The Coming Bridegroom
The Coming Bridegroom
LSCY T Matthew25:1-13
Jesus gives words of warning because He loves us. Though His words sometimes cause concern or doubt for Christians, that’s certainly not His intention. His intention is to speak words of truth and life into cold, hardened hearts, that His soothing word may work true faith into our lives.
This morning’s text is one of those times Jesus gives a stark warning to His people. He’s telling us: keep watch. Stay awake. Because He’s coming back. When that time will be isn’t an answer He gives us. That day will come like a thief in the night. The question of ‘when’ isn’t something God values to tell us. What does He wish to tell us? He wishes to tell us about the only thing that matters to have to stand against God’s judgement on that day: genuine saving faith.
That’s the teaching behind the parable of the ten virgins. Five wise virgins were ready for the coming bridegroom. They had their oil ready for their lamps. And five foolish virgins were unprepared, because they didn’t have oil for their lamps.
But both groups anxiously waited for the bridegroom to come. Just like all of us here in the church – we all wait together anxiously for Jesus to make His second coming to earth. Though just like the ten virgins, some in the church are ready, and others aren’t.
To understand the parable and its’ correlation to our Christian lives, here is what Jesus is relating the parable to:
Church folk are the ten virgins – five wise, five foolish.
The lamp represents the outward forms of Christianity.
The oil represents genuine faith in Christ.
The flame and the light of the lamp represent good works.
Like the ten virgins, we anxiously await the second coming of Jesus to receive the promise of the new heavens and the new earth as described in Isaiah 65 – “Behold I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. […] I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.”
Jesus brings His bride, the Church, into this beautiful, perfect existence. When that happens, we don’t know. The Lord sees no value in telling us. But we do know He promises that He will come: and faith believes this promise wholeheartedly, and waits with joyful expectation and anticipation.
But Jesus’ point is that you should always be prepared for Him to come. Because just as the ten virgins didn’t have time to prepare their oil when the announcement of the bridegroom came, so also when the announcement of Jesus second coming happens, your faith is either ready or not. Your faith is either being fed by the gifts of Christ, or it isn’t. And a faith that’s not being fed consistently by the gifts of Christ will fade.
We all have lamps. That is, we all have outward forms of Christianity, like going to church, bible study, reading devotions at home. So, you can have the outward forms of Christianity. You can go through confirmation, come to church when you have a free moment, and even be nice, kind, and generous to people. But those outward, benevolent actions won’t save you on judgement day. Mimicking Christian lives isn’t salvific.
Only true faith can save you. This is the difference between the wise and the foolish virgins. It makes all the difference on God’s judgement on the Last Day. He looks at faith. Some might have the outward form of Christianity, but the outward forms of Christianity don’t always equate to faith. Maybe they go to church, pray, and do good works because it’s their habit. Or they see church morals as just good morals. Or maybe they think their action within a church will help them be a sheep instead of a goat. These are mere outward forms of a Christian life. This isn’t TRUE faith.
Others will have true faith. True faith grasps on to Christ in every time of need. True faith recognizes how sinful we really are, and submits to His work on the cross and grave. True faith follows wherever Christ leads them. They believe in the promises of Christ, and they find refuge in Him and expect His coming. Yes, true faith does the outward actions too – like going to church, praying, and doing good works. But this is what the Lord is warning us: don’t let faith wain or grow weary even though He’s still not here. His coming will be at a time unknown to us, so we are charged to wait patiently and to be watchful.
This isn’t to say that the outward forms of Christianity aren’t important. They certainly are. Because without a lamp, the oil does no good.
Without the outward forms of Christianity like going to church and reading Scripture, there’s no structure and means for God’s grace and forgiveness to be delivered to you.
That’s why in Catechism class you learn that Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the Word of God are “means of grace.”
The means of grace nourish genuine faith in the gifts of Christ.
Without the means of grace, there’s no way for genuine faith to exist – because it’s missing God’s grace and mercy feeding it.
From genuine faith, then, comes good works. Just as a flame is fed from oil, so are good works fed from faith.
So, what makes you prepared for when Jesus comes?
Be wise and prepare your oil. That is, examine your lives of faith according to God’s Word. If your actions either don’t align with God’s Word, or even if you’re good actions are only done to earn favor before God: repent. If you don’t find yourself grasping to Christ in your time of need and calling upon his name in your day of trouble, repent. Repent of your unpreparedness for the coming bridegroom and receive the forgiveness of sins He’s won for you. He gives this to you free and boundless, for He wishes to nourish and strengthen your faith continually with His promises in the Means of Grace.
Only through repentance and forgiveness does the kingdom of heaven open its doors to you. God doesn’t want meaningless outward obedience without any willingness to change sinful behavior.
Those who love and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins know how and where to get oil for their lamps.
They flee to the promises of Christ. They flee to His gifts and take hold of the great benefits they give! They listen to the Word of God and trust it with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength because when Jesus promises something, it’s surely given. This is your oil. Seek your oil from Christ who promises to meet you in baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Scripture.
But as Jesus warns us, oil can run out. Keep faith burning, by taking hold of the oil which Christ freely gives. He freely gives it because He wants to bring you into the eternal wedding feast. He wants you to be prepared.
And He’s given you everything needed to be prepared by dying on the cross for your sins. That’s what’s in the promises of Christ – the cross. That’s what’s in baptism that saves – the cross. That’s what’s in the Lord’s Supper which forgives your sins – the cross. That’s what’s in the oil that gives it power – the cross.
The time to receive this oil is now. Don’t assume that repentance can be put off to a later date. Our days are numbered. Whether that be in the form of our own earthly death, or Jesus’ second coming. Our days are numbered by our Creator and we’d be wise to be prepared to meet Him in true faith at all times.
Encourage one another with this also. Help each other prepare. Don’t let your loved ones wait until the eleventh hour to start coming to church and receiving Christ’s gifts – because then it will be too late. The bridegroom will already be calling the prepared guests to the wedding banquet, where the faithful will enjoy the eternal life of Christ in eternity.
Jesus warns us with his hard parable because He cares for us. His discipline never comes from anger, but from love. So prepare yourselves with oil. Receive the promises of Christ. Turn your life away from your sins and seek the forgiveness Christ has earned for you on the cross – the place where all your sin was paid, and forgiveness was won for all.