God’s people wait for their bridegroom
Sunday, November 8, 2020
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Life is full of distractions. Driving, for example, is an activity that demands our full attention. The difficulty with driving though, is that sometimes you can become drowsy. One of the ways around this drowsiness is to have someone to talk to. The problem though is that if you are too engaged in the talking, you aren’t focusing on the driving. And it’s frustrating to pass an exit and have the GPS say, “recalculating” again and again. God’s word this morning puts in front of our faces an activity that requires our full attention. In Matthew 25 we read: “1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.” (Matt. 25:1–2 NIV11-GKE)
In this part of God’s word Jesus tells a story about how God gets his work done inside of us through his word. In this parable, what we learn about first is people. We meet a bridegroom. We also meet ten unmarried women. In ancient society it was their job to wait for the bridegroom so that they would process in with him into the wedding banquet. That’s the people of this parable. But after the people we are introduced to a problem: “3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’” (Matt. 25:3–9 NIV11-GKE)
They take out their lamps or torches and light them. But after a while the oil runs out. And there they are, waiting around in the darkness. And they wait so long, in fact, that they begin to get drowsy. And they even fall asleep. The bridegroom takes his own time to arrive. But, my dear friends in Christ, that wasn’t the problem. Today, where we have watches and atomic clocks we expect every detail to run on time. In ancient times they weren’t that prompt and punctual. And they did not feel the need to be prompt and punctual. So the problem was not with the bridegroom. The problem was with five of the ladies. They were stupid.1 Unlike the other five women, they did not plan ahead. They were not ready. That was the problem. But what follows next is even worse than their lack of readiness: “10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’” (Matt. 25:10–12 NIV11-GKE)
Half of the ladies were not ready. And their sin here was that they made their problem the problem of others—the wise women. They were rude. The wise women let them know that they could not share their oil, otherwise they would all run out of fuel. So the five foolish women went away to get oil. And when they came back the door was already shut. And then, just as they tried to make their own problem the problem of the wise women, so also they tried to make their problem the problem of the bridegroom. And we might have the temptation to say to ourselves, “well, why didn’t the bridegroom just let them in?’” The problem though, was that they were not ready. And their lack of readiness was reinforced by rudeness. Even still to this day in weddings we have an understanding of accepted and not-accepted behavior. Pretend, for a moment that right now wer’e at the beginning of a wedding. It starts with a procession as one couple walks down the aisle after another. Before the bride arrives, let’s say that a pack of people arrives. Let’s say that they but in ahead of the bride and make their way down the aisle and then sandwich themselves in. We all know that that wouldn’t be acceptable. No, instead, if they come late, they can’t cut in and make their problem the problem of the bride and groom.
These words are a warning to us. But they aren’t really a warning about weddings. They are a warning that there will be a day when Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. And on that day rudeness will not cover up our lack of readiness. These words are a powerful reminder that there will be people who put Jesus and their faith in him on the back-burner. And when their time runs out, they will try to make their rudeness cover up their own lack of readiness. So Jesus begins with people. He continues with a problem. Then he concludes with his point: ““Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matt. 25:13 NIV11-GKE)
Jesus asks and urges us to be ready. And how is it that we can be ready? We become ready by being aware. And this being aware goes in two directions. First, we are are aware of what is in front of us right now. Just like that person talking in the car to us when we are driving or the deer in the field to the left of us, it is easily to be distracted. And, as we walk through our lives, it’s easy to be distracted by the past. We can think of good days in our past and think, “If only I could go back to those.” We can think back to the days that were truly bad and say, “I never want to go back to those days.” And all of those days, whether good or bad, shape us now. But we dare not let them distract us from living, being aware of what is in front of us right now. As Jesus says, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34 NIV11-GKE) Each day you will have sins to repent of. And if the past consumes you, will not see them. But even more so, if you are living in the past, these present promises that Jesus speaks to you in his word of forgivness for you right now, you will miss them too.
So each day we see our sins and cling to our Savior. We are aware of what is right in front of us. But we are also aware of what is ahead of us. What is ahead of us is that first, on the Last Day, the universe will be dismantled by fire. And then, we Christ’s church will see our bridegroom. As we are aware of what is ahead there is both a warning and a blessing in that. The warning is not to be so caught up in the now that you miss what is coming next. The blessing is what is coming next. Our first hymn speaks about that. We, Christ’s bride, get to see our bridegroom! We get to be delivered from this present evil age. We get to sing with saints and angels to the glory of God, the Father.
With all of this in mind, beware then that rudeness cannot cover up lack of readiness. And rejoice that in Christ you are ready. And he gives you an invitation to be aware. Be aware of what is in front of you. And be aware of what is ahead of you. Amen.
1 “ⲙⲱⲣⲁⲓ” (Matt. 25:8 GNT-WAS)