Flourishing Kingdom // Matthew 25:1-13
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Senior Pastor Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday, February 12, 2023 at our West U Baptist campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.
Do you ever have a recurring dream that creates stress in your life?
When I used to wait tables in college, my recurring dream was that I was just triple sat and I couldn’t get to my tables. Then, their food was wrong. Then I got stuck in the other part of the restaurant and I couldn’t get to my tables…This went on for many years after being a waiter.
Now, my recurring dream happens often on a Saturday night. I am sleeping, but the dream is that I am to preach and I can’t find my notes…I don’t remember the passage, and I don’t know where I am going with my teaching.
For some of you students, the recurring dream, or nightmare as it may feel to you, is not being prepared for a test.
At the root of these recurring dreams is a central theme: Not being Prepared for key appointments in our lives…a table you have to serve, a sermon you have to give, or a test you have to take.
Now think with me about the most significant appointment you will ever have…What is it?
Is it when you earned your Eagle Scout? … No…it’s not that.
Or when you made the Varsity team? …that was a huge deal…but it wasn’t that either.
Is it your wedding day? That’s a big one…but no, it’s not that.
Is it the birth of your child? That too is so amazing and incredible…but it’s not that either.
What is the most significant appointment each of us will ever have to keep?
William Barclay says…“The greatest event of all is that someday we will stand in the presence of God. For that we must make ourselves ready.”
You see, those who flourish in God’s Kingdom are PREPARED and waiting for the return of Christ.
Notice the words of our Lord in Matthew 25:1-13.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 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.
There are two veins of context to share with you as we begin to unpack this passage of scripture. The first aspect of context to share with you is that this passage is right in the middle of Jesus’ teaching on the End Times…Matthew 24-25 is the bulk of Jesus’ teaching that we have on eschatology.
In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks on:
- The destruction of the Temple
- The Signs of the end of the age
- The abomination of desolation from the book of Daniel
- The coming of the Son of Man
- The fact that no one knows the day and the hour
In Matthew 25, just beyond this portion, we see:
- The Parable of the Talents…the 1, 2, and 5, talent servants who were entrusted with the Master’s kingdom while he was away, and he would come back to inspect what was done with what was entrusted.
- The declaration of the Final Judgment – Matthew 25: 31-46.
The second vein of context is the 1st Century Jewish Custom of the Marriage and a Wedding Feast.
You can break it down into three phases:
- Engagement – this was carried out by match-makers, of arranged by the parents themselves…at times, the kids might be mere children when these things are arranged.
- Betrothal – This was the true establishment of the covenant…dowry price was paid, feasting and rejoicing took place, they would drink a cup of the covenant, the bridegroom would declare he was leaving to prepare the place and would come back to receive her as his bride.
- At this point they are legally married.
- If there is unfaithfulness, there might be divorce
- If groom dies, she is considered a widow
- Marriage Proper/Consummation – This was when the Bridegroom came for his bride with the groomsmen. They would parade through the streets with their lamps lit and they would arrive to receive the bride. The bride and the bridesmaids (the 10 virgins) were to be ready to go at a moments notice…as the groom would come with a SHOUT…often at the time when the bride would least expect it…to take her into his arms and begin the seven day wedding feast.
- This week was one of continuous feasting where this couple were treated like King and Queen.
- THIS IS THE OPPORTUINTY OF SHARING IN THAT WEEK OF FEASTING THAT THESE 5 BRIDESMAIDS MISSED OUT ON.
Knowing this context, let’s now consider this outline as we conclude this series on being a Prepared People for the arrival of the Bridegroom, Jesus.
Here are three principles we need to know in order to be prepared.
Three Principles of Preparedness
- No one can do your PREPARING for you.
- When you HESITATE, you are LATE.
- A Crisis will REVEAL whether you are PREPARED.
Now, these principles apply to every area of life…but especially when it comes to our salvation and our eternal destiny.
Let’s look at this first one together.
