Text: Matthew 25:1-13
WAITING WITH WISDOM FOR THE BRIDEGROOM
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
"The parable of the ten virgins is not about avowed atheists or humanists or Buddhists or Mormons or any such known group. It is about Lutherans and other professing Christians!"
Text: Matthew 25:1-13
WAITING WITH WISDOM FOR THE BRIDEGROOM
Preached by Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
To the church at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ - Grace to you and peace (I Thess. 1:1). You will either hear Jesus’ words today as a “moron” (from the Greek in our text) or as a “thinker” – as one foolish or one wise - so give careful thought to His words. The parable of the ten virgins is not about avowed atheists or humanists or Buddhists or Mormons or any such known group. It is about Lutherans and other professing Christians! This parable is about those once given faith in Jesus Christ and the truth that He will come again. It is about those within the pale of the Christian Church who have some expectation that they will take part in heaven’s eternal feast because of Jesus.
Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.
They all looked the same! The ten went out together with the same purpose! The lamps of all of them burned bright at first. And when the bridegroom delayed all of them equally fell asleep! In this parable that is not a problem. Christ has delayed His Second Coming some 2000 years and for some 500 of those years Lutherans have been among the virgins waiting for His return. But some who are called Lutherans are foolish and some who are called Lutherans are wise.
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’
Christ will come again! He will keep His promise! To try to calculate when is evil and faith destroying. Yet such calculation is televised all the time in pop Christianity. To live on in cozy carelessness unconcerned with His return is also evil and faith destroying. To be prepared with oil in our lamps for His midnight return is essential. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The five wise virgins watched! Their wisdom was not high IQ – nor common sense – nor logic and creativity. The wisdom of the five “thinkers” would not have landed them on the dean’s list nor guaranteed their financial success in a recession. In Scripture, wisdom is seeing life from God’s perspective. In Scripture, wisdom refined is Christ crucified.
The five wise virgins lived as if they were invited to a wedding – the date of which they did not know. Their preparedness recognized their unpreparedness and the need to flasks with replenishing oil. They no doubt seemed foolish to others – even other Lutherans who sometimes sat with them in the pew on Sunday mornings. Why so much concern with God’s things? Why the constant concern to lug around that extra oil? Loosen up a bit - live more for the moment – don’t get too focused on the words of Jesus.
The “morons” (the base Greek word) – the foolish virgins were not always foolish. Their lamps had once burned with faith in the coming bridegroom. But somewhere along the way of Baptism and Confirmation and membership in a congregation they began to fool themselves. Sin became less serious – especially in a culture where everyone has their own truth. The Ten Commandments became more like suggestions – rather vague and flexible – depending on one’s feelings and what society favored. God’s means of grace were viewed as nice, but not all that necessary. The foolish virgins began to treat baptism as magic instead of a holy mystery that indicates the daily drowning of the Old Adam. Oh, they went through the motions with the other virgins. They even got weary of waiting and fell asleep with the other virgins. But the real issue for them was not the oil of faith in the forgiveness of sins given out by the bridegroom. Their hearts majored in earthly matters for themselves and others, education, politics, economics until their lamps went out. And then those earthly matters came to an end as they always do.
‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’
You can’t borrow faith in God’s Word. You can’t borrow readiness for Christ’s return. You can’t call on the merits of the saints on the day of your death or on this day. There is no looking to the fellowship of the Church on Judgment Day. “You’ve got to share” said the foolish virgins “we’re all in this together”. In response notice that the wise virgins were not selfish! They didn’t say “we won’t share”. Rather in harmony with Scripture they said “we can’t share”. They said it this way ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves. Faith in the Gospel is a gift that comes from hearing the Gospel and receiving Christ’s promised forgiveness. The oil of faith cannot be credited from one heart to another. There is no treasury of merits or treasury of faith of the saints that can be credited to a heart of unbelief to make up what is lacking.
Go to the dealers and buy for yourselves. The dealers who make this oil available sell it without price – it is obtained without money. It is received from the God the Father who knit you together in your mother’s womb and from God the Son who Himself took on flesh and blood in the Virgin’s womb to redeem you and from God the Holy Spirit who filled your lamp with oil in Holy Baptism. God is actively at work to replenish that oil – graciously giving it out among His gathered church – among the waiting virgins – and gathering others to receive it through them. But He forces no heart to receive it and those without it cannot borrow it. When the cry goes up, racing away into spiritual darkness looking for additional oil somewhere cannot replenish the oil of faith in lamps gone out.
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ “I do not know you”. This phrase was used by the rabbis to dismiss certain students who refused to be taught. It meant, “I don’t want anything more to do with you”. Those words on the lips of Jesus Christ are not politically correct, but they are eternally true! “I do not know you.”
Dear virgins wise, the time is coming when the door will be shut. On the day of our death – on Judgment Day – there are no last minute maneuvers – no slick deals - no faith borrowed from the saints – no second chances. These are words you never want Christ to speak to you – I do not know you. These are words I never want Christ to speak to me – I do not know you. So take stock of your oil and repent. Repent for still on this day, the Bridegroom is delayed. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Watching is not gazing into heaven and forsaking our earthly vocations. Watching is listening to the voice of the Good Shepherd as we serve in our earthly vocations. He is among you this morning not to say “I do not know you” but to say “Peace be with you”. It is peace He can give to you because on the Judgment Day we call Good Friday, the Father in effect said of Him ‘I do not know you” – you who have become sin. He can speak peace to you because the door was shut on Him while He carried your sin. From His pierced side justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. That blessed flood provides oil for your lamp and your flask – the oil of His forgiveness – the oil of His gift of faith.
The Bridegroom will come again! He will keep His promise! He is delayed now because He is patient and desires all to be saved. There is no one in this world who He does not love. There is no one in this world whose sin is beyond the cleansing power of His blood. There is no one you know whose lamp and flask Christ cannot fill with His healing oil as He is filling yours.
Dear virgins wise in Him your future is bright! You may think – yes pastor, but sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions – perhaps I’m fooling myself like the foolish virgins - sometimes I find it hard to believe that God can love me so much in Christ. Good heavens, no one can believe this on their own strength! You need only continue to hear the word of Christ and God will give the oil you cannot self-produce. The world may think you a fool, like it thought of Noah, but the wise man or woman builds their house on a rock by hearing and doing Jesus’ sayings (Matt 27:24, 25). So press on! Press on in joy!
As He comes among you now and as He will come among you at the last, He does this parable one better! He takes you into His presence and into His marriage feast not simply as attendants, as virgins in waiting, but as His Holy Bride – without spot or stain or any other blemish. Praise be to Him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is one God, now and forever. Amen.