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24 Pentecost - Matthew 25:14-30

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Many Christian camps and churches teach a dangerous song.

It is dangerous because it is a prayer that might come true.

It begins, Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus.

That's exactly what is happening in Matthew chapter 25.


Back in chapter 16, Jesus asked his disciples, who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."...

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

From that time on, Jesus began to show the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem

and undergo great suffering...and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

When Jesus begins opening their eyes, Peter doesn't like what he sees.

Now, nine long chapters later, in Jerusalem on the doorstep of disaster, Jesus

continues clarifying their view.

Last week we learned he is a bridegroom who shows up late and doesn't open the door to

those who worry more about having oil than welcoming him.

Next week, he will be a king hidden among the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick,

the naked, and the incarcerated.

And this week, Jesus is a jerk.

Perhaps we have heard this parable too many times, especially in stewardship sermons to

American capitalists, to really hear it and open our eyes to see and feel its scandal.

The third slave, who is the only morally acceptable figure in the whole story, identifies

the problem: Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did

not sow...so I was afraid.

The master—Lord in Greek, which is exactly how the Bridegroom and the King are also

addressed—is a thief, which is how Jesus has been describing the Son of Man,

and exactly how he will soon appear on the cross.

Richard Rohrbaugh and Bruce Malina explain:

In the "limited good" world of the [Mediterranean] peasant, seeking "more" was

always morally wrong.

Because the pie (of all good and goods) was both "limited" and already all distributed,

an increase in the share of one person automatically meant a loss for someone

else.

Honorable people, therefore, did not try to get more of anything, and those who did were

automatically considered thieves.

Anyone with eight talents to throw around—eighty thousand times the average daily

wage—is so obviously suspect that from the beginning he cannot be trusted.

He doles out a few of his billions very unequally and then leaves on a long journey,

which itself is also suspicious activity.

Two of his slaves are just as ruthless and rapacious as he is, doubling his extravagant

wealth.

The third slave, the honorable one, proves trustworthy, following the advice of Rabbi

Samuel in his commentary on the Mishnah: "Money can only be guarded [by

placing it] in the earth."

He does not take it to the bankers to gain interest, since that is forbidden three separate

times in the law of God, which he obeys rather than his unprincipled master, who

punishes him severely for it.

The gospel of the Lord.


Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.

And what we see here is an insatiable thief who is a harsh, capricious master who

joyfully plunders the world, terrifies the righteous, and punishes the prudent.

Robert Capon reflects:

I said before that God is not an honest man.

Well, he is not an innocent man either.

He is just the only God we've got, and we're stuck with him.

The early church celebrated Jesus as Christus Victor, the trickster who snuck into hell

and plundered Satan's house, the thief who outfoxed and robbed the devil.

This is why, back in chapter 16, when Jesus looks at Peter and starts his church, the very

first thing he says is that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Salvation is a rigged election.

If God were honest, we'd all be screwed.

But instead Jesus opens righteous, respectable eyes, then and now, to see God's

scandalous grace and hopefully dare to trust and live it.


In his wild story of the obnoxiously rich master, no money is ever lost, because Jesus is

not talking about the stock market; he is talking about the economy of grace.

He is pushing his disciples out of their world full of division into the kingdom full of multiplication.

He is dislodging them from careful concern to extravagant enterprise because he is

preparing them for a completely different reality.

The conventional wisdom of limited pie is not true with our unconventional God, who

lavishes unfathomable, incalculable abundance on creation like a happy drunk

billionaire at a casino.

Even the absence is long—even time is abundant, as Ruth Ause's beautiful reflection last

week detailed so eloquently—because our Master is wildly generous and foolishly

gracious.

The only danger, the only fatal mistake, is being afraid.

That's why we waste time worshiping.

That's why we waste money on offerings, much of which in turn get wasted on ministry in other places with people we will never meet, and especially on those

who are hungry and homeless and sick and otherwise provide no tangible return

on investment.

If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? our harsh Master asks.

And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?

Do not even Gentiles do the same?

Be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Trade with your grace, which really isn't yours.

Invest your life, which really isn't yours, in stealing hope from reasonable reality.

Trust the wild truth of abundance instead of the wise strategies of scarcity.

Throw goodness to the wind.

Love generously and recklessly.

It may be misunderstood, mocked, even crucified, but none of it will be lost.

But if you bury it and guard it in fear, you might be.


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