Oil in Your Lamp / Matthew 25:1–13 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 12th 2023 / Season of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 12th 2023: Season of Pentecost / Matthew 25:1–13 “Oil in Your Lamp”
[Jesus says,] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 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. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Again our Gospel Reading is from Tuesday of Holy Week and like we heard in some of our recent Sunday Gospel readings Jesus is again providing a parable but unlike the parables that irked the Sadducees and Pharisees, the Scribes and Herodians and the Elders of the people as Jesus taught them in the Temple here Jesus has moved over across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives and He has gathered around Him His disciples. You see Saint Matthew one of those disciples, who was there with Jesus, tells us how it was that “as [Jesus] sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to [Jesus] privately, saying, “Tell us, … what will be the sign of your coming and of the End of the Age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but The End is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Jesus continues talking to them about what The End will be like and then He starts adding in parables including the parable for today.
Let’s work our way through this parable. Jesus starts it like this: “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.” When Jesus says “Then” He means in The End, on The Last Day, the Day of His Appearing, The Day we are being prepared for as Christians throughout our lives, and yet Jesus is also talking about the very events unfolding during Holy Week, hang onto that thought we’ll swing back around to it in a minute or two. Now notice that Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins and He says half of them were wise and half were foolish. Now all ten of them had lamps as they waited for the bridegroom to arrive and all ten of them went out to meet Him and all ten of them were in fact virgins (if they had been otherwise Jesus would have said so but that is not the case, they were virgins in their sexual purity). Even so, Jesus starts out telling you that they are in a state of being wise or foolish before he tells you about anything else that happens in the parable. Considering this in regards to their being virgins, it’s possible for someone to devoutly follow and fulfil one commandment, like the sixth commandment “Thou shall not Commit Adultery,” while failing at others, like “Thou shall have no other gods.”
After that Jesus explains to His disciples the nature of the wisdom and the foolishness of these ten virgins, these ten bridesmaids, saying “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.” This is like bringing a flashlight with no extra batteries or like coasting your truck into the spot agreed upon to meet up - practically on flumes - with the gas gage almost on empty. Everyone is parked and ready for the bridegroom to arrive keys in their ignitions but five of the trucks stand ready, in fact not only do they have plenty gas in the tank they also have jerry cans filled full of fuel in their flatbeds just in case they need more gas.
Jesus continues, “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.” They all wake up and grabbed the keys resting in the ignitions of their trucks and turned them, five engines turned over and five didn’t. While to the casual observer they would all have looked prepared, five of them were and five of them were not. If this parable was about you would you be counted among the wise or among the fools; if so how would you know which of the five you were?
Now another important question: Who is the bridegroom in this parable? It’s Jesus. Jesus is the bridegroom, and the church is His bride. Later Saint Paul uses this same picture in his letter to the Ephesians when he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Now I imagine most of you have been to a wedding at some point in your life, perhaps your own (if it was your own you were certainly there for it) and from your recollection a wedding really starts when? … When the bride arrives, that’s when it starts. In my experience the bridegroom arrives first then the bride. When she arrives with her bridesmaids and when her hair and makeup is in place and she is presentable without ‘wrinkle or spot’ when her dress is just right then and only then does she prepare to enter in for the wedding ceremony. Here in Jesus’ parable this way of doing things that we are accustomed to these days is turned upside down and backwards and it is He, Jesus, who comes to His bride the church, the faithful, who have awaited His arrival. But as Jesus says in His parable the bridegroom comes at an unexpected time.
If you had a wedding today and the bride and her bridesmaids arrived before the bridegroom how long would she wait for him to arrive? You have to imagine a world without cell phones and text messaging. If the wedding was expected to begin in the early afternoon would the bride and her bridesmaids still be waiting in the parking lot of the church at midnight? Would she be angry with the bridegroom, would half her bridesmaids be prepared for that possibility that he might not be there when they were ready? Notice that it’s not that the bridegroom in the parable never shows up only that he arrives at an unexpected time, in darkness at midnight. For their part under normal circumstances the bride and the bridesmaids of course are excited to see the bridegroom on the day of the wedding; they are looking forward to the wedding and the life together as husband and wife which is about to commence for the couple … even in the parable they don’t chastise or rebuke the bridegroom for his late arrival but don’t forget the context of the parable, Jesus is telling it to His disciples during Holy Week and considering the events which were unfolding and were about to unfold the bridesmaids Jesus was speaking of were all those gathered together for the Passover in Jerusalem. Some were like the bridesmaids who had oil in their lamps and oil to spare, like the ones who greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday with loud hosannas while the others who had — to the casual observer — all the appearance of faith in the long promised Messiah and Saviour stood unprepared for His sudden arrival (these would be most of the Sadducees and Pharisees, the Scribes and Herodians and the Elders of the people) all those who opposed Jesus and tested Him and plotted His death. For them it was a dark day when Jesus cleared the money changers out of the Temple, it was as dark as midnight to them when Jesus taught the people parables earlier that Tuesday in the Temple that they correctly understood to be about their unfaithfulness and unpreparedness. What’s more when Saint Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish,” this Bridegroom Jesus will do this at the cross of Good Friday in His crucifixion. That’s where His love for the church His faithful bride is shown in its fullness. Saint Matthew also tells us that on that day midnight came in the middle of the day when he recounts how, “from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” That would be from noon to the third hour of the day, and then Jesus the bridegroom of the bride His church died.
