When driving, if you see a sign that informs you that the exit you need is in one mile—or, if you hear, “In one mile, turn right,” what does that mean?
It means slow down, right? Your turn’s coming up.
But on my way to an appointment with the eye doctor, I heard, “In one mile, turn right.” And what did I do?
I heard the announcement. I wanted to listen.
I wanted to do as I knew I should.
But—when the cry went up, “Turn right,” it was too late. Like so many, I had received the warning, but I did not heed it with care. I was distracted from the way.
In a car, this is no big deal. You slow down, turn around, and make the correct turn. Or—you can do what I did and slam on your breaks and make the turn at the last possible moment.
If you never want to ride with me—I’ll understand.
But the point is, we see and hear the warning—we want to heed it—and we get distracted.
I’m not talking about you missing the exit on the way to the doctor, the restaurant, or the shop.
I’m talking about the doctors and nurses, the business owners and employees, and the consumers who are on the Way but may miss the Exit.
Or, to say it this way: live as though you believe Jesus who says, “Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12).
In a car, when someone tells you the turn is coming, you drive very strangely: you sit forward, open you eyes, turn the radio down (all the better to see with), and look back and forth.
Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish, and five wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13).
Are you ready to meet Jesus?
Because the hour is coming.
The bridegroom is on His way.
We know he’s on his way.
We don’t know when exactly He’ll arrive.
We simply have to be ready. Prepared.
And all of them fall asleep.
Preparedness is not perfection but faithfulness.
It is enough that they are awoken and alerted by a cry.
But after the cry—it’s too late.
Are you familiar with the phrase “it’s all over but the shoutin’”?
I knew the phrase growing up—and I discovered it again in one of my favorite Southern authors. It means the conclusion is known—but mom and dad or whoever just have to shout about it.
Today, I mean that when the cry goes up, it’s no longer possible to prepare. Now, the only thing that’s left is the “shoutin’”—the wedding feast, the shut door, and the judgment.
Because it’s impossible to share oil.
It’s impossible for your faith to win another to Christ.
Don’t make the mistake of comparing this parable to the golden rule, thinking that the wise should have shared with the foolish.
But this parable isn’t a comparison to the golden rule, it’s an allegory for end time equipment.
It’s not that the wise should share with the foolish; but that the foolish should not be so.
The weaker brother argument doesn’t work here.
What separates wise from foolish is hearing and heeding the warning to be ready for the bridegroom.
“For those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (cf. Matthew 25:10).
The wise enter in, the foolish are left without, and the door is shut in such a way and by such a one that it is not reopened.
When the cry went up, it was all over but the shoutin’.
And the shoutin’ is what Jesus says to the foolish who know the right words but apart from and without faith that trusted them: ”’Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you’” (Matthew 25:11-12).
He doesn’t say, “I didn’t know you” or “I didn’t want to know you.” He doesn’t say, “I never knew you” or “Never wanted to.”
They were included. They heard. They knew.
But they did not prepare. They were not ready.
So many parables seem to contrast obvious differences: sheep and goat. Lost and found. Good soil and bad. But here—the contrast isn’t in appearances.
They all look like church-going Christians.
They’re all virgins, that is, they know the Bridegroom.
The Word of God is the lamp for their feet (Psalm 119:105).
They’re in the right place at the right time—initially.
You can’t always look around and tell, because you can’t look around and see the heart that God will judge.
Jesus says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
Because when the cry goes up, it’s all over but the shoutin’.
The difference between wise and foolish, the oil necessary for the watch, is faith that submits to Christ:
Vigilance, not a passive watching and waiting, but active and responsible service.
I don’t mean good works get you to heaven.
I mean faith is active in love.
The faithful and wise servants who hear God’s Word and do it need not worry about when Jesus returns.
But we learn in this parable that the required oil, the faith necessary for salvation, can’t be purchased or borrowed or stolen.
God gives it freely in the proclamation of His Word, but there is an end to His patience.
God gives the faith required for salvation freely.
What Jesus earned on the Cross—forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation—God gives to us by means.
But there is an end to His patience.
He commands that we be ready, because He is coming soon.
He commands that we watch. That our faith be active in love, sharing with others what we have first received.
Because when the cry goes up, it’s all over but the shoutin’.
Your exit is coming.
No U-Turns. No round-the-blocks or “I’ll just take the next one.”
“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
And I’ll add this—and this is glorious.
Though judgment and the finality of the End can weigh heavily on us and sometimes seem like a drag, this is how the greatest hymn ever written has us sing it:
“Zion hears the watchmen singing, / And all her heart with joy is springing; / She wakes, she rises from her gloom.”
The church hears her pastor’s call for repentance and faith, and her heart, with joy, wakes from the gloom of sinful complacency and repents.
Of course she repents! She knows what’s coming.
“For her Lord comes down all-glorious, / The strong in grace, in truth victorious; / Her star is ris’n, her light is come.”
Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:12).
“Now come, Thou Blessèd One, / Lord Jesus, God’s own Son, / Hail! Hosanna! / We enter all / The wedding hall / To eat the Supper at Thy call” (“Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying,” LSB 516:2).
We rejoice in all that we have now—thanks be to God.
And—Come Lord Jesus—we rejoice that we are prepared to eat the Supper at His call.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Last Sunday of the Church Year, 2020
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt