Jesus’ parable of the Ten Virgins presents us with two messages. One comes directly from the Words of Jesus and the other comes from context, as the Church applies this Parable and puts it together with the Introit, the Collect, and the hymns. What Our Lord tells us about is the visible Church on the Last Day. What He presents is sobering. There should be some fear in our hearts as we hear the most damning of words from Jesus: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.” But we know that there is also joy in this return of Christ. The thrilling cry means our salvation has finally come. In this Parable we are sent into our lives with readiness and joy.
In his small catechism Luther gives a long—but nowhere near exhaustive—list of all the things God gives us out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy. Things like clothing and shoes, food and drink, body and soul, eyes and ears, and all that I need to support this body and life. For all of these things, Luther says, “it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” We have come together tonight in partial fulfillment of that duty. We have come together to thank and praise God for the blessings He has given without any merit or worthiness on our part. He has given us innumerable blessings, riches greater than any can fathom, and a beautiful land as our inheritance. So, it is only right that we as a nation pause to thank God for what He so richly provides.
It’s not good to be a goat. The goats are condemned because, as Jesus says, “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 take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.” These Words of Jesus seem to confirm what our minds have come to believe about heaven: you get in by being good. Or, how we have come to define goodness.
What does Scripture teach about the end of the world, the final judgment, and Christ’s second coming? These last three weeks of the Church Year give us great insight into the events of the Last Day. Today Our Lord teaches us about the signs that lead up to the Last Day. He does not do this to scare us, but to prepare us. Really, Jesus is helping us understand the times in which we live. Can any of us hear Gospels like today’s and wonder if Our Lord’s return is imminent?! He makes it plain to see that He is coming soon. And although that may sound like a thing to fear, as St. Paul revealed to the Thessalonians, it is not. Quite the opposite! It’s something we should use to encourage and edify one another. Christ is coming soon! Those are words of grace and promise.
The Epistle to the Hebrews gives us the best summary of the Feast of All Saints: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1-2). Today the Christian Church remembers all of those faithful who have gone before us, those who rejoice with us in heaven, who live in greater light than we, that multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, who died in the faith, and who live before the throne of God and praise Him each day in His temple.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.