There are three parts to this Matthew chapter…
It begins by setting the time frame –actually a continuation of chapter 24 –Judgment Day in heaven. Until this chapter the kingdom parables began with “The kingdom of heaven is like…” This one shifts by saying “The kingdom of heaven will be like…”
Jesus “came to save the lost sheep of Israel.” We non-Jews were to provoke them –make the jealous –take them out of their comfort zone. They were chosen to be servants to the world by telling us about Him –God’s salvation. His Hebrew name is Joshua and it means “the Lord’s (Jehovah’s) Salvation.
He was referring to the Jews by calling them bridesmaids –servants to His bride. She is comprised of Jews and non-Jews who put their faith (their trust) in Him and she will be gathered together as one at the wedding feast in heaven.
The number of bridesmaids is significant: ten. It’s comprised of two sets of five –five who are foolish and five who are wise –five who don’t believe and five who do.
Israel was supposed to be a lamp to the world …so the story goes in Matthew chapter five. The lamp’s purpose was to hold the light so that everyone could see. And John chapter one lets us know who that light was –Jesus is the Light of men.
All ten of bridesmaids had a lamp –the Jews’ task was to be a kingdom of priests to the world by living out the Law of Moses. Their lives would reflect His purpose as the sacrifice and new life that everyone needs. All ten of them served in that role. But it would be a long time before He, Jesus, would come back to collect His bride.
Oil –olive oil– is representative of the Holy Spirit. He –that oil– is in the anointing, in the making of unleavened bread, in the light within the Holy Place (within every believer).
Although all of the Jews are a witness about Him (even though it’s unintentional), when He returns, only some of them will have the Holy Spirit –will have been saved. They will meet the Groom –the true light. The others will remain in the darkness.
It’s not coincidental that we have two sets of five fingers –they represent what we do; and we have two sets of five toes –they represent where we go. There are five on the left and five on the right. We have two choices –believe Him or not. That right or left choice is explained in the Judgment of sheep and goats –below.
The time frame is still Judgment Day and the subject of the parable is still “what will the servant (the Jews) do?”
Jesus describes three categories of people according to their abilities. The Levitical Priesthood was the governing agent. Within it were the high priest, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the community.
When the New Covenant took effect at the cross, the priesthood changed. Jesus was revealed to be the true high priest who would make the single acceptable sacrifice and He would be the mediator between mankind and God.
The priests personally knew the high priest –they would tell others about him and what he communicated about with God. They equate to believers who understand the grace of God. They are represented by the man who was given five talents of gold to invest.
The Levites only knew about God from what the Law said –and they taught that to the rest. They equate to legalistically knowing God –they’re saved –just more distantly. They are represented by the man who was given two talents.
The common people –those who heard and tried to obey– were given one talent. They were supposed to use it by at least telling others about their traditions. They represent the lost. Their destiny is to be separated from God –they aren’t a part of the bride of Christ.
Sheep gather together and are less likely to wander away from the rest. Sheep eat grass –the top and the root. Without a shepherd to keep them moving –they will die of starvation by killing the grass. They’re afraid of almost everything –they need a shepherd to protect them. Goats are more independent and self-sufficient –they can survive without a shepherd. The sheep and goats are, of course, the saved (on the right) and the lost (on the left).
He thanks the sheep for serving without a selfish motivation. They gave Jesus to those who needed Him. He is the bread for those who hunger for life –the water for those who thirst for God –rest for those who are weary –true righteousness for those who know they’re unrighteous –wholeness for the grieving, depressed, hurt –and freedom for those trapped in legalism.