十足的预备April 7, 2019, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: 廖乃慧传道 (Matthew 25:1-13) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Matthew
Preached at a Bilingual (Mandarin-English, Sunday) service
在马太福音 24 章耶稣提到人子降临的时候，没有人知道，所以人要警醒，因为不知道主什么时候来。然后耶稣就讲了一个比喻，就是关于仆人在主人不在的时候，是否照着主人说的去行，派粮食给家里的大小呢？如果仆人忘记了自己的身份，动手打同伴，又好像挪亚日子的人一样，只顾着吃喝嫁娶，那么主人回来的时候，这个仆人就要被定为和假冒为善的人同罪，就要悲悲切切了。和合本圣经说哀哭切齿了，这是用来形容一种极度的悲切，完全的绝望了，因为已经没有改变任何事情的可能性了！！
25章说到天国好像童女的故事，其实就是来跟我们讲，如果你要改变那个结局，现在就是时候（now is the time）, 那我们就会问，要做些什么？在比喻里聪明的童女，预备了油。这到底什么意思？其实就是她知道新郎可能会拖延，所以她预备好了，不管等多久，她都预备好了，这才是这个比喻最关键的地方了（the crust of this parable）！
我们也知道在漫长的教会历史里，的确曾经经过许多的黑暗。/可能有些人联想黑暗是指教皇腐败或者教廷专制的时候，但是西方教会的确经过几次很严重的黑死病plague，14世纪的40年代蔓延，死了2500万，欧洲人口少了30-60%。到17世纪，在意大利，伦敦，维也纳发生过几次大型的传染病，卷走许多人口。这样的事情发生，让当时的人以为“终末”end time就要到了，世界就要结束了！但是历史告诉我们，其实不是终末end time。而神学家也帮助我们理清楚（ clarify）什么是终末end time，从耶稣的角度来说，是从他出生开始，就是终末：上帝就闯入人类历史，来做他要带来的翻转，上帝要把违背他的人类历史，也是他创造以来就很爱的人类，带来一个扭转。上帝的道成肉身God became flesh in the man Jesus，使得我们经历到一个完完全全的人，可以完全的依靠上帝，听从上帝，顺服上帝，然后为我们带出一条崭新的路。我们的大斋节就是纪念一次性的翻转，带来人类历史的扭转。
在那一天来到之前，教会需要做的事情没有动摇（no wavering）, 我们就是耶稣基督的见证人，见证上帝在这个顺从的人身上，为我们带来活路。人的生命可以有翻转，完全是因为信靠上帝已经为我们带来这个可能性。我们可以仰望十字架，我们可以靠着耶稣，因为他，我们与他联合，我们的生命可以重新来过，每一天可以重新来过。你相信吗？你一定要相信这一件事，要不然你坐在这里做什么？
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Chinese Union Version of the bible, this was the last Chinese bible translation by the foreigners for the Chinese, and the Chinese were told from then on they would have to do their own translation. Incidentally this year also marks the 50th anniversary of my owning my own Chinese Union Version bible. When I was young, I was yearning to learn how to read, but no one could teach me, and when I started primary 1, and began to learn phonetic notations, equivalent to today’s hanyu pinyin, and via these phonetic notations (Bopomofo), I learned how to pronounce the Chinese characters character by character, and subsequently with the help of the dictionary, to learn about the meaning of each word, and the following year, in 1969, I got my first ever bible. It was a gift from my grandmother, it was wrapped in newspapers, and then given to me. When it was unwrapped, it was a brand new bible. In my hands, the first question which came to mind was, where should I begin? When I was in secondary 2, I joined the junior youth fellowship in church, there was a counsellor in my fellowship who said, one should complete reading the entire bible cover to cover every year, so I read 4 chapters every day, and spent one year to complete reading 1,189 chapters in total, and subsequently realized that even though I finished reading the bible, I still could not grasp a lot of it, so I bought a notebook, reread the bible again, and jotted down the subtitles in the 4 chapters which I have read daily in the notebook. Why, you may ask? So that I would be able to go through the notebook daily, to review what I read the day before, the day before that, the week before and so forth. Thereafter, I bought an even larger notebook, took detailed notes of the sermons every Sunday. This habit persisted till today, and when I listen to sermons, I will still make it a point to take notes, and then review what the pastor had said thereafter. We do not depend on our teachers or pastors to help us to be able to recall what we have studied and learned, or to remember the sermons we have listened to. And there is a secret to success in this respect, 8 hours after your lesson, you have to immediately review the materials once, and within 24 hours of that lesson, you have to review and revise one more time. If you are afraid that you will not be able to recall what you have learned, what should you do? You should articulate that to others 8 times, and that way you will for certain not forget. Some of the brighter ones could recall with just 3 times, but for me, 8 times.
