Summary: Parables for Seekers, Pt. 9
BUY OIL WHILE THE SUN SHINES (MATTHEW 25:1-13)
A good friend called me shortly on the Saturday afternoon exactly a week before the day of my wedding. He asked hesitatingly, “What are you doing?” I sensed something was not right and asked him what he meant. After a brief pause, he asked meekly: “Aren’t you getting married today?” Refraining from laughing, I answered, “No, it is next week.” He mumbled, “My wife and I are standing outside the church you have picked for your wedding ceremony. I must have seen the wrong date on the invitation card.”
Poor guy. He had caught a break; his in-laws were available to baby-sit their two kids, who were five and two in age, so that the couple could attend the wedding. As one of the two wedding ushers for the big day, he had a part in the wedding but was spared from the rehearsal, with embarrassing consequences to him. All he had to do was to show up for the wedding day and do the ushering, a chore not unfamiliar to the minister friend.
The wedding usher must have realized something was wrong when he arrived to ample parking and quiet streets. Next week he and his wife returned to the same church, on the right date this time, and did his ushering best.
Jesus compared a person’s ill-preparation for His return to bridesmaids that sleep on the job and miss out on the bride and groom’s wedding ceremony, the biggest day of one of their best friend’s lives, and the subsequent wedding reception, celebration and banquet.
How should we prepare for Jesus’ coming? What is there is a delay? Why is prevention better than cure and crying over spilt milk?
Be Ready Within, Not Outside
25:1 “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, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. (Matt 25:1-4)
A film crew was on location deep in the desert. One day an old Indian went up to the director and said, “Tomorrow rain.” The next day it rained.
A week later, the Indian went up to the director and said, “Tomorrow storm.” The next day there was a hailstorm. “This Indian is incredible,” said the director. He told his secretary to hire the Indian to predict the weather for the remaining of the shoot.
However, after several successful predictions, the old Indian didn’t show up for two weeks. Finally the director sent for him. “I have to shoot a big scene tomorrow,” said the director, “and I’m depending on you. What will the weather be like?” The Indian shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know,” he said. “My radio is broken.”
Appearances are deceiving. The foolish virgins looked, dressed and marched like bridesmaids. They were pretty, radiant and even charming on the outside, but dreary, dim and dull on the inside. The word “foolish” is none other than the Greek word “moros,” or the English equivalent “moron,” for stupid.
The foolish virgins were not prepared for the wedding, the ceremony or their duty. In fact, their oil did not run out at midnight; it ran out much earlier. They did not even have enough oil for the night, never mind late night. The groom’s arrival at midnight – before the wedding day was over – exposed them for who they were. They had lived their lives like a bad Cinderella story - once the clock struck midnight, the coach turns into a pumpkin, the horses become mice and the beautiful clothes rags. Unfortunately, the virgins’ gowns were stunning and their makeup was perfect, but their heads were empty. All that the foolish ones had to do was to bring extra olive oil, which was not expensive, heavy or rare. The oil was probably at the expenses of the wedding couple, not the bridesmaid.
A person reflects on the wisdom of having more, not less, oil to burn: “When I was a boy, they had beautiful kerosene lamps in every home, on every table. They had lovely glass bowls for the oil, so you could see their wicks and the level of the oil and knew when to replenish them. The lamp burned best when full of oil. When the level got low, too much of the wick would be out of the oil for the wick to be thoroughly soaked. Then the wick itself would begin to burn faster, and the lamp would give off smoke.”
The wise ones, however, brought oil in jars or vessels. The only other Greek occurrence of this word for jar or vessel is the word for “basket” or “pail,” for what fishermen used for a good catch (Matt 13:48). The work was tough, taxing and tiring. They knew they had their work cut out for them. They had to carry, drag and transport the jars around, but the girls were glad for their friends who were getting married, eager to help the wedding couple and willing to do what was asked. Goofing about, fooling and lazing around would have to wait.