3rd Sunday in End Time: Saints Triumphant November 18, 2018
Text: Matthew 25:1-12 CW Three Year Series A 18:2094
Theme: When the Bridegroom Comes
In the Israel of Jesus’ day, like today, a wedding was a big event. All the family was invited – uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents…. Some traveled from afar to share in the celebration. Friends were there also. If the village was small, all the villagers were guests too. Remember when Jesus turned the water into wine? Everyone in Cana, plus more, were there. Games, singing, feasting lasted for days. Yes, a wedding is a time of great rejoicing.
On this particular wedding day in our text there were ten people who had a special reason to be excited. They were friends of the bride, chosen to be her bridesmaids and to have a special part in the ceremonies. The excitement, the anticipation, the conversations between them…who knows what went on? None of the ten were married yet – they were virgins, according to the custom of the Jews. Each had a lamp to carry to light the way for the groom.
The lamp consisted of a round receptacle for oil into which a wick was placed. – not too much unlike a tiny teapot in appearance. This receptacle was fastened to a long wooden pole which was carried aloft so it could light the way. The bridesmaids were not gathered at a church, synagogue, or temple as we would do today, for that was not a part of the ceremony of their day. Instead they assembled at a home and were to be ready to go with the groom when he came for his bride, lighting the way before Him with their lamps.
Five of them had taken care to bring along oil for their lamps. The other five foolishly had none. Could they have forgotten the need for oil? Hardly, for what good is a lamp without oil to burn. Rather, their foolishness arose from willful neglect, supposing that they could rely on others for what was needed or that there would be enough time to do something about it after the announcement that the groom was on his way. He had already taken a long time in arriving. No rush. They’d take care of it later. And as they waited, they all fell asleep.
Suddenly the cry rang out in the middle of the night: “Look! He is on his way! Come out to meet the bridegroom!” Caught off-guard the maidens scramble to their feet, smoothed out their fine clothing, and tended to their lamps. One cried out, “I have no oil!” Then a second, a third until all five cried out their dilemma of not having foresight to bring oil for oil lamps. How foolish is that! It would be like trying to plug in a light where there is no electricity. “Give us some of your oil,” they cried to the five who had foresight to bring their own. “We can’t do that,” the ones who were prepared said, “otherwise we will not have enough oil for our lamps. Hurry, go and buy some oil for yourselves.” So the five without sense and foresight rushed down to the market.
Now, what store would be open at midnight? These were not the day of Walmart! No store would be open. While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived. All who were prepared entered with him to enjoy the feast. The door closed and the rest were shut out.
After a time the five unprepared arrived, doubtlessly without oil, lamps still out. They knocked on the door and cried, “Please, sir, let us in.” But from inside came a voice saying, “I don’t know who you are.” Too late! Through their own fault they failed to honor the bridegroom by faithfully performing their role and forfeited entrance to the hall. “I do not know who you are.” It is much like a person today might say to a supposed friend who betrayed him: “Do I know you? From now on you are a stranger to me.” A chilling sentence to hear! And the door remained shut.
A sad story with an unhappy ending. But it’s more than just a story. And the unhappy lot of the five foolish virgins is there as a warning for you and me. For the bridegroom who speaks these words is none other than the Lord, and the wedding feast is heaven. You and I and all who call themselves Christians are the bridesmaids waiting for the day that Christ comes in His return.
Jesus has promised that He will return. “I am going to prepare a place for you.” He said. “And if I go I will come back and take you to be with me that You also may be where I am” (Jn.14:3).
The Book of Revelation describes that place that He is preparing as a beautiful city with streets of gold so pure that it shines like glass. The place is filled with light that proceeds from God Himself. There will be no need for lamps anymore in that place that is above. There, those who have gone before us in faith, together with all the saints and angels, sing joyful hymns of praise to the Bridegroom who is also the Lamb who poured out his blood for our salvation. In that place He is preparing, the celebration is held to which we, as Christians, are looking forward.
When He finally arrives to take us there, at a time least expected by us, it will not matter whether you are rich or poor, colored or white, popular, successful, have many friends or worldly wealth. At that time none of that has any value at all. The only thing that will matter will be whether you have trusted in the life and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and lived in His Word. Faith, faith in Christ and only Christ, is the oil that burns in the lamp and brings one into the procession led by the heavenly Bridegroom.
If in all the excitement and concerns and distractions of life now you have neglected to attend to this, you have no oil. It’s a personal thing. I can’t believe for you, and you can’t believe for me. Parents cannot believe for children, and children cannot believe for parents. At that time of His arrival, you will not find an outside source of the oil of faith from which you can expect supply. Faith is a personal matter, entered into now. You will not get into heaven by clutching the coattails of believing relatives, friends, or others. And you cannot in desperation try to buy faith as the call comes in.
And not just any old faith will do, but only a faith that lays hold of Christ as your desperately needed Savior.
We sometimes hear people say, “You just need faith.” Well, what do they mean? Or, to get to the heart of the matter, “Faith in what or in whom?” For some it turns out to be only a belief that there is a God. In others it is a vague belief that God is good or that God is love – all without any reference to Christ. In still other instances “faith” takes the form of believing in the goodness of man. And worst of all is the “faith” people express in the words, “Just believe in yourself.” That is pure idolatry.
Dear friend, know the object of your faith clearly. It is Christ, and Christ only as your Savior. You must say in your heart, “I believe that Jesus Christ has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature…I believe that Jesus Christ has paid for all my sin…I believe in the righteousness Christ won for me…I believe that He is the only door to heaven.” The object of a saving faith is Christ, and Christ alone. Do not just have faith in faith. Have faith in Christ as Savior. Then your lamp is full of oil for you have taken refuge in Jesus alone. You will be caught up to meet Him in the air, and so you will be with the Lord, whom you have loved, forever. God grant us such a life of preparation in faith for Jesus’ sake.