The Groom has Wedding Party Instructions.
When it comes to milestone excitements in this life on earth, one of the most exciting is the breaking news that your friends are engaged. When this happens, it’s easy to be excited for your friends…but it can get even more exciting than this. Have you ever gotten to experience the excitement and sentimental honor of being asked to be stand in the wedding party by your bride or groom friend? Such an experience really amps up the excitement and keeps it going as the wedding gets closer and closer!
Now, when it comes to being in a wedding party, perhaps apart from the maid/matron of honor position and the exception of super involved weddings, there usually isn’t a whole lot expected of you. Being a bride’s maid, what’s expected of you is simple in comparison to what the couple must do to prepare. And being a groomsman, it’s even simpler. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting fitted for your outfit, going to the bachelor/bachelorette party, and standing/sitting in the right place at the right time during the rehearsal and the wedding day itself.
Wedding Party instructions are simple! You get asked and you show up. Now, despite the simplicity of wedding party instructions, what if you don’t show up? I don’t mean the fitting; you can make that up on your own time. I don’t mean the bachelor/ bachelorette party. I mean the real deal: not showing up to the ceremony. The bride is walking up the aisle and you’re not there…Now there may be a good reason, but in this case there isn’t. In this case it was a foolish waste of time and resources on your part, like something as foolish as you’re at a restaurant and you’re low on gas in your car, something within your control. How do you think the bride and groom will react to that? Perhaps comments might be made along the lines of, “Really, I thought you were my friend!”
And so, viewing the grim circumstances of being absent from the wedding, we see that wedding party instructions are typically simple, but there are awful and well-deserved consequences if they aren’t followed. I bring this up because, brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ve been asked to be in a wedding party! It’s exciting news, and it gets more and more exciting as the day gets closer. This is the wedding between Christ, the bridegroom, and His Church, the bride. This wedding day is the day the two will be united in eternal bliss in Heaven. We, part of the wedding party, if you will, are blessed by Christ to be asked to be a part of this. We have been called by His saving Word! We have been given saving faith in Him that we may be a part of this wonderful, eternal wedding day in Heaven. You’ve been asked! You’ve been invited! You have been called by God’s grace alone to be saved! You have been given saving faith in Christ that you may be taken to Heaven at the end of days.
And now, what is your wedding party instruction? You’ve been asked, you’ve been added to the party…and simply put, Christ will lead us to show up.
In examining our wedding party instructions further, Christ lays out the details of His wedding party instructions in our parable from Matthew’s Gospel. Let’s first break down the context of Christ’s lesson here in Matthew to study these instructions. After spending much time talking to the twelve disciples about the end times, Jesus sets up the scene of warning for the Christian as regarding these end times. He likens the period of the end times to ten virgins, and for a modern context, think bridesmaids to the church-bride. These ten virgins take their lamps to go meet the bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Jesus, for the sake of convenience, uses the number ten and then cuts it in half to demonstrate what the kingdom of Heaven is like. He calls some foolish and some wise, the difference was that the foolish took their lamps with no extra oil while the wise had extra oil with them.
So, what’s Christ’s point? When preparing for the wedding, you want to be ready. Don’t be foolish, lest you’re caught unprepared in the darkness and miss the ceremony. Don’t be caught with not enough oil when you need it most. The oil in the parable represents faith. It is foolish to go through life thinking that the current supply of faith you have is enough. One must have “extra.” In other words, go through life in the Word that your faith may be strengthened and sustained. Don’t get confirmed and think it is enough. Don’t stop going to church and think it is “enough.” Keep going so that your flask may be always filled, ready for Christ’s return to earth in judgement.
And so, Jesus goes on with His lesson. He says that the bridegroom was delayed, meaning that Jesus Christ has put off His return to earth all the way up till now, and who knows how long it may be before He returns. During this time the virgins, both wise and foolish, slumbered, meaning whether one has weak or strong faith, Christian’s inevitably let their guard down when it comes to watching for the Savior’s return. I’m sure we all did it before church today! With the weakness of our flesh, we often fail to stay awake. Eventually, though many strong or weak will be sleeping, the day of Judgement will come. Christ will return. It will be time to wake up and meet Him. Where will we be at with our lamp’s oil reserves at that point?
And so, here is the difference maker on the day of judgment. When the bridegroom comes, the fools don’t have enough oil. This does not mean that one needs a certain level of faith to get into Heaven. The interpretation is rather that the foolish virgins did not maintain their faith in life, they have lost their faith at some point in their foolish life, and now they are paying the eternal consequence. They try to ask the wise for faith, but the wise cannot give them their faith. No one can put their own faith into someone’s heart. No one can use their own faith to save another. The wise are not being rude here. They are simply being pragmatic. They point them to where they can get faith, but it is already too late. And the foolish virgins, upon seeing the bridegroom while having the oil too late, will say, “Lord, Lord, let us in.” In other words, Jesus, we have the faith now. I didn’t think you would come, let alone that you were really the Savior from our sin, but Come on, we’re good, right?” But like a bridegroom and bride, slighted by the bridesmaids showing up mid-reception rather than the ceremony, they are furious! “I don’t know you.” Or think of it this way, “I thought I knew you. I thought you were my friend. But now I say I don’t know you. You can’t come in.”
