Bible Text: Matthew 25:1-13 | Preacher: Pastor Christian Preus | Series: Trinity 2023 | Christians in the early church, immediately after the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, expected His return daily. Already in the second generation, people began doubting that he would return because it had been so long. And the enemies of Christianity starting mocking – where is he? It’s been 30 years, Peter, where is your Savior now? St. Paul in his early letters is still assuming Jesus will come in his own lifetime, so he speaks in the first person when talking about Jesus’ return, he says, “and we who are still alive will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord;” but by the end St. Paul is instead expecting to die before the Lord comes. And so the Bible ends with the prayer, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. This is the expectation of the church, and as the delay grows longer, the temptation to doubt becomes stronger. The delay is Jesus’ greatest test of His Christians and it is this delay that gets every single one of us. That’s what Jesus says. All ten virgins fall asleep, the foolish ones and the wise ones. They grow tired waiting for Jesus to come. That will happen to each of us.
What marks the foolish is not that they grow weary, but that they stop preparing for Jesus’ return. They have no oil, they simply don’t think it’s going to happen. And they don’t want it to happen either. But the wise never stop preparing. And they never stop wanting to see the face of their Lord. They grow weary. They sin, they get depressed, they get overwhelmed, they start doubting, they fall asleep, but their great hope through it all is that they will hear the sound of the trumpet and they will see the Bridegroom. Because the Lord is the answer to their weariness, to their sin and their pain and their doubting and their fears.
That He has not returned is the fuel for mockers and the test for the faithful. The mockers have always mocked and Jesus has always won. This is the story of the New Testament and it is the story of the Holy Christian Church. Jesus told them, Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up. They knew what He meant. They put Him to death and they were terrified that He would rise again. They put a guard at His tomb. And He rose from the dead and He established His Church and His Church spread through all nations as He said it would. They persecuted her, they killed the Church’s confessors and pastors and people and the Church simply wouldn’t die. It continues to this day to fulfill Jesus’ word, that the gates of hell will not prevail against her.
But Jesus tells His parables not simply to assure of the reality, that Jesus is coming back, but also to spur us on to look forward to it, to be convinced that this is what we want above everything. This is what the oil is that marks the wise virgins. It is not first of all their knowledge that He will come. It is first of all their wanting him to come, their conviction that nothing could be greater than finally seeing the Lord Jesus face to face. And this conviction exists only in those who look for their Lord to come to them here in His Church. You look for His coming on the last day, because you look for His coming now in this place. That’s the oil. You expect to hear from Him here the forgiveness of your sins, and so you look forward to Him finally removing all sin from you on the last day. You look forward to receiving His body and blood here, and so you expect to be like Him when you see Him as He is, to have no corruption or decay, not only to be but to feel in every fiber in your being that you are a child of God. The child looks forward to Christmas morning because he knows his parents’ generosity day to day. We look forward to the dawn of the last day, because we know our Lord’s grace Sunday after Sunday.
You see the same thing with the second parable. Those who have actually done something with their talents can’t wait to see their lord. He comes back and they’re excited. They’re eager to show him the increase, can’t wait to hear his happy and approving voice. They’re like kids who are waiting at the window for dad to come home so they can tell him what they did that day. They will literally wait by the window, press their little noses against the glass, run outside when the car pulls up. Why? It’s not even in the realm of possibilities in their little minds that dad is going to be in a bad mood, that he’s going to push them away, that he doesn’t want to hear their silly little stories or see their happy smiles. They expect only good things. And so it is with the Christian. This is why Jesus tells us to become like little children. To expect nothing but good from our Lord.
Jane Austen talks about this in one of her novels, where the older sister is coming home totally unexpectedly, no letter to announce it, she’s been gone for months, so that no one could possibly be expecting her, except the 4 year old, who thinks that every carriage that ever comes by their house must be carrying his sister. This should be us. Every thunderstorm, every war that breaks out, every claim that the world is going to warm up and we’re all going to die, should make us think in beautiful naïve expectation that our Lord is coming. And one day, we’ll be right, and the thunder will sound and the trumpet blast and we will look up and there will be our Savior.
The struggle is again that it hasn’t happened and our lives are occupied with other things than hearing God’s Word and receiving our Lord’s body and blood. We’re not monks. We’re not nuns. God has given us stuff to do. Given us talents to use. We don’t just stay here at church, we go home and there are bills to pay and there’s laundry to do and meals to make and groceries to buy and a job to go to and sick kids or naughty kids or an insensitive husband or an anxious wife, or a lonely mother or an incompetent boss, not to mention our own sin and lust and bad health. And there, where we have to do these things and deal with these problems, there is the temptation to forget the great expectation of our lives, relegate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to an irrelevance. And this is where the devil hits so hard. Because he makes reality, the coming of the Lord, seem so unreal, so far from mattering to your daily life, because you have so many other concerns.
This is why Jesus tells the parable of the talents. It’s not to say you’d better use the talents God gave you or Jesus will throw you into hell. No, it’s to say that it’s Christ who gives you all the things to do in your daily life. The same Jesus who will return, He is the one who gives you your talents. Your job isn’t disconnected from Jesus’ return. Your meal isn’t either. Raising your kids, how you treat your mother, your father, your wife, your husband, your siblings, everything you do as a Christian is given you to do by the same Lord Jesus who will return.
That sniveling coward who buried his talent in the ground is terrified of his lord’s return. Why? Because he lives his entire life wanting to avoid even the thought of it. This is how fake Christians live life. As if their life has nothing to do with the fact that they receive Jesus’ body and blood here in His Church and will one day bow the knee before Him on the Day of Judgment. This is what Jesus says, “If you knew I was a harsh man, then why didn’t you at least put the money in the bank so I’d get interest?” Why didn’t you at least pretend that you thought I was coming back? It’s because you never thought I’d return. It’s because you’d rather spend your life pretending that I don’t exist. Those are the ones who are cast out into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But what if, pastor, I haven’t used my talents well? What if I have squandered my time watching TV and playing on my phone for eight hours a day? What if I go days without praying, without even thinking of God or my sin or the fact that Jesus will return? Then repent. This is why Jesus gives you these parables, to wake you up. Repent. Don’t live life that way. Don’t waste it away as if it’s just about making money and living comfortably and pleasing yourself until you die. Don’t go a day without thinking of the God who made you and the Savior who is returning for you. That’s just depressing. Confess your sin and hear Jesus forgive the sins for which He bled and died, and then live a life of purpose. Remember your Baptism, that God called you His child, welcomed you into His family, gave you a life to live that has a very specific goal, and that is to see your Savior face to face. And then you will see how beautiful a thing it is to use your talents, however little they may be, use them in thanks to the God who gave them and who will return to take you to be with Him forever.
When Jesus does return, He will not say, Come you who have never sinned, come you who did everything perfectly, come you who never failed, come you who have always used your talents well. He will say, Come you blessed of my Father. The blessing of the Father is that He loves you so much that He sent His Son to live for you and pay by His suffering and the shedding of His blood to wash you clean of all your sin. The blessing of the Father is that He baptized you and calls you by His name and gives you Christ as your perfect righteousness. The blessing of the Father is that He gives you the feast of your Savior’s body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. The blessing of the Father is that He showers you with talents, some more, some less, and gives you a life of purpose to live, looking forward always to the sight of your Savior on the Last and blessed Day. The blessing of your Father is the life you now live as Christians, listening to the Word of Jesus, and so looking forward with hope that will not disappoint to seeing the Son of God face to face. And so through all your busy life, in all you do and say and think, pray from the heart, “Come, Lord Jesus, Yes, come quickly.” Amen.