not to all peoples. This interpretation would mean that any act of kindness done to Christ’s followers is essentially done for Christ. This implies a ramification: some people who receive salvation will be surprised because they did not personally follow Jesus, but supported his believers and helped Christ in this way. Scriptural commentator John Bollan said in regard to this passage, “the quality of our lives and our discipleship are measurable by the standards of love and the extent to which we translate this sentiment into action”. Using this as a basis for scriptural interpretation, the love shown toward Jesus’ followers promotes his mission, and allows for even the pagans to be saved. There is a sense that judgment will come through God asking “what have you done for my people”. The key to this parable is that the sheep and the goats are not surprised at their placement in heaven and hell, but at the reasons for their placement.
The parable as an allegory
- Biblical commentator George Arthur Buttrick said that this parable refers to unloving people, represented as goats, who never connected Jesus’ love for mankind to religion. The “goats” only had a ritual observance of their faith which separated Jesus from daily life. In fact, charity and love are essential to faith. In Christian tradition, the sheep are often thought of as those who receive Christ, and the goats are those who reject Christ. In Frank Gaebelein’s commentary on this passage, he believes that this parable presents a test to eliminate hypocrisy. Jesus wants his followers to possess both righteousness and love, not just an outward display of righteousness. The sheep did not show love only to gain reward.
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- Hood, Jason (2009). "Matthew 23-25: The Extent of Jesus' Fifth Discourse". Journal of Biblical Literature 128 (3): 527–543.
- Buttrick, George Arthur (1986). The Interpreter's Bible. p. 517.
- Grindheim, Sigurd. "Ignorance is Bliss: Attitudinal Aspects of the Judgment according to works in Matthew 25:31-46". Catholic Biblical Quarterly.
- Down, Martin. "Exegetical Note on Matthew 25:31-46 : The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats". Expository Times: 588.
- Bollan, John. "23rd November: Reign of Christ, Matthew 25:31-46" 120 (1). pp. 34–35.
- Buttrick, George Arthur (1986). The Interpreter's Bible. p. 563.
- Gaebelein, Frank (1982). The Expositor's Bible Commentary. p. 519.
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Gospel of Matthew