And so, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is an obvious warning that we should always and often be in the Word and receiving the sacraments that we don’t lose our faith before Christ returns. And perhaps you truly do have a good perspective on your own faith life! Praise be to God!...but what about your neighbors and love ones? Are they wise or foolish? Brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t point the foolish to faith when it is too late. Point them to the “seller” now! When Jesus comes, we may be ready, but will they be? Imagine the bride walking up the aisle of the church. Everyone is standing, canon in D or Jesu joy of man’s desiring is playing, and the groomsman notices one of the other groomsmen is missing. He pulls out his phone while the bride and her father are mid aisle and texts, “where are you? Come on!” That would be ridiculous. It will be too late by then. So it is with our neighbors. Now’s the time to reach out and point them to the word of God for salvation. Now is the time to tell them to get oil!
Christ than exhorts us in His wedding party instructions to us to watch. We don’t know when He is coming! Stay awake when you can, and ultimately make sure that your flask is full and ready. Stay in His Word and Sacraments, look to His cross and empty grave! Look to the places where faith is strengthened so that even if you do fall asleep in your Judgment Day attention span, you will have the faith to be ready when awakened by Christ’s return.
But that’s a lot of instructions! That’s a tall order for wedding instructions! Right now, you might be worrying: “where’s my oil level at? Have I been going to church enough? What about my neighbors? Have I told them soon enough? What if He comes tomorrow or today? What if He says, “I never knew you?”
Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps it will benefit us to take a breather. Like wondering if our suit or dress will get shipped in time or like worrying that our car will break down on the way to the wedding, so we may be worrying about being ready for Christ’s return. But here’s some wedding advice I received, “stop worrying about the details for a moment and enjoy the special day.” This advice is also given in our wedding party instructions. We are charged to enjoy the special day! What is this special day again? It’s an exciting wedding day! And so, with this exciting wedding day in our mind’s anticipation, let us be reminded that God chose and invited us to be His wedding guests, and He did this through the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus Christ. So, let’s focus on that for a minute. Christ Jesus wanted you in this wedding party, and it wasn’t like you were a good friend that deserved it. No, we were awful friends that should never have been considered for such a privilege…but Christ wanted us there. He went to earth live a perfect life, die an innocent death, and rise from the dead all so that He can send out the wonderful engagement news! Christ loved His bride, the Church, and gave Himself for Her. He gave Himself into death so that this wedding day would come. And having done this, He has invited you to the wedding and has given you the oil of faith to trust in Him and find Him as your salvation when the wedding day comes. Through Jesus Christ, we are invited to join Him in the halls of heaven in order to celebrate the victory of Christ over death and hell, and join the Church triumphant, that is our fellow believers in the promised salvation given in Christ. We are to be guests of the greatest wedding of all time, then! We are to be guests in God’s eternal bliss because of the calling and inviting done through the Holy Spirit. We are to be guests because Jesus has reconciled us to God. And so, do you ever have doubts? Do you ever think of all the horrible things that you have done? Do you fear that the oil of your faith won’t last in time? Let’s re-open Christ’s wedding invitation letter together and read what it says, “Come to me all you who are weak and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” His eternal love called you and me into the saving faith of Christ. We now through faith possess the forgiveness of sins. Those worries can be cast aside, for we can be certain that God will see us through to the pearly gates of His gracious wedding banquet, that is heaven. In his invitation given by the Holy Spirit to you and me, we have been brought to salvation and will praise Him forever in Heaven.
And so, we know our wedding party instructions: Christ invited us! Rejoice! We will show up by His grace. He gives us the oil of faith and makes us ready through His Gospel Word! One could then say that Christ Jesus is the most helpful groom a wedding party could have! He not only invited you as His cherished guest, but in His instructions, He says that He will come to you in His word that you may be ready to show up with the oil of faith when the wedding day comes. And as for your neighbors, pass on the groom’s wedding party instructions. Point them to the Christ’s Word so that they may have the oil of faith in time. Forward the text if you will, for it is the Groom’s Word that will prepare them!
These are then your wedding party instructions: You’re invited to a very special wedding day! Christ will ensure you show up by giving you the oil of faith in His Word! And if you or anyone else needs any help in doing that, know that the groom, Jesus Christ, will get you there in His Word, pointing you to His forgiving love found on the cross and at the empty tomb in order to trim your lamp of faith that you may find Him when He comes to take you to the wedding gates of Heaven. Amen.