This parable has so much to teach us…if we don’t ask for it to teach us too much. That is always the trouble with eschatology, end times things. We want to know more that is ours to know.
The biggest thing I think it means to tell us is to know the time. It is a parable about the Day of the Lord, the time of fulfillment. As such the most important things in that time are different that today. Today things like wise and foolish are not locked in. Today is a day of grace. Today is a day when the oil may be procured and the lamps prepared. For the night is coming when no work may be done. Sleep comes to all. And that is why Jesus tells us this parable. Not that we might know everything about That Day, but so that we may prepare for it.
The Baptist calls Israel back to their core beliefs. God will come down and redeem us. We are not enough in ourselves, but the Lord fights for us. And this God is a creator God, and a re-creator. When God comes down and establishes his reign, he is not limited to what he finds. He shall create all things new. And so what we – what Israel – can do is prepare. We can prepare the way of the Lord. We can make his paths straight. What does that mean? It does not mean that we build the Kingdom. Neither does it mean we melt away into the Kingdoms of the World. What it mean is that we believe. We repent of where we have gone wrong. And we bear the fruits of that repentance. Christ has delivered us from sin, and the power of the devil. And he will deliver us from death. We prepare to re-cross that Jordan.
This was the first Sunday in Advent which is a season of preparation, of preparation for receiving God. The first open reception of Jesus as the Christ as the King was Palm Sunday, and the triumphal entry has been the historic reading for the first Sunday in Advent for almost forever. When you read it from the Gospel of Mark, as we are doing this year, it reads as irony (in contrast to the moment of messianic fervor in Matthew). In Mark, that first time, nobody got it. They were all looking for the messiah, the king, and when he shows up, nobody recognizes him. Now I think you could say the inverse. Nobody is expecting the messiah, the king, and if you believe the Bible, when he shows up this time, everybody will recognize him immediately. That is the Kingly Irony.
This sermon looks at the way this irony continues in our lives and that irony is actually the extended offer of the grace of the King.