A Surprise Wedding
Jesus is coming back. Are you invited to the wedding?
Good morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
It’s been 11 years now since I asked my wife to marry me and we got engaged.
As you might imagine If you know me, I concocted an elaborate engagement with lots of people moving parts and well-timed pieces.
I even handed my friends who were helping a schedule for where they were supposed to be at certain times.
I think I was on the early end of the “elaborate engagement scheme days”
Back when my parents got married, I imagine it was more like, “Hey, I was thinking, ‘You want to get married?’” “Sure, why not?” J
Goodness, nowadays, even when high school kids ask somebody to prom today it’s an elaborate scheme
When I asked Lindsey to prom in high school, I just said, “want to go prom?”
And when her dad said “No, she was too young,” I approached him with something like 5 reasons why it logically made sense for her to go with me and why he should change his mind”
It didn’t work in case you were wondering J
Engagement before marriage is not really a new thing.
It’s been around since the days of Jesus and well before.
Today, in “The Kingdom” series on the Book of Matthew, we’re going to see Jesus tell us a story about the engagement period and an eventual wedding.
In the Book of Matthew, which is 1 of 4 books of the Bible about Jesus’ life, Jesus is now in the last week of his life.
And in the last days of his life on earth, he is speaking very frankly about his eventual return to earth one day.
Especially in chapters 24 & 25
Today, we’re going to look at a parable (a fictional story told by Jesus to illustrate a point) in chapter 25
We’re going to read it through, and then we’re going to walk back through it verse by verse
(Matthew 25:1-13) - NIV
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins (BRIDEMAIDS) who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom (GROOM) was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 10 “But while they were 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. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
BETROTHAL (VERSE 1)
Okay, let’s start to break this interesting parable down…starting with verse 1
(Matthew 25:1) – NIV
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
This is a parable where the period of engagement is just ending…the bridegroom (the groom) is coming to get the bride…and officially start the marriage.
In those days, engagement was called betrothal.
And it was significantly more formal than engagement is today.
The man & the woman would have a formal agreement before witnesses and enter into the state of betrothal.
It was a legal contract that could only be broken by divorce.
So if you think asking her father is intense, this is much more intense.
This is actually the stage that Mary & Joseph were in when she found out she was pregnant with Jesus.
Again, it was like engagement, but even more serious.
You still lived a part and were sexually abstinent, but you were definitely going to get married.
The formal marriage ceremony usually happened about a year later.
And in our parable, the groom is heading to wedding feast…and as was a Jewish custom…his friends…or part of the wedding party were to join in.
And in this story, the bridesmaids were supposed to join him on that journey.
Now, there’s no bride even in the story…but parables aren’t about lining up every detail.
They are more about a few details and a main point.
The point is this is a story about preparing us to meet him…the Groom.
Because, in the Bible…the church (Christians) are always the Bride.
And Jesus is always the Groom.
And right now (Christians today)…are actually just engaged to Jesus.
We don’t even see him face to face.
In a sense, our relationship hasn’t yet been fully actualized.
It’s only when he returns that we will be married to Him.
It’s like, he came the first time, 2,000 years ago to die for his bride.
And when he came, he pays the “bride price” with his own blood and seals the relationship.
The second time, he will come back to marry her, and take her as his wife
In fact, most of the “bride & groom” language in the Bible comes from the Book of Revelation…about the end times.
So what we’re looking at is a story about Jesus coming back to make his “fiancé” his wife.
And the question is going to be…are you ready?
DELAYED (Verses 2-5)
And being prepared matters because we unfortunately don’t know when it’s going to happen.
Look again at verses 2-5
(Matthew 25:2-5) – NIV
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
This is one of the hard parts about Christianity.
Jesus, the groom, is coming back.
We just don’t know when.
If you read the chapter previous to this, Matthew 24, Jesus gives us a lot of signs (which I covered in a message in our end times series in December 2012…you know back when the world is gonna end J)…but even with the list of signs, it’s still hard to know when he’s actually coming back.
So it’s easy to lose focus.
But I think it’s important that Jesus tells us that it’s going to feel like he is “a long time in coming” like the parable says.
We have to be prepared that this life might be harder and the fight might seem longer than you want it to be.
One of the hardest things as a Christian is to watch people lose hope and give up on their faith.
Life got “too hard”
They didn’t get the results they wanted quick enough
Jesus didn’t deliver in the timely manner they wanted
But Jesus never tells us exactly when he’s coming back…or even when our lives will end.
In fact, in Matthew 24, he tells us that only the Father knows.
Listen, if God told us that Jesus was coming back in 2035, I suspect most of us the world would probably just put off living for him until 2034.
