Preface for Pastors & Parents
There are two challenges in writing a children’s sermon on Matthew 25:1-13.
First, the parable is inherently metaphorical. Little kids don’t think in metaphors the way grown-ups do. So while the story format of a parable is appealing, there’s a big leap to make: Kids have to go from a story about bridesmaids and lamp oil to a meaning about being ready for Jesus to come again. That is actually very hard.
Second, a children’s sermon on Matthew 25:1-13 has to make kid-friendly connections on unlikely topics. It’s all about planning ahead, acquiring resources of some kind to be ready for a future event about which our understanding is…limited. Maybe your kids are different from mine, but it seems like long-term planning is not a strength of the 4-10 year old set.
Actually, all of Matthew 25 (source of our Gospel text for the next three weeks) is images of the final judgment. I suppose some Christians frequently bring the Last Judgement into conversation with kids. I’m not among them.
And really, I recommend we think twice about it, especially if the words we say about final judgment could reasonably be expected to scare kids. You can’t scare people into faith. Faith is trust—a response to a generous promise, to the Good News of Jesus’ loving invitation.
Let’s think twice together, and see if we can come up with a Good News, faith-prompting children’s sermon on Matthew 25:1-13.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 25:1-13
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you. It’s great that you are here in worship this morning, and I’m especially grateful that you came up to hear the children’s sermon.
You know, for years Jesus traveled around with his friends, helping people, and teaching people, and loving people. All that time, Jesus knew that eventually three things were going to happen.
- He was going to die on a cross on the day we call “Good Friday.”
- He was going to come alive again on the day we call “Easter.”
- And he was going to come back again someday, to welcome all his friends into the Kingdom of heaven.
We remind ourselves of those things later in the worship service when we say the words we call “The Apostles’ Creed.”
- We say he “was crucified, died, and was buried.”
- We say, “On the third day he rose again.”
- And we say “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
Jesus knew that was all going to happen. So he used to talk about these things with his friends.
Here’s how I imagine that happening
One evening, Jesus and his friends were sitting around the camp fire talking.
“You know, Jesus,” said Peter, “I think you should stop talking about ‘Judgment Day’ at the end of the age. Its just too scary.”
“Well, Peter,” Jesus said, “I need to talk about what’s true. And it’s true that I’m coming back at the end of the age. But maybe it would be less scary if you didn’t call it ‘Judgment Day.’”
“But what am I supposed to call it?” asked Peter. “You say you’re coming back. Everybody knows you’ll be deciding who gets to come onto your kingdom and who doesn’t. That’s Judgment Day. And I think it’s scary.”
“You say everybody knows that,” said Jesus. “Hmm… I wonder.”
“Well,” said Peter, “What would you call it?”
“How about ‘Party Time’?” Jesus said. “Doesn’t that sound better than ‘Judgement Day?’”
“Oh sure, ‘Party Time’ sounds better,” said Peter, “but everybody knows—”
“No, seriously, Peter,” said Jesus. “That’s how you should think about when I come back. It’s going to be a big wonderful party. And everybody will be invited.”
Jesus could tell Peter didn’t really believe him. So he said, “Let me tell you a story about what it will be like when I come back.”
Invitation to the party
Once upon a time there was a couple. They loved each other so much that they decided to get married. They went to all their friends and said “We’re getting married! You’re all invited to the celebration! It’s going to be the best party ever! Will you come?”
“Great!” said the friends. “When will the wedding be?”
“Hard to say,” said the bridegroom. “We don’t exactly know. But will you promise to come?”
“You don’t know?” said one friend. “How can you not know? It’s your own wedding!”
“It’s like this,” said the bridegroom. “I have to go on a trip. We can’t get married till I get back. Can we count on you to come?”
“Um,” said another friend, “can you at least say roughly when it will be? I need to mark my calendar.”
“Actually I can’t,” said the bridegroom. “It might be a really short trip. Then again it may be a really long trip. It’s just hard to say. So, can we count on you to be there when the party starts?”
Well, they all talked about it for a while, and ten of the friends finally said “Yes! We’ll be there! Thanks for asking us!”
Then they said “Oh! And have a great trip!”
And off the bridegroom went on his trip.
“What should we do while we wait?” one asked.
“How soon do you think he’ll come back?” asked another.
“I suppose if it’s a really short trip, we should be ready for the party today,” said a third..
“Or tonight!” said a fourth. “If he comes after dark we’d better have lamps ready.”
So everybody agreed to go get their lamps.
But half of them thought “If he comes really really late at night we’ll need extra oil for our lamps.”
So five of the ten went and bought extra lamp oil.
The five others just brought their lamps — with no extra oil.
Each day they waited.
Each night they waited.
Still the bridegroom didn’t come.
Finally one evening, just before dark, a messenger came. “Looks like the bridegroom is on his way! Get ready for the party!”
“When exactly does he arrive?” our asked.”
“Exactly?” said the messenger. “I have no idea.”
“But he’s really finally coming?” said the friend.
“Oh yes, definitely,” said the messenger. “This evening. Or tonight. At least I think so. Just be ready for the party!”
By then it was getting dark, so all the friends lit their lamps.
“I hope he comes soon!” one said.
And they waited. And they waited. And they waited.
The ten friends’ kept their lamps burning, all evening long.
They noticed their oil was getting low. But still, no sign of the bridegroom.
One by one, all five who brought extra oil poured it into their lamps.
“Hey friend,” said one of those who brought no extra oil, “can I use some of your extra oil?”
“Sorry!” the friend said, “My extra oil is all in my lamp now. Maybe you can go to the store and buy some more.”
So the five friends went off double-quick, to buy some more lamp oil.
While they were gone, the bridegroom arrived!
“I’m back!” he said “It’s time for my wedding party! Come with me!”
The five friends whose lamps were burning were so happy to see him.
“Where are we going?” they asked.
“Down to the shore,” said the Bridegroom. ”We’re all getting on my great big yacht! The wedding party will be out in the ocean under the stars!”
“Ooh!” they said. “So romantic!”
So the five friends went with the bridegroom. They walked down to the shore. They got on the bridegroom’s yacht. And they all sailed away. The bride and groom had a beautiful wedding on the ocean. They served up an amazing feast for their friends. Everybody danced and celebrated under the stars.
But back on shore the others came back from the store with their bottles of lamp oil.
“Hey! Where is everybody?” they said.
Peter and Jesus
“So,” Jesus said, “that’s how the end of the age is like a big party. Isn’t that a lot better than ‘Judgment Day’?”
“Well, yeah,” said Peter. “But I kind of feel bad for the friends who got left on shore.”
“Yeah,” said Jesus. “That is sad. I guess you should make sure you have lots of oil for your lamp!”
I wonder if when Jesus comes back it will really be like a big wedding party?
I wonder how the friends felt when thy got invited, but didn’t know when the party would be?
I wonder what you and I can really do to make sure we are ready for the party?
You are, of course, free to use this children’s sermon, or adapt it as you find most useful. But, if you use it, please do one (or more!) of the following.
- You can let me know that you are using it, either in the comments below, or using the contact form above.
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