Greeting: O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise.
Text: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 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 ones, 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.’ 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. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Introduction: Among the many sad and sorry phrases that a person can speak, the words: I was not prepared” certainly deserve a place. “I was not prepared” is a phrase that reflects shameful waste, disappointing loss and painful regret. “I was not prepared” is the tragic admission of a missed assignment for something important or a blown opportunity for something great. By far the saddest situation in which “I was not prepared” could be spoken is if a person has to speak them on the day of universal, final judgment when Jesus Christ returns to the world. On that day, there will be no limit to the shame, to the regret and to the loss that unprepared souls will have to experience.
Jesus Christ does not want us to have to say those words of unpreparedness. That was why He taught the Parable of the 10 Virgins. As we observe the second to last week of the church year in this End Time season, we do it in anticipation of the lasts day of all days. We pray that God’s Holy Spirit will allow us to “Be Ready To Receive The Returning Lord.”
There are three lessons we learn from Jesus’ teaching. The first is that we accept responsibility for being prepared. The second is that we do not let Christ’s seeming delay to return lead us to be negligent. The third and final lesson is that we respect the fact that earthly time runs out.
I. ACCEPT THE RESPONSIILITY FOR BEING PREPARED
A. The Virgins In The Parable Are A Contrast In Readiness
In the parable Jesus told, He describes the preparations that were made for a wedding. The custom at that time was to have a night wedding in which the groom would come to the home of his bride and take her to their marriage home for a feast. The bridesmaids would join in the procession and use torch-lamps to light the way. Of the 10 virgin bridesmaids in Jesus’ story, 5 were wise and 5 were not wise. The wise bridesmaids took extra oil for their lamps in case there would be a delay. The foolish bridesmaids didn’t take any additional oil. A modern comparison would be like a camping trip where you needed flashlights to see at night. The wise would take extra batteries and the foolish would take their chances with only the batteries in the flashlight.
B. Each Of Us Has The Responsibility To Be Prepared For Jesus Arrival
Like the virgin bridesmaids in the parable, we are waiting for someone important to arrive. We wait from the heavenly groom, our Savior Jesus Christ, to return to the world to gather up His believers and begin the great wedding feast in heaven. We have been invited to this wedding feast. We have been told to get ready for it. Like the bridesmaids in the parable, we have a responsibility to be ready to meet and greet our Lord.
Readiness for us means to believe in Jesus as the One who paid the ransom price to set us free from our enslavement to sin and the punishment of God’s just anger over sin. Readiness for us means to trust in Jesus as the One who suffered the curse of God that we brought on ourselves and won for us God’s eternal blessing. We do not have to earn our own deliverance. We do not have to create our own faith. Our salvation and our faith in Christ are both God’s gifts to us through the Gospel. Our ongoing responsibility is to make regular and attentive use of the Gospel in God’s Word and the Sacrament of Communion that is available to us in worship, Bible study and personal Bible reading. This responsibility is ours. Each of us must care for his/her own soul. No one can believe for us. No one can get ready in our place.
C. Accept That Responsibility Willingly
You don’t have to be told that we live in largely irresponsible times. We have a lot of Peter Pans in this world. People who always want to stay a child and never grow up into accepting adult responsibilities; people who would rather play than work; people who would rather take it easy than get it done. We have many who would like others to take care of them and don’t want to expend to much effort themselves. That is especially true when it comes to spiritual and eternal matters.
You and I should not follow the Peter Pan path when it comes to the matter of Jesus’ 2nd Coming. Remembering the great love that Jesus has for us and costly price He paid to redeem us, let us accept the responsibility to be ready for the Lord’s return. Let us intelligently as people who know how great our need of God’s grace is. Our sinful nature still plagues us and leads us into many sins of commission and omission. So easily we can let the wicked thought pop into our minds or the foul words come out of our mouths. So easily we can let the promise we made go unkept and the help we intended go unoffered. We need a very large supply of God’s grace. Our journey through life is long. We cannot get by with skimpy reserves. Our Savior urges us: “Let the Word of God dwell in you richly.” Let’s be like those wise virgins who made the critical choice to take personal responsibility and be ready. Let’s say: “I will take responsibility to be ready for Jesus’ return. It is my job to use God’s Word faithfully so my faith flourishes and I am prepared to receive my Lord when He comes.”