But that’s not what God wants.
He wants a real relationship with us now.
He wants us to be ready now.
For example, one of the neatest stories that came out of the first Gulf War was the story of Air Force pilot Robby Robins coming home
After his 300th mission, he was surprised to be given permission to immediately pull his crew together and fly his plane home.
They flew across the ocean to Massachusetts and then had a long drive to western Pennsylvania.
They drove all night, and when his buddies dropped him off at his driveway, it was just after sunrise
Yet, when he arrived, there was a big banner across the garage—"Welcome Home, Dad!"
He immediately thought, “How did they know?”
No one had called, and the crew themselves hadn't expected to leave so quickly.
The pilot, Robins, said "When I walked into the house, the kids, about half dressed for school, screamed, 'Daddy!' Susan came running down the hall—she looked terrific—hair fixed, make-up on, and a crisp yellow dress. 'How did you know?' I asked.
“I didn't,” she answered through tears of joy.
She said, ‘”Once we knew the war was over, we knew you'd be home one of these days. We knew you'd try to surprise us, so we were ready every day.'"
We’re too be ready…every day.
NO BORROWED FAITH (verses 6-9)
But WE have to be ready. YOU have to be ready. No one else can do it for you.
And that’s what Jesus is getting at in his next few verses
(Matthew 25:6-9) – NIV
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 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.’
Let me explain what’s happening with their lamps.
Their lamps were torches that consisted of a long pole with oil-drenched rags at the top
These aren’t little indoor clay lamps. They’re meant for an outdoor wedding procession.
And when it says that they trimmed their lamps, it means this:
They had to trim off the charred ends of the rags by cutting them off.
Then they could add new oil to the rags, and light their lamps again.
The problem was that 5 of the bridesmaids didn’t bring any extra oil to light their lamps…because they weren’t thinking they’d have to wait that long.
If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail J
So you have 5 bridesmaids that are saying, “I’ll wait for the Groom no matter how long it takes. And I’m going to be prepared. I’m bringing extra oil just in case this thing takes a while”
And 5 bridesmaids that say, “This party sounds fun…hope he comes soon.”
They’re not really prepared…they don’t seem to really get it
And then, when the word is out that the Groom is coming, they try and borrow oil from the others…who need it so they can go the feast with the groom.
And yet, they’re denied.
And that’s not in there to teach selfishness.
It’s in there to show us that you can’t borrow anyone’s faith.
The only way that we are going to saved at the end of time (or when we die)…the only way we can be forgiven…is by having a relationship with the Groom…with Jesus.
We can’t borrow anyone else’s faith.
If you’re parents are really good Christians…it’s irrelevant to your own salvation.
If you’re hung around church a lot…doesn’t matter.
You have to have it yourself.
And if we don’t have a real relationship, we’re probably not a real follower…which is what the next verses tell us
NOT REAL FOLLOWERS (Verses 10-12)
(Matthew 25:10-12) – NIV
10 “But while they were 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. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.
It’s a heartbreaking phrase. And a phrase that Jesus uses a couple of times in the Bible.
And interestingly enough, it’s always of people who think that they are Christians
He doesn’t say it to people of other religions or atheists…but he says this heartbreaking phrase, “Truly I don’t know you…” to people who think that they should be at the Great Wedding Banquet
Think about the passage this way:
The virgins, or the Bridesmaids, they represent the visible church in the parable.
These are people that are interested in the Groom (Jesus).
They seem like they might even be interested in following him.
Otherwise they wouldn’t even be there waiting for Him
The foolish bridesmaids represent people the people in churches that don’t actually have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Maybe they like it for the community and the friends
Just like those bridesmaids were enjoying the fellowship with the other bridesmaids and maybe looking forward to the Banquet later.
Maybe they’re doing it just to look good…or just because they were told…
It’s a bit like the parable of the sower that we studied back in June
Sometimes the seed (the Word of God) falls on rocky soil
It appears like it’s gonna stick, but it never actually takes root because the soil isn’t deep enough.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus, in his limited time on earth, has talked about this issue of “false believers” multiple times now.
We certainly can’t all go around doubting our salvation, but it begs the question, how many people are there in our churches that maybe THINK that they are going to heaven, but when they die, Jesus will tragically say, “I don’t know you”
Unfortunately, in America, there are, I dare say, even millions of people who sit in churches every week and think that when the Groom comes for them, they will be just fine
Not because they have any saving relationship with Him, but simply because they “go to church” and are a “good person”
But if we could be saved by doing anything on our own, Jesus would have never have come to die.
If we could be saved by doing good or being good, then his death is completely in vain…because we could get in another way!
