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Keep Watch

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

It is good to be together again as we look into the word of God, as we can understand it, share it, and live it out in our own lives.  The title for our sermon today is: “Keep Watch.”

Our text is from The New Testament gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, verses 1 through 13.  Please listen to the Word of God.

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.  The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.  The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here is the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!’ m Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish ones said to the wise, give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.  “No,” they replied.  “There may not be enough for both us and you.  Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.”  But while they we on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived.  The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.  And the door was shut.  Later the others also came.  ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, open the door for us!  But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”  Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

This is the Word of God and certainly a very sobering and serious warning to all.

Jesus, the master teacher, often taught using parables, basically earthly stories to bring out a heavenly truth.  Our text: Matthew 25:1-13, is often referred to as the “Parable of the ten virgins.”  The setting was a typical 1st century AD Jewish wedding event.  In Israel, a wedding was the most celebrated social event.  Often an entire village or neighborhood community of a large city would be involved as a participant or as a guest.

A Jewish marriage had three stages.  The first was the engagement.  Most engagements were arranged by the fathers of the bride and groom.  The engagement consisted of a contract of marriage in which the marriage couple had little, if any involvement.

The second stage was the betrothal at which ceremony the bride and groom exchanged marriage vows in the presence of family and friends.  At that point, the couple was considered married, and their relationship could only be broken by formal divorce.  However, during the betrothal period which could last months, even a year, their marriage had still not been physically consummated and they still had never lived together.  During the betrothal time, the groom would set out to establish himself in some business, trade or farming and to provide a place for the marriage couple to live.

At the third stage of a Jewish marriage the wedding banquet would be held with much festivity.  This festivity could last as much as a week.  It began with the groom’s coming with his groomsmen to the bride’s house.  It was there that the bride and bridesmaids were waiting.  Then altogether they would parade through the streets announcing that the wedding banquet was about to begin.  This procession of the groom, bride, and their groomsmen and bridesmaids was generally begun at night so “lamps” or torches were used by the wedding party to illuminate their way and attract attention, it was time to come to the wedding banquet.

Let’s look closer at Jesus’ parable:

In Matthew 25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”  Note especially “kingdom of heaven like ten virgins’, here meaning ten bridesmaids.  So, God’s kingdom for salvation is made to be comparable to the readiness and preparedness of these ten virgins.

Verse 2 “Five of them were foolish and five were wise.”  Meaning here the foolish bridesmaids were not ready, unprepared for the arrival of the bridegroom who could come at any time.  The wise ones were ready and prepared.  Well how exactly?  Verse 3 “The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.”  In contrast: in verse 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” The original Greek language word translated “lamps” in English was a Greek term used primarily for torches.  A different Greek word was usually used for lamps.  The torches used by wedding attendants consisted of tightly wrapped cloths attached to long poles.  The oil was olive oil for fuel to light the torches, and keep their torches providing light.  In verse 5 “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”  Where the virgins slept is not mentioned but has no bearing on Jesus’ main point.  Waiting can become wearisome.  Nevertheless, becoming weary is no excuse for unpreparedness.  The wise were always prepared and ready even at an unexpected time far into the night.

From verse 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: “Here’s the bridegroom!  Come out to meet him!”  In the original Greek, the word translated “meet” in English literally means “a meeting” and was often used of the official welcoming of a dignitary.  Here the highest of dignitaries!  In verse 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps.”  Trimmed here refers to cutting off any ragged edges of the cloth, then saturating it with olive oil for lighting.  In verse 8 “The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.”  These foolish ones knew it took a lot of oil to keep their torches lit.  But they neglected to prepare adequately, which as bridesmaids of the bride indicated their lack of real commitment or concern.  Moreover, they also knew the bridegroom was coming, and could come at any time.  Whatever their excuse they were seriously negligent and left in the dark.  The wise virgins answered in verse 9 “No, they replied.”  “There may not be enough for both us and you.  Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.””  Were the wise virgins selfish and uncaring?  No, the point here is if they had shared their oil then none of the bridesmaids would have been able to accompany the bride in the procession.  It was necessary that each buy their own oil.  The wise were ready and prepared, committed to meet the bridegroom.  As accountable human beings we all individually, personally have responsibility.

In Verse 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrives.  The virgins who were  ready went in with him to the wedding banquet.  And the door was shut.”  What a lost opportunity for the foolish, the unprepared.  Yet what a joy for the wise, the prepared, those ready to meet the bridegroom and attend the festive wedding banquet.  From verses 11-12 “Later the others also came.  Sir!  Sir!” they said, “Open the door for us.”  “But he replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”

Jesus’ point was these five foolish bridesmaids were without commitment, no genuine relationship toward the bridegroom nor the bride.  “I don’t know you.”  Sorry and sad after the fact, doesn’t make a relationship.

So, what’s the main point of this parable?

In Matthew 25:13 “Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  Watch for who?  Watch for what?  Jesus previously gave the context to this with further emphasized teaching of the parable of the “ten virgins.”

In Matthew 24:44 “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  Original hearers were Jews, Israel.  Their descendants applicable also the church.  The Son of Man is Jesus Christ, the Son of Man is a messianic tittle.  A title that only Jesus used of himself in the gospels, and he used often of himself.  Jesus Christ is the bridegroom who is coming again.  No one on earth knows the specific time of his coming.  This is a warning, for most do not expect him at all.  Yet when he comes there will be separations from him.  Even eternal, hopeless separations.  Terrible words that most will hear: “I don’t know you.”  We must be spiritually ready, prepared, in genuine faith committed to and in Christ Jesus through a faithful personnel relationship.  And a faith that saves is a faith that obeys, that points back to faith because of fruit of obedience that verifies that validates that it is saving faith.  When he returns there will be no time to get right with the Lord.  Jesus is the door, the gate to eternal life with God.  Without genuine faith, the door will be shut!  His coming again will be sudden.  So, let us all “keep watch” always ready and always committed to Christ in persevering obedient faith.  May we strive to be close to the Savior, knowing that he is our redeemer and Lord.  And if he is our Lord then we are obedient to him.

Let us pray. Father we pray that you would give us the faith that we may know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  That we would receive him by faith, repenting of our sins.  Confessing him before men as our Savior and Lord.  Being immersed into Christ Jesus, baptized in water knowing that we must be obedient to the gospel and also preserving, being faithful, committed, overcomers persevering in the faith in Christ Jesus.  May this be true of each one of us.  May we share the gospel with others, the good news of Jesus Christ that we can be saved by your grace through faith is our prayer, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10