The bridegroom will come eventually--
Happy are those who have what is needed
to hold on throughout the night
until the celebration begins.


 

"The kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who
took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of
them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish
took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took
oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom was
delayed, they all slept.

"At midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is
coming; go out to meet him!' Then all those virgins arose and
trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, 'Give us
some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise
answered, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you;
but go to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.' And while
they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were
ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

"Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord,
open to us!' But he answered, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not
know you.' 
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor
the hour in which the Son of Man is coming."

                                                      Matthew 25:1-13 NKJV, condensed


                                    The Bridesmaids 

Imagine living without electricity or batteries, in a time and place
without cell phones and appointment books. Add to that picture
a nighttime wedding in a rural town and a foreign culture two
thousand years ago. The bridegroom for the big event was king
of the show. He could arrive whenever he wanted and only then
would the festivities begin. His courier preceded him into town,
announcing his imminent arrival. Then all his friends and
neighbors stopped what they were doing and joined the
procession to the banquet hall.

As was typical at that time, the bridesmaids were all young, female,
unmarried and pure in their standing within the community. One
of the duties of these friends of the bride was to light the way for
the new husband and the guests who followed in his train. Yet
Jesus in his parable noticed a dilemma. Half of the bridesmaids
took no extra oil with them when they set off to meet the groom.

Of all the people you would expect to see at a wedding, surely the
bridesmaids would be there. However, in Jesus' story, not
everything went as expected. The bridegroom delayed his coming.
Townspeople got tired of waiting and went to sleep. Even the
attendants slept--until the middle of the night when the voice of
the courier rang out through the darkness and woke everyone up.

The excited bridesmaids trimmed their lamps, and that's the place
in the story where we see the ten young ladies separate into two
categories. Five of them had sufficient oil to light up the darkness
around them; the other five did not. And those with sufficient oil
had only what they needed and not a drop to give away. Those
unprepared had to find a shopkeeper to sell them more fuel.

The wise ones fulfilled their duties and danced their way into the
banquet hall; the foolish ones arrived too late to participate and
the door was shut against them. Even though they begged to be
allowed in, the bridegroom refused to open the door. He wouldn't
even admit to knowing such short-sighted people. At the end of
the story, Jesus warned us to watch and be prepared at all times,
because we do not know when the Son of Man will come.

What is it that the foolish are short on, and can't get more of at
the last minute? What is it that the wise are not able to share?
There's something vital in this story which cannot be acquired
from family or friends, something we must have with us to draw
upon when needed or we won't be able to light the way for
ourselves or for anyone else. The secret to being ready is not
performing some mighty awesome deed. It's illustrated simply
in this parable by having an adequate supply of oil to last us
through the night and until we usher in the long-awaited
bridegroom.

Being "wise" involves getting ready beforehand. Maybe it's like a
training program for someone who wants to excel in their sport?
Certainly no one can workout for another person and each
individual must persevere for themselves. We do not borrow
physical stamina from our neighbor.

We can also be sure that when Jesus spoke of being "wise" his
heavenly Father was involved in a big way. Wisdom comes from
God. Wisdom creates harmony, righteousness and light for our
journey. Preparing to become wise is similar to an athlete in
training. Doing the minimum with God just won't cut it. Readiness
is an active, life-long process. Jesus didn't say exactly what the oil
represented, yet the bridesmaids had to possess and use it in
order to join in the wedding celebration! 

Personal experience tells us that God comes to us again and
again. At midnight or at midday; in ease or in sorrow; when the
tank is full or when we are running on empty. The kingdom of
heaven is like the bridesmaids who weren't all doing their jobs,
and when they weren't they arrived too late for the party. Let's
not miss the opportunities. Only as our lamps are carefully
trimmed are we able to enter into the joys of our Lord.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  Name one missed opportunity which you regret.

 

All ten bridesmaids carried a lamp to light their way, but half of them
had no source of power when they most needed it.
            Relate an experience when you were "out of fuel."
            What is it like at your house when the electricity goes off?

 

What are some events and activities you plan ahead for?
What kinds of things do you leave till the last minute?

 

A parable usually contains a surprise.
            What is the surprise in this parable?

 

When Jesus told this story his characters included only the
bridegroom and ten bridesmaids. Do you find it interesting that
although the groom held the power, Jesus likened the kingdom
of heaven to the experience of the bridesmaids?
            What do the bridesmaids tell us about the kingdom of heaven?
            How did Jesus explain why half the bridesmaids weren't at
                    the wedding?

 

What is this oil that is so essential?
            How much is enough?
            How can we make sure we carry this oil with us every day?
            For you, what is the oil of your salvation?

 

It would be easy for us to get sidetracked and debate whether the
"wise" five were stingy and unkind, or question how the groom
could be so unsympathetic and lacking in grace. But that's not the
point of this parable, and when we focus on the wrong details we
could miss what Jesus intended for us to hear.
            What is the message that Jesus is trying to get across in this text?

 

In light of this parable, examine your life and the things that you fall
prey to that leave you "on empty."
            Name an important quality that you cannot borrow from
            another at the last minute to make up the difference for your
            foolishness or neglect.

 

Every light has to have a source of energy.
            What fills you up spiritually and replenishes your oil when
                    you run dry?

 

Often our preparations include a check list. Make a check list for
preparing to experience God's presence in your life, or for preparing
to meet your Maker?

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