Bible Passage: Matthew 25:1-13 Pastor: Pastor Berg Sermon Date: November 12, 2017
If you were to ask someone, “How do you feel about sleep?” what kind of answer do you think you’d get? Depends on who you ask right? As a child, sleep is the enemy. I have a college classmate who used to go through the high for the day and the low for the day with her boys every night. When her youngest was five, his low every night was that he had to go to bed. But isn’t interesting that as we get older, our relationship with sleep improves. It becomes our friend, our ally. We begin to hate the alarm clock and love the snooze button. We long for the afternoon nap we once tried to avoid. Some of us can sleep just about anywhere in any position. We used to be able to pull an all-nighter in college every weekend. Now, it’s getting harder and harder to burn the midnight oil. But today, we’re told that when it comes to our spiritual lives as Christians, that’s exactly what we need to do. We need to stay awake. But we don’t just simply need to be awake, no we need to be prepared and alert for the coming of Christ.
To illustrate this important truth, Jesus tells a story about a wedding banquet. The wedding in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was significantly different than ours. Once the couple was betrothed, they were considered married in God’s eyes. This is what we hear about Mary, Jesus’ mother, who was pledged, betrothed to Joseph. Yet, the couple wouldn’t begin living together as husband and wife until after the wedding banquet. This could happen often weeks or months after the betrothal. The banquet would be planned and prepared and then the bridegroom would come to take his bride. The family and friends would gather and wait. When the groom arrived a shout would go up and a procession with torches would take place. If you were going to the party, you were part of the procession. It was a simple as that. And while no one likes waiting, this waiting was exciting. It’s like that waiting at a surprise party as everyone waits to yell, “Surprise!”
Keep that picture in mind as we read verse one again. “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” There are a couple of important things to remember for us to understand this parable. First, we want to remember the context. In chapter 24, Jesus talks about how things will be at the end of the world, at the Last Judgment. He continues that discussion here in chapter 25. That helps us to understand what he means when he says, “At that time.” Secondly, Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven will be like…” We remember that this does not mean heaven itself. Again, in Jesus’ parables the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven refers to the kingdom of believers here on this earth, where Christ rules in the heart. That makes this a parable about believers. This is a parable about Christians in the end times.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take any oil with them; but the wise took oil in their containers with their lamps.” You see a picture of a style of lamp used at the time of Jesus. However, the lamps that would have been used for this type of procession were more like torches. A long pole with oil-drenched rags at the top would be very bright. There was just one drawback. You had to replenish the oil frequently. You had to trim off the ends of the rags frequently. So let’s recap: there’s ten virgins, ten bridesmaids, ten people representing the church, waiting for Jesus, the bridegroom to come. They all had torches doused in oil. They all were waiting for the groom to come. Five of them didn’t bring any extra oil, and five of them did.
Before we go on, why do you think they didn’t bring extra oil? Perhaps, they expected the groom to come quickly. The extra oil wouldn’t be needed, they could get by without it. Perhaps they were gambling. Maybe they thought there was plenty of oil in the rag, that they wouldn’t run out. Jesus calls them foolish. Let’s see why.
“While the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, ‘No, there may not be enough for us and for you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were away buying oil, the bridegroom came. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.” Jesus second coming is just as certain as his first. Jesus will come at the right time, it may be later than we expect. Certainly it was for these virgins. Not until midnight did the cry finally ring out. Despite their excitement and anticipation for his coming, they all fell asleep. But the shout woke them with a start. The looked to their lamps and saw that they were going out. The charred edges needed to be trimmed off. They needed to be soaked in oil once again. Five of the virgins had oil. Five did not. Five were prepared. Five were not. The five who weren’t prepared rushed off to buy oil, at midnight. But while they were gone, the groom arrived. The banquet began. The door was shut. No one else was getting in.
