The first 36 verses are pretty much just a rerun of Mark 13, with very little difference worth noting. The SAB notes a contradiction in v 14 – “Jesus says the gospel will be preached to all nations and then shall the end come. But back in 10:23, Matthew said the end would come before the gospel was preached to all the cities of Israel. In any case, this is false prophecy since the gospel has been preached throughout the world (as Paul says in Romans 10:18) yet the world hasn’t ended.”
Again there are the references to OT prophets – v 15 and 30 refer to Daniel of course, and v 29 refers to Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4, and Joel 2:10. Then after v 36, Matthew adds to the story; 5 verses in Mark (33-37) become 15 verses (37-51) in Matthew. The stuff about Noah is new, and the stuff about being ‘left behind’ (v 41). Matthew seems to want to emphasize the point about being alert at all times. It’s definitely a warning to be ‘rapture ready’. And it’s a much uglier and more threatening ending than the one in Mark – “he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v 51)
The parable of the ten bridesmaids (or virgins). OK, I get it; this is just another ‘grasshopper and ant’ analogy – be prepared. The scout’s motto. Yup, good advice – but a really bad analogy on SO many levels. In this case, the ‘be prepared’ theme is just a continuation of the ‘rapture ready’ advice in the previous chapter. But – one groom and 10 virgins? How come Christians don’t call this story out on that? And even if there were only one virgin waiting for her groom, it’s pretty condescending to the woman. After all, he’s the one who’s late. Why should she sit up waiting and then jump at the drop of a hat? Grrrrrr
Next up is a parable I remember from Sunday school. This is the exact book I had in Sunday school almost 50 years ago, from the same series as the one about the Unmerciful Servant in chapter 20. But it wasn’t taught to children quite the way it’s told here. The difference is that v 24 was essentially omitted. We were just taught that the last servant was lazy, or afraid to take a risk, and so he gained nothing. (The moral being that we should not waste our talents – nothing ventured, nothing gained.) But reading this version, I think that if I were this third servant, I’d have done the same thing. After all, what would have happened to the first two if either of them had gambled and lost the money? And how come there’s no condemnation of the master’s behavior? Note that the phrase ‘well done, my good and faithful servant’, found in a gazillion Christian obituary announcements, comes from this parable. And it probably goes without saying, but v 30 was also omitted in my church.
As for the last story (v 31-46), note the developing concept of heaven now in the NT. Before it was just sky (firmament); now we have a Jesus sitting on his glorious throne surrounded by angels. On judgement day, god will separate the sheep from the goats? What exactly do the biblical authors have against goats? They sure get a bad rap.
I won’t comment on the rest of the story, except to note that again, it’s evidence for salvation by works rather than faith alone. This meme makes a more effective comment than anything I can say.