Hallelujah

They say when God closes a door, he opens a window. That’s a beautiful thought, and often we see how it proves true. But it doesn’t seem to happen in this week’s Gospel, does it (Matthew 25:1-13)? The virgins who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later when the foolish virgins finally got their act together and were ready to enter the banquet hall, the door stayed shut. And that’s when we say, “This is the Gospel of our Lord” and move on to our next hymn.

“Umm, Jesus? (Knock, knock, knock). We’re still standing out here. We understand the urgent cautionary nature of the story you are telling us. We always need to be prepared for your return. We never want to be on the outside looking in. But Jesus, you kind of leave us listeners standing on the front step of the wedding banquet with the foolish virgins. You don’t really show us what was going on inside!”

Of course, showing what was going on inside the wedding banquet was not Jesus’ goal in that parable. He would tell us about that another time. Like in the word of God before us in Revelation 19. John relates his vision of heaven:

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants." And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!" Then a voice came from the throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!" Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

In this portion of Scripture, we see the wedding banquet from the other side of the door, if you will. On this Sunday we call “Saints Triumphant” Sunday, how appropriate it is that we see the saints triumphant in the glories of heaven. And as we fight the long hard battle as soldiers of the church militant in this world, how necessary it is for us to be reminded that one day we will stand among them. One day we’ll be the wedding guests!

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah!”

It’s been called the most beautiful piece of music ever written. Legend says that King George II of England was so moved by its opening strains that he rose to his feet and to this day, crowds of people still rise to their feet every time they hear it. Legend also says that Georg Fredrich Handel himself had a vision of heaven that prompted him to compose “The Hallelujah Chorus.” But as sublime and transcendent as Handel’s work is, it will pale in comparison to the real Hallelujah Chorus.

That word “Hallelujah” is used all over the place in the Old Testament. It’s a Hebrew word meaning, “Let us praise the Lord!” But “Hallelujah” doesn’t appear anywhere in the New Testament—except here, in this chapter. It’s not that it wouldn’t have been appropriate in other places. Certainly the angels watching God taking on human flesh in a humble stable could have uttered, “Hallelujah!” Certainly the stunned mourners at Lazarus’ funeral could have shouted “Hallelujah!” when Jesus brought the dead man back to life. Certainly Thomas putting his hand in the resurrected Lord’s pierced side could have exclaimed “Hallelujah!” But the fact that that word wasn’t used in all those earth-shattering situations - but is used four times in this chapter - maybe gives you an indication that there’s something pretty special going on here! Let us praise the Lord!

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