Why should we continually be watchful or vigilant? In the Gospel reading for this week, Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins. We have this recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel and chapter 25.
25 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Why did Jesus tell this story in this way? What is its significance for today? To us, in our society, we might think this is a ‘made-up’ story but, in fact, weddings in Palestine were not unlike this. The bridegroom would appear unexpectedly, and the bridal party needed to be ready. In the villages of Palestine this was (and is) a slice of life. What is the significance? Three things. Firstly, it was another warning for the Jews. They were the chosen people; they should have been ready for the bridegroom (Jesus) when he appeared. However, they were not ready, and therefore they were shut out from the joyous wedding celebration that the bridegroom (Jesus) would make possible. What about us? Just because we are from a country with a Christian heritage does not mean we cannot be excluded. Secondly, this parable reminds us that there are some things which cannot be obtained at the last minute. In developing our spiritual disciplines in church, many of these disciplines take time to develop. Yes, by God’s grace, salvation is instant but continued growth in holiness takes time. Finally, the parable reminds us that some things cannot be borrowed. We cannot borrow faith; we cannot borrow experiences. Rather, it must be our faith and our experience. In our Christian lives, while there are many to help us, we need to make the decision to follow Jesus and we need to keep following Jesus by being in constant communion with him – rather than relying on others. For all these reasons we need to be continually watchful and continually vigilant.
Old Testament reading for this week: Joshua 24:1-3, 14-25
Gospel reading for this week: Matthew 25:1-13
Epistle reading for this week: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Psalm for this week: Psalm 78:1-7