Trinity 27 (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
November 23, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 25:1-13

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Most people classify the oil of the wise virgins as either faith or the good works that follow faith. Both are necessary for the Christian so both are viable contenders of being the oil, which is what the five foolish virgins are missing. Some say that the oil is the faith which lights the fire of good works to be seen by others. Certainly our Lord says to us, “Let your good works be seen by others so they may give glory to your Father in heaven.”…  Others say that the oil is the good works when, taken together with faith, light the lamp of eternal life … I would agree with either understanding, really. But in truth, we really only want to know what the oil is so that we might know whether we have it or not. But there’s a problem in making the oil either faith or good works. The problem is that we then make faith and good works something we can examine as if they are artifacts of the Christian religion. We can hold them and turn them over and examine them. Even the fact that they are described as oil in a lamp suggests they are measurable and containable. We treat the oil – whether it’s our faith or our good works that follow faith – as commodities to be had, much like a man preparing to take a journey takes inventory that he has the right provisions.

We want the preacher to tell us what the oil is so that we can check it off our list: yep, got that, I’m good. As if when our Lord returns He’s going to do an inventory like some boss or drill sergeant inspecting his troops to make sure they got what they need. In truth, we want the preacher to tell us that the oil is something that we already have. That way we don’t have to change anything we’re doing or not doing. By equating the oil with a particular thing – even if that one thing is the Holy Spirit – we immediately quantify and qualify the oil.

And none of us think we don’t have the oil. If we did we would be frantically searching for it. If we thought we didn’t have the oil we’d be beside ourselves to get some oil. Look at the consequence for not having the oil! Those fools that don’t have the oil are not welcomed into the eternal kingdom. They’re not even known by Jesus! He says to them, “I don’t know you”! Who among us – what average person – thinks that Jesus doesn’t even know them? Now we really want to know what the oil is. Tell us so that we can make sure we have it and hold it fast.

In truth, not only does everyone who cares thinks that Jesus know them, they think He gets them. As if He’s our divine buddy who’s got our back and likes what we like and talks like we talk and would vote how we vote; that He’s as sarcastic as we are when it comes to God’s sense of humor and our lack of understanding. Everyone who cares thinks Jesus is their own personal god who approves what they do and is never ashamed of them – even when they deny Him before men – and is generally the best friend all of us really want to have. But “God of God” and “very God of very God” should make us tremble as much as it should delight our hearts.

Well the oil isn’t some line item on a check list along with virginity or purity or good behavior. The oil is the Christian life of faith, hope, and love. It’s as simple and as complex as that. The oil is your conscience bound by the Word of God so that you do those things that are pleasing to your heavenly Father and avoid those things that would lead you astray from Him. That’s not keeping the Ten Commandments but rather listening to His Son, the Word of God, and rejoicing in the salvation He brings.

The oil is faith. But it is also good works that follow faith. It is also the Holy Spirit. The oil isn’t something that we need for the journey, an item we need to take with us, the oil is the going on the journey. Without the oil there is no movement, no progression, no advancement toward the kingdom of heaven.

Better to not draw a direct parallel between the oil of the parable and any one thing of the Christian life. That leads to contentment with what we have rather than striving for what lies ahead. That leads to false confidence in what we think we have rather than praying daily for what our Father gives us and what we need. For He gives us not only daily bread, which is the least of His gifts, but He gives us the Holy Spirit by whom we pray. He gives us comfort in times of temptation. He gives us relief in times of distress. But these aren’t answers to our problems so much as they are the Father’s constant promise that He has sent His Son to prepare us to receive the eternal kingdom. For He also gives us struggles and fiery trials. Not to tempt us but to fashion us in the image of His Son. He gives us what we call hardships. Not to punish us or hurt us, but to lead us in the ways of righteousness for His name’s sake.

So pray, praise, and give thanks to your Father in heaven. Do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith. Continue to come to this gathering wherein you receive confidence that the Lord your God is looking upon you and knows you and will know you in the age to come. Give relief to those in distress. Return a kind word for the wrath you might receive. Bless those who curse you and do good to those who hurt you. Not with an eye to what you might receive from men – a good reputation or worldly friends – but with what you have been promised by your Father in heaven: the reward of eternal life through the Son of Man who is our Bridegroom and Champion; our Lord and our God.

Behold, the Bridegroom comes!

+ In Nomine Iesu +