Sermon on Matthew 25:1-13
Text: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
When you think of weddings, it seems as though the bride is the focus of the attention. There are bridal showers before the wedding. They go out and buy a special dress. There are special pictures that are taken of them. She will have a personal attendant. Often, you will hear people say to her that it is her day and she needs to make sure that it is as special as she can make it. This morning, as we talk about a wedding, we are not going to even talk about a bride. She is not even mentioned in the text. Instead, we are going to focus our attention on the bridegroom, specifically his arrival at the wedding. As we study these words this morning, we are reminded that THE BRIDEGROOM IS COMING. 1. His Coming Is Sure. With that being said, we will ask ourselves 2. Is My Preparation Sure?
Jesus uses a parable based on the marriage customs of his day. There was a religious ceremony of betrothal which legally bound the couple together as husband and wife. Weeks or months later, after the groom had everything ready for his bride, he would go to the house of the bride to bring her to his house. The bride’s attendants would go out to meet the groom and escort him to the bride. They took lamps with them to light the way to the happy occasion.
So, here we have the groom who will be coming to the home of the bride. His arrival was expected, though no one knew when he would be there. The attendants had been waiting for him to come. Finally, in the middle of the night, they hear the cry, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Verse 6) Now, all the waiting had come to an end. The bridal party goes into the wedding banquet. Now it is time for joy and celebration.
The groom in this parable is Jesus. He had been speaking with his disciples about the end of the world. They had asked him when the end of the world would come. In his answer, Jesus told them, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 24:36) If anyone tells you that they know when the end of the world will be, you know that they are a liar. Jesus does give signs to look out for such as earthquakes and famines, wars and rumors of war, and the spread of the gospel throughout the world. When we hear that list, we might think to ourselves that all those things have happened. You merely need to listen to the news to hear the fulfillment of these things. Perhaps, we may even catch ourselves wondering if Jesus really will come again.
Peter, in his second epistle, speaks to this thought. He says in chapter 3, “They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:4) Later on, he reminds us, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 8&9) Peter reminds us that God’s time table for the end of the world and ours are not the same thing. He also tells us the reason why Jesus has not come back yet. It is so that still others might be brought to faith. As we study this parable, we need to remember that, even though to our eyes it might seem to never be coming, the bridegroom surely will come again.
The point of the parable is to remind the disciples, both then and now, that, though we do not know when the bridegroom will appear, we are to always be ready for his return. Through the pictures of the bride’s attendants, we see how we can be ready for the Lord’s return.
The virgins are broken into two groups, the wise and the foolish. They show their wisdom, or lack thereof, in the fact that five of them brought extra oil to replenish their lamps, while the others did not. Obviously, the foolish virgins did not expect that the groom would take so long to arrive. While they waited, it became night and they fell asleep. When they heard the cry, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (Verse 6), they woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish virgins, seeing that their lamps had gone out, asked the wise for some oil. They refused because there would not be enough for both. Instead, they should go and get some oil for themselves. While they were gone, the bridegroom came, and the bridal party went into the wedding banquet. The door was shut. Finally, the foolish virgins came to the house and said, “Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!” (Verse 11) Instead of the door swinging wide open, these women hear the groom say, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” (Verse 12) The door remained shut and they were left outside of the banquet. They were not ready for the groom to come when he did.
In this parable, Jesus is talking about those who profess to be Christians and are awaiting his return. Like the ten virgins, church members also look much the same. So, what separated one group from the other? In the case of the virgins, it was the oil or the lack thereof. Here it is the faith in the heart that is the difference.
The wise are those who have the oil. They have faith. They have been brought to see that they are, by nature, apart from God. They are wandering around in the darkness of sin and unbelief. We still see evidence of this sinful nature in ourselves, for example, when we become complacent about the end of the world. We start to think that it will never be here, or at least not here and now. So, let’s go ahead and live like there is a tomorrow. Because of our sins, God would have every right to shut us out of the wedding banquet of heaven for all eternity.
However, in his love, he did not send his Son the first time as a Judge, but as a Savior. Jesus lived a perfect life in our place. He did as his Father commanded, including going to a cross where he paid for our sins in full. So that we might be assured that he paid the full price, Jesus rose from the dead. Furthermore, he sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts to create that faith that trusts that Jesus is our Savior. This faith is what makes us ready for the Bridegroom to come again. It is because of this faith in him that we will spend our eternity in a heavenly celebration.
What about the foolish virgins? Jesus is not just referring to hypocrites here. He is referring to people who really do expect the Lord’s return. They think they are ready, but they are not. The reason for this is the fact that they end up losing their faith. It may be that they fall away in a time of testing or trial. It may be that they are only attending church out of habit but refuse to let the Word touch their lives. Among the foolish are those who do not make diligent use of the Means of Grace. They neglect Bible reading, their attendance at worship and their reception of the Lord’s Supper. Their faith was once burning brightly in their hearts, but for one reason or another, it has gone out.
We also take note of the request of the foolish virgins when the bridegroom came. They asked the wise for some of their oil, but it was impossible for the wise to give it to the foolish. This reminds us that every person must believe for themselves. The wife cannot believe for her husband, nor the husband for his wife. The parent cannot believe for the child, nor the child for parent. If we are going to help them, if we are going to reach out to them with the Gospel message, it must be before the Bridegroom comes.
These foolish virgins stand knocking at the door. However, the door is not opened for them. Jesus says this in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Yes, there had been faith, but that faith was gone. Are there any more chilling words that could ever be heard than for Jesus to say, “I never knew you?” Those who hear this will be shut out from God’s love for all eternity.
To emphasize the purpose of this parable, Jesus concludes with the words, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Verse 13) Here the Greek has the idea of a continuing action: “Keep on watching!” Jesus wants us to always be ready for his return, even though it may seem as though it is taking forever. We keep ready. We keep watching, as we make use of the Means of Grace. Then, we will not need to fear his return. Rather, we can look forward to it with great joy and anticipation.
When we receive a wedding invitation in the mail, we look forward to going to it. We will mark the date on our calendar. We do not want to miss the big event. We do not know when the heavenly Bridegroom will come again. Yes, we do know he will come. He has promised it, and he never lies. We want to be ready to welcome him. We want to be prepared. We pray that the Lord would keep us firm in the faith until the end. Then, we will join all the rest of the saints at the heavenly banquet, celebrating his love forever. Amen.
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