NO! We can only be saved by believing that He died for us and by having a relationship with Him.
And maybe…if it’s not you that this Scripture applies to, maybe it’s one of your friends…or even one of your relatives.
Maybe you have a parent, a sibling, a cousin, an aunt…who isn’t an atheist by any means, but doesn’t ACTUALLY KNOW the Groom, Jesus.
For some of you in this room, next week is an amazing evangelistic opportunity for you.
As some of you know, our preschool and elementary school students are going to be singing a song on stage with our worship band next week.
It’s going to be pretty cool.
And if your child is involved in that, here’s my challenge to you:
If you have any relatives in this area who do not know Jesus yet, invite them to come.
How can they say no to that? J
Plus, I’m going to be giving an invitation at the end of the service for people to become followers of Jesus.
Maybe next week is the week that God starts doing something amazing in your family!
BE PREPARED (Verse 13)
After Jesus finishes the parable, he gives the following advice to his listeners in verse 13:
(Matthew 25:13) – NIV
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
We are to keep watch for Jesus’ return
“Watch” doesn’t mean you have to stop working and follow creepy doomsday people around the country.
Even Paul spoke about this to people 2,000 years ago.
He told them to stop quitting their jobs because they thought Jesus was coming back.
Notice in the parables that even the WISE virgins slept when it was time to sleep.
“Keep watch” means be prepared.
It means…be ready for Jesus any day.
Because someday Jesus will come back to turn our engagement into a wedding.
But there will be no invitations sent out.
Not even a trendy “Save the Date” postcard
This is going to be a surprise wedding.
We don’t know the date He’s coming, so we’ve got to be ready any day.
Anyone here familiar with the movie Hachi?
If you are…and you want to see it…plug your ears…I’m about to ruin it for you….even though you’ve had five years to watch it.
It stars Richard Gere, a college music professor, who finds a stray puppy.
After trying unsuccessfully to find the dog’s owner, he eventually keeps the dog.
One day, the dog (Hachi) follows Gere several blocks to the train station as he leaves for work.
The dog refuses to return home, so his master has to walk him back to the house.
At the end of the day, Hachi hears the train whistle and runs to the train platform where he curls up waiting for Gere to disembark.
Gere is stunned by this demonstration of loyalty. The next day the dog is there to greet him again.
And he continues to do it day after day.
Well, one day, Gere suffers a fatal heart attack in the classroom.
Unaware of what has happened, Hachi waits for hours at the station for his master to step off the train.
And he does so again the following evening.
And for the next TEN years, the loyal dog waits at the train platform each evening…until he eventually dies.
EVERY DAY…for TEN years…he waited.
That’s the kind of preparation and devotion Jesus is talking about.
And again, that doesn’t mean you quit your job and wait up on some mountain for Jesus to come back.
But “keeping watch” means living like Jesus is coming back at any time.
Like he could get off the train…any day.
Let me ask you a question: How would you live differently if you knew Jesus was coming back sometime in 2015?
No, seriously, what would it change in your life?
Think about that for a moment.
What would you start doing if you knew He was coming back?
What would you stop doing?
The great Jonathan Edwards once boldly said that he never wanted to do anything that he would be afraid to do if it was the last hour of his life
In other words, what DON’T you want to be caught doing when Jesus comes back?
And it’s not meant to be this, “Jesus is coming back…don’t let him catch you doing anything naughty when he comes!” sort of thing.
This isn’t elf on a shelf.
It’s a wake-up to reality.
He could come back at anytime.
He’s already with you…at all times.
And at someday…the end will come.
Our lives will end.
And for some of us…statistically…that WILL happen unexpectedly.
Be prepared now.
Don’t waste your life with the hope that you’ll get it together sometime later.
Later is never guaranteed.
Plus, you’re never going to build character that way.
Right now…you’re shaping the person who you’re going to become 10 years from now.
Be ready now.
I remember when Lindsey was pregnant…
She went on bedrest with the twins at 27 weeks…so we knew that they could come anytime.
Eventually we decided, we can’t let this catch us by surprise.
We have to get the house in order and get our bags packed now because this could be any day
BE PREPARED FOR GOD NOW.
If you haven’t surrendered your life to Jesus yet…know that this is REAL.
Know that He loves you so much that He came to die in your place.
And know that He is one day…when we won’t expect it…coming again to end life on earth as we know it.
And when the Groom comes back, be ready.
Be ready so that when He comes, you will be welcomed into the wedding feast.
I want to close my message this morning by reading you a challenging piece of Scripture from 2 Peter.
Let the words of God, through His disciple Peter, speak to your heart here:
(2 Peter 3:9-14) – NIV
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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