St. Matthew 25:1-13
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. Matthew 25:5 – “But while the bridegroom delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… If there is one simple message to be delivered and heard and taken seriously from today’s text it is this: Wake up! There’s no time to lose! The Bridegroom is coming! This message is just as important today as it was when Jesus first told this story.
But there is a problem; and the problem is our sin. If only every single one of us had same the urgency of heart and mind to be ready for Christ, the Bridegroom, as we have in pursuing all the things we think are so important in this life! If only every single one of us eagerly awaited the Lord’s return with the same energy and zeal that we give to things like sports, money, family, work, free time, and all the other gods we have. “Sleepers, wake!” says the Apostle. And in the Lord’s parable: “Behold! The Bridegroom is coming!”
Dear friends, this is no time to be fooling around with how much oil is in our lamps and if we have enough! Now is not the time to wonder whether we can go get some oil and still make it to the wedding feast! Why? Because when the Bridegroom arrives, the doors are shut! And while those who are outside may have been invited to the wedding, once the doors are closed they are unknown to the Bridegroom. Dear children of the Lord, let us repent this day of thinking that a minimum amount of faith and a minimum amount of Jesus is “enough” and thereby run the risk of missing the Bridegroom’s arrival.
Jesus tells this parable in order to save us. He speaks to us of these five virgins who are wise and the five who are, the Greek word is “morons,” in order to rescue us from the fate of those foolish ones. In the same way St. Paul warns the Thessalonians and us about the Lord’s coming so that we are not caught off guard but rather, whether asleep or awake – that is, living or dead – we are ready to rejoice when the Bridegroom arrives.
Dear friends, the world goes blissfully and ignorantly on its way, never considering that there will be a day when everyone will try to get into the wedding feast, but only those who have enough oil for their lamps will be welcomed in! Think about it. Aside from the most die-hard atheists (those who deny that God even exists), doesn’t everyone want to get to heaven? People fly planes into buildings and blow themselves up thinking that by those actions they will go straight to paradise! People pay money for preachers to tell them the steps and secrets and plans and programs of what they need to do to get themselves right with God and get to heaven on the Last Day. People live their lives to be as good as possible in the hopes that they might get in.
But all such faith and trust in our ourselves is a misplaced, misapplied, and damning trust. That is why Jesus tells us about the five wise virgins and the five foolish/moronic virgins – in order that we may be rescued from the religion of the world, the temptations of our sinful flesh, and the enticings of the Devil. Jesus preaches to us to save us and bring us to everlasting life.
The Lord teaches us to be virgins who are prepared and ready – those who have lots of oil and then some. Which begs the question: What is the oil that we are to have in our lamps? Well, think about it. Where does the olive oil come from to light the lamps? Ii is shaken from the olive trees and pressed and squeezed to send the oil flowing forth. Therefore the oil for our lamps is Christ, hung upon the cross of Calvary for your sins, nailed to the tree to bear our iniquities and to rescue us from sin and death. It is Christ who was pressed in suffering and death; and from Him pours forth the blood and the water and the words which are the oil that lights our lamps!
And, dear friends, what flows from Christ flows to our lamps in overflowing abundance. He is the source of oil that never runs dry! It is because He is the one whose blood and water and words flow that He is the Light of the world. Not because He points out some path for us to follow, but He travels that path through death for us, in our place. Not because He came to tell us rules and ways of making God like us, but because He came as our Substitute, holy and blameless, to claim for Himself a Bride whom He has washed and made holy through water and Word.
And when He comes back on that Last Day – when the Bridegroom arrives – it will be to claim that holy, spotless Bride, His church. And His bride and the virgins who make up that Bride will welcome Him with burning lamps full of His oil!
So now we see that the oil is what Christ pours forth from Himself. The oil in our lamps is the Spirit and the Gospel and the Body and Blood and the Absolution and the water of Holy Baptism. The oil is the means of grace – the Gospel and Sacraments – and the Holy Spirit and faith, all of which go together and none of which can be apart from the others. To be ready for the Bridegroom, dear friends, is nothing other than to be filled with the gifts of Christ; filled up with more to be given. Too much is never enough when the Lord always has more!
Dear friends, we are made ready for our Lord’s return because our lamps are full of this oil. You have been baptized. You have feasted – and continue to feast – on the Body and Blood of Christ. And you have been absolved and have the Gospel preached into your ears. And all these things will be given to us again and again and over and over until the day that we die and are with Christ in heaven.
And since the Lord’s gifts of Word and Sacrament are the oil in the lamp, let us be wise virgins who always want more so that we never run out! Here, then, is where we learn repentance from those foolish virgins. Here is where we learn from those foolish virgins who thought they had enough oil and were not at all concerned about having more oil at hand.
How much oil is enough? One might as well ask how often is too often to receive Christ’s Body and Blood? There is no such thing as getting too much Jesus. It is not possible to make too much of your Baptism. You can never confess too many of your sins; you can never have Christ’s forgiveness delivered to you too many times. You can never learn too much of the Bible; you can never read it too many times. You can never stop learning and remembering and recalling all the parts of the Catechism.
If you believe that you have enough oil, then repent. If you believe you have learned enough of the Bible, then repent. If you believe you have had enough of your Lord’s body and blood, then repent. If you believe you have no sins to confess, then repent. If you believe you have heard enough of Christ’s forgiveness, then repent. Repent of being one of those foolish virgins who say, “Oh, no, we’ve got enough oil. That’s all we need. I’ve got enough faith. I believe enough. I’ve done enough good works. I’ve lived a good life. I went to Catechism years ago; I don’t need Bible Study today; I don’t need to pay close attention to the sermon or learn and grow in the faith. I only need communion once in a while.”
That talk, that self-reliance is pure foolishness! And remember, these are not my words, but those of Jesus: It is the foolish virgin who thinks she has enough oil but will run out when the Bridegroom arrives. That is to have a faith that might get you through life, but will flicker and die in death. And on that day the coming of Christ will not be a time of rejoicing and light, but of fear and darkness.
What will the Son of Man find here when He comes? Will He find faith or a substitute for faith? Will He find you patting yourself on the back for all your good works? Will He find you settling for something less than Christ-centered worship? Will He find you having no problem with man-centered hymns? Will He find your allegiance the things of this world more important than your trust in Him? Will He find you clinging to yourself or to others? Will He find you puffed up with pride and trusting in your nation and its symbols rather than His body and blood? Will He find you comforting yourself with the hope of earthly peace or with the peace of God which passes all understanding?
Dear friends, learn your lesson from these virgins; and that is never despise the gifts the Lord has for you. These are the very gifts which deliver Christ to you and keep you in the faith and thereby light your way unto eternal life!
Remember: you can never have too much oil. Fill your lamp with Christ and Christ alone. Recognize your need to live every day in your Baptism. Confess your sins, grow in the Word, and feast at the Holy Supper. And rejoice, because the Bridegroom is coming! And He comes to gather you to His wedding feast and take you as His own for all eternity.
Wake up! Behold! The Bridegroom is coming. Rejoice! He is coming for you, His pure, spotless, virgin Bride. He fills your lamp and He will keep it full until that moment arrives.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.