I. No one can do your PREPARING for you.
How many of you remember the group project in school? Now, here is what I want to know. . .
How many of you immediately starting hoping you would be grouped up with the really smart girl in the class, because you knew she would carry the project?
I mean, immediately, you are thinking, man, if I can be in her group…I have it made. I won’t have to do anything!
And now, here is the next natural question…how many of you were that girl (or guy) who knew you were:
- the smartest,
- most diligent,
- teachers pet…
- who didn’t want me and the other people out there like me, getting a sweet A on their group project because you knew we wouldn’t do our part?
Let me give you one piece of advice if you are the guy hoping to be put in the smart girls group…are you ready?
I mean this will change your life…
This is worth the price of admission today…
This one nugget is THE Nugget of ALL nuggets…
Are you sure you are ready?
Ok…if you are the guy hoping to be grouped with the smart girl for group projects so you can get an A… here is my advice to you…MARRY THE SMART GIRL!
That’s what I did!
Marry the Smart Girl…Get an A on everything…Ace it all!
Now, notice a few things with me about these bridesmaids:
- Traditionally, there were 10 of them…this was normal and made Jesus’ story very relatable.
- They all had an invitation and were involved with the bride.
- They all had lamps.
- They all fell asleep.
- They all awoke when the announcement was given, and they rose up to go.
Now, notice the labels that Jesus puts on them.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.
Jesus said five were foolish and five were wise.
Now, back up with me for a moment to Matthew 24:45-46. I want you to see the term wise here as well.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.
Notice something with me here, before one gets to the parable of the 10 Virgins — Notice the words, “Faithful” and “Wise.”
The Faithful and Wise Servant is serving the household of the Master. He or she finds a way to serve…diligently and consistently – that’s Faithfulness…
AND, they are considered “WISE.”
Why are they WISE?
They are wise because they fear/honor/REVERE the Master.
Now, notice again that the Bridesmaids that are celebrated in this parable we are looking at our called “WISE.”
Are you wise?
- How do you know?
- What makes one wise?
Proverbs 9:10 tells us what makes one wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Knowing and fearing God.
Application: Listen, you can’t get into the Wedding Feast of Heaven on your momma’s faith.
James Boice says…”The life of the Lord Jesus Christ within is not transferable. I do not mean by that that one saved person may not be used of God to bring the gospel to another, for that happens, of course…I mean that no person can get by on another’s faith. You cannot be saved by the life of Christ in another.”
In other words, there is no group project grade given just because you were grouped up or even married the smart girl.
No…you have to have your own faith.
Teaching point: Now, some of you all will read this passage and think, why does Jesus call these virgins wise…they seem selfish to me? Aren’t Christians to be generous and kind? These girls were stingy.
Again, knowing their culture and custom was vital.
First, to travel at night, you had to have a lamp lit…you had to have it to see.
But second, when you step back and examine a number of Jesus’ parables, he doesn’t appeal to this “higher ethic of serving your neighbor” in a number of them. No, instead, he appeals to your own self-interest.
He does this in the:
- Parable of the Rich Fool – Luke 12:16-21 – who was so captivated by his riches, he forfeited his own soul.
- Parable of the Shrewd man of the world – Luke 16:1-9
- Wise and Foolish Builders in Matthew 7 – building our lives on the words of Christ vs. the shifting sands of this world.
Jesus’ listeners are being challenged to not be foolish with their own lives…but instead to see that it is to their self-interest…it is their own responsibility to prepare their soul for all eternity.
Friend, are you prepared? Is your soul ready to meet Jesus? What if he comes today? Are you ready? Or will you be shut out?
Let’s look at our second principle of preparedness…
II. When you HESITATE, you are LATE.
What missed opportunities do you regret in your life?
If you could go back and redo one moment in your life, what would it be?
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’”
Because these bridesmaids were unprepared, they missed out. Look at the story again, starting in verse three.
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.’
Now, it’s important to note that these bridesmaids were invited. They had some understanding of who the groom was. The only difference is that they didn’t care to make provision for themselves.
