Summary: Sermon on living prepared for the return of Christ Jesus.
Matthew 25: 1 – 12 / Keep Awake!
Intro: At an intersection, the green light changes to yellow; At the theater the house lights flash; At the airport terminal the boarding call comes over the intercom; At a railroad crossing the lights begin to flash; In a small town in the Midwest the tornado siren screams; On the car in front of you on the highway the turn signal flashes; In the Desert of Judea, a voice of one calling in the wilderness is heard declaring, "Prepare the way of the Lord." What do each of these have in common? They are signs or warnings that we need to prepare ourselves for what is about to happen. We need to keep awake!
I. This story recorded only in Matthew and is located just past the midpoint of Jesus’ discourse on the end of times (24: 1 – 25: 46)
A. In the NRSV the 10 female figures are interpreted as “bridesmaids,” although the Greek text reads (PATHENOI) or “virgins.”
B. From outward appearance they are the same: all are invited, all grew weary of waiting for the bridegroom, all fell asleep, all heard the approach of the bridegroom, and all trimmed their lamps.
C. Matthew signals from the outset a fundamental difference among the 10 maidens: 5 are wise and 5 are foolish. Two questions here: what makes them wise or foolish? And how does this relate to you and me?
II. The early Christians had to adjust to the reality that Jesus did not return as they fully expected or as soon as they anticipated.
A. Often, we presume we have all the time in the world to tend to certain matters: rebuilding broken relationships, learning a skill, offering a needed word of gratitude or forgiveness, replacing a bad habit with a good one, achieving an important goal, changing careers, deepening our relationship with god, contributing to society, spending time with a child or faithfully following Christ.
B. The text reminds us that this is not as good as it gets, that the bridegroom’s delay does not mean he will not come, and that the party will not really start until he arrives. It asks us to live in hope for what has been promised.
C. Living in hope does not mean immunity to the harsh realities of history. It does mean living confidently and expectantly, trusting that the Lord of history continues to come into life with compassion and redemption and hope.
III. The difference between the wise and the foolish is the wise are prepared for the wait and therefore bring extra oil. Matthew points to the mixed nature of the church then and now. It consists of faithful, authentic disciples as well as pseudo-disciples, a distinction that will be revealed at the coming of the bridegroom, Christ Jesus.
A. The oil here can be understood as faith or spiritual reserves that remain constant and shine during good times as well as times of waiting for God.
B. I read that somewhere written on the wall of a locker room are these words: “Championships are won when the stands are empty.” --- If it weren’t for hard work at many practices when no one is watching, a team would never get to the championship game.