November 10, 2002

Matthew 25:1-13

Gods kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn't show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

"In the middle of the night someone yelled out, 'He's here! The bridegroom's here! Go out and greet him!'

"The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, 'Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.'

"They answered, 'There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.'

"They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

"Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, 'Master, we're here. Let us in.'

"He answered, 'Do I know you? I don't think I know you.'

"So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.

[The Message]


1. From John Wesley's Notes on the New Testament: Numbering refers to verses.

This chapter contains the last public discourse which our Lord uttered before he was offered up. He had before frequently declared what would be the portion of all the workers of iniquity. But what will become of those who do no harm? Honest, inoffensive, good sort of people? We have here a clear and full answer to this important question.

1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven -- That is, the candidates for it, be like ten virgins -- The bridemaids on the wedding night were wont to go to the house where the bride was, with burning lamps or torches in their hands, to wait for the bride groom's coming. When he drew near, they went to meet him with their lamps, and to conduct him to the bride.

3. The foolish took no oil with them -- No more than kept them burning just for the present. None to supply their future want, to recruit their lamp's decay. The lamp is faith. A lamp and oil with it, is faith working by love.

4. The wise took oil in their vessels -- Love in their hearts. And they daily sought a fresh supply of spiritual strength, till their faith was made perfect.

5. While the bridegroom delayed -- That is, before they were called to attend him, they all slumbered and slept -- Were easy and quiet, the wise enjoying a true, the foolish a false peace.

6. At midnight -- In an hour quite unthought of.

7. They trimmed their lamps -- They examined themselves and prepared to meet their God.

8. Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out -- Our faith is dead. What a time to discover this! Whether it mean the time of death, or of judgment. Unto which of the saints wilt thou then turn? Who can help thee at such a season?

9. But the wise answered, Lest there be not enough for us and you! -- Beginning the sentence with a beautiful abruptness; such as showed their surprise at the state of those poor wretches, who had so long received them, as well as their own souls. Lest there be not enough -- It is sure
there is not; for no man has more than holiness enough for himself. Go ye rather to them that sell -- Without money and without price: that is, to God, to Christ. And buy -- If ye can. O no! The time is past and returns no more!

13. Watch therefore -- He that watches has not only a burning lamp, but likewise oil in his vessel. And even when he sleepeth, his heart waketh. He is quiet; but not secure.

2. And is there no hope for those who might find themselves in a time of a dark night of their soul? Either you are ready or you are not ready? Is this not the whole message of the popular tribulation literature of the day? For myself who is all too often "not ready" this is troublesome stuff.

Can we get out of this trouble by re-envisioning the presence of GOD in terms not simply of wisdom, but kindness and forgiving and risking one's own salvation for the sake of another? Does this automatically run us into issues of death-bed conversions or some works-righteousness of oil hoarding?

As a "wise virgin" would you share or not? What other images come to your mind as you wrestle with being wise enough to be ready.

3. Do you think a color-coded warning system of homeland defense would have been helpful to those who waited? Is there ever enough warning when something that can only work as a surprise actually surprises?

So, in today's world, can we talk about living well, regardless of the risk that even the most prepared will not be well enough prepared? How do categories of unintended consequences or blowback fit into this story?

Here is a risky proposal -- since we don't know when or where, build community and commonwealth wherever and whenever you are. Risk being labeled as foolish for only this is wisdom. Since you don't know, you can only live prodigally.

Homepage | Sermon Prep