Empty Oil Lamps & a Wedding Feast

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Lamp Virgin Wedding

Sunday 05/12/24

Title: Stewardship, Faithfulness & Fruitfulness

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Empty Oil Lamps & a Wedding Feast

So this is our 6th and final week of Eastertide, leading up to Pentecost

As such we are continuing with our exploration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus by seeing how we die and rise with Him!

Jesus, both before and more importantly after His resurrection focused His teaching primarily upon the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is essentially the rule and reign of Jesus in our hearts which has a direct influence and impact on how we live our lives. When we live out our initial confession that Jesus is Lord – it requires that we die to ourselves and live unto Him.

A truth which makes this possible is found in Paul’s personal testimony found in Galatians 2:20-21,

“(20) I have been crucified WITH Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (21)  I DO NOT SET ASIDE THE GRACE OF GOD; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in for nothing.”

And this agrees with the words of our Lord Jesus as well Who encouraged those who would follow Him with these words,

Luke 9:23-27, “(23) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  (24)  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  (25)  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  (26)  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.  (27)  But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.

So it is that we have turned our attention to some of the parables of Jesus, because IN THEM is taught the lessons of the Kingdom of God. By learning these things and living lives conformed to them we will honor our King and be partakers of the inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

Last week we covered the Parable of the Minas which is nearly identical to another parable – namely the Parable of the Talents. Now these parables are also known by other names like the parable of the Nobleman and such, but to help distinguish between them I used the words Minas and Talents.

I told you last week we might look at this second parable – that of the talents – but because I felt led in another direction yesterday I thought I’d simply offer a quick comparative overview between these two parables and call it done.

  • In the Parable of the Minas 1o servants were given ONE mina each.
  • In the Parable of the Talents 3 servants were given 5, 2 and 1 talents respectively.
  • In both parables the man was about to go to a far country to receive authority to rule the kingdom and so he left these servants in the land he was to rule to do business until he returned.
  • In both parables those of the city he was to rule over sent a delegation after him into that far country to petition against his right to rule them because they hated him.
  • In both parables all of the servants showed an increase from what was given except the last one.
  • These were rewarded with governing authority in his kingdom.
  • In both parables the last servant’s attention was more on himself and his inability than on the good judgment of the master who gave him the talent. He did nothing with it so that he would lose nothing. So an attribute of this last servant was that he was cowardly and lazy. 
  • In both parables what he had was taken from him and given to the one who had done the most with what he had.
  • In both parables those who had hated him and did not want him to rule over them were killed.

That is where the comparison endsIn the Parable of the Minas and the talents end.

In the Parable of the Talents the only addition was that the one servant who did not honor his Lord, was unproductive and unfruitful and thereby did not represent his master well joined those who did not want him to rule over them. He was cast into outer darkness.

So the lesson of this was that God expects us to bear fruit.

We compared this to the parable of the branches and the vine Jesus taught His disciples on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane in John 15. He said that every branch IN HIM (which would make them His servants) but who failed to produce any fruit whatsoever, was cast out.

Such is tantamount to being ashamed of Him and denying Him as we read earlier. Jesus said that those who were ashamed and who denied Him, he would also be ashamed of and deny before the Father… and the list goes on and on.

Of course the way we bear fruit is from our union with our Vine Who is Jesus. We do as Paul did and count everything loss for the sake of knowing Jesus our Lord in true intimacy. In that environment we live by faith in the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us. We are mindful of Him rather than ourselves and our own inabilities and therefore, invite Him by faith to live His righteousness in and through us.

This DOES however require effort on our part and that is where our lesson for today comes in.

Turn with me to the Parable of the 10 Virgins which just so happens to appear right before the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.

Unlike the Gospel of Luke which was written chronologically, the Gospel of Matthew is more systematic. Matthew seems to address the larger Jewish community arranging his gospel in themes. 

In this later portion of his Gospel, Matthew covers parables and teachings of Jesus which address His coming in His kingdom as well as their need to be ready for His return and reign by practicing good stewardship.

Now you need to remember that the Jewish people did not correctly understand the prophecies regarding the Messiah. They thought that He was only coming ONCE and that AT THAT TIME He was going to overthrow all earthly rule and establish His global kingdom ruling the world from Jerusalem

Most, though not all of the Jews, did not see the time of the Gentiles or the age of Grace.

So when Jesus answered questions about the kingdom and the coming of Messiah in Chapter 24, He was addressing the questions they asked. In their minds their questions represented only ONE arrival of the Messiah, when in reality, without their knowing it, they were actually asking questions about two separate times – bookending the time of the Gentiles. That is why so many people misunderstand and misinterpret Matthew 24.

As it turns out the themes of chapter 24 were the signs of the end of the age and the coming of the Son of Man in His millennial kingdom. So His teaching was regarding being ready for that event. THAT is why chapter 25 begins with the wordsThen the kingdom of heaven will be like…

So Matthew’s narrative takes a sharp turn from the morbid conditions of the Great Tribulation before the 2nd coming of Christ to the celebrated time of His future but immediate return from the grace in the Kingdom of God.

