Ready for the Wedding - Matthew 25:1-13 (Sermon)



Thank you, worship team! Today, as we study the Bible, we will discuss a wedding party. 

  • What are weddings like? They can be large or small. Regardless, they are a big deal. People don’t pull permits for birthdays. Nor do they spend the kind of money on any other day like they do for weddings. It is like buying an expensive used car or even a new one. And if you have been to a wedding, you can see how the amount adds up. There are many details: the venue, dress, bridal party, cake, invitations, time of day, meal, photographer, rings, service order, music, party favors, and getaway vehicle. 

  • One of my favorite parts is the cake. I love fondant. It is the only time we have this weird frosting that seems to be a soft, edible leather. I love the food. And, as a pastor, I love hearing how pastors order and run the service. Some of you might like the floral arrangements, the dancing, or the opportunity to see friends and family. There are so many things to enjoy about weddings. 

  • Have you ever not been invited to a wedding? How does that feel? You start hearing about people going and details, but you still haven’t seen the invite. It is awkward. You might be in a conversation where suddenly the topic changes because they know you didn’t get an invitation. Or, maybe they don’t know and talk like you are. Perhaps you don’t care because you have better things to do, like going to the dentist, balancing your checkbook, or getting that nasty stump out of your yard. (You weren’t that close, anyway.) They are missing out on your wonderful presence/presents (pun intended). What if you cared? You thought you were close? That may hurt. 

  • It would be worse to show up dressed and ready to join the festivities,  thinking it was an open invite, only to be kicked out. I don’t see us as wedding crashers.

I bring this up because, in our Bible text for the morning, Jesus talks about an event like this worst-case scenario. It is a shocking little story that communicates a critical point. 


I will have M. H. read Matthew chapter 25, starting at verse 1 and going through verse 13. If you are able, please stand in honor of God’s Word. 

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. (Matthew 25:1–13, ESV)

Thank you. Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for your Word. It is light and life for us. We need you, Lord, to help us understand this passage. Bless us, we pray. In Jesus’s name, amen. You may be seated. 


Let us remember that Jesus was continuing to teach about his return. He said there would come a time when he would appear in the sky. His language echoed Daniel’s prophecy of the coming of the Son of Man from Daniel chapter 7, hundreds of years before. It was Passover week in Jerusalem. Jesus was outside town with his disciples teaching on the Mount of Olives. They asked him three things. They don’t quite understand what he is saying, but they do understand enough to follow him and listen. In typical fashion, he told three short stories, called parables, to answer their questions. 


Here is the structure of our thirteen verses:

  • Verse 1 is an Introduction (25:1)

  • Verses 2 through 12 is a Story of ten young ladies preparing to meet the bridegroom (25:2––12)

  • Verse 13 is the Moral of the story (25:13). 

The structure helps us see what the point is. The first verse gives us the theme: the kingdom of heaven. The overall theme of Matthew is to follow the promised king into his kingdom. Jesus is that king God promised. He came to save his people from their sins. That kingdom Jesus spoke of was a heavenly one. In the following story, he talked about ten young unmarried women meeting a groom; half were ready, and half weren’t. Half were wise, and half weren’t. Those who were ready and wise enjoyed the wedding feast, while those who weren’t were not allowed to attend. The story ends with a familiar point: be prepared. What was the point: 

Be wise not foolish by being prepared for Jesus’s unexpected return. 


Some interpretive questions we can ask to dig out the truth of the text are: 

  • What does the story tell us that Jesus had not already said? 

  • Why did he say it this way?

  • How does it fit within the context of the book? 

To answer these questions, we see that Jesus repeats what is essential. What is important is that we need to be wise and ready for his return at a time when we don’t expect it. What is unique here is this being a wedding. The details of the groom shutting out those who were not ready were also familiar to Jesus’s ongoing discussion about discipleship, the kingdom, and the coming of the Messiah. Contextually, we see that Jesus is talking about the two paths for his disciples, one of wisdom and one of foolishness that leads to heaven or hell, respectively, in light of the unknown hour of Jesus’s return and the coming judgment. He had just told them another story about two different servants: one wise and faithful, the other wicked and foolish. They faced similar blessings and curses. 


