Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What is it about the Word of God that causes eyelids to grow heavy? What is it about the Word of God that causes hearers to lose interest? Why is it so easy to wake up before dawn even considers dawning for a hunting or fishing trip, yet it’s so hard to keep the eyes open on Sunday morning? The Lord tells us to be ready and watching for Him, but it’s a near-impossible task. Even the bridesmaids can’t keep their eyes open. But the Bridegroom is coming! Jesus is returning soon! The difference between the wise virgins and the foolish ones isn’t that the foolish ones fell asleep and the wise ones stayed awake. It’s that the wise ones had oil for their lamps.
So then, what is this all-important oil? What is it you need to be ready when the Bridegroom comes? The oil is the Holy Spirit, the Word, faith in Jesus. In the Bible oil was not only used for lamps. Oil was also used to anoint people as God’s chosen ones. Oil was made from olives which were pressed and crushed. Think of our Lord on the cross, crushed by our sins, pressed under the weight of God’s wrath and judgment, squeezed by our sins until there was no life left in Him, until the water and blood of the holy sacraments poured out of Him.
That oil is given to us by the Holy Spirit who fills up our lamps in Holy Baptism and every time we eat and drink Christ’s Body and Blood. Oil is poured for our lamps as we hear God’s Word and the preaching of the Gospel. The thing about the oil is that it is the Bridegroom Himself who has prepared us for His return by giving us the oil! We don’t even have to go get it. He gives it to us. The Bridegroom Himself makes us ready to receive Him when He comes on the last day. Even if you fall asleep, that is, even when you die, the oil makes you ready for the day the trumpet sounds and Christ returns in all His glory. My brothers and sisters in Christ, you are ready. You have water and Word, body and blood. When the Bridegroom comes, you are ready to go!
So what about those foolish virgins? They aren’t ready. They don’t have oil. They thought they didn’t have to go and hear God’s Word. They didn’t need to come and eat and drink Christ’s body and blood. They didn’t have to learn the Scriptures and have Christ fill their vessels with oil. In this life they despised the Word and Baptism and the Supper. They figured that when Jesus comes back, they’d be in just because they had good intentions or they were nice people or they lived good lives. But they had no oil—no faith, no Word, no Holy Spirit. On the Last Day they’ll be running around trying to get some oil, but there won’t be any more. When the Lord comes on that Last Day, there will be no more time for preaching and hearing God’s Word. And the foolish ones will beat on the door of the wedding hall and be told, “I don’t know who you are!” The door is shut, and all they can do is weep and wail to be in the dark without the light of Christ.
But you, dear pure and wise virgins, you are ready. Your oil is stocked up because you are stocked up with Jesus: with His Word, with forgiveness, with your Baptism, with His body and blood. Our Lord is coming, and He will be here soon! But you’re ready. You’re ready because the Bridegroom has made you ready and wise. Your eyes may close during a sermon here and there, and you may close your eyes in death for a time. But when the Lord arrives, that shout is going to wake you up! You’re going to be full of joy and gladness that Christ has come for you. He will gather you up and bring you to His eternal wedding feast. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.