Summary: Fifth in this series. The Parable of the Ten Virgins shows that I cannot live on someone else's oil.
I still remember my first date with Mary. I know that she was really impressed when I picked her up in my banana yellow Ford Pinto, especially since it was the middle of summer and that car had no air conditioning – unless you call rolling down both windows and driving as fast as that car would go air conditioning. We went to see a movie at the El Dorado Theaters, which was really big time since it was the first theater in Tucson with two screens. For those of you who are recent arrivals in Tucson the El Dorado Theater no longer exists, but at the time it was across from Park Mall, which was a pretty good drive from the northwest part of town where we both lived.
I can’t remember for sure which movie we saw that day, but I do remember that we were one of the last ones in the theater so we got to sit in the front row – certainly another way to impress Mary on our first date. After the movie, we were going to stop and grab something to eat, but apparently I hadn’t properly gauged how much gas it was going to take to get to the theater and back, so we ran out of gas and had to walk to the nearest gas station to get a can of gas so we could get back to the station and fill up.
So when we got back late to Mary’s house and told her parents that the reason we were late is because I ran out of gas, they kind of just rolled their eyes, thinking “Yah, right!”. So when Jackson Browne released this song a couple years later, I just figured that he had heard about our first date and had written a song about it.
[Play clip of “Running on Empty”]
You know it’s going to be a good sermon, when you can figure out a way to squeeze in a Jackson Browne song video during the first five minutes of the message.
I learned a lot about grace that first date. In spite of my good intentions, I hadn’t really done a whole lot on that first date to merit Mary’s love or affection. And yet she actually agreed to not only to go on a second date, but to eventually marry me and stick with me for over 36 years of marriage now.
The parable that we’re going to look at this morning also reminded me of that date, especially the part where I ran out of gas. As we’ll see, the main point of this parable is that spiritually speaking, there are a lot of people, both believers and unbelievers, who are running on empty. And even worse, they are trying to alleviate that condition by trying to survive on the fuel of others rather than filling up their own tanks.
As we’ve done each week in this series, we need to take a few minutes to put this parable into context. The parable itself is found in Matthew 25, so go ahead and turn in your Bibles to that chapter so you’ll be ready to follow along as a read the parable in a moment.
This parable is in a section known as the Olivet discourse, which is found in chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew’s gospel and in the briefer parallel accounts in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Jesus is responding here to the question the disciples ask about Jesus’ return to the earth and the accompanying end of the age: