Lesson 9

Hope and "The Delay": Part 1

(Matthew 25)
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Introduction: Delay. I hate it! Within the last year I saw a nationwide traffic survey of the U.S. that revealed that the traffic where I live is the worst of any major city. Traffic governs a great deal of my life. I travel at certain times and avoid other times so that I will not constantly be delayed. While I have been delayed hours in traffic at one time, I have never been delayed 2,000 years. That is "the delay" in Jesus' Second Coming and the study of our lesson this week. Who knew it would be so long? What should we do? How should we look at this? Let's charge into our lesson and consider a story that will help us to better understand the delay and what we should do about it!

  1. The Wedding Preparation

    1. Read Matthew 25:1. What kind of event is a wedding?

      1. If you are a "virgin," do you look at a wedding differently? (These are individuals who have not been married. Not only is this wedding an adventure, but they hope to have their own wedding some day.)

      2. They bring lamps. What does that suggest? (That they believed the day would end and it would get dark before the bridegroom came.)

      3. What does bringing a lamp along show about these virgins? (They are thinking ahead. They are paying attention to what they are doing.)

    2. Let's step back a minute. Jesus is beginning to tell us a story, a parable. When Jesus talks about meeting the "bridegroom," what is He really speaking about? (Consider the context. Matthew chapter 24 is all about Jesus' Second Coming. This story is about individuals who are getting ready to meet Jesus (the Bridegroom) when He returns to earth.)

      1. If I am right about this being a story about Jesus' Second Coming, what other information do we gather from verse 1 about these virgins? (That they believe in the Second Coming and are preparing to be ready for it. These are Christians who are preparing for the Advent.)

    3. Read Matthew 25:2-4. What separates the "wise" from the "foolish" virgins? (The wise virgins took "extra batteries" with them.)

      1. Do you take extra batteries with you when you use a flashlight? Do you put extra cans of gas in your car when you go on a trip? Why are we calling the virgins "foolish" who took full lamps with them - but not extra supplies? If I were going to a wedding, the last think I would want to carry with me is a bottle of oil. Imagine getting that on your clothes! (Apparently, the virgins are called "foolish" because they should have known there would be a delay.)

      2. Why not expect the bridegroom to be "on time?" Why not call the "foolish" virgins the "reasonable expectation" virgins?

        1. Isn't the bridegroom the one who is "foolish" if he comes late to his own wedding? We have reasonable preparation by all the virgins. Do you have to do more than what is reasonable to be called "wise?" (Again, we need to look at the context. Jesus, in Matthew 24, kept stressing that we will not know when He will come again. (See, especially, Matt. 24:36.) If the Bridegroom explains that he does not know when he is coming, then just bringing your lamp filled with oil is not "reasonable" preparation. The Bridegroom is not at fault here.)

  2. The Wedding Wait

    1. Read Matthew 25:5. In terms of the Second Coming, what does it mean to "fall asleep?"

      1. What significance do you find in the fact that they all fell asleep?

      2. If you were telling the story, wouldn't you say, "and the five "wise" virgins stayed awake and alert while the five "foolish" virgins fell asleep?" Isn't being alert what really separates the wise from the foolish Christians? (If "falling asleep" in the context of the Second Coming means dying (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-52), then obviously there is no character flaw in that. Even if "falling asleep" means that we fail to stay alert (see Mark 14:37-41) for the Second Coming, it seems the flaw is in failing to prepare for our weakness - not in the weakness itself.)

    2. Is this good theology: there is no sin in our human weakness, the sin is only in failing to prepare because of our weakness?

      1. How does human pride affect our ability to prepare properly for our weaknesses? (If we do not realize the state of our sinfulness, we will not think we need to prepare.)

  3. The Wedding Crisis

    1. Read Matthew 25:6-9. Were the five "wise" virgins also the five "selfish" virgins? Why not share? (The "wise" say they don't think they will have enough if they share. If we are correct in thinking that the problem is a lack of preparation, when it comes to spiritual matters, one person cannot prepare for another.)

    1. We come to what is probably the most important point of this story: How do we, as a practical matter, have enough oil? How do we properly prepare, despite our human weakness, so that we will be ready for the Second Coming? What should we do to survive the delay?

      1. Our lesson (Tuesday) says the oil is the Holy Spirit, the lamp is the Word of God, and together they bring light which is the truth. The solution, the lesson suggests, is "more" Holy Spirit. Do you agree?

        1. How can you have "more" Holy Spirit?

  1. The Wedding Takes Place

    1. Read Matthew 25:10-13. The foolish virgins do not get in! I am troubled by what is said by the Bridegroom in verse 12 and Jesus' conclusion in verse 13. What is said here is key to knowing what we need to do to prepare adequately.

      1. What does verse 12 suggest is the reason the foolish virgins did not enter heaven? (The Bridegroom did not know them.)

      2. What does verse 13 suggest is the reason the foolish virgins did not enter heaven? (They did not keep watch.)

        1. Are these two the same? (Not on the surface of it.)

        2. Why should Jesus say "keep watch" when the "wise" virgins did not "keep watch" they fell asleep, and they still got to enter the wedding feast (heaven)?

          1. Isn't this ("keep watch")the wrong conclusion to this parable?

        3. Needless to say, my study always starts out with the assumption that Jesus is right! So, how can we reconcile the two conclusions? How can the Bridegroom say "I don't know you" and Jesus say "keep watch?" (We previously decided that the difference between the wise and foolish virgins was being prepared. Why did the wise virgins bring extra oil? Because they knew that the Bridegroom would be late. The time of his coming was unknown. The wise virgins knew the Bridegroom and therefor they knew they needed to be prepared with additional oil. That is how they "kept watch." They might have been sleeping, but they were prepared for their weakness and they were prepared for the Bridegroom's delay. If the foolish virgins had known the Bridegroom, they would have known that He would come at an unexpected time.)

    2. Read 2 Peter 3:3-4. How does the prepared Christian, the wise virgin, answer this question? (We don't know when Jesus will come. Jesus will come at a time when you are asking questions like this! The conclusion is not to forget about Jesus' coming, the conclusion is to be prepared for it whenever it comes.)

    3. Friend, Jesus is coming a second time and He is taking those who are prepared into the celebration with Him. Will you decide to take to be sure you are prepared, whatever the delay?

  2. Next Week: Hope and "The Delay": Part 2

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