JAC Online

Message from Matthew 25:1-13
by Major Pauline Gruer-Caulfield

*editor's note: These are preaching notes, not academic essay papers, and so may lack a reference here or there (indeed, they were prepared for preaching and not for wider readership).  It is not the intent to withhold credit from a source.

 

 

How many here had their snow scrapers in the car on Friday?  It’s not like we had not been forewarned that we would have snow and freezing weather, still Friday morning came, the windshield wipers were stuck to the windshield and no brush or scrapers in the car!  Am I the only one?  I should have been prepared.

 

Last week I met a Funeral Director who is also a volunteer firefighter. They are not only on call when an emergency happens, they also have to do many hours of training, always to be on top shape, sharp on the techniques for that moment the call comes.  When they are called to duty is too late to review or train.

 

What does preparedness look like?  This is the question Jesus wants his disciples to think about, though it is not the question the disciples were asking. They wanted to know when the end would come, when would the Kingdom be realized in all its fullness.

 

Jesus tells them a story, it would have sounded so common to them at a time when wedding proceedings could last days, at a time estimated time of arrival was not aided by our means of communication.

 

We just heard the story. Jesus said, at that time, the term would refer to when – in biblical terms -  the Son of Man comes in all His glory, that time when things finally are as they should be, harmony, creativity, no impediment to be all we were meant to be, and our faith realized, being in the very presence of Jesus, seeing Him in the fullness of His glory...  How would you define the kingdom? Jesus said, at that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like the story of the 10 virgins.

 

Ten young women waiting. The wait is longer than expected. They fall asleep. They are startled by the announcement: “He’s coming”; and that is when the difference between them becomes tragically evident and five of them are left out. It’s too late. The celebration begins and they are not part of it.

 

The danger with allegories is that we try to find meaning for everything.  We need to look at what the Bible tells us, let the Bible interpret the Bible. What was the point Jesus tells us He was making.

 

Let’s review the context.  The disciples and the crowd had been hearing Jesus speaking about the Kingdom coming, the expectation was growing, tell us when, is it now? Starting in Matthew 24:42 Jesus tells them/warns them it will be unexpected; in 24:45-51 Jesus tells them that it is not enough to know this, that more than passive watchfulness is required, there must be behavior acceptable to the Master, the discharge of allotted responsibilities (you have been enabled, equipped, resourced to have an impact for good, do it!). And in the parable for today Jesus stresses the need for preparedness in the face of unexpected long delay.

 

The overriding theme is preparedness for the coming of the Son of Man. In other words, the Kingdom of God is as much about our relationship with Him now as well as the great expectation of what is to come. How would you describe your relationship with Jesus right now?

 

The plot turns on the bridegroom’s delay. It is the bridegroom’s delay that distinguishes the wise from the foolish virgins. The oil is merely an element in the narrative showing that the foolish virgins were unprepared for the delay and so shut out in the end.

 

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about the nation of Israel, even as He was addressing matters in a much wider scale. The people listening to Jesus, they were the chosen people of God to be a light to the world.  Their history was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah, we see that throughout the Old Testament. They should have been prepared for His coming. But, the opposite happened. Think about it, a nation built on the expectation of the One to come, though they were “waiting” they were not prepared for His coming, and through their rejection of Him, found themselves excluded.

 

Before we judge too harshly, we recall Jesus’ words to those who chose to follow Him: you, you are the light of the world. If you have decided to follow Jesus, you are the people of God chosen to be a light to the world. This message was as much for them as it is for you and me today.  Jesus is coming back. Are you prepared?  If it were to happen this afternoon, are you ready?  What does preparedness look like?  This is essential because the whole point of Jesus words is to tell us that there are things we cannot obtain at the last minute and we definitely cannot borrow spiritual relationships.

 

The wise virgins cannot help the ones who were unprepared. Whether the text reads “there may not be enough” or “there will certainly not be enough” the effect is the same, the foresight and preparedness of the wise virgins cannot benefit the foolish virgins when the end comes. Preparedness can neither be transferred nor shared.

 

Before you cry out but what about mercy? They had been waiting, they ask for help, they beg for the door to be opened.

 

Now, please listen carefully: “The refusal to recognize or admit the foolish ones must not be interpreted as callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the kingdom. Far from it, it is the rejection of those who, despite appearances, never made preparations for the coming of the kingdom.”[1]

 

The young women in this parable fail by inactivity. They presume a gracious future without preparing for it by active discipleships. This is the definition of foolish for Matthew.[2]

 

Be prepared. Keep watching.

 

The outcome for the unprepared is heartbreaking. The bridegroom says: I do not know you. We have no relationship. Door shut.  How could this be?  This is not a popular message but it is necessary.  We need to pause and think, what does preparedness look like in my life?  What is it that I need to do now, to have this relationship not just in name, not in appearances but a living, vital relationship?

 

Let me suggest we prepare by releasing, through action and learning the art/discipline of waiting.

 

Preparedness – by releasing – I bring this up because in appearance the ten were the same, what was it that made them so unprepared as to miss the boat?  Could it be a lifestyle opposite to Jesus’ love, is it remaining in sin (something you know is contrary to God’s word). I John 1: 6 tells us “If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth”. We find so many excuses, I’ll deal with that later. Let me enjoy life while I’m young. Let me relax now that I’m retired. I’m not ready to let go of that resentment… You are slowly killing yourself by allowing sin to remain in your life.  Today surrender your life anew to Jesus, and each day keep surrendering your life to Jesus, let him truly be your Lord above your preferences.

 

Preparedness – through action – what will take you deeper. What practice, what exercise will make you stronger, what would revitalize your relationship?  We are all at different stages in our spiritual journey, what do you need at this moment, right now? This week I’ve been making use of a podcast “cultivate connections, Christ centered meditation” a 30 min guided prayer that helps me to remain still in the presence of God, to actually stop and stay with Him instead of rushing through devotions and on to all I have to do…  What will take you deeper? Having an accountability partner, someone to whom we say ‘ask me how my soul is doing today’, ‘ask me about my walk of faith, I am committing to go deeper’, ‘ask me what am I doing’.  I am sure we would all say, yes, I want to go deeper. Well then, what are you going to do about it?

 

If your whole being balked at the end of the story, at the door shut wondering: where is mercy? where is grace? today is the day of mercy, today is the day of grace. Today the door is wide open, Jesus arms are extended, today is the day for you and I to share the love of Jesus so that they may know there is life, forgiveness, love, acceptance in Jesus. Preparedness through action is about you and I changing our posture from spectators to bearers of the good news.

 

Preparedness – Learning the art/discipline of waiting. What do you do while you wait? Be a light while you keep your eyes in the horizon.

 

Lord Jesus, we are waiting for you, the wait is long. Some here have received the news the wait to see you face to face may be shorter than expected. The truth is that for all of us, it could be today, it could be much later. Help us to make time for that which will better prepare us to receive you with open arms, lamps burning bright, responding with joy not with alarm when we finally hear: “He is here!

 

We want to be a light to the world not just in name! We want to be an Army of Salvation not just in appearance. Being the people of God for the sake of others. So we pray, Let your Kingdom come, let your will be done.

 

 

 

*editor's note: These are preaching notes, not academic essay papers, and so may lack a reference here or there (indeed, they were prepared for preaching and not for wider readership).  It is not the intent to withhold credit from a source.

 



[1] John W. Ritenbaugh ,  The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism, https://www.bibletools.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/topical.show/RTD/cgg/ID/137/Self-Control.htm

[2] Alyce McKenzie, The Parables for Today, 63.

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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