If you were to ask that teenage me, what should someone who believes in Jesus be mindful of? I would have told you, stay alert, as described in the passage this morning, the message underlying the parable of the ten virgins. And if you were to ask me why should I stay alert? I would have told you, Jesus has resurrected and ascended to heaven, and He will most certainly return, and you do not want to forget and miss this because of the lack of vigilance and alertness.
Jesus very often spoke to people in parables, and He even spoke the parable of the sower in order to explain why He had to speak in parables. And why were parables used when it came to speaking about the kingdom of heaven? Because it is very difficult to use earthly languages for us to fully comprehend matters related to the kingdom of heaven. Parables are rich, colorful and vivid, every noun spoken brings about many associations, including colors, shapes, even smells, man’s interest would be piqued, and would then begin to listen. Do you know that a world could be created by mere spoken words? But there are certainly limitations to parables, which was the reason why Jesus had to speak many parables. But there is something extremely powerful and mighty about parables, and that is, it is the language of the kingdom of heaven, and it allows you to very firmly remember certain aspects of the kingdom of heaven. As was the case with these parables in the gospel of Matthew, every parable is incisive, at the moment when you felt delight when listening, there was a sudden twist, almost like being cut ruthlessly by a surgical knife, and Jesus would continue, and He would ask the listeners questions, to ascertain if they were following Him and His train of thought.
When Jesus told this parable in Chapter 25 to the crowd in front of Him, they would have been very intrigued, because who would not like weddings? Jesus mentioned that the kingdom of heaven would be akin to 10 virgins, and they have a mission, and that is to receive and welcome the groom at a wedding. Perhaps the customs and traditions in Jesus’ era were not similar to ours, the groom did not set a timetable to give everyone a heads up to prepare for His arrival, so all simply had to wait. So the bridegroom arrived, it is time to get married. Would you say that it was not too pleasant to keep everyone waiting? But you know what? The thing about the kingdom of heaven, is to knock all of us over (disruptive technology?), including your priorities. You are not the most important, but rather the master of the kingdom of heaven is the most important.
The virgins needed to bring their lamps with them to receive and welcome the bridegroom, but when they proclaimed ‘the bridegroom has arrived’, their lamps had almost run out of oil. At the beginning of the story, we were told 5 of the 10 were foolish, and the remaining 5 wise. The distinctive difference did not lie with their looks, eloquence, how they were dressed or who had a higher IQ? There was only one thing which mattered here, which was, who had prepared additional/back-up oil? Those who did were wise, and were able to go to the banquet and be seated together with the bridegroom. For the ones who did not, they were foolish, were unable to attend, went to buy more oil, knocked on the door, but to no avail, and the reply was “I do not know you.”
Why were they differentiated by whether they were foolish or wise? Because in Jesus’ time, there was what was known in the traditional Jewish faith as ‘wisdom literature,’ which consisted of 7 books, the most well-known books included book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and from the book of Proverbs, we could see that some people were wise, they knew to fear God. Some were foolish, they reckoned it did not matter whether or not God exists. Actually, Psalms 14:1 reads ‘Fools say to themselves, “there is no God,” so who cares? Do you know of such people? Perhaps, let me ask you, do you occasionally have similar thoughts? Do you really have God at the center of every decision you have to make daily, regardless of how insignificant it may be? Do you think you are a wise person or a foolish one?
Jesus started this parable with the methodology utilized in the wisdom literature, and this allowed us a glimpse of the two paths described in Psalm Chapter 1, one being the way of the godly, and the other the way of the wicked. Certainly the Lord guards the way of the godly, but the way of the wicked ends in destruction (Psalm 1:6).
When Jesus got to Jerusalem, He was at the pinnacle of His life, at this point, He needed the people to know His identity, and also to make decisions in light of His revelations. He had utilized many parables about the kingdom of heaven, seeking to demonstrate that at that point in time for Him was a decisive moment, a critical juncture. In Matthew 24, Jesus alluded that when the Son of Man arrived, no one would know, so all have to stay alert, because the timing of God’s arrival would not be known. Thereafter, Jesus told a parable, about whether a slave would follow the master’s instructions in His absence, and distribute food to the others at the proper time? If the slave were to forget who he was, and began to beat his peers, just like people in Noah’s days, only cared about eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and when the slave’s master returns, he would be assigned a place with the hypocrites, and there would be mourning/grieving. The Chinese Union Version described as weeping and gnashing of teeth, and these were used to describe a type of extreme grief, complete despair and despondence, because the possibility of altering or changing anything would no longer exist.
