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KEEP YOUR LAMP BURNING

Date: 
November 12, 2017
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
Matthew 25: 1-13

THEME: We must stay alert… be prepared… be spiritually sharp!

 

INTRODUCTION

  • Jesus was a storyteller
  • The stories Jesus told are called parables…
    • There are 46 parables in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke…
    • A parable is a small story with a large point. <Buechner>
    • Each parable elicited an important moral truth.
  • Jesus composed his memorable stories from the stuff of everyday life…
    • He told stories about weeds and wheat, grapes and vineyards, fishing and the fishermen’s nets, sheep and goats, lost coins and a lost son… <Markquart>
    • Every one of Jesus’ parables was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning…
    • Those who listened to the parables had to figure out the meaning apply it to their life…
    • Only once did Jesus explain a parable to his followers in order to make its meaning crystal clear to them – that was “The Parable of the Sower” <Matthew 13:1-23>

 

I – THE PARABLE OF THE WISE AND FOOLISH MAIDENS

  • Today’s gospel reading from Matthew is a wedding story… most pastors could fill a book

     with wedding stories from their own experiences… (locked doors… lost ring… late M.O.B.)

  • Jesus’ wedding story is about 10 women who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive

     so that the wedding party could begin… five of the women were well prepared to wait for

     the bridegroom… the other five were poorly prepared… five had enough olive oil to keep

     their lamps burning as they waited… five did not have enough, and their lamps burned out

     while they waited…

  • Weddings were different in Jesus’ day than they are today…
    • In the villages of Palestine a wedding was a great occasion - a community affair…
    • Wedding customs varied from village to village, but all weddings included the procession of the bridegroom to the bride’s family home…
    • Once he arrived, the entire wedding day would be spent in dancing and celebrating, concluding with the wedding feast at dusk…
    • The bride would be accompanied by almost the entire village carrying torches or oil lamps to the bridegroom’s house for this feast…
  • Today weddings take place at a certain time made clear with a printed invitation… but in Jesus’ day, one was never exactly sure when a wedding might take place… the day and the hour were kept a mystery… this meant that people always had to be ready… they might have a general idea when the wedding would take place, but they never knew for sure until they saw the bridegroom coming for his bride…
    • It was great fun for the bridegroom to try to catch the bridal party napping… he might choose to arrive in the middle of the night causing the wedding party would have to scurry to go out into the street to meet him at whatever time he chose to arrive…
    • It is important to know that no one was allowed on the streets after dark without a lighted lamp of their own… and also, once the bridegroom arrived and the door was closed behind him, late-comers to the ceremony would not be allowed in…
    • So it was in Jesus’ day in Palestine…

 

II – THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE

  • This wedding story is a slice of real life… but what does it mean? What was Jesus trying to teach his followers? Surely there’s more to it than having oil in your lamps, batteries in your digital camera, and keeping your shoes shined…
  • Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew’s Gospel speak of the time when Jesus Christ will return in his glory to establish the  Kingdom of Heaven… but when that will be is not exactly known… if we knew the day and the hour for certain, we would surely be ready…  (I encourage you to read chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew at home this week.) 
  • The Parable of the Ten Maidens, which is only recorded in Matthew’s gospel, is really more

     like an allegory than a parable… in this story it is pretty clear that Jesus is the  bridegroom…

     the maidens are the followers of Christ who can easily be divided into two groups – the wise and

     the foolish… the wedding feast is the Kingdom of Heaven…

  • Jesus was telling his listeners what the Kingdom of Heaven would be like… And he was warning them to S t a y  A w a k e !!!  
  • That’s the lesson in Jesus’ parable… stay awake… keep prepared… be ever alert… keep your lamp burning!

 

III – THE GREATER LESSON

  • Matthew 25 teaches us not only to be prepared for the coming of Christ in his glory and the Kingdom of Heaven… it teaches us how to live until he comes
  • There are three stories in Matthew 25…
  • The first story is the story of the wise and foolish maidens… a story that teaches us that we are each responsible for our own spiritual condition…  <Matthew 25:1-13)
  • Everyone must have their own lamp and everyone must have enough oil for his or her lamp…
  • There are some things that cannot be borrowed and some things that cannot be left until the last minute to get… a passport comes to my mind – when you arrive at the gate for your flight, it’s too late to get a passport and you can not borrow one from anyone else… if you are not well prepared, you will surely miss your flight…
  • It’s the same with faith… you must have a faith of your own… you can not borrow another person’s faith and you can’t wait until the last minute to find faith…
  • The scriptures are pretty clear that not everyone who claims to be a Christian will find the gates of heaven wide open… heaven is a “prepared place for prepared people.”
  • The lesson is this – as you wait for the Kingdom of Heaven, keep yourself spiritually sharp!
  • The second story in Matthew 25 is the Parable of The Talents <Matthew 25:14-30>
  • I trust that you know this story… a man going on a journey called together his workers and entrusted his property to them… to one he gave 5 talents… to another 2 talents… and to the third 1 talent… then he went away… when he returned, the worker who received 5 talents had doubled his talents… and the one who had been given 2 talents returned with 4… but the one who had been given only 1 talent returned with just that one… the man blessed the first two workers and entrusted them with even more property and greater responsibility… but he cursed the third worker – called him “worthless” - took the one talent away from him… and “threw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
  • The lesson is this – as you wait for the Kingdom of Heaven, use wisely what God has given to you…

 

 

  • The third story in Matthew 25 is the story of The Final Judgment <Matthew 25:31-46> - one of my favorite stories in scripture…
  • I trust that you are familiar with this story too… it begins like this: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his throne of glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
  • The sheep will be put at his right hand and will be welcomed into the Kingdom… for they are the ones who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the prisoner…
  • The goats will be put at his left hand and will be sent into eternal punishment… though they thought that they were righteous, they did not feed the hungry, or give drink to the thirsty, or welcome the stranger, or clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner…
  • The lesson is this – as you wait for the Kingdom of Heaven, it is important to minister to others by meeting their needs…
  • There are three parts of the whole story that Matthew 25 tells – As you wait for the Kingdom of Heaven:
  • Keep yourself spiritually sharp… you are responsible for your own spiritual condition…
  • Use wisely what God has given to you…
  • Meet the needs of others…
  • If you do these three things, you will be ready for the Kingdom of Heaven and the gates will be open wide to you… do not miss the opportunity to be included.

 

CONCLUSION

  • Allow me to share with you one more parable, not from the teachings of Jesus, but one with a most important lesson for each one of us… like the parables of Jesus, I’ll leave it to you to figure out its meaning and how it applies to your life…

‘A young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. “That depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you fell this tree.” The young man stepped forward, and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, “You can start Monday.”

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by – and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today.”

Startled, the young man replied, “I thought you paid on Friday.”

“Normally we do,” said the foreman. “But we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last place today.”

“But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!”

The foreman, sensing the young man’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your ax?”

The young man replied, “No, sir. I’ve been working too hard to take time for that!”     <Rice>

 

SERMON SEEDS

  • Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew – published by Tyndale
  • Daily Study Bible – Matthew – William Barclay
  • Wise And Foolish Maidens – a sermon by Edward F. Markquart (www.sermonsfromseattle.com)
  • More Hot Illustrations For Youth Talks – Wayne Rice – Youth Specialties
  • Gospel Analysis : Wise And Foolish Maidens – Edward F. Markquart

 

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