It is quite possible that they made a number of assumptions…assumptions like:
The groom will come on time…when we expect him. He won’t be delayed.
We will have enough oil.
The others will give us some if we run out.
So, they failed to prepare.
I’m sure you have heard a coach or teacher or parent say these words to you…or maybe you have uttered them yourself…“When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”
Here is what I know…Preparation is the work!
So, you may be asking, “So, Pastor, how do people fail to prepare for the coming of the Lord?”
I’ll give you three simple answers:
- Assumptions – They assume because they are around the faith, they are in the faith…Big Mistake! – Remember, this isn’t a group project… NO ONE CAN DO YOUR PREPARING FOR YOU!
- Neglect – They don’t really believe it…so they ignore the spiritual…they fail to do business with God and prepare their souls for eternity.
- Procrastination – I need to do that…but I’ll do that later when I get around to it. They know…they know…they know the truth…but Sin…it’s more appealing. Doing my own thing, and being Lord of my life…that’s a better deal right now…Maybe when I get my own family…but not now…No…I’ll do it later.
And this is the most tragic of all, I believe. When you know what to do and you don’t do it…that’s foolish!
Listen, my friend, to the words of James Boice…“Are you unsaved? If so, this moment is your opportunity. Do not say, ‘I will turn to Christ later. I will repent after I enjoy a few more years of sin. There is always time for Jesus.’
You do not know that. Today may be the last time you will hear the gospel. Even if it is not—even if you do hear it again and again—it will be no easier for you to turn to God later. In fact, the opposite is the case. The fact that you have rejected the free offer of God’s grace now will harden you so that you will find it much more difficult to repent later. God may break you: He may do it through suffering, misery, or frustration. But He may not, and wisdom tells you to prepare now.”
2 Corinthians 6:2b
“…Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
You see, you would be a fool to wait for the exam to be given to begin to prepare for it. That is what a crisis looks like in my eyes.
In June of 2021, part of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Fla., suddenly collapsed.
98 People lost their lives as the 12-story building collapsed at around 1:30 a.m.
No one should have been surprised by this buildings collapse.
In 2018, a study was done that declared the building had, “major structural damage” to the concrete slab below the pool deck. It recommends extensive repairs “in the near future.”
An April 2021 letter to the residents from the president of the condo association’s board of directors sent a letter to the residents.
The letter says the building’s condition has worsened since the 2018 inspection. “The concrete deterioration is accelerating,” writes the president, Jean Wodnicki.
“[T]he observable damage such as in the garage has gotten significantly worse since the initial inspection,” Wodnicki writes. “When you can visually see the concrete spalling (cracking), that means that the rebar holding it together is rusting and deteriorating beneath the surface.”
This was just two months prior to the collapse of this structure and the devastating loss of life that was completely preventable.
You see, we must understand this third principle of preparation as well. Look at it with me:
III. A Crisis will REVEAL whether you are PREPARED.
You see, everything was the same, until it wasn’t. Everything was prefect for these 10 bridesmaids, until it wasn’t.
And there was no extra time to prepare.
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.
Time was up…the door was closed, and it wasn’t going to open again.
My friend, here is what I need you to hear:
The crisis you have just come out of, are in, or are headed toward, reveal what you are putting your trust in.
When the crisis hits, where do you go?
- Do you go to a bottle?
- Do you go to a prescription?
- Do you go back to your old ways and habits?
- Or do you Go TO YOUR KNEES?
- Do you curse God…or Do you Trust God to lead you?
- Are you bound up with anxiety…or are you casting your cares upon him?
Your current crises are showing you how you have or haven’t made preparation…for the follower of Jesus Christ goes to their knees, because they have built their lives upon him…the ROCK.
Today is the day of your salvation. Today is the day when you must make preparation.
Are you saved? Are you prepared? Have you taken Christ?
Bad News: Sinner in need of a savior
Good News: God loves you…gave His Son for you.
Take Christ today…Open your heart to Christ today.