Summary: Guest Service - evangelistic address
GUEST SERVICE – JUNE 04.
I don’t know if you have seen the trailers for the latest blockbuster movie. It begins with a question –Where will you be the day after tomorrow? The scenario is that due to problems with the ozone layer the polar ice cap melts creating all sorts of natural disasters which sweep across the earth. The trailer is quite amazing but the most significant thing is the question posed in the title: ‘The day after tomorrow.’ The truth is that no one can actually answer that question. No one can say for certain where they will be the day after tomorrow. We may look at a diary or a schedule and think I will be in X at Y the day after tomorrow but there is not guarantee that X and Y will happen. The context of these first 13 verses of Matthew 25 is to be found in Matthew 24 and Jesus’ teaching about the end of time. To help his hearers understand Jesus’ then tells some parables – earthly stories with heavenly/spiritual meaning. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins Jesus speaks about the future and the consequences of being prepared and unprepared for his return. So turn with me to Matthew 25.1-13.
At the time of Christ marriage rituals were a lot more elaborate than we have at present. Once a groom had paid the wedding price to the father of the bride a period of a year would elapse. During that time the groom would go back to his home and prepare it for the arrival of his bride. When the right moment had arrived he would set off to the bride’s house to bring her ‘home.’ A great procession would be the order of the day and everyone in the procession would have their own torch/lamp. To be in the procession without a lamp/torch meant that you were a gatecrasher to the wedding celebrations and you would be locked out when the groom reached his home. That is the background to the story that Christ begins to tell in verse 1.
I want you to notice that in verse 1 it tells us that all 10 virgins had lamps. No one was without a lamp. Remember that
Verses 2-5 Wise and Foolish Virgins.
Jesus goes on to point out that only 5 of the virgins took oil with them as they went out to await the arrival of the groom. The other 5, whom he calls foolish, for whatever reason did not bother to bring oil for their lamps. Again I want you to note that the oil was freely available to all 10. It is not the case that only 5 of them had access to the oil, all 10 had access. Only 5 however, bothered to bring the oil for the lamps with them. The sole distinction between them is the presence of oil for their lamps. So there must be something significant about the ‘oil’ here.
The wise and foolish virgins look the same. To those around them there is no visible difference – but a time is coming when the difference will be revealed for all to see. Both the wise and the foolish virgins of the parable have good intentions – they both set out to meet the bridegroom, but only one group are prepared for his arrival. However, the other group are present but they are not prepared. You see it is one thing to be present but another thing to be paying attention and to be ready for the coming of the bridegroom.
Verse 5 for whatever reason there is a delay in the arrival of the bridegroom and both groups settle down to rest.
Verses 6-12 Here comes the groom.
Verse 6 begins very dramatically. Jesus says ‘At midnight the cry rang out’ or ‘a cry has arisen. ’ We often play at weddings here comes the bride – but at the time of Christ it would have been here comes the groom. Do you remember as a child playing hide and seek? You counted to 10, or whatever number it was and then you shouted ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ You know when I read this parable in Matthew 25 that shout came immediately to mind. ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ That is exactly what occurs here. The shout goes up that the groom has come for his bride and the 10 virgins immediately waken up and begin to trim their lamps (verse 7). But (verse 8) for 5 of them there is something wrong – they have no oil and their lamps are going out. The moment they have been waiting for has arrived. The one they have been waiting for has arrived, unexpectedly and they are not prepared. The foolish virgins immediately turn to the wise, who have oil, and ask for some oil (verse 8) but they are met with a disappointing answer – verse 9. You might think the response of the 5 wise virgins was harsh but it is not. Remember the beginning of the parable – all 10 had lamps, all 10 had access to oil for those lamps. There is nothing harsh in their reply at all – they are wise – they know that the oil in their lamps is sufficient only for themselves – if shared then their lamps will go out and they will be excluded from the celebrations. They did not keep the oil to themselves but for themselves. In fact verse 10 tells us they even give the foolish virgins instructions as to where to go and get oil for themselves. You see there is a difference in keeping the oil to yourself and for yourself. They could not share what they themselves needed to get into the banquet of the groom. There is no joy for them in others being excluded. In the concluding part of verse 10 we read that whilst the foolish virgins were away trying to buy oil the groom arrived and the wise went into his home with him and the door was shut. There is a finality to that statement – the door was shut. Then in verses 11-12 we read a very sad appendix to the parable. The five foolish virgins come back to the house of the groom – but the find the door tightly shut. They cry out for admittance but it is too late – all those with oil in their lamps are safely inside and the door is tightly closed. The groom tells them that he does not know them. Note that will you – he does not know them. They know him but he does not know them. He hears them, he answers them but he does not know them. They know him. They know where he is to be found. They know on whom they are to call for admittance to the banquet of the groom but it all comes too late. He does not know them.