November 9, 2008
Lord, teach us wisdom
“Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people to seek more eagerly the help you offer, that, on the last day, they may enjoy the fruit of salvation.”
Introduction: There's a true story that comes form the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed a side her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
Now, that seems incredible - because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantly - priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.
There are events in life, which have the power to transform the way we look at the world. Jesus' parable about the ten young women with their lamps offers one of these types of events, for the parable is about the Second Coming of Christ. But Jesus doesn't come right out and say this. Rather, he let's the story describe it for Him. The woman on the sinking Titanic understood, in the light of her current circumstances, that she must make preparations for living on a lifeboat.
Diamonds would not do, only the precious resources of an orange were good enough. Likewise, in this world, where Christ may return at any moment, the parable warns, we must be ready.
Outline: To be wise like the wise women —
1. Be prepared for Jesus’ coming — v. 4. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.
Only Matthew gives the parable of the wise and foolish maidens. It concerns the return of Christ. His coming is delayed. During the delay, foolish people go to sleep and run out of oil for their lamps. At midnight, when least expected, the Bridegroom comes. The unprepared have the door shut in front of them. The parable teaches us to be constantly alert and prepared for the return of Jesus Christ.
2. Refuse to share your spiritual resources — vv. 8-9. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' '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.
Christians are familiar with the three Wise Men, but how many know about the five Wise Women? According to the parable half of us are foolish when it comes to the end of days. Our foolishness is expressed in claiming to know the day and hour of Jesus’ return, in withdrawing from the world to await the return of Christ, and in ignoring the possibility of Jesus’ Second Coming in our time. In the parable we have a model for wise men and women.
“Go ... and buy for yourselves” (v. 9). On the surface this response seems heartless. The foolish five are in a crisis; there is an emergency. Shouldn’t the other five be considerate and compassionate enough to share what they have? It is an urgent matter because it is a matter of eternal life or death. There is a sternness in the parable: When the foolish girls finally get to the wedding feast, the “door was shut” (v.10), and when they appealed for entry, the bridegroom unbelievably says, “I do not know you” (v. 12).
All of this happens by virtue of the nature of being prepared spiritually. No one can get to heaven on the oil of another’s faith. Without faith in Christ, the door of salvation is closed. Faith in Christ is the key to the door. It sounds cruel but the fact is that people without faith are unknown to God, for to know is to be personally related to God.
Timing is everything. The word is based on two Greek words for "time." One refers to regular, every day time—what we might call chronological time.
On the other hand, the other means "special" time, as in "God's time." According to business as usual--the bridegroom is delayed. The ten virgins fall asleep.
The five foolish girls represent the "wisdom of this world--the live-by-what-you- can-see wisdom" that God has turned upside down. The five wise virgins represent the "wisdom of faith," the wisdom of trusting in Christ's complete redemption of the world.
As a sign of how the five foolish virgins live by the ways of this world, they wind up going to the marketplace to try to buy some more oil. While they were participating in the established market system--the status quo of the world--the bridegroom interrupted chronological business-as-usual time by breaking in and making His dramatic arrival.
Faith is not about believing correct thoughts. Faith is about trusting in Jesus, which, in turn, means living in the new reality He teaches—not in the status quo, business-as-usual living of this world, but rather, living in "the way" of Jesus, in anticipation of the Father's kingdom, by affirming the absolute equality and dignity Christ has given to all people who come to Him by faith, confessing and repenting of their sins and then trusting in the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice for them on the cruel and bloody cross of Calvary - and hanging in there - even when it appears that God is far away, or that the Bridegroom has been delayed.
3. Enter the feast of the kingdom — v. 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.
"But at midnight a cry happened!" It's a bit awkward in English, but the word Jesus uses here literally means "it came into existence," in other words, "it happened." The word is often used to underline the significance of the event. In the middle of the night of chronological time, there is-"a cry"--and "behold! The Bridegroom showed up!" It happened!
Conclusion: The story is told of a little girl who had been taught about the second coming in Sunday School. She asked her mother about the lesson. "Mommy, do you believe Jesus will come back?" "Yes." "Could He come this week?" "Yes." "Today?" "Yes." "Could He come in the next hour?" "Yes." "In a few minutes?" "Yes, dear." "Mommy, would you comb my hair?"
This girl had the right idea: we must always be ready for the return of Christ Jesus.
Matthew tells us that the day of opportunity, the chance for repentance, the season for faith in Christ, is over for those who are not ready to meet the Lord when He comes. For the five foolish virgins the door to the wedding feast was shut, locked, and bolted. There was no way they could gain entrance. The Bridegroom even went so far as to declare, "I don't know you" (Vs 12). Once the Bridegroom has showed up, once Christ has returned, it is too late to try to get ready for His coming. You must be ready before He returns.