“Later, the other virgins also came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, let us in.’ But he answered, ‘Amen I tell you: I do not know you.’ Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Friends, this is a parable about us. This isn’t a parable about those people out there, those outside our walls. This is a parable about us. This is a parable about the church. These ten virgins represent those who hold membership in the church in this life. We’ve heard all about the day of Christ’s coming again. We’ve been to the “dress rehearsals” for that great and glorious day where Jesus has come to us in Word and Sacrament. We are friends of the bride, the Holy Christian Church and we know the groom, Jesus himself. We’ve not only been invited to the wedding, but we’ve been chosen to be his special guests. At his own expense, Jesus has given us the proper wedding attire—his own righteousness—and the torches of faith glowing with the oil of the gospel. He’s simply asked to be prepared for his to come.
I’m not trying to be crude, but the five virgins who didn’t bring extra oil are called “morons” in the Greek. The Greek word is moros. A moron isn’t someone who doesn’t know any better. A moron is someone who does know better and does something foolish anyway. Those five virgins knew how the torches worked. They knew they needed oil. They just didn’t valued it like they should have. They didn’t make sure they had enough. They gambled that they’d be ok with what they had. But when the groom came and they realized their error, it was too late. The other virgins couldn’t light their torches for them. They weren’t prepared.
So the question is, are you wise or foolish? Are you wise or a moron? Are you feeding your torch, your faith, regularly with the oil of the gospel or are you gambling that you’ll have enough when Jesus comes?
Friends, don’t be fools. Don’t be morons. Instead, burn the midnight oil of the gospel. Sit down as a family and have a devotion, even though it may feel awkward for the first few times. Read to your children from the Bible or a devotional book so they can have a closer walk with their Savior. Is it worth gambling on your soul and the soul of your children? Make sure that you are faithfully hearing God’s Word in worship and in Sunday school and in Bible Classes. The supply of oil, the good news of the gospel is offered free of charge. It overflows from the love of your Savior who not only lived and died for you, but warns you and reminds you to stay awake, to be prepared. Burn the midnight oil! Immerse yourselves in every sermon, every service. Because even if you don’t remember it, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t fed you!
A debate was raging in the editorial column of a local newspaper. Someone had written in saying he had stopped going to church because he could remember few if any of the lessons he heard there and for that reason he didn’t think they had done him any good, that he wasn’t getting anything out of them. In the weeks that followed, letters flew in on both sides of the issue. But it wasn’t until a man wrote the following words that the debate was settled once and for all.
The man wrote that his loving wife was a wonderful cook and that she had made him countless meals throughout his life. He admitted that even though she was a fabulous cook, he couldn’t remember most of the meals she made. He said that on the surface, he might assume that he hadn’t gotten much out of them since he couldn’t remember them. But, then he went on to pose this question: What would have happened to him if he hadn’t eaten those meals? Obviously, he would have starved. Each meal had been important. Each meal had contributed something, whether he realized it at the time or not, or clearly remembered it later. We have to eat if we want to survive, and even the least memorable meal, so long as it includes healthy ingredients, feeds us.
So does every contact with God’s Word! Every sermon, every Bible class, every devotion, from the most memorable to the least, so long as it doesn’t include the poison of false doctrine, so long as it includes the kernel of God’s Word, feeds us. It puts oil in our lamps. It keeps those lamps burning brightly. Will you remember it all? I hope so, but probably not. But if you don’t hear it at all, you will slowly starve. You will not be prepared. And when Jesus comes, it will be too late.
Most of you, if not all of you have heard it before: “You’re too late.” As painful as that can be, we can hear nothing worse than hearing Jesus say on the Last Day, “Amen I tell you: I do not know you.” Don’t hear that on the Last Day. Burn the midnight oil fo the gospel! Trim the wick of your faith again and again through confession and absolution. Be prepared for Jesus to come. That’s what he wants you to be. You’ve already been invited. You have a place waiting for you at the table. Let’s keep watch! Come quickly Lord Jesus! AMEN