II. DON’T LET CHRIST’S DELAY LEAD TO NEGLECT
A. The Virgins Are A Contrast In How To Handle The Delay
As Jesus proceeded to tell the parable, He related that the groom took a long time to arrive, longer than most had anticipated. The wise virgins, who had brought extra oil for their lamps, had anticipated that possibility and were prepared for the delay. On the other hand, the foolish virgins refused to get an extra supply and remained confident that they would be fine with their strategy of relying on a limited supply of oil. They miscalculated and that mistake would be damaging. The wise virgins had given them a good example to follow, but they failed to learn from it.
B. Handle Jesus’ Apparent Delay In Coming Properly
To many people – and perhaps to us at times, it seems as if Jesus Christ has taken a long time to arrive. It has been almost 2000 years, since Jesus made His promise that He would return to end the world and usher in the joy and glory of His eternal kingdom. God has required us and many previous generations to wait until that promise is fulfilled. Because God’s Word is true and reliable, we know that the promised return will happen. We don’t know just when, but we know that the time of Jesus’ coming is getting closer and closer with each passing day.
Jesus calls on us to stay prepared for His arrival. He wants us to make sure that we have a sufficient supply of faith, patience and hope to see us through the time of waiting. He wants us to keep looking in anticipation for His return, while all the while we keep relying on His Word to sustain our faith. We are to avoid the tragic mistake of thinking that He will not return. We are to escape the error of adopting a false view of being ready – thinking that keeping our faith at a strong level isn’t very important or that the unpredictability of Jesus’ return makes preparation a low priority. We may be tempted to think that it’s too late for us or others we know to start preparing now and get discouraged. We may have been lax about our preparation in the past, like the foolish bridesmaids in the parable. But it’s not too late to get serious now. While we have life, it’s possible to catch up and make faithful use of God’s Word to gain strength and rekindle our Christ-centered hope. God has not given up on us. We are not too old or too late to learn and practice better things.
III. Respect The Fact That Time Runs Out
A. The Virgins Are A Contrast In Timeliness
Jesus concluded the parable by announcing the arrival of the groom. He comes at midnight to claim his bride and take her to her new home with him. The wise virgins are ready for his arrival. They refuel their torches, go out to meet the groom and take part in the celebration. The foolish virgins are unprepared. They worry and scurry about to find some oil at this late hour and find that they cannot. The time of preparation had passed. They could not recover and are shut out of the procession and the celebration. They had an interest in being part of this blessed event, but they didn’t do what was necessary to participate.
B. Live With The Awareness That Time Does Run Out
The time to prepare for Jesus’ return will eventually run out. All of a sudden the time allowed to get ready will be over. It will end with Jesus’ sudden, glorious appearance with His holy angels. The 2nd Coming of Jesus marks the end of the time of opportunity to prepare and the beginning of the time for either great celebration with Him or great isolation from Him. Now is our time to prepare. Now is our opportunity to invest our time and energy in the hearing and learning of God’s Word so we have saving faith and are ready for His return.
Some investments we make can make us glad now, but not later. Think of splurging on an impulse purchase that seems so fulfilling for a while, but leaves a person short on needed cash in the future. Think of indulging in a calorie-laden meal that adds unwanted pounds to a person’s body. However, there are some investments we make that make us both glad now and later. On is building up that reserve fund so we are ready for that inevitable emergency repair. Investing in Jesus’ return is like that. It makes us glad both now and especially later. For the foolish, there will only be great disappointment of what might have been, but never will be. For the wise, there is eternal joy as they are ready to meet the Savior who has pronounced them righteous and welcomes them to rejoice at the heavenly feast forever. May God help us all to be ready. Amen.