Hunkered Down Devotion

Matthew 25:1-13 (VOICE)
Jesus: Or picture the kingdom of heaven this way. It will be like ten bridesmaids who each picked up a lantern and went out to meet a certain bridegroom. 2-4 Five of these women were sensible, good with details, and remembered to bring small flasks of oil for their lanterns. But five of them were flighty, too caught up in the excitement of their jaunt, and forgot to bring oil with them. 5 The bridegroom did not turn up right away. Indeed, all the women, while waiting, found themselves falling asleep. 6 And then in the middle of the night, they heard someone call, “The bridegroom is here, finally! Wake up and greet him!” 7 The women got up and trimmed the wicks of their lanterns and prepared to go greet the groom. 8 The five women who had no oil turned to their friends for help.

Ill-prepared Bridesmaids: Please give us some of your oil! Our lanterns are flickering and will go out soon.
9 But the five women who’d come prepared with oil said they didn’t have enough.

Prepared Bridesmaids: If we give you some of our oil, we’ll all run out too soon! You’d better go wake up a dealer and buy your own supply.
10 So the five ill-prepared women went in search of oil to buy, and while they were gone, the groom arrived. The five who stood ready with their lanterns accompanied him to the wedding party, and after they arrived, the door was shut.
11 Finally the rest of the women turned up at the party. They knocked on the door.

Ill-prepared Bridesmaids: Master, open up and let us in!

Bridegroom (refusing): 12 I certainly don’t know you.
13 So stay awake; you neither know the day nor hour [when the Son of Man will come].

Some of Jesus’ parables are pretty simple to understand, some are a little more mysterious. Still others, like the parable of the 10 bridesmaids, have what seems to be a clear meaning, but require some cultural context for us to really understand.

Weddings in an ancient Israelite village were not like weddings in our culture today.  The whole process, which would last at least a few days, and often an entire week, would begin when the father of the groom would got and negotiate the price of the bride’s dowry at the bride’s parents’ home.

At that point, the groom and groomsman would begin the celebration at the groom’s parent’s house.  Then at an unannounced time – always after dark, but often not until around midnight.  Then, having retrieved the bride and the bridesmaids, the entire wedding party  would make the journey to the groom’s parents’ home, where the festivities would be go on for the next several days.

Because of the timing of things, the oil-lit lamps that the bridesmaids had were a vital part of the beginning phases of the wedding celebration, as they were needed to light the way for the procession.   Because they didn’t know how long they would be waiting they needed a good supply of extra oil.

The well-prepared bridesmaids aren’t being selfish, then, when they refuse to share with the others.  They are being wise and thinking of the larger group.  If they share their oil, everyone will run out and then no one will make it safely to the wedding celebration.

So the ill-prepared bridesmaids run off to find oil, hoping to join the celebration on the way.  But, by the time the unprepared girls return with their extra oil, the procession has already arrived at the groom’s home and gone inside.  

Showing up late to the wedding – especially as a member of the wedding party – would be a real sign of disrespect.  At a real wedding, the late arrivals would likely have been publicly shamed but then let in.

This is where Jesus gives his first listeners a surprising twist, and it is also where the message lies for us as well.  Here Jesus implies that once he has returned it will be too late to repent.  The challenge from Jesus for all of us then, is to choose now how to respond to him.  To recognize God’s presence and to be prepared to respond when Jesus comes calling.
Are you ready for Jesus to come calling on your heart and on your life?

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer:  Lord, help us to be ready and waiting when you call.  Prepare our hearts and our lives for you.  Amen.

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