Sermon – November 15, 2020 – Saints Triumphant
Printable PDF: Saints Triumphant – p. 15, Common Service, Communion
Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ Saints Triumphant Sermon ~ November 15, 2020 ~ Matthew 25:1-13
A Parable to the Wise Christians
1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The 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. 8The 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.
Today is Saints Triumphant. We’ve already read the names of those who have transferred their membership from Grace Lutheran Church on earth to Saints Triumphant in heaven. On this day we also think about our family members and close friends who are home with the Lord in heaven. In a sense today is a sad day. We miss those members, and we miss our loved ones. Yet today is also a day of hopeful anticipation. On Saints Triumphant we pause and ponder that time when Jesus will make good on his promise to come back on the last day in the same way he left on his ascension and take all believers to be where he is. On that day all believers will be with Jesus in Paradise. Never again will they hunger. Never again will they thirst… God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16).
Such a splendid outcome comes to us and all people through the means of the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and what he does to save people. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). Whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). The stakes are high. Faith in Jesus is the dividing line between eternal life in heaven and eternal damnation in hell. There is nothing more important in all the world than your faith in Jesus Christ. That’s why our Gospel today on Saint’s Triumphant is a word to the wise, a parable to the wise Christians. Be prepared to believe for the long haul.
- Be prepared to believe for the long haul.
Jesus starts, “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” The wedding custom of this parable is a little different than our wedding customs. The key difference is time. Our bridal couples sign the wedding certificate and enjoy the wedding celebration all in one day. In the parable, those two steps usually took a period of months. A point of interest: Mary and Joseph were between these two steps when Mary learned she was to have a child, which was why Joseph at first considered a quiet divorce when he learned Mary was pregnant.
The ten virgins or bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable were looking for the coming of the bridegroom and the wedding celebration. If the bridegroom arrived in a timely manner everything would have been fine for all ten, but as you can already envision, the bridegroom was a long time in coming and so there was a potential problem percolating for 5 of those 10 bridesmaids. The five foolish bridesmaids had not prepared for such a delay. The five wise bridesmaids were prepared for the long haul.
A parable to the wise Christians, be prepared for the long haul. Don’t gamble with the fuel of your faith. There are times when I gamble with the propane of my gas grill. I know I should use charcoal like my father. The food tastes better, but I sacrificed taste for convenience a long time ago, and my conscience has accepted that. The trouble with propane, though, is you never really know how much propane is left. It’s good to have a spare and I do have a spare, but sometimes the spare propane tank is empty when the propane on the grill is empty. A propane gap is a bummer for dinner. A faith gap can be damning for a sinner.
That’s why Jesus is calling for wisdom. Are you a wise Christian or are you a foolish Christian? Will you be a faithful Christian all the days of your life, or will there be gaps in the flame of your faith? There are times when our faith is like a smoldering wick. During our tough times we can burn through faith faster than a RV burns through fuel on the freeway. We are tempted to lose our confidence in God and our patience with people. Tough times are tough, but good times can be even tougher. When life is good it’s easier to lose our humility before God and our appreciation of people. And yet God in his grace promises a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3). This promise of grace is connected to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel of Jesus Christ is what made you a believer in the first place. That same gospel will one day transfer you from a believer on earth to a saint in heaven. And that same gospel is what fuels your faith now as you struggle to live for God all the days of your life. He will not leave you nor forsake. When tempted, he will provide a way out. When you are weak, He is strong. His power is made perfect in weakness. And that’s good because other people cannot believe for you.
- Other people cannot believe for you.
Jesus continues his parable, 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. 8The 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.’ The Bible encourages sharing and in a real life scenario the bridesmaids would share their oil, but in the parable the oil represents faith in Jesus and you cannot share your faith. Each person must believe for himself. A wife cannot give some of her faith to her husband. Neither can grandparents believe their grandchildren into heaven. We can’t share the oil of our faith, but like the 5 wise bridesmaids, we can share the words of our mouth. What words would you share to someone who has a flickering faith? Go to church? Go to church when it’s safe? Watch the livestream? Watch the recording? Watch the recording by Saturday? There is a danger when we gather for church. It’s called Coronavirus. There is also a danger when we don’t gather for church. It’s called unbelief. On Sunday mornings, we are missing more than cookies and coffee. We are also missing Christian conversation, and I fear the damage is more than we realize. Come to church or join a Bible class or make an appointment for private communion. Don’t shut off every opportunity to have a Christian interaction because of the risk of coronavirus. Be encouraged in a real person-to-person way and encourage each other. The damage of unbelief is far greater than the damage of coronavirus. Your time of grace and the time of grace of other people will come to an end.
- Your time of grace will come to an end.
Jesus closes his parable, 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.’ Again, at a normal wedding banquet, latecomers will still find their place at their table, but at the wedding supper of the lamb there will be no late admissions. So check the oil of your faith! Do you really believe that Jesus is the Son of God who gave his life for your sins? Those who do will want to rid their lives of sin with the same eagerness as they would rid their house of mice. That means you won’t make excuses for how you have been lazy with your prayer life and your Bible-reading life.
The point of Jesus’ parable is to be ready at any time. Make sure you are ready in the future as well. Don’t have any gaps in your devotion to Jesus. That’s God’s Word to the wise, a parable to the wise Christians who will surely celebrate at the wedding supper of the Lamb with all the triumphant saints who have gone before us. Amen.