Wisely Plodding Along Matthew 25:1-13

Christmas in July! 

  • Advent is the name for coming, so in that way we’re told to always celebrate Advent season—
    • Lord’s Supper liturgy, 1 Cor 11:26 “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”

This parable is about Jesus’ second advent—the big one…

  • Christmas was big!  Incarnation of God…
  • The Return is even bigger
    • New Heavens and New Earth—Isaiah 65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
  • This is the third parable Jesus gave us as he preached from the Mt. Olives, just days before his death

The Parable of the Ten Virgins—the bridesmaids

  • 5 wise (note the same word as the faithful servant v.45)
  • 5 foolish (moronic—Gk. Morai , i.e. Kittles who gets mean talked a lot)
    • dull of thinking, not incapable just haven’t given themselves to serious consideration of their task

Jesus uses a familiar scene, a wedding, to illustrate the overall point—“At some point it will be too late”

  • It’s like the parable of the wedding feast in ch. 22:1-14 which ends with some people being excluded
    • In that parable it was a man who didn’t think he needed the master’s robes
    • Here it’s foolish girls who wanted to be a part of the wedding feast but didn’t have enough oil to get there
      • They had the desire but not the wise preparation
  • Israelite weddings
    • On the occasion of a marriage, the bridegroom, attended by his friends, went to the house of his bride, and brought her with her friends in joyful procession to his own house.[1] (Manners and Customs of the Bible)
    • It wasn’t uncommon for this to happen late at night
      • Jeremias—almost midnight and after hours of waiting in the bride’s house, where her family and friends would be gathered
    • Then the groom would arrive, he, the bride, and the bridesmaids would all go to the newlyweds’ house where a great feast was waiting for them
      • It’s the same picture that’s in Revelation 19 for the believers’ celebration with Jesus in his return
      •  “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”  (Rev. 19:6b-9a)

There are some pretty obvious symbols in this parable:

  • The groom is Christ—in Matthew 9:15 Jesus refers to himself this way, “can the guests mourn while the bridegroom is with them?”
  • The virgins/bridesmaids—the church equated with “the Kingdom of Heaven”
    • A mixture of believers and unbelievers
    • Like the nation of Israel
    • Like Abraham’s family
  • The Groom’s arrival is the second coming
    • The New Heavens and New Earth
  • The final scene with the closed door is the final judgment
    • There will be a time when it is too late, no matter how much a person desires to get in they simply aren’t allowed in,
    • There was a time when it was possible, but that time has passed
    • Matthew 7:21-23  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The parable itself is about the bridesmaids waiting for the groom

  • The waiting represents the time between the advents
  • This side of the cross we can see that this parable also applied to the time between the fall and the first advent
    • Some of Israel believed—wise brides maids
    • Some of Israel didn’t believe—the foolish
    • The relationship between God and his people was always thought of in terms of marriage
  • Isaiah 54:5  For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
  • No one in Israel would have straight up said, “No, I don’t want to be delivered by the Messiah when he comes”
    • Like the Ten Virgins, all of National Israel desired to be saved, But a lot of them weren’t
    • Because they didn’t really believe God’s word
      • If they had believed in the written Word, they would have believed God’s Incarnate Word
        • John 5:37-40   “the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
  • All ten virgins wanted to be a part of the wedding reception
    • Who wouldn’t?  That’s the fun part, right?
    • 25:5-7  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.
    • All of them slept—
    • All of them woke up and trimmed their lamps
    • The difference was in preparation:  The foolish didn’t have enough oil
      • They were in it, but not in it for the long haul
      • The wise answered “never, no way, not a chance” –three negatives in a row
        • It’s the pearl of great price principle
        • 13:45-46  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
        • There’s no way you’re getting my oil—that’s my ticket to the feast
      • Jesus’ point here is that Individual faith is necessary:  There’s a point in a church member’s life that belief must be their own
        • Prayerfully all professions should be true
        • Children baptized into the church will one day have to grab hold of Jesus for themselves
        • There’s a lot of value in collective faith, the faith of the group, but ultimately you will have to believe for yourself