Let’s recap. It was two thousand years ago in Israel. From John’s biography of Jesus, we know that weddings can last longer than ours: it is more than a day event. It can also involve a large group and be a wine-filled community party. That doesn’t mean people were getting drunk because watered-down alcohol was a way of staying hydrated rather than impure water. In Jesus’s story in Matthew, the bridal attendants were all waiting for the groom to arrive. For whatever reason, they don’t know when that will be. They all go to sleep and wait. When he does show up, it is midnight. Some attendants don’t have enough oil in their lamps to make the trek to the wedding venue. When the groom arrived, the foolish, unprepared gals asked to share. However, if they did that, there would not be enough oil for everyone. It reminds me of the guy who always doesn’t have his wallet, so he can say he needs to borrow some money and never pay you back. Then he gets stuck that one time and no one has enough money for him to help him out. These ladies were leeches and fools. They were not ready for the groom to take as long as he did. In the last story, the servants figured that the master would take longer, so they beat the other servants. They were bullies and neglected their duties. And they, too, were surprised at the timing. The boss caught them misbehaving. How did the ladies who had oil respond to the requests of those who didn’t have enough? “You can buy your oil.” (Which is interesting to me because it was midnight. What store is open at midnight?) The group splits up. One takes the hint and goes to get oil. While they are gone, the groom arrives, and they proceed to the party. When the five tardy ladies arrive, they ask the groom to open the door and let them in. They get his title right: “Lord.” Yet, the groom won’t let them in, saying he doesn’t know them. Jesus meant for this story to accentuate his point in verse 13: “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13, ESV). 

Be wise not foolish by being prepared for Jesus’s unexpected return.


Jesus said that when he comes back, it will be unexpected, like a thief in the night. People will go about their business, like in our story, sleeping, and he will return. Jesus is the groom, Messiah, the Christ, the Son of Man, the Lord. He was the Son of Abraham and David, coming king and savior. We must be prepared for his unexpected return. 


Interestingly, this verse uses the verb “Watch”. The five virgins who were asleep were not watching while they were sleeping. Why did Jesus draw that conclusion? What does it mean to watch? It is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 24:42 and 43 as “Stay awake”: 

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. (Matthew 24:42–43, ESV)

What does watching mean? Does Jesus want us to drink tons of coffee and Celsius, never to sleep? Is the gospel only for insomniacs? No! He wants us to be spiritually alert. The wise women slept. The words he uses repeatedly in this section of Scripture are wise and foolish. How we live reflects the measure of our wisdom and foolishness; it is not about passing a standardized test. 


That raises another question: what does wisdom look like? How can we live in wisdom? One way to answer that is through context. Right before this story is the story of a wise servant and something else; what was it? [Faithful] He or she did what God had called him or her to do. To be wise is to pay attention to Jesus’s words. 


I went on vacation this week up north with my family. We stayed in the rustic cabin for part of it. I saw my kids wandering off and wondered, “Why are they exploring?” There were flies, ticks, and poison ivy in all directions. What if they got lost? Then, we headed to our cabin, only to realize I was wrong. They were going to the bathroom. They were on the path; I was the disoriented one. I think Jesus shared this story because we can sometimes be foolish and disoriented. We can lose our way if we are not careful. The Bible tells us that we are all sinful; no one is perfect, holy, and righteous except Jesus. We stray like silly farm animals. 

  • We start clicking in curiosity and then are sucked into a waste of time online. 

  • We can be talking about what is going on with us and start complaining and gossiping about others. 

  • We can be so focused on what others did wrong that we forget how the Lord has helped us grow to maturity. We are all works in progress. 

Not only will our sinful flesh divert us from the good life God would have us enjoy, but the world distracts us, too. 

  • The world will market us a false bill of goods through things like materialism, “Buy this new car, and you will be happy. You must not be happy without our new thing, experience, or taste.” 

  • It will try to control us through fear. 

  • The world will lie to us about our origins, saying, “God is fiction for the weak and simple. Everything is random and accidental. That is the scientific explanation. Smart people think this way.” Yet, really? Why? Such “Scientific reasoning” also demands faith and ignores the brilliant minds of Boyle, Newton, Carver, Kepler, and Galileo, Nightingale.  

If the world and flesh are not bad enough, the Devil and his fallen angels are active. They would love nothing better than to destroy our faith and lead us away from God. Jesus gives us this little story to call us to: 

Be wise not foolish by being prepared for his unexpected return.

Three things: 

How? How can we be wise and not foolish? How can we be prepared for Jesus’s return? It might be some time from now. What does it look like to have enough oil in our lamps? I think two aspects of this story can help us stay on the path of wisdom and avoid foolishness: the results. Taking time to meditate on the results of our actions can help us stay alert. 


This week, I went canoeing. My job was at the back. And when you canoe, you can paddle in such a way that you help steer the ship. If you are not paying attention, you will go in circles. You have to keep looking at the end and making adjustments. In the same way, the story gives us two trajectories to help us stay on the path of wisdom. What are they? 

  1. The wedding feast, 

  2. And the exclusion, 


The Bible describes history marching in a direction. The parade won’t go around in a circle. When it stops, there will be a party for some. You want to be there. I remember talking to someone who didn’t want to come to Christ because this person wanted to enjoy the life of the party. This person was wrong. Jesus invites us to the best party, a heavenly wedding feast. The world’s alternative is rotten. The culmination of time and heavenly kingdom is going to be tremendous. You won’t want to miss it. 


