Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)
Chapter 25"Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Verse 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. Verse 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; Verse 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. Verse 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. Verse 6But at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' Verse 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. Verse 8The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' Verse 9But the wise replied, 'No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' Verse 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Verse 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.' Verse 12But he replied, 'Truly I tell you, I do not know you.' Verse 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
This parable makes me uncomfortable. It doesn’t seem fair to blame some of the virgins just because the bridegroom was late, and they ran out of oil. Where is the justice? Apparently, according to the parable, the timing of the arrival of the bridegroom (Jesus) is uncertain, so the instructive word is to be prepared. In the first few generations of the church, Jesus’ second coming was thought to be imminent, and this expectation drove much of early Christian understanding of the gospel. But later, when Jesus had not yet returned, questions began to emerge as to what were they to do now. Perhaps the answer is to focus more on Jesus’ promise of his presence already now; it’s to do the work of preparing the way, sowing the seeds, feeding the hungry. healing the sick, visiting those in prison. Perhaps the return of Christ is not regularly a part of our consciousness these days, but we can still be vigilant and prepared for the breaking in of God’s rule in the world.
Keep us on our toes, dear God, waiting and watching for your presence among us. In Jesus name, Amen.