That’s the point of the parable

  • You have to believe for yourself, there’s still time to believe now, but there’s a time coming when all time is gone
    • Make sure of what you believe
  • There will be some people who think they have a right to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, but they won’t be let in
    • This is a call to self-examination and Sustained faithfulness—wisely plodding along towards Jesus
  • Three points:  Apostasy in the New Testament;  Who are the foolish virgins?; Be Wise and Faithful
  1. Apostasy in the New Testament—because this parable is all about some starting the race, but not finishing it
    1. This is about the church and Jesus is saying not all of Israel is Israel, not all of the Church is the Church
    1. Apostasy—turning your back on your faith
    1. It doesn’t apply to true believers
      1. 1 John 2:19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
    1. It only applies to what has been called “nominal” Christians
      1. Christians in name only
      1. Joined the church, even active in the church, but never really a Christian
  2. Who are the Foolish Virgins? They represent people who refused to believe, many examples in the Bible
    1. Pilate—again not a member, but he also illustrates the point
      1. JC Ryle, “Our Lord’s silence, whien this appeal was made to him by Pilate, is very striking.  Hitherto he had spoken freely and replied to questions; now he refused to speak any more…Pilate had forfeited his title to any further revelation about his prisoner.  He had been told plainly the nature of our Lord’s kingdom and the purpose our Lord’s coming into the world and been obliged to confess publicly his innocence.  And yet, with all this light and knowledge, he had treated our Lord with flagrant injustice, scourged him, allowed him to be treated with the vilest indignities by his soldiers and held him up to scorn, knowing in his mind all the time that he was a guiltless person.  He had, in short, sinned away his opportunities…”[2]
    1. The most famous, no infamous, and vilest of illustrations—Judas Iscariot
      1. Psalm 41:9  Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
      1. A member of the visible church, but not the invisible
      1. Said the right things, did the right things (preached and healed) but didn’t truly believe
  3. Be wise and faithful
    1. It’s going to be awhile, there’s significant waiting involved
      1. They were sleeping when the bridegroom came
        1. Jesus didn’t make any point of condemning their sleep
        1. The idea is basic Christian living—wisely plodding along toward the day when Jesus returns
          1. It’s not a 50 yard dash, it’s an ultra marathon through the mountains
      1. The purpose of the lamp and oil isn’t Light as much as it is to get to the Marriage Feast
      1. A Picture of Faith
        1. Just like their oil wasn’t the goal, your Faith isn’t the goal—Getting to Jesus’ Feast is
          1. Not for your happiness as much as for His glory
          1. Searching after something for happiness’ sake typically leaves you short and finding something new
          1. Looking for Jesus’ glory is steadfast and unchangeable
        1. So if faith isn’t the goal, then what exactly is faith?
          1. Faith is a gift of God
            1. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  Eph. 2:8
            1. You didn’t cause faith to spring up in your soul
          1. The instrument that grabs hold of Christ
            1. Christ is always strong but your faith may not be
            1. WCF 14.3  “faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed”
          1. The instrument is strengthened and matured as we learn to focus our attention on Christ
            1. WCF 13.1  “they who are once effectually called and regenerated…are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection”
            1. The Apostles always preached and wrote about Jesus as your sacrifice in his death and Jesus as your life in his resurrection.  Meditate on that, treasure it.
            1. Is your faith weak? Look to the one who gave it to you. 
              1. Take your eyes off yourself.
    1. The calling is to a daily, mundane, one step at a time faithfulness
      1. Personal relationship with God in Christ Jesus equipped and enabled by the Holy Spirit in you
      1. That relationship is a daily work
        1. Prayer
        1. Bible reading
        1. Bible meditation
          1. Truths of scripture
          1. Mysteries of God, Christ, salvation
        1. Longing for God
          1. Sabbath is more than one day a week in that it should cause you to order your other six days in such a way the Sabbath is set apart
          1. The Lord’s Supper—make every week a preparation
    1. God grants us “faith bonuses” along the way—little ways that remind us HE is always working
      1. Bonnie at the Y—cancer, recent surgery, chemo, terrible time one day she just simply prays to God out of desperation and the next day she felt great and has now for two weeks
      1. Grab hold of things like this reminding you of God’s gracious providence
      1. These moments encourage our faith and teach us to apply God’s word to life in seeing his faithfulness, steadfastness, and unchangeableness in our world
        1. We learn to recognize God’s work in providence
        1. Remind us of his promises
        1. Refresh and renew our faith that is perpetually weak—pointing us away from ourselves and our weakness and points us to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.  Amen.

[1] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 468.

[2] Ryle, 28 October in Daily Readings from the Four Gospels.  Compiled by Robert Sheehan