The Last Sunday of the Church Year + Matthew 25:1-13
What is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.
What is God’s command? Which is that word of God? Why do we baptize? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins. The ten virgins are dressed in white. They have obeyed God’s command. They have been baptized. They have done what is required of them. These virgins wear the baptismal garment required to enter into the King’s wedding feast. They wear the white robes of Christ’s righteousness worn by those who are to be baptized and brides to be married. Their names have been written in the Book of Life. These virgins have received the Holy Spirit, they are members of the kingdom of God. They are the invited guests.
What benefits does Baptism give? Why should we be baptized? The Sacrament of Holy Baptism gives the forgiveness of sins, it rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are these words and promises of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
These ten virgins have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Though their sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though their sins are red like crimson, they are like wool. They have gone through catechism class. They have been taught the faith. They know the Ten Commandments from memory. They can recite the Apostles’ Creed. They can pray the Lord’s Prayer. They have been confirmed and received the Lord’s Supper for the first time. They have done what was required. These ten virgins have received their lamps. The lamps are the Word of God. As the psalmist writes, “God’s word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The Word of God leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name sake.
The ten virgins have been taught everything Jesus has commanded them, they have heard preaching and teaching, they have gone through catechism instruction, the Holy Spirit has worked faith in them, they have all received oil in their lamps. The oil in their lamps is the gift of faith. Oil is a physical element often used at a baptism. Oil is used for anointing, marking, setting apart. The oil used during a baptism is used to trace the sign of the cross upon the forehead of the batismal candidate, marking them as those redeemed by Christ the crucified. All ten virgins have received their lamps and they are full of oil. They all have received the gift of faith, they fear, love and trust in God above all things.
But Jesus was slow in coming. As these ten virgins waited for Jesus second coming, as they ran the race, as they fought the fight of faith against the devil, the world and their sinful flesh, five of these virgins, by the grace of God, continued to believe God’s Holy Word, and lead godly lives according to it. These five wise virgins eagerly returned again and again to receive the gifts of Jesus with thanksgiving. These five wise virgins, they want to be where Jesus is, they want to stand before the throne of the Lamb in His kingdom singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” These are the ones who were ready and went in with Jesus to the marriage feast, which had been prepared for them. These five wise virgins walked through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, confident that Jesus the Good Shepherd was with them, that His rod and staff would comfort them, that His goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their life.
But five of these virgins, dressed in white, do not believe, they are foolish virgins. They were not prepared. They allowed the devil, the world and their own sinful flesh to lead them atray from the Word of God and fall out of faith. As we heard last Sunday, Jesus will say to these five foolish virgins, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” And they will respond, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” These will go away into eternal punishment. These five foolish virgins will come to the marriage feast, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open the door to us.’ But Jesus will answer, “Truly, I do not know you.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, watch, for we do not know the day nor the hour of Jesus coming. As the hymn sings, “Wake, Awake, the Bridegroom is here!” As Jesus said to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray, that you would not be lead into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Watch and pray, that God’s name would be kept holy among us. Watch and pray, that God’s kingdom would come and remain with us, that we would not fall out of faith. Watch and pray, that the will of God would be done among us. Watch and pray, and at all times remember your baptism, it is your help in time of need, it is your hope in times of discouragement.
How can the water in Holy Baptism do such great things? Why is Holy Baptism such an important thing? Baptism is not just a washing with water, baptism is the Word of God in and with the water which is a great thing. Baptism creates faith in us, that we would fear, love and trust in God at all times and in all places. The faith given to us in our baptism gives us the strength to cherish and hold fast to Jesus’ promises – that He is with us always, never leaving us or forsaking, that He will forgive us all our sins, that He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love forever. Holy Baptism is a life-giving water, which is rich in God’s grace, mercy and peace. It calls us to be God’s people. It gathers us together as the communion of saints. It enlightens us with the light of Christ, the light no darkness, no evil can overcome. It makes us holy and keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. We are not afraid. We rejoice. We are glad. Jesus, the Bridegroom, is here! Jesus has come! Come and enjoy the wedding banquet prepared for you to eat and drink for the salvation of your soul. Amen.