This story in Chapter 25 about kingdom of heaven being akin to the ten virgins, actually is attempting to tell us, if you want to change that ending, now is the time, then we would in turn ask, what do we need to do? In the parable, the wise virgins, were well prepared and had adequate oil. What does this mean? It simply means that she knew the groom might be delayed, so she was ready and prepared, regardless of how long the wait might have been, she was ready and prepared. This is the crux of this parable.
It has been 2000 years since Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, this 2000-year wait, would that be considered a long wait? Perhaps to us, indeed, it would be way too long whether it was a 2-year or 20-year wait. To the first generation disciples, they were adamant that Jesus would return in their lifetime. But after several centuries had come to pass, because of internal conflicts, the church had to start convening council meetings to resolve as to what we believe in, and after several of these meetings, Jesus had yet to return. Up till now, we are still awaiting Jesus’ return. If the church were to forget, or did not have on the agenda that Jesus would without a doubt return, we would be committing errors similar to those of the slaves in Chapter 24, bullying/mistreating our peers, thinking that we are the masters ourselves. The end results being grieving and gnashing of teeth and this indeed would be something very frightening.
We also know that in the church’s long history, there were certainly many periods of darkness. For some, they associated these periods of darkness with the times when the pope was corrupt or during the autocratic eras of papacy/the church government, but the western church did in fact experience a few episodes of severe black plague, in the 1440s, 25 million lives were lost, and EU population decreased by 30-60% over this period. In the 17th century, in Italy, London, Vienna, there were several episodes of large scale contagion/pandemics of infectious diseases, and led to the loss of countless lives. With events such as these, led people at that time to surmise that the end time has arrived, the world was about to end. But history has taught us, this was not exactly the end time, and theologians had also helped us to clarify what exactly is the end time, from Jesus’ perspective, began with His birth, and God thrusted into the history of man, and to act on what the turnaround/upturn which He had intended. God intended to bring about a turn-around in the history of the rebellious man, whom God had loved since creation. The word became flesh/God became flesh in the man Jesus, allowed us, to encounter, a complete man, who can whole-heartedly rely on God, listen to God, obey Him, and to bring about a brand new path for us. Lent helped us to commemorate this precious turn-about, which has brought about a turn-around in human history.
God’s bringing about the deliverance for us, just like the many parables which Jesus had spoken, vivid and bountiful, and beyond our understanding, but the church would need to continue to stay alert, and be aware that Jesus is the master, and one day, God would provide for all authority in heaven and on earth, to be given to Jesus. And at that time, all knees will bow down to Jesus, and all tongues will confess that He is Lord. And before the day comes, there would be no wavering in terms of the what the church would be required to do, we are Jesus Christ’s witnesses, to witness that God, through Jesus who obeys, had brought about a path of life for us. Turnaround in/Upturning peoples’ lives are possible, precisely because believing and trusting in God has already brought about this possibility. We can look to the cross, we can rely on Jesus, because of Him, we will be binded to Him, and our lives can be renewed, and every day can bring about fresh starts/renewals, do you believe that? You have to believe this, otherwise, why would you be sitting in this auditorium?
There is myriad of items which the church has to accomplish, but first and foremost, the church needs to understand her own identity, and from that understanding of her own identity, to take a fresh look at what the priorities for the church would be. The deliberation of every matter should be made from our identity, as to why we have to act, and how to go about it. And to fully comprehend our relationship with Christ, this relationship has to be so intimate, as would be the case with the branches always having to remain in the vine, and that even being split or apart slightly would be unacceptable. We have to wholly/fully allow Jesus to be our master, to be the master of the church, and when Jesus allows us to be the salt in this world, we will fulfil this duty and obligation to the utmost, and when it comes time for us to be the light, we will similarly not hide or conceal ourselves.
This parable of the ten virgins, has an important message, that is the church has to be fully prepared, do not lose heart and be discouraged, will persevere and not give up, till Jesus returns, He will be our God. Regardless of who comes into the church, our lives can be turned around/transformed because of Jesus, and for those who believe, God’s spirit will continually challenge our priorities, so that we will always obey Him, to follow His will, and to abide by His truth. Our God will certainly return. Are you ready for this?
Response: The church’s one foundation, is Jesus Christ Her Lord
Matthew 25:1–13 (Listen)
25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 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.’ 10 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. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.