Summary: A sermon on our preparedness for Jesus’ return from the story of the ten bridesmaids.
Waiting or Watching?
A black American Baptist preacher from Richmond was attending a Baptist convention in Mississippi. A Mississippi preacher, began to read the scripture lesson for the morning session. He read, “Now the Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto ten Virginians who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise and five were foolish.
The preacher from Richmond interrupted and said, “Brother, would you be so good as to recapitulate. That scripture lesson does sound familiar, and I don’t want you to think that I question what the Good Book says, but it did seem to me that the percentage of foolish Virginians was a bit too high.”
Well, the percentage of foolish Virginians or virgins, probably won’t be any higher than Scandinavians or Minnesotans.
This parable of Jesus is about foolishness and wisdom. And it’s about preparation. And part of the preparation is waiting and watching.
We’re going to look at that this morning. First let’s hear a little bit about foolishness. Most everyone makes some foolish decisions in life but some are worse than others.
A foolish man tells a woman to stop talking, but a wise man tells her that her mouth is extremely beautiful when her lips are closed. (I’m not so sure about that one!)
A lawyer, a preacher, and a young boy were in a plane that was going to crash, yet they only had two parachutes. The lawyer proclaimed that since he was the smartest man on the plane, that he deserved to survive. He grabbed a parachute and jumped. The preacher looked at the young boy and told him to take the last parachute since he had already lived a good, Christian life, and the boy had his whole life ahead of him. The young boy replied. “Don’t worry Preacher. The smartest man on this place just jumped out with my backpack!”
1. Some people who appear to be wise, are not.
In this parable of the bridesmaids, they all appear to be alike. They all thought of themselves as bridesmaids. I’m sure they were all dressed alike for the celebration ahead. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all fell asleep. They had all trimmed their lamps. They all wanted to be part of the wedding feast. The only difference is that they were not all prepared.
The application is very clear: It’s possible to look just like everyone else, talk like everyone else, carry a Bible and desire to go to heaven, think of yourself as a Christian and yet be unprepared. It’s possible to know about Christ and not know Christ. It’s possible to know all the arguments in the Bible and not be living according to Biblical instruction. It’s possible to be a nice person, know all the right doctrine, and still not have a relationship with Christ.
The first part of the scripture reading today is significant. It relates so closely to this point. It says, “As it was in the days of Noah.” How was it in the days of Noah? - Normal - they were eating and drinking and getting married and having babies and going to work and coming home. It was like it is right now. Everything normal!! And we’re told they didn’t know anything until the flood came and took them away. Why? Why didn’t they know? Because they weren’t in relationship. They didn’t know Christ. They all looked alike. Two men working in the field - they’re just two plain old farmers doing their job - but what happens? One is taken, the other is left. Two women, grinding at the mill - no big difference in them - just doing their jobs - living their lives. But one is taken, the other is left. One is wise, one is foolish. One is prepared, the other is unprepared and therefore - lost.
As it was in the days of Noah, it is now in Mapleton, Minnesota. Everything normal. Or is it? Only you can decide that.
2. No one can do it for you.
When the shout went up that the bridegroom was coming, the foolish bridesmaids saw that they were out of oil and asked the other five for some of theirs. The wise ones knew that there would not be enough for everyone so they told them to go and get their own.
Does that seem unChristian to you? Aren’t we supposed to share? Sure we are. But the deeper significance here is that there are some things that no-one else can do for us. One commentator suggests that the oil in this story represents the filling of the Holy Spirit. No-one else can borrow the Holy Spirit in you. And you can’t borrow the Holy Spirit from someone else. YOU have to be prepared. No-one can wear a parachute in your place.