Summary: In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the Parable of the Ten Virgins, this message from the text asks the crucial question are we ready for Christ's return?
The hymn we have just sung asks a pointed question. A question that I fear too often we dismiss in our daily lives. With all the concerns of living in the present moment - with all of the accompanying joys or frustrations - we fail to give much thought to the final moment. That moment when time, as we know it, will cease and eternity will begin. We have sung - "Jesus is coming to earth again..." This is vital to the Christian faith. We confess in the Apostles' Creed that Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. We pray weekly together "Thy kingdom come." If I were to ask you: "Do you believe Jesus will come again?" I daresay that most of you would answer an enthusiastic "Yes!" But have you pondered the question that is the title of the hymn: "What If It Were Today?" What if in the next moment - even as my words fall upon your ears - Christ returned with the shout of the archangel and the trumpet blast? "Faithful and true would He find us here, if He should come today?" Would you be ready?
The readiness of his disciples is what Jesus in concerned about in the three parables we will look at over the next few Sundays. In Matthew 24, Jesus in response to the questions of the twelve unveils some of the signs of the times which will foreshadow his return in glory to judge the world. The images are dark and frightening. Now in Matthew 25, Jesus wants to make sure his followers are going to be ready when these events take place. He wants them to be ready when he will come to claim his own. He wants us to be ready.
Now before we jump into the parable of the ten virgins, I want to clarify some very important points. First, these parables are not addressed to the world in general. They are given directly to the Church. To those of us who gather week after week in God's house. Secondly, we need to know something about the Church to whom these parables are addressed. These parables are double-edged. They speak of a separation that will take place when Christ comes again. This means that right now the Church of Christ is composed of those who are true and those who are false believers. There are some perhaps within the sound of my voice who on that great and final day will receive not an everlasting reward, but eternal punishment. You need to realize this, in the church there will be until the end - wise and foolish virgins, faithful and unfaithful servants, sheep and goats. This is a harsh reality, but reality none the less. For that reason these parables serve two purposes. On the one hand, they serve to give assurance to the true believer that when Christ comes again for his people they will be welcomed into the wedding feast, they will share in their master's happiness and will receive a kingdom as their inheritance. These parables can be a great joy for the Christian. On the other hand, these parables must serve as a warning to those who falsely believe that they are part of the true Church of Jesus Christ. Unless these do the things that are required for salvation they will find themselves shut out, cast out and separated for all eternity. Clearly we are dealing with, in the next few weeks, some of the most crucial issues we will ever consider. Well all of this is preliminary to our study, let us turn our attention to the first of these parables. The Parable of the Ten Virgins.
(READ Matthew 25:1-13)
With the words: "At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like..." Jesus lifts a scene from contemporary Jewish life and applies it to deep spiritual truth. The scene which he chooses is a familiar one to the disciples. It is a wedding scene. We need to know a little bit about Jewish wedding to understand the significance of what takes place. Here is how
one commentator describes it:
Weddings were a time of joyous celebration...The festivities lasted a whole week. Regular duties and religious obligations were dispensed with by law so that the wedding party and all the guests would relish the full delight of the occasion. The high point of the week of wedding celebration was when the bridegroom came to the bride's house to take her to their new home. Great pageantry and drama had become a part of the tradition surrounding this event. The bride would ask 10 of her friends to be bridesmaids. Their special task was to be part of the processional from her house to her new marriage home. Usually this took place at night, so the major responsibility of the bridesmaids was to carry lamps to light the joyous way of the wedding party. The time when the bridegroom would come was kept secret. It was to be a surprise, and the bride and her bridesmaids were to be waiting expectantly.