Why will it be great? Jesus described it to a thief on the cross as he was dying as “Paradise.” Paul wrote to the Philippian church that to be there with Christ was “far better” than this life. Peter discussed an inheritance that won’t perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us who believe. John wrote extensively about a vision he had of heaven. Let me read a bit of his vision for you: 

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son…. 

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 21:2–7; 21:22–22:5, ESV)

Doesn’t that sound incredible? 

  • Think of the worst pain you have felt, never to happen again. 

  • Think of the most horrible hurt you fear will never exist again. 

  • Think of all your sorrow and death you have experienced bottled up and never to have to endure ever again. 

  • Now think of the best meal ever; this will be far better. 

  • Think of the best gift and job you have ever had; this will be much better. 

  • Think of life’s most satisfying, euphoric, blissful moments; multiply them by a billion, and you will only begin to touch the conscious eternal reality ahead of all who trust Jesus as Lord. 

Who wouldn’t want that? Capturing this reality can help you stay alert. Meditate on heaven. Paul tells us to look not to things that are seen but unseen, fixing our gaze on this future reality. We can allow that spiritual future to propel us to love God and others when it is not easy. It can help us choose a path of wisdom when everyone around us is acting foolish. \

  1. What might it look like for you to meditate on heavenly feast this week? 


The second thing we can do as a response to this passage is to recognize that not everyone will experience this bliss. The groom said such to half the attendants. Why did he say that? Jesus pointed out that the foolish attendants were not ready for the groom to come. Also, the unprepared attendants paralleled the wicked servants in the previous verses. What did the wicked servants do when the master was away? They did whatever they wanted. 


You know the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will … ” you heard that before. What does it mean? People on the night shift are not known for going above and beyond. The same is true about kids. When your parents leave the house, the tendency is not to go above and beyond with your chores and duties. Students don’t typically go the extra mile when teachers don’t care. Athletes may not do the workout at all when the coach is off for the day. Yet, God sees all. He knows everything. In Jesus’s first story, the master returned and punished the wicked servants. They went to be off with those weeping and gnashing of teeth. In our story, he uninvites them and says he doesn’t know who they are. That seems less painful. But that would be to miss how great the party will be, there is loss. 


What do they say to appeal to enter the party? They say, “Lord, Lord”. Where have we heard that before? Let’s look at the broader context. We see in Jesus’s first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. 

Matthew CHAPTER 7

Jump to Matthew chapter 7, verse 21. 

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” 

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:21–27, ESV)

The wise listen to Jesus and follow him. 

  1. What might it look like for you to meditate on heavenly celebration for you this week? 

  2. How might you listen to Jesus and obey him this week? 

Or are you trying to live your best life now, your way, not God’s? Just being religious is not the answer. Being spiritual doesn’t get you into the party. All religions don’t lead to Jesus. Christ said in John 14:6 that he is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) apart from him. The reality is some people won’t get in. Don’t be fooled. Listen and obey Jesus. 


What does he want from us? If we go back to Matthew 7, he wants us to listen to him. He invites us into a humble dependence on him and follows his way of love. In chapter 11, he taught: 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30, ESV)

Let us be a people who embrace his love and way of love as we wait for his return, no matter how long it takes. In our day, to prepare for a wedding, let us recalibrate how we are living with the end in sight. Are we headed in the right direction? Are we preparing for eternity with Jesus or not? Those who invest money in mutual funds and IRAs love the power of compound interest. A little investment over a long time equals a lot. The same is true exponentially with God. We can invest in God and his ways and store treasure in heaven. We can seek the Lord by reading his Word, praying, and serving others. We can embrace God’s loving others and him. Here is one last question to consider as we conclude: 

  1. What might it look like for you to meditate on heavenly celebration for you this week? 

  2. How might you listen to Jesus and obey him this week? 

  3. How can we turn from a foolish shortsighted life to pursue God this week? 

Growing up, I had the nagging fear that if Jesus came back when I was sinning, my salvation would be in jeopardy. He was like Santa Claus, “You better watch out,” and “He knows if you have been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” I wanted to confess my sin and get as right as possible. The danger with such thoughts is a misunderstanding of the extent of sin and the holiness of God. Our sin is worse than we think, and God is holier than we can imagine. He is like the sun. We can’t look at him with our naked eye and not go blind. The radiance of his perfection would melt us like ice on a blacktop in August. But the gospel is that he forgives us of our sins that we are unaware of. Yes, we should turn from sin. We should be prepared. But don’t confuse this story as a threat. It is an invitation to walk in grace before it is too late. If you know you have been foolish, turn from that foolishness and join us on a journey with God to his heavenly kingdom feast. It is going to be outstanding and well worth it.

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