Monday, November 10, 2014

The Wedding Feast

“25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps [1] and went to meet the bridegroom. [2] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV)

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

That’s the point of this parable, one of three in this chapter all depicting the return of Christ when we all get to enter into the feast in heaven. We’ve all been extended the invitation. Christ paid the admission and even purchased the attire we need, clothing us with his righteousness in baptism, the righteousness for which He died on the cross to bestow upon you with his blood. This was the task for which he was sent, for which the Father gave him that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Eternal life, this is the party, the wedding feast that he has invited us too.
That is the way Jesus describes heaven, the kingdom of God. There is no sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. Rather he describes it as a wedding feast. Wedding feasts, they have a place of prominence in Jesus ministry. In his day they could last upwards of three days as did the feast at Capernaum where he turned water into wine for a bunch of guests who according to the steward of the feast had perhaps had more than enough already. This too was a picture of heaven where the wine never runs out, and we all will feast on the best of meats, not that over cooked dry chicken with lukewarm mushroom sauce that has set too long in the buffet line like that last wedding you went to, served with a side of over cooked rice pilaf. But a true feast, lamb encrusted with herbs and spices cooked on a spit over a fire, tasty morsels cut off at perfection and served up right away to whoever is hungry, to be washed down with the subtle sophistications of a Cabernet Sauvignon loosening your inhibitions and encouraging you to dance late into the night.
This was the kind of feast the ten virgins waited for with joyous expectation. The wedding was at hand. According to the day’s customs the bridegroom had gone up to the house of his betrothed, the home of his new in-laws. It was customary for the wedding to start there. There was no ceremony in the synagogue, no blessing by the rabbi. The wedding would consist of the bridegroom retrieving his bride from the home of her parents and bringing her to his. There would be a meal there, at his in-laws. Just him and her, and in-laws. Then as they left there would be a parade to the new home. The village, the whole town would turn out. And as this would happen in the evening some would be invited to escort the bride and groom with lamps through the streets, and even continue provide light during the party that would follow.
Evidently, the bridegroom got along well with his in-laws. It bodes well for that marriage. He lingered till midnight. The girls waiting in a court yard for the party to start fell asleep. But at midnight they heard the cry, The Bridegroom is here. They get up to trim their lamps. And the wise are separated from the foolish. Ten virgins, teenage girls, maybe 14. Five brought enough oil to make it to ten o’clock. But the other five, the one’s Jesus calls wise, I have to imagine they were the party girls. They bring enough oil to make it to the break of dawn. They came prepared to party. I get the notion these aren’t the type of girls we would normally think of as wise. But Jesus calls them wise. The foolish girls, the one’s the world would think were wise, the smart studious, and diligent type who want to get to bed at a reasonable hour, who only brought enough oil to get them to the early evening. They find themselves shut out.
So the moral of this story? The point of this story? I guess it is, be party girls. Be ready to stay up all night drinking the wine, showing up at Ihop at 6 AM, still wearing your party dress. Don’t let your oil run out. This of course is a metaphor for faith, that which receives the righteousness of God, the invitation to the party. Yes, the bridegroom delays. But don’t lose faith. Because others can’t give you theirs. You can only get in with your own. And there comes a time when it will be too late to go to the oil dealers and obtain your own. It is now that we need to keep the lamps full, to keep the faith. And this we do by joining the party even now. It’s here in the foretaste of the feast to come, in the forgiveness of sins pronounced Sunday after Sunday, the feast of his word preached and given, spoken and read for us to inwardly digest as we suck the marrow out of the bones, the body and blood of the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This is where we find the oil to keep the lamps of our faith burning, the means by which the Holy Spirit sustains our faith, that when the last day comes we will join the parade and enter the feast everlasting.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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