by The Rev. Mark Buetow
St. Matthew 25:1 -13
Ten Virgins went to meet the Bridegroom. Five were wise and five were foolish. The Greek word for “foolish” is “moron.” The Bible says, “The FOOL says in his heart there is no God.” The foolish virgins were foolish because to them the things of God were not worth worrying about. Perhaps they never thought the Bridegroom would come. Perhaps they live as if there might be a God or maybe not. Maybe they don't care whether or when Jesus is coming back. The gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation are not things they care about our delight in. Perhaps they have some sin that they want to hold on to. Whatever the case, they are foolish because they leave behind the gifts of faith and when the Bridegroom comes they are not ready. On the other hand, the Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of WISDOM and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The wise virgins fear the Lord. They know they cannot survive on their own. They know they owe their existence to the Bridegroom. Their whole life is one lived waiting for Him. They live by His mercy and grace. They live in the forgiveness of sins. The oil of that forgiveness is what keeps their lamps lit and they know they will need it on the Last Day. They are ready to meet the Bridegroom because they live in that forgiveness.
Where does the oil come from? Lamps in Bible times were fueled by simple wicks in olive oil. Olive oil comes from olives. And the oil is gotten out of the olives by taking them from the olive tree and crushing and squeezing them. The oil in the lamp of a Christian, the oil in YOUR lamp is from the tree of the cross. On that tree, the Son of God in the flesh is squeezed and pressed and crushed for your sins. And as He is crushed and killed by the weight of your sins, blood and water flow out of Him. Olive oil is squeezed into a jar to be carried with your lamp. Christ's blood and water flow into the vessels prepared for them: the water into the holy font and the blood into the holy cup. The oil that the virgins carry is not some oil they made themselves or came up with. The oil that fuels are lamp is not our good works or good intentions or even our own faithfulness and believing. The oil that fuels our lamps, that gives us light, is the oil of Christ Himself pressed out of Him on the cross as He gave Himself for the Bride to make her spotless and holy and perfect for Himself. The oil you have, brothers and sisters, is from Christ Himself. Only what is from Christ Himself burns purely and supplies you light at the nighttime of your death and at the midnight hour when our Lord comes again.
Take a minute to make sure you've got that oil! That oil is poured into your vessel at the font when it is poured on you with water and the word. The gifts of Holy Baptism—God's name, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the peace of the Spirit and the adoption as a child of God—these gifts are poured into you in Holy Baptism. More gifts poured into you. The words of Jesus which are written to tell you what He has done. The words of Jesus spoken that declare your sins are forgiven. More oil poured into your vessel for the Last Day. And also the body and blood poured into you. Given to you to eat and drink, this food of Jesus Himself promises and delivers the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Why life and salvation? Because when the Bridegroom comes again you will be ready with a lamp that is burning brightly, filled from these heavenly gifts. Do you get it? When Jesus comes again on the Last Day and wakes us from the sleep of death, we trim our lamps and they burn brightly because of Him and what He has given us. It is Jesus we are waiting for and it is Jesus Himself who gives us the oil of Himself so that we might be prepared to enter into the wedding feast when He comes again.
But which of us is not foolish? Which of does not despise their Baptism and Christ's gifts? Which of us does not think we can coast through life, slipping through church, pretending we're Christians, while all the while paying no attention to how much oil we'll have on the Last Day? You and I do this all the time: we figure we can show up in church, do the “church thing” and then go right on living the way WE want to back in our daily lives. You know, still hating the same people, still giving in to the same sins, still pretending we're religious to a world that knows we aren't really. Still finding other things to love and attract us more than the Lord Himself. Still finding other ways to please and worship ourselves instead of serving and caring for others. To live like that is to despise our Baptism. It is to hang on to our lamps but have no oil. It is to fall into the Devil's trap of thinking, “Live how you want, you can always go and buy your oil, get your religion, have some Jesus at the last minute!” But there won't be any oil to be found on the Last Day. And while the world wails at the coming of Jesus, those who pretended like they were Christians but had no oil will be shut out of Christ's presence. How terrifying a thing that is!
That is why Jesus speaks these words. Brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord tells us about the wise and the foolish virgins, and we hear about them every year to warn us! To call us to repentance. To wake us up from our laziness and remind us that we need oil! And that we have been given oil! And that the oil is plentiful for us on the Last Day. Your Lord doesn't want you to be without oil on the Last Day. He also doesn't want you to try and come up with the oil on your own or go buy it somewhere. He has provided the oil from His own body given into death for our sins. He has delivered that oil and filled up our vessels through His holy gifts of word, water and body and blood. There is not a one of us who has not lived foolishly, more happy in our sins than with the Lord. There is not a one of us who has not in some way despised the gifts Jesus gives. But that is why His Words save us. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins wakes us up from the sleep of sin so that when we fall asleep in death we will not wake unprepared but ready to go in with our Bridegroom to His feast. Wake up, sleepers! Throw off your sin! Cling to Christ. You are filled with His oil. His salvation. His forgiveness. He's coming soon and you will be ready. That's His promise to you in His church where His holy gifts are given.
Our oil and fuel prices were really high recently. Now they have dropped dramatically. They said gas and oil for heating our homes this winter would be very expensive but now they're not so sure. I have no idea what those crazy prices will do. But I do know this: the oil that matters, the oil which fuels the lamp of your life as a Christian never goes up in cost—because it's free! The oil that Christ Himself gives you from Himself is the oil that will burn brightly on the Last Day. As we prepare in this life to fall asleep in death, we do so knowing that when our Lord comes again, our vessels will be filled with oil. When the Lord wakes you up on the Last Day, get ready to trim your lamps and follow Jesus, being filled with Jesus Himself. You see, that is our life as Christians, to wait for the coming of the One who has already come and given Himself for us and to us. Our life is to eagerly await the coming of Jesus, who Himself has made us ready to receive Him. Wake up! He's almost here. The feast is going to start. Light your lamps and live in Christ. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Amen.
Rev. Mark Buetow is Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quoin, IL. Pr. Buetow is the editor of the Higher Things Reflections and Internet Services Executive. He has also been a guest on Higher Things Radio.
Created: November 24th, 2008