Matthew 25:1-13 (22nd Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 27)
“Wise or Foolish?”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
November 9, 2014
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text for this morning is the Gospel Reading from Matthew 25:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 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.’ 10 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. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Semper paratus! The motto of the United States Coast Guard—“Always Prepared.” Can the same be said of you and me?
The student enters the classroom. The teacher places the test on her desk. She stares at the paper blankly. She hadn’t studied much at all. She chose to use her time for other things, things she considered to be of a greater priority. The girl was not prepared.
The young man had a passion for life. He had a good job and lots of friends. He bought the latest and greatest of everything. Even if he didn’t need a new one, he got it anyway because it was “up-to-date.” He had everything that he wanted. Without warning, his company went bust. He had no job, no income, and nothing saved. He had lived life to the fullest in the now without any eye toward the ever uncertain future. That man was not prepared.
Are you prepared?
When I ask this question, I’m not asking if you have a “rainy day” fund set aside. I’m not asking if you studied for your upcoming confirmation class quiz tomorrow, although I’m sure you did! I’m not concerned if you have food and water and things stocked up for a “zombie apocalypse.” No, when I ask if you are prepared, I’m asking if you are prepared for Christ to come again, prepared to be received into His heavenly kingdom.
It is one thing not to be prepared for situations on this side of heaven. Quite often there will be a friend or a family member who can bail you out, a teacher who might have mercy on you. Being unprepared for the Last Day and the return of Jesus, however, is altogether different. How utterly horrible it would be on that Day to hear Jesus say, “I do not know you.” How disastrous to find that you are locked out of the heavenly banquet feast, not welcome to dine with the Lord at His wedding table because you are unprepared.
That lack of preparation happens when a person takes more care of their earthly life while they neglect preparation for the heavenly. If there’s no battery in your flashlight, when it comes time to use it, you are tough out of luck. The same holds true when it comes to the spiritual things of God. If there is no oil in your lamp, no faith or trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, when it comes time to meet Him at His return, you are going to be tough out of luck.
But what about second chances? What about do-overs? If you have failed to be ready for Christ, neglected to receive Him by faith through Word and Sacrament, the sad reality is that there will be no one on the Last Day to save you. There isn’t anybody who will be able to bail you out. The foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable neglected to put oil in their lamps. They slept, waiting for the bridegroom to come, and when he came suddenly and expectedly, they were not ready. By the time they got caught up, it was too late! The door was locked. No wedding feast. No celebration. No banquet at the table of the bridegroom. Only this reply, “I don’t know you.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it should not be that way. The reason is simple. God has already made all of the preparations for people to attend the heavenly wedding feast of His Son, Jesus. God has already made things ready for people to enter into life eternal with Him. The only reason a person will be shut out of heaven is because they themselves have neglected the preparations God has already made for them.
What are the preparations God has made for us? We read God’s Word in Galatians 4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5) That is what the Lord has done to prepare us for His heavenly kingdom. God the Son left His throne on high, taking to Himself our human flesh and nature, without sin. In our place Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, suffered the full punishment for the world’s sins by dying in our place under the anger and wrath of God against sin. The blood Christ shed on the cross purchased and won complete forgiveness for the sins of the whole world. By His death, Christ Jesus has destroyed death. By His resurrection from the dead, the Lord Jesus has opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. Because Jesus lives, we too shall live again in the resurrection at the Last Day, and will enter with Him into the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end.
What we could not do for ourselves in preparation to enter heaven because of our sins, God the Son did for us on the cross. Our sins separated us from God, made us His enemies, and caused us to be unfit to be in His presence. Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection washed us from our sins, making us right to stand before God in holiness and purity forever, wearing the robe of Christ’s righteousness. God the Holy Spirit has dressed us in the wedding garments of salvation. He has bestowed the gifts of Christ’s cross and resurrection upon us through the Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The Spirit feeds the oil of our faith in Christ through these Means of Grace so that we are well-prepared with faith in Christ to meet Jesus when He comes again in glory on the Last Day.
You are prepared to be received into the heavenly Kingdom by God. You lamps were filled with Christ at His font, where faith in Jesus was created in you, when you first entered the Kingdom of heaven as He washed you clean of your sins and daily shields and wards off Satan and his constant deadly attacks. Your lamps of faith are filled with Christ in His Word, which sustains your faith through life’s trials and temptations and gives you healing and forgiveness. Your lamps are filled with Christ at this altar, where Christ enters your body and your soul to forgive your sin, to strengthen your faith in this difficult, fallen world, where He promises you a place at the greater, heavenly feast to come.
By grace through faith alone, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are guests who have been made ready by God to join Jesus at this heavenly wedding feast. Because of the gift of faith and the forgiveness of sins won for you by Christ, the door of heaven stands open. To you who believe, who have been prepared by the Spirit through the Gospel Word, who have not rejected the gifts of Christ, Jesus says, “I know you. Enter into the joy of the Lord!”
And so you and I, as Christians, are able to rejoice in that Day when the Lord Christ comes again. We have been prepared by the Lord for that Day and for the eternal feast that will follow. But also remember, there are still so many who remain unprepared. There are so many whose lamps of faith are empty. They do not know Jesus as Savior. They have not received His forgiveness and the new life of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus far they have turned aside from the Word, or perhaps have not had the opportunity as yet to hear it and receive it. It is then for us who are wise in Christ, with lamps filled with the Spirit, to speak the Word of Christ to them. It is for us to say, “Let me share the oil of my lamp of faith with you, so that you can know Jesus and trust in Him alone as your Savior from sin and death.” It is our joy to share this Good News so that those who have not known Jesus might receive Him by faith and come to know that in Christ, they are placed into the care and concern of a God who never slumbers of sleeps, but is always guarding the oil of our faith.
Semper paratus! Always prepared! Can this be said of us? You bet! God the Holy Spirit has prepared us for Christ’s coming again by giving us the gift of faith so that we receive from Jesus forgiveness and eternal life. We have reservations at the table of the Lord in His heavenly Kingdom where we will forever live with the Lord in resurrected body and soul. Through your proclamation of Christ with words and actions, share this Good News with others. Invite them to receive what Jesus offers them in His Word—forgiveness of sins and abundant life. And pray God the Holy Spirit to mightily prepare many more hearts with faith, making them ready for the wedding feast of the Lamb, Jesus the Savior. Amen.