Watch Yourself for the Day of Christ (Last Sunday of the Church Year)
[Matthew 25:1–13] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 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. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Watch Yourself for the Lord’s Coming
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” All ten grabbed a flashlight. But only five brought batteries. The radiance of the other five burned out. The five foolish and the five wise virgins.
When Christ returns to gather you up, those of you who are waiting for Him in faith will receive Him to your benefit. Faith, like a light, is fueled by a source – like the virgins’ lamps were fueled by olive oil, your faith is a living flame. Its source is the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
Faith, like an oil fed flame, radiates. Faith radiates the light of the Word it hears. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!” [Luke 11:28]. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” [James 1:22]. “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master” [Luke 12:35-36]. And Christ our Lord said, “Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.” [Luke 11:35].
“Watch, therefore…” Watch that your faith is not a false one, a dark light, an unlit candle in your hand. Faith from God, living faith, glows the love of God for neighbor and radiates from its center the works of the very Word it hears. Watching for the Lord’s return means to watch yourself that you are alive by faith.
Watch that your light hasn’t become darkness – just a knowledge in the head and/or a church membership. Watch yourself that the oil which is available is received in you unto a living faith – a faith which is penitent and seeks the works of God.
Faith is a living, dancing flame on the end of a wick. Like a flame, faith continuously radiates upward. Like a flame, faith pours out the heat and light of God’s Word – “You are the light of the world”, Christ said. And like a flame – like with five of these virgins - faith can die out. Watch yourself and be careful.
The oil which feeds the flame is the Word of God heard, read, and preached to our ears – and it is the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood received into us. This oil is poured out to all of you – but how do you receive it truly into the vessel of your heart, the place from which the flame of faith burns?
Break the hard heart. Examine yourself. Do not disagree with God’s Law and commands, but instead agree with it and confess your sins. The honest recognition of sin and even evil in me, and the confession of this sin and evil in me to God, opens the vessel of my heart to receive His Word and Sacrament to my benefit – to a living faith.
Watch. Examine yourself; agree with God’s Laws instead of reasoning against them. Acknowledge, confess, speak of your sin to God. A broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, God will not despise [Psalm 51:17].
A broken, sorry heart receives the Word of God and the Supper to its benefit. A person who reasons against the commands in the Word heard or who chuckles at God’s commands as outdated or quaint – this person cannot have a living faith in Christ.
The flame of living faith in you was planted hard in you in your baptism. We cannot be saved by our works, but faith can die from lack of them. It’s not safe for faith to live without works. In 2 Peter 1:5-10, Scripture admonishes us to furnish our faith with virtue – with the things of good character in God’s eyes – so that our faith does not fall.
Peter says there: “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”
Watch yourself that you are not falling. Depend totally on Jesus to lift you up.
Depend completely on the Savior. Depend totally on the one who is called the “Author and Perfecter of our faith” – [Hebrews 12:2] “Look unto Jesus, the author and perfecter (the finisher) of our faith.”
“I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you - For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” [Luke 119-10]. Watch yourself. Seek that your flame keeps burning. Ask, seek, and knock for your Savior’s aid and help. The one who asks will receive.
Jesus, the one you’re waiting for, is the one who today – right now – is the very “Shepherd and Bishop of your soul” [1 Peter 2:25]. Trust that One. He will Shepherd your soul well for His coming. Indeed, He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the Sheep [John 10:11].
We believe that we must believe with a living faith which radiates faithfulness. And we believe this: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me (made light in me) with His gifts, sanctified (made me holy) and kept me in the true faith.” [Luther’s Small Catechism, Creed, Third Article]
And one more promise: “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6]. May the Holy Spirit Keep You. May God, who has made a good beginning in you, bring it to completion. Be watchful. Receive God’s good oil of Word and Supper which gives in you the flame of faith – and receive that oil more and more as the Day of Christ draws near. Amen.