We continue our bible study in Luke’s Gospel. This morning we cover Luke 13:10-22.
This is the sermon for the Third Sunday of End Time-Saints Triumphant. The sermon text is: Matthew 25:1-13. The sermon theme is: Stay Awake
Stay awake! One of the most difficult tasks to learn is to stay awake. We have all had teachers who have had this bizarre talent for taking normal, awake people and putting them to sleep with their endless lecturing. And maybe you’ve had those times when you have to drive for many hours. And you have to stay awake. But you find it so hard to do so. This morning Jesus tells us to stay awake. And, in order to teach us this he tells us a story. In Matthew 25 we read: ““At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” (Matt 25:1 NIV)
In order to teach us about staying awake Jesus tells us a story about a wedding. Now, any way you look at it, weddings are weird. And here I’m not speaking about the wedding itself. I’m speaking about the customs and traditions surrounding the wedding. Years ago when my sister was married the pastor’s son was the ring-bearer. He was about three years old. And he took his job seriously. He marched all the way to the front and lifted up that pillow with the rings on it. And nobody would take the rings. So he kept trying. Finally the best man—the real ring-bearer took him off to the side. Weddings are weird. There are these strange customs that we have in weddings. It’s true now. It was also true then in Jesus’ time. At that time, before the wedding, the friends of the bride would meet the bridegroom and the best man outside the town. they would greet him and welcome him. And then they would go into the wedding together. And then later on the bride would come with an honor-guard of the groom’s friends to escort her. And that’s what’s going on in these words. The friends of the bride, the virgins are waiting for the bridegroom.
But Jesus lets us know that there are two groups. There are thoughtful virgins. And there are thoughtless virgins: “2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, 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 25:2–9 NIV)
So there were thoughtful virgins and thoughtless virgins. And Jesus shows us that the thoughtful virgins were awake and aware. How so? They showed that they were awake and aware because they were selfish. Now that might sound somewhat strange. Normally we are taught that it’s wrong to be selfish. We are taught to share. But look at what is happening here in these words. The thoughtless women beg the thoughtful ones for some oil. And with blunt and almost violent words, the thoughtful women say, “Never! If we did what you said there would never be enough for both you and us!”1 Here we learn that it is a good thing to be selfish when it comes to us and our Savior, Jesus. There can be nothing more important than our faith in him and our worship of him—nothing.
When I read these words I remember the girlfriend of one of my classmates. They met in high school. He invited her to come to church. And not only did she come to church with him, but eventually she joined that church. But on Sunday mornings she had to get up alone. She could not depend on her parents to get her up and take her because they did not want to come to church. And even worse, there were times they got annoyed that she got up and went to church. And so, they would try to keep her home on Sunday. But nothing—absolutely nothing came in-between her and Jesus.
It sounds so selfish. But Jesus is letting us know that that is what it looks like to be awake. The thoughtful were selfish. But Jesus isn’t content with that point. He teaches us the same point by using an opposite example. The thoughtful are selfish. But what are the thoughtless? The thoughtless are late: “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.’ 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. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’” (Matt 25:9–12 NIV)
The thoughtless virgins to away to buy oil. But when they get back they are too late. The door is shut. And nobody knows them. And Jesus teaches us to be awake and aware in these words by letting us know that there will be many for whom the door to heaven will be shut. Why is this the case? They are shut out because of the one little word, “later.” The worship of Jesus in church with their fellow sinners was something they could put off to later. Studying God’s word with other Christians was something they could put off till later.
And that brings us to the question, “why.” Why will there be people on the last day who put Jesus off till later. It boils down to two words: Pleasure and pressure. There will be many for whom studying God’s word wasn’t fun. There was no pleasure in studying God’s word with a Christian pastor. There was no pleasure in gathering together with other sinners and confessing their sins and singing solid, Christian hymns. The pleasures in their lives made them conclude that Jesus could come later.
And we could say the same about pressure too, couldn’t we? There will be those shut out of heaven in the darkness with the door locked on Judgement Day because of pressure. They were so busy taking care of their families that they could take care of Jesus later. They were so busy and pressured at work that Jesus could come later.
My dear brothers and sisters it is a huge sin to let that word “later” take over your life. Now is the time when we confess the fact that there have been many times that we should have been selfish with God’s word and weren’t. And there have been many times that we thought we could put Jesus off till later as if that wouldn’t damage our faith.
We repent of these sins and we cling to our Savior. Jesus, our heavenly bridegroom wouldn’t let anything come in-between him and us. He was jealous to take care of us. And he took care of his creation now—not later. And all you have to do to see this is read God’s word. As you read any gospel you see the urgency in Christ’s work. Jesus showed people their sin now. Jesus showed people that he was their Savior now. Jesus healed people of their diseases and drove out demons now. And Jesus put himself on the path to death now—not later. And because he was perfectly urgent in his work and his sacrifice for us on the cross was perfect, our sins are forgiven—even those sins when we aren’t selfish when we should be and those sins when we can get to Jesus later.
So Jesus teaches us and urges us to stay awake. First, he urges us to stay awake because we do not know the hour. But there’s a second reason he urges us to stay awake. Stay awake because you have pictures and promises of heaven. In verse ten we read: “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.” (Matt 25:10 NIV)
Those who were ready went into the wedding. Jesus has lived for us. Jesus has died for us. Jesus has risen for us and washed us clean in those waters of baptism. Now we are ready to go in to the wedding. That’s the picture and promise that Jesus uses here for heaven. And so we stay awake not just because we do not know the hour. We also stay awake because we have so many beautiful pictures and promises of heaven. Think of a child on Christmas Eve. He just can’t go to sleep. He tries but he can’t, because he knows what the next day will be like. There will be presents. There will be food. There will be joy. It’s the same with us. Think of the joy that the Christian Church will have when we are reunited with our bridegroom, Christ. Think of the fact that our God is not the God of the dead, but instead, the God of the living. Think of what it will be like to see and speak with Moses, Elijah, Paul and Peter. Think of what it will be like to speak with your loved ones you have lost who believed in Jesus and were ready to go to him. Those pictures; those promises will keep you awake. They will keep you from drifting away to sleep in the darkness with the rest of the world.
So my dear friends in Christ, stay awake. Stay awake because you do not know the hour. And stay awake because you do have so many pictures and promises of heaven. Amen.