Sunday 10 October 2021


Matthew 22  v 1/14

In verse 1 we read the Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps to lighten their way, but five had not enough oil, so the lamps were of no use.

As God referred to Himself  as the husband of Israel, so Jesus pictures Himself as the bridegroom.  It was the Jewish marriage custom for the groom and his friends to leave his home and proceed to the home of the bride, where the marriage ceremony was conducted , often at night.  After this, the entire party returned to the groom’s house for the banquet ceremony.

The lamps were dome-shaped torches, fueled in rags soaked in oil and used for walking outdoors. With cans of oil the lamps could last for hours.

In a village in Palestine, a wedding was a great occasion. The whole village would turn out to accompany the new couple to their new home, and would take the longest way possible in order to they might receive the good wishes of as many as possible. The Rabbis agreed that a man may even abandon the study of the law to take part in the festival.

The point of the story of this story lies in a Jewish custom, which is different from anything we might know. When a couple were married they did not go away on a honeymoon, but stayed a week at home and kept open house; they were dressed and treated as prince and princess, making it such a great occasion in their lives. The couple could invite their closest friends, making it such a joyous week that the foolish virgins would miss because they were not prepared.

There was  always the practice of trying to catch the bridal party not ready, so the bridegroom would sometimes arrive in the middle of the night.  He would arrange for a friend to go and tell the bridal party that the groom would be coming, meaning they would have to be ready whenever he turned up. No person was allowed at night on the streets without a lamp, and when the groom did arrive, the doors would be shut and no one would be allowed into the ceremony after that.

The meaning of the parable is that the Jews were God’s chosen people, and their entire history was a preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Jews were to be ready to greet Him. Instead of being ready, some were shut out and being unprepared, were not able to receive Him. Set out in dramatic fashion, is the message of not being prepared, which was a tragedy for the Jews.

The parable is a tale pf warnings.  If any person is to face an examination and does not study properly, he/she will be unprepared for unanticipated questions, and so will lose.  A person my be advised to accept Jesus as Saviour, but realising that will mean making a change of life-style, may decide to leave making a decision until later, and could die before having done so, and thereby miss eternal life with Jesus

There is the explanation of a Jewish wedding ceremony, with the meaning of the parable in practical illustration. How do we apply it to ourselves at this time?

This is one of a series of parables our Lord is delivering in which He exposes the failures of the chief priests and leaders of Israel, and rebukes them for allowing the people to ignore Him as the Messiah, and their general disobedience to God.

If Jesus was here to-day, He would most certainly be rebuking the chief priests of the Church, as they let the Church drift away from its moorings of the Bible, to sail off into the muddy waters of society  They have allowed provision to embrace and accept behaviour which is incompatible with Scripture, and for acceptance to the Kingdom of God.

     The Bible throughout reveals that God chose Israel out of all nations to be His specially chosen one; God has also given advantages and blessings to other nations, which Jesus indicated would happen in the parable.  He said the hand of God which was first intended for the Jew, would be extended and given to both Jews and Gentiles.

     What is a matter of concern for Christians is that there are far too many men, and now women, holding office in the Church, some in high places who want to re-interpret the Bible to fit in with modern populist thought.  Let us be honest, there are not just a few within the Church, whose style of life will not be accepted by Jesus the supreme judge, and it is particularly unacceptable for clergy who are here to preach the gospel, to be unworthy.  They are acting like the chief priests, who Jesus is here condemning for disobeying God by not following His teaching, and will have to answer for so doing.

     We can’t just be holy on Sundays and revert to any lifestyle we choose for the rest of the week.

The Church is to be compared to the virgins, all had lamps but only half were able to use them.  The Church is in the same condition, most will have been baptised in the name of Christ, but not all truly follow Him and obey His teaching. All call themselves Christians, but do not have the grace of the spirit in their hearts, and are not what they really profess to be. Our own eyes tell us that now, and when the Lord comes that will be so.

We do not know when the Lord will return, so like the bridal party we need to be prepared. It will be like that when Jesus comes back, He will find many unprepared. Life will be going on, wild as usual, buying and selling, parties feasting,  Churches will be as confused and undecided as they are now, Ministers still preaching false doctrine, and in the midst, Jesus will be here.

This parable tells us all are invited to the feast, but many people are so concerned for their present life they are losing the chance of eternal life.  In all His teaching, Jesus made it clear this life is a preparation for an after-life. He never avoided pointing out this meant there were two alternative places, heaven or hell.  People say God would never send anyone to hell, and that is true He lets us make the decision by how we live our life now. 

We are reminded that the appeal of Christ to us is not so much to consider how we will be punished if we challenge God, who expressed His way, but how much we will lose if we don’t follow His teaching.  Those who did not go to the wedding were punished, but their real tragedy was they lost the joy of the feast. 

We are being offered the chance to be taken into the presence of God, and be given a place in heaven.  If we do not follow Christ, some day, our greatest pain will be in the realisation of the precious things of which we have denied ourselves by doing our own thing.  In the last analysis, God’s invitation to us is of His amazing grace.

 There are plenty of people who have little time for Christianity, their own lives are too important to them to be involved with the Church.  Others are openly hostile and only mention the name of Jesus as an expletive.  Christianity is not the gloomy faith that is often painted by many, who fear they will lose too much pleasure if they become Christians.    

God is still offering a place in heaven to all who will seek His Son. There is no charge, which has already been paid by Jesus when He died on the Cross to cleanse us of all sin, and by that cruel death, made it possible for us to be accepted by God.  We do have to put our faith and trust in Jesus, and realise there is no other way to God except through Him.

God is making it all so easy by providing all we need. The Son has put us right with God and the Father will pardon and receive us. In addition He has given us written guidance for our lives by providing the Bible, which spells out His plan.

All false religion will one day be exposed. God sees into our hearts, and just as the king threw out the man at the wedding for being improperly dressed, so God will not enter unto His kingdom those who ignored Him in this life.

Jesus is portraying the Gentiles being gathered in together with sinners.   Whilst the door is still open to all, when they come they must come with a life that is going to measure up to the love which has been shown to them. A person cannot go on living a kind of life lived before coming to Christ, there must be purity, holiness and goodness.  A sinner may come, but cannot remain a sinner.

     There is also a lesson in that the way a person comes, demonstrates the spirit in which they come.  If you go to a person’s home for dinner, you don’t go in the clothes you wear for gardening.  It may not matter to the friend, but out of courtesy and respect we present ourselves worthy of the invitation and kindness shown to us.

 So when we come to worship we don’t need to be on a fashion parade, but I think some of the sights I have seen are quite offensive. Such dressing would not be worn if the person was visiting royalty, or at a civic function, why on earth do they think they should come to the king of king’s house.   I watch the services from America, and the people dress most smartly, worthy of meeting the Lord.

The dressing of our minds however is of prime importance, as we should dress in clothes of expectation, coming in clean hearts and minds, with humble penitence, faith and reverence.  In His Holy Word God said He should be worshipped with reverence and awe.

The meaning of the parable is clear. God has provided the feast of the kingdom. It is the wedding feast for his Son. The invitation goes out far and wide. Many are invited, but few show by their response that they are chosen.

May God bless and reveal His Holy Word to you.



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