Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This Sunday is the last Sunday on the church calendar. Like the Gospel of the previous week, our text is part of the last great discourse of Jesus in Matthew, where He speaks of the end times and the final judgment. He told this parable about His exaltation during Holy Week before his betrayal and crucifixion. Our Lord was still in His state of humilliation when as a man, He did not always or fully use His divine powers.
His state of humiliation began when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary and was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried. But, this parable speaks of His state of exaltation that began on Holy Saturday when Jesus descended into hell to proclaim His victory over rebellious spirits. He was crowned king when He rose from the dead .
Christ is currently reigning at the right hand of the Father even if we do not see all things subject to Him. His kingdom grows in the world as it works through His Spirit and His church. But His state of exaltation is not yet fulfilled. On the last day, Christ will be finally and fully revealed as King of kings, as every knee will bow before him.
I have talked about how judgment day will come suddenly without warning for the unbelievers. In fact, in our epistle (2 Peter 3: 8-14), St. Peter says again, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements burning will be destroyed, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. "
In our Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 35: 3-10), the prophet speaks of the new creation where “the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be opened. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will sing; for waters will be poured out in the wilderness, and streams in the wilderness. The dry place will be turned into a pool, and the dry place into springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, in their lair, it will be a place of reeds and rushes… There will be no lion, nor ravenous beast will climb on it, nor will it be found there, for the redeemed to walk. And the redeemed of Jehovah will return, and come to Zion singing; and everlasting joy will be upon their heads; and they will have joy and gladness, and sorrow and groaning will flee. "
However, Isaiah also says, “And there will be a highway and a road, and it will be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean will not pass over it, but will be for others; the wanderers, even if they are clumsy, will not be misled. " Saint Peter also says thus, “Since all these things must be undone, how should you not conduct yourselves in a holy and pious way of life? Waiting and hastening for the coming of the day of God, in which the heavens, being kindled, will be undone, and the elements being burned, will melt. But we hope according to his promise, a new heaven and a new earth, in which justice dwells. "
We have waited for the fulfillment of the exaltation for 2,000 years. As Peter warned us in chapter three of his letter, “in the last days scoffers will come, walking according to their own lusts, and saying: Where is the promise of his coming? Because since our fathers slept, all things remain as they were from the beginning of creation. "
But Peter also says, “But, beloved, do not ignore this: That one day before the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some have it for delay; rather, he is patient with us, not wanting any to perish, but for all to come to repentance. " There is always the danger that the mockery of unbelievers will leave only a small doubt in the hearts of Christians. But Christians must not be led astray. If to our finite minds the Lord's return seems unduly delayed, we still know that His Word and His promise are secure. Furthermore, it is not a mere whim of the Lord to delay His coming, but to give everyone the opportunity to hear the proclamation of the gospel.
The parable for today is based on the custom of that time for the bridesmaids to wait for the groom's procession from their home to the bride's home for the wedding. Usually, the procession occurred at night, thus the need for the lamps.
In our text, the wise and foolish virgins both slept while waiting for the groom. Even the disciples fell asleep while waiting with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, showing the inherent weakness even of those who love the Lord (Matthew 26: 40-41). The difference between the wise and the foolish was not a lack of faith in the beginning or that the wise were more deserving on their own merits. The wisdom of the wise did not consist in knowing the hour of the Lord's coming. The folly of the foolish consisted in taking the gift of faith for granted and not feeding it with the Word and the sacraments.
This parable indicates nothing more than to watch and not be indifferent, since we do not know when the day of the Lord will come. Because everything is spoken against our carelessness, the accusation is that we are too safe and we always think; There is no danger, the last day does not come for a long time. Against this, Christ and the apostles cry out, asking us to be attentive to that day, to watch and have a lasting fear, lest it find us unprepared. Therefore, those who watch will receive the Lord with his grace, those who are safe will find him as a ruthless Judge, says Martin Luther.
Those prepared for the coming of the Lord are received in the eternal feast. But those who refused to be prepared are excluded. The exhortation to watch is a constant call to vigilance and repentance. Just as wise virgins cannot give their own oil to foolish women, so one Christian cannot have faith on behalf of another. Once the Bridegroom arrives, there is no more time for repentance and faith, but only repentance on the part of fools for having despised the gifts of God. The wise Christian is sustained by the means of grace, so that his faith is kept alive and full, without allowing his confidence to grow cold and his oil to dry up.
The Christian should not delay repentance or delay in receiving the faith-strengthening gifts of Christ. Rather, you should embrace them often, greeting them with thanksgiving. Through the Word and the Sacraments the Church fills her lamp with the oil of trust in the Lord, to be ready to receive her Bridegroom when He returns.
The Word of the Lord is sure and we must trust it. But trust does come from within us, but from the communion of the Holy Spirit. In this communion we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
Send Pastor David Ernst an email.