What did we hear in our Old Testament reading? “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.” Like I said, when Jesus the Bridegroom appeared that Passover some of the bridesmaids were wise and some were fools. Most of the Sadducees and Pharisees, the Scribes and Herodians and the Elders of the people thought that Jesus’ death would bring them peace and allow them to continue with their status quo, they had no oil in their lamps in regard to Jesus, they didn’t recognize the Bridegroom, Saint John who stood at the foot of the cross that day in the unexpected noonday darkness later records these words in the Book of Revelation when “one of the elders said to [him], “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,” here the Lion of the tribe of Judah is Jesus and for most of the Sadducees and Pharisees, the Scribes and Herodians and the Elders of the people in orchestrating Jesus’ death they were like one who “fled from a lion” only to enter the House of the Temple with it’s now torn curtain to lean their hand against the wall in relief, and then “a serpent bit him.” And who might that serpent be if Jesus is the Lion of Judah? Well, Saint John describes the deceiver of the whole world as that ancient serpent, the great dragon, who is called the devil and Satan. Three days later another unexpected event took place when Jesus the bridegroom was risen from the dead that first Easter, and again the fools who had not understood Jesus’ teaching about what would happen to Him “that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised,” were caught unprepared. Thankfully that wasn’t The Last Day.
Saint Peter, one of the disciples caught off guard on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week, who unlike Saint John was not at the foot of the cross in the darkness of Good Friday, who had in fact denied Jesus three times and had run away from Jesus as Jesus was being arrested and dragged off to His death later wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Unless Jesus returns today there is still time for the wise and the foolish virgins of our parable, regarding The Last Day. Saint Peter was thankful for this and yet Peter echoes Jesus’ parable when he continues to write in 2nd Peter chapter 3, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” That day will not come in silence as Saint Paul says, “For [on That Day] the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” Everyone gonna know when it happens.
Let’s go back to the parable: What happens when the bridegroom arrives and the wise and the foolish are awakened by His sudden arrival in the dark of the night at an hour they don’t expect? Jesus says, “And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.” Notice you can’t give your oil in your lamp to someone else. In other words, if the oil in your lamp is faith, if it’s a repentant heart that steadfastly turns to the Lord for forgiveness when it’s convicted of sin, then you can’t have faith for someone else, you can’t repent on behalf of someone else, you can’t ask for forgiveness for someone else and you can’t receive it on their behalf in their place. You must have oil in your lamp and they must have oil in theirs and that oil comes from outside of them, it doesn’t spring up in the lamp on its own when the Bridegroom appears. What do we read in the Book of Hebrews? “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” grim words indeed but what does the writer of the Book of Hebrews continue to say, he continues with the Christian hope that we together share when we confess that we believe that Jesus “will come to judge the living and the dead,” the writer of the Book of Hebrews says, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many [in His death at the cross], will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” So it is that the wise virgins who had oil in their lamps and were prepared for the bridegroom entered into the wedding feast and the “other virgins [when they scrambled to find oil in that hour when they] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us,’ heard the alarming answer, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Then Jesus concludes the parable saying, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Oil for the lamp comes from outside of you, from the Word of God, in the waters of Holy Baptism and God Words washed over your ear drums and flesh, from the Holy Supper as you are given the Body and Blood of the Bridegroom Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. In all of these ways your lamp it topped up and as we confess to be true it is the Holy Spirit today who “[keeps] me [keeps you] in the true faith,” He’s the one who by these means “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Partake in and do not run from the means by which the Holy Spirit does this work. If you know people who to the casual observer would look prepared but are not, point them today to these means of grace so they like the rest when the unexpected hour comes they may have lamps full of oil and may be counted with the wise and not with the foolish. There is no time like the present and when The Last Day comes there will be no more time left, the hands of the clock will stop and never move again, the wise and the foolish will be revealed. Dear ones “by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Matthew 24:3–14
 Ephesians 5:25–27
 Matthew 27:45
 Amos 5:18–19
 Revelation 5:5
 Revelation 12:9
 Matthew 16:21
 2 Peter 3:9
 2 Peter 3:10
 1 Thessalonians 4:16
 Hebrews 9:27
 Hebrews 9:28
 Third Article of the Creed, Luther’s Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing House 2017, page 17
 2 Timothy 1:14
Photo Credits: Main Photo detail of woman with lamp from Pexels; detail of hand with oil lamp from Pexels; detail of woman with flashlight from Pexels; detail of keys in the ignition from Pexels; detail of Bride and Groom from Pexels; detail of Bride and Groom's hands from Pexels; detail of Lion from Pexels; detail of Snake from Pexels; detail of Jesus crucified from Pexels; Sacrement of the Altar Mount Olive Lutheran Church from schultzphoto.