Summary: Everyone must be ready when Christ,the spiritual bridegroom, unexpectedly returns for the church
Matthew 25: 1-13 The Parable of the Ten Virgins:
“Is Your Lamp Ready?”
When Christ returns for the church, you need to be prepared!
This is Summer time: the wedding season. Tuxedoes and bridal gowns, multi-tiered confections and carefully crafted schedules are the norm – showers and parties, rehearsals and dinner, ceremony, and reception.
Those who are able to make the festivities, share in the Joy that is felt! BUT sometimes…SOMETIMES… an UNFORTUNATE sense of celebration comes at the EXPENSE OF those who FAILED TO SHOW UP… the ones who were sent invitations RELUCTANTLY … You know, THE LAST MINUTE MAILINGS to the people we would rather have LEFT OUT ALTOGETHER…
In this season of weddings, where men and women prepare for lifelong commitments, it is both timely and appropriate for us to look at Jesus’ use of this wedding banquet parable to teach about the eternal Kingdom of God - a spiritual kingdom where EVERYONE IS INVITED, but some will not be prepared to get in.
Jesus, the Master Teacher, used this common understood example from Jewish culture to elucidate, make clear, and explain the sad condition that some people will find themselves in when the Kingdom of God is established at the “End of the Ages.”
At some time in the future, Christ is going to return for the universal church, like a Jewish bridegroom, and those who have faithfully prepared – who believed and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ - will be able to celebrate. On the other hand, the unprepared – the ones who put all their trust in money, in people, in world philosophies, and the “Gospel of Do My Own Thing” - will be left out of the celebration. Inside the celebration, the joyful noise of triumph will be heard for eternity, while those unfortunate souls who failed to prepare for the return of Christ will be left out to cry everlasting tears, gnash their teeth in regret-filled anger, and burn in the soul-searing flames assigned to those who have rejected the Lord of Hosts!
This cosmic wedding imagery that Jesus used was effective, since marriage customs were well-known in the Jewish tradition and not taken lightly: after the one-year betrothal period, when the bridegroom would go off and prepare a space for he and the bride to live, the bridegroom, along with his entourage, would return unexpectedly, like a thief in the night, to claim his bride. Both the bride and her virginal attendants were expected to be ready to receive the groom at any time; the virgins, our modern day bridesmaids, were expected to host the banquet as well, even though they did not know the exact day or hour of the bridegroom’s return. What an awesome responsibility! With so much at stake shaky, or foolish, bridesmaids just would not do! No, the bridesmaids, or virgins, had to be wise, prepared and on watch!
Jesus clearly spells out the difference between the five foolish virgins and the five wise virgins, raising a question that every single person will have to answer for them self: When the bridegroom returns for the church, Will my lamp be ready with enough oil?
The parable shows us that, like the foolish virgins, you can think that you are prepared…but not be prepared. As a Christian, You can accept the invitation to be a part of the wedding party, assume responsibility for the bridal preparation, and even agree to host the celebration banquet when the groom returns. But through carelessness, through poor planning, or sheer foolishness, you can get right down to the moment of the celebration and lose out!
In case you missed it, this wedding banquet is a metaphor for the church. Like a wedding invitation, the invitation to accept Christ has been extended through the Gospel, and received by those who call themselves Christian. The church, the figurative bride of Christ, is being prepared by the committed so that when Christ the Groom shows up at the End of the Age, the celebration can “sho’ nuff” begin!
Unfortunately, like the unprepared virgins and some of the Pharisees within Jesus’ audience, somebody will be foolish and miss their chance to get in! Somebody’s light is going to be shaky! And as the King James Version says, somebody’s light is even going to go out before the appointed time!
What I love about Jesus’ teaching is how even the minutest details contain important lessons for us!
The oil was the very element that kept the fire going; it was the sustaining force that allowed the fire to burn over an extended amount of time. The text says that “they all fell asleep.” They were expecting him…but he did not arrive at the convenient time, when they were up, and assembled in anticipation…like we are this morning. He was a long time coming….zzzz…..