November 15, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
“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.
When I sit down to watch TV, I like shows that are funny or have something to do with the outdoors. I like to escape into the shows that are funny because they have witty one liners or characters that get themselves into ridiculous situations. I like the outdoors shows because I grew up out in the country and watching someone hike through the woods or try to survive off the land makes me think back to my old childhood memories. You’ve got shows or people you enjoy watching, too. You may watch the news to stay informed or you may like realty and drama and you can’t believe what is happening on the Bachelorette this season. And, speaking of marriage and weddings, Jesus used the picture of waiting for the groom to arrive to describe waiting for heaven.
There are two ways to wait for the kingdom of heaven as described by Jesus in the opening verses of Matthew 25 in his parable of the ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom. Jesus opened his parable describing five virgins as foolish and five as wise. The foolish did not take extra oil for their lamps, while the wise did. The extra oil would have been in case the bridegroom took a while to arrive, which ends up happening and all the virgins fell asleep while waiting. Then, at midnight the bridegroom arrives, and the wise virgins were ready with their lamps full of oil to light the way, while the foolish were left looking for oil to light their lamps. In the end, the wise virgins went with the bridegroom into the marriage feast, while the foolish arrived too late and were not allowed in or even recognized. Jesus then ended his parable with these words, 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
This parable serves as an encouragement to all of us to wait for Jesus’ return by keeping watch. Therefore, your temptation is to wait without watching. The virgins in Jesus’ parable all had faith; they all knew who the bridegroom was and that he was coming to take them to the marriage feast. Yet, the foolish did not prepare to wait a long time, so they were not ready when the bridegroom returned and ended up not going with him. Jesus’ point was for you who know that he is coming back and know that heaven is yours. He wants you to watch and not get distracted while waiting. It’s like when you used to go to the crowded DMV and they give you a number to watch for, but you have to wait until it is called to go up to the counter. You may have all the paperwork that you need, but if you are not watching and instead you get distracted watching a show on your phone, scrolling through social media, texting friends or family, or checking your news app. And they call your number, and you miss it because you were not watching, then you cannot cut the line. You have to get a new number and start over, which is really frustrating at the DMV, but there you have a second chance. Jesus is talking about you watching for him to come back, and there is only one chance at that. If you are not ready when Jesus returns because you became distracted by a hobby and entertainment, or your job and success, or your relationships and social status, or trying to get more likes and followers by posting and supporting whatever is trending in society, then you are in danger of not being watchful for Jesus’ return. And if you are not watching for him, then he will not recognize you or let you into heaven.
The good news about the kingdom of heaven is that it is worth the wait. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul encouraged the Christians there that what we are waiting for is the answer to our problem of death. The believers in Thessalonica were struggling in grief over those who had died, but Paul told them not to grieve like those who have no hope. Instead, they were to watch and wait for the day when they would be reunited with all the believers who have died. Jesus will return on Judgment Day to bring all the dead in Christ back to life and, 17 “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Now, this verse is where the idea of the rapture comes from, but Paul is not talking about some being taken and others left. Instead, he is sharing the wonderful truth that you and all the others who waited, watching for Jesus will see him on Judgment Day, and will be taken to heaven forever. And those who were not watching and waiting in faith will go to hell.
You like the Thessalonians have good reason to keep watching for Jesus’ return. It may not give you the same feeling as watching your favorite movie, you may not think it has the same impact as the cause being promoted by the celebrity, musician, athlete or public figure or have the force of the politician speaking on the news, but the life you are looking forward to in Jesus goes beyond the temporary things in your life. You are watching for Jesus to take you to heaven, not solve problems on earth. Not that God is not actively holding back evil and guiding good things to happen in the world, but he is looking at the big picture. You keep watching for Jesus to come and take you to heaven because God has made good on his promises of deliverance throughout history. In Isaiah 52, God spoke to Israel through Isaiah to give them hope and encourage them when it did not seem like they had a future. God reminded them that he had delivered them from Egypt, and he promised that they would be saved from the Assyrians and when they would be overtaken by Babylon too. And God did bring a remnant of Israel back from being spread out over the Middle East to keep his promise of to send the Savior to be born from Israel. Jesus was born in fulfillment of God’s promises, he died and rose to forgive your sins fulfilling God’s promises and he will return to take you to heaven giving you eternal life just as he promised.
You have so many options of things to watch these days. Do not get distracted while waiting for Jesus by watching something that will make you forget about the kingdom of heaven. As you go about your day remain prepared for Jesus’ coming by reading his Word, watching, and talking about Jesus’ return, his forgiveness and heaven. You and I do not know the day or hour when Jesus will return, so prepare to watch what is good; prepare to see Jesus and heaven. Amen.