Last Sunday of the Church Year: Wake Awake, for Night is Flying (St. Matthew 25:1-13)

Wise & Foolish Virgins (The bridegroom turns the five foolish virgins away as the five wise virgins are seen in the house. Illustration by Pierre Eskrich (ca. 1550-ca. 1590).)

The Bridegroom soon will call us, “Come to the wedding feast.” May slumber not befall us nor watchfulness decrease (LSB 514, st. 1). Ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom, but only five got in to His wedding feast. The other five missed out because they fell asleep and found themselves unprepared when the bridegroom came.

Have you ever overslept and missed something important? I just did this last week. Last Sunday I was up until way too late working on my sermon, went to bed at 6am on Sunday morning, and didn’t wake up when the alarm went off at 7. Sure enough, I woke up at 8:05, five minutes after I was supposed to be teaching Bible study.

Thanks be to God that I live just next door and can get ready in less than 5 minutes! I’ve never done this before and I hope to never do it again. The class was merciful to me, and I thank God for that! Not only did they wait around for me, they didn’t lock me out when I showed up, either. To oversleep and miss something important is a terrible feeling.

Have you ever overslept and missed something important? It’s no fun. If something like being ten minutes late to teach Bible class feels awful, how much more terrible would it be to miss out on the Lamb’s eternal wedding feast? The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thess 5:2). Wake, awake, for night is flying! With bridal care yourselves prepare to meet the bridegroom who is near (LSB 516, st. 1)!

And indeed, He is near. At the end of the Bible our Lord promises, Surely I am coming soon (Revelation 22:20). We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. But it’s hard to look for something when you’re sleeping. Certainly it wasn’t the intention of the foolish to fall asleep, they just couldn’t help themselves. When they woke up, they had to scramble to find oil for their lamps, and while they were out shopping, the bridegroom returned. Had they remained vigilant and been prepared, they would not have missed out on the feast.

In the medical field, narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that, among other things, can cause excessive sleepiness. We might say these virgins had a form of spiritual narcolepsy. The disciples had the same problem. Remember Gethsemane? There’s Jesus, suffering terribly. If there were ever a time for the disciples to remain vigilant, this was it. But instead, when Jesus returned, what did He find His disciples doing but sleeping? And He said to Peter, So, could you not watch with me one hour (Matt 26:40)? Wake awake, for night is flying!

It’s not for no reason that the hymn uses the term night to describe this life. St. Paul describes those who aren’t prepared as those who dwell in darkness (1 Thess 5:4).  God overcame the darkness on the first day of creation. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light (Genesis 1:3). Physical light is necessary for life to exist. How much more, then, we do need the light of the Gospel to sustain our lives in Christ? For without the Light of the World (John 8:12), Satan would lull you into deep spiritual slumber and overcome you with darkness.

But You are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief (1 Thess 5:4). Left to your own devices, you would fall asleep every time, just like the ten virgins, and just like the disciples in Gethsemane. Though we don’t deserve it, the Lord graciously makes His Word and Sacrament available week after week, and yet many don’t even bother to show up on Sunday morning. For many who do show up, getting out of the bed on a Sunday morning can be one of the biggest challenges of the week. Which of us wouldn’t rather be sleeping in on a Sunday morning after a long, hard week?  Wake awake, for night is flying!

You lack the ability to keep yourself awake. To remain vigilant and ready for Jesus’ return is an ability that is utterly lacking in the sinful flesh. It is not by your own reason or strength that you stay awake. Graciously, your Lord brings you the antidote for your spiritual narcolepsy.

In Holy Baptism, He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). His Word rings out: So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober (1 Thess 5:6). His Word awakens faith in your heart, and it assures you that despite your spiritual drowsiness, you are indeed a child of the light, a child of the day (1 Thess 5:6).

Satan would overcome you with darkness, but your Lord has stepped into the darkness in your place. He went to dark Gethsemane, but He didn’t stop there. This Lamb descended to the depths of darkness, all the way to crucifixion. And He went uncomplaining forth, the darkness of your sin bearing. What wondrous love! The One who made the light, who is the Light of the World, stepped into the darkness for you and emerged victorious on the Third Day.

So fear not- Jesus is the Light of the World, the Light of your life. The Risen One brings His grace to you, kindling the fire of faith in your heart that you might be found ready at His returning. So wake, awake! Rise from your gloom! Come, the Table is set and the feast is ready! Enter all the wedding hall to eat the Supper at His call!

Soli Deo Gloria

+ Rev. Eric Andersen
St. Matthew 25:1-13
Last Sunday of the Church Year, 2013

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