So from chapter 24 to chapter 25 we move from death to life, from separation to marriage.

Have you arrived in Matthew 25 yet?

We are going to read the entire parable first and then go back and work our way through it.

Matt. 25:1-13, HCSB “(1) Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. (2) Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. (3) When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them. (4) But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.”

“(5) Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (6) “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

(7) “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. (8) But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ (9) “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

(10) “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. (11) “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’ (12) “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’ (13) “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”

So let’s take this apart.

In the first 4 verses Jesus sets the stage for His parable. He said,

“(1) Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. (2) Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. (3) When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them. (4) But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.”

Now to avoid misunderstanding, let me just say that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven are one and the same. They are simply different wordings for the rule and reign of Christ in the hearts of mankind. Since both I and the scriptures prefer the phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ I will just use that wording as we move forward. In fact, Matthew is the ONLY place where the phrase “Kingdom of heaven” is even used and even in his gospel he also used the phrase “kingdom of God”. 

Also, when people hear “heaven” they tend to think of the place heaven which is also a problem which leads to misunderstanding. So it is just safer all around to use the words “Kingdom of God”.

So here the “kingdom of God” is NOT just talking about the people IN the kingdom but also the “ways” of the kingdom of God.

The virgins in this parable are also typically misunderstood as well. People often rightly understand the virgins as representing the Bride of Christ – but by the end of the story get confused because the virgins are NOT the ones marrying the groom. In fact, the actual BRIDE in this parable is never even mentioned!

All manner of misunderstandings are drawn from this parable but I believe a great deal of this is due to a lack of understanding Jewish culture. 

While the Bible is without a doubt a book written to and for the benefit of God’s people throughout all ages – at the time of its writing, it was a Jewish book, written to Jewish people. The most recent portions of which were written over 2,000 years ago in another language on another continent. So without informing ourselves of their culture, we are almost certain to misunderstand many things.

So I am going to explain ancient Jewish betrothals and weddings to you and in so doing, I think many statements of Jesus and Paul will make a LOT of sense! 

In Jewish society 2000 years ago, if a young man wanted to marry a woman he would go to her father’s house and present her with a betrothal contract  – which along with other details would outline the price he would pay for her (technically the price the groom’s  father would pay to her father) – and this was typically a large sum. 

Sound familiar? Who can point out to me the connections between what I just told you and our story in Christ?

  • The Father is the One Who paid the price of Jesus to purchase us
  • Jesus was the one presenting the covenant
  • The covenant is actually between the son and the Father NOT the bride.

Now… in order for the contract to be ratified, all parties involved had to accept the terms this included both fathers, the young man AND the woman to be married. 

If accepted, the young man and the woman would sign a covenant agreement called a “ketubah”. It was a promise TO MARRY. They would then drink wine as a symbolic sealing of the marriage.

Are images of a certain rabbi in an upper room with His disciples springing to anyone else’s mind? Jesus told them He would not drink it again, until He drank it new again WITH THEM in His Father’s house.

Now at this point they were betrothed which for them was much different than a modern engagement. They were not engaged with one another – they were fully and irrevocably committed to one another!

The only thing keeping them from marriage was the bride preparing herself, his return for her and their making love to consummate the marriage!

So for all intents and purposes they WERE married. The only way to annul the future union was by infidelity, death or a decision on the part of the groom’s father.

Man this is sounding WAY too familiar to me!

So after they drank the wine and signed the Ketubah, the groom would return to the house and property of his father. There he would either build a new house on his father’s land or build an addition onto the family home in preparation for his bride. 

Sounds alot like, “I go to prepare a place for you in My Father’s house and if I go, I will return to you to gather you to Myself, so that where I am, there you will be also!”

Once the work was complete, which was typically about a year and was subject to the Father of the groom’s approval, he would be given permission to go and get his bride.

So far all that I have describes is the back story for Jesus’ parable which every Jewish person within the sound of His voice already knew.

Can you see how studying to show yourself approved, in order to correctly understand the word of truth can pay off!

Now while the groom was away, the bridal friends would often stay with the bride to make ready for the groom’s arrival. This all caused a fair amount of excitement and anticipation at the prospect that he could arrive for her at any time. Nothing said it HAD to be close to a year, that was merely typical.

You see, Jewish weddings (as well as MANY weddings in the east) had this tradition. The prospective betrothed groom would go and prepare and make ready for his bride. Then, on a day of his choosing but his father’s approval, he and his friends would come to get the bride and the bridal party. Also, this nearly always happened at night. 

Everyone involved, which with a Jewish committee was nearly everyone, all would know the basic time period he would return, but not the specific hour. So it was important to be and stay ready – which as it turns out is the real point of this parable!

So next we move on to verses 5 & 6

“(5) Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (6) “In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’

Along with the groom were his friends who would herald his coming. There would be a grand procession – very much like a modern parade only smaller – running down the roads of the town with blasts of theshofar and shouts in the street. 

What was that again we will hear at Jesus’ return for us? Oh, a shofar!

So while the bride did not know the specific day or hour, she knew it would be before a year’s end (in most cases) and she would have a VERY brief head’s up by all the approaching commotion in the streets.

When brides in ancient Israel heard that their bridegroom was coming, they prepared themselves to enter a aperion. A aperionwas essentially a covered cart carried much in the same way as the ark of the covenant or royalty was carried – on the shoulders of trusted servants. 

There is a mention of an aperion or palanquin in the Song of Solomon 3:9-10,

Of the wood of Lebanon Solomon the King made himself apalanquin (aperion): He made its pillars of silver, its support of gold, its seat of purple, its interior paved with love, by the daughters of Jerusalem.

Matthew 25:7-9,

(7) “Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. (8) But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ (9) “The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

So the groom would arrive with a shout, to let them all know he was there to come get his bride.

This was the beginning of a procession back to the home of the bridegroom accompanied by musicians, singers, dancers, friends, family and bridal attendants carrying torches or lamps.

An interesting tidbit is that the bride was veiled, and the bridegroom would periodically sneak a peek under the veil in a ceremony called bedeken – it was a type of shout back to Jacob getting the wrong bride.

The job of the friends of the groom and the bride’s maids at this point was to illuminate the way to the groom’s house for the wedding celebration. This was called the huppah which was both the hometaking and the time of the consummation of the marriage,

Technically the huppah refers to both a part of the wedding ceremony and the actual bridal canopy that covers the bridal couple. It was a room built in the father of the groom’s house. 

Before entering this room the couple would do a meet-n-greet of the guests and then be led to this room or “bridal chamber” where they would be alone for seven days, the marriage would be consummated. The job of the best man was to wait outside until he heard the groom confirm that they had “done the deed” at which point the guests would begin a week-long celebration..

When they finally exited the room they entered the official wedding celebration with all the invited guests. 

This is why I would not make a good Jew, Greek or Italian. I’m a rather private individual and am not super excited about celebrations or public gatherings. I would have found this whole thing very off putting. I may have been THAT GUY who first instituted the shotgun wedding of going to the city clerk just before quietly leaving town.

Now we pick back up with our unprepared friends of the bride…

Matthew 25:10-13,

(10) “When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. (11) “Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’ (12) “But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’ (13) “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”

So whether the parable of Jesus here was rushed or whether it was intended to reveal just how lazy these friends of the bride were in that they did not arrive for a full week – I do not know – but the point is still solidly made!

Now, as for the oil and the bridesmaids…what part do they play since in reality – WE are the bride?

Well, that is where I believe this parable serves a dual meaning.

Yes we are the bride, but the wedding was not the focal point of this parable – being ready was!

The job of these bride’s maids was to illuminate the way to the Father’s house for the consummation of the wedding. These bridesmaids missed this entire event and only showed up a week later for the celebration.

To me, this points to the readiness of the Jews for their Messiah and their purpose of illuminating the way to His house (to salvation through Messiah so to speak). 

This also, can speak to us as Gentile Christians only in regard to His return for us. If we are (like the servants with the Minas or the Talents) doing our job or doing business – we will illuminate the way to oneness with Christ to our brothers and sisters first and then to the world.

The oil can symbolize the Holy Spirit in a few ways.

1 – Oil was used to consecrate people into service. The oil being the point of being set apart.

2 – The virgins could therefore be those who were ready for the Groom by the aid of the Spirit Who illuminated their path – causing them to see. Those who are bound to the law did not have any oil – they were not prepared and so missed their day of visitation.

3 – Oil was also used in the preparation of Esther for marriage as seen in Esther 2:12. She was prepared for 1 year with oils – 6 months for purification and 6 months for beautifying – which nicely fits this wedding analogy as well – though admittedly indirectly.

But whoever the bride and the bridesmaids were – the message is abundantly clear – BE READY!

And the method and means of being ready require that we hold His return in our hearts with eager anticipation.

1Thess. 5:1-11, HCSB “(1) About the times and the seasons: brothers, you do not need anything to be written to you. (2) For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. (3) When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (4) But you, brothers, are not in the dark, so that this day would overtake you like a thief. (5) For you are all sons of light and sons of the day. We’re not of the night or of darkness. (6) So then, we must not sleep, like the rest, but we must stay awake and be sober. (7) For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. (8) But since we are of the day, we must be sober and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation. (9) For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (10) who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. (11) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.”

Eph. 5:25-30, “(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,  (26)  that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,  (27)  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  (28)  So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  (29)  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  (30)  For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”

Rev. 19:6-9, “(6) And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!  (7)  Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”  (8)  And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  (9)  Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

1Jn 3:1-3, HCSB “(1) Look at how great a love the Father has given us, that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. (2) Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is. (3) And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.”

If we do this we will be the pure and spotless bride He has very clearly said He is returning for!

Blessings!

Tri

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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