Gospel of Matthew 25:1-13
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took
their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were
foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they
took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their
lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy
and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the
bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got
up 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 replied,
‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go
to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And 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. Later the
other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he
replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.
It was nearing the end of Jesus’ ministry. As
highlighted in the gospel of Matthew, his purpose centered
on opening people’s minds and hearts to the Kingdom of
God, sometimes called the Kingdom of Heaven. Also,
Jesus extended an invitation for people to live within
God’s Kingdom in the here and now.
In light of the increasing and vehement opposition
from Jewish religious authorities, Jesus anticipated his
fate. Yet, he knew his mission must move forward. It was
crucial that his message and invitation into God’s
Kingdom go on.
Only after Jesus’ death did his disciples come to
understand the importance of perpetuating Jesus’ message
and invitation. But they had to brace themselves because
it would cost them dearly.
Like the prophets before Jesus, the earliest of
Christians came to believe that God would once again, and
for the last time, intervene in human history.
At God’s final intervention, there would be a moment
when every woman and man would face accountability for
their actions and inaction. At that time, Christ Jesus
would return to this world, bringing God’s justice and
After human accountability, the world would be
recreated, reshaped into God’s Kingdom of justice, mercy,
peace, joy and love. Early Christians called this moment of
intervention the Parousia, or Second Coming. This is the
backdrop of today’s gospel reading.
Knowing his fate as well as the importance of his
message and invitation into God’s kingdom, Jesus spent
alone time coaching his disciples for the challenging work
of continuing his mission in the world.
The setting for today’s gospel is just outside of the city
of Jerusalem. It is known as the Mount of Olives.
In the proceeding chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus
warned his disciples of hardship due to carrying on his
“Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put
you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because
of my name. Then many will fall away, and they will
betray one another and hate one another. And many false
prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of
the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow
cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
Now, while sitting with his disciples on the hillside
overlooking the city, Jesus tells the parable of the 10
Bridesmaids. He opens the story by saying, “The Kingdom
of Heaven will be like this…” Then he proceeds to tell
about 10 Bridesmaids whose job was to light the path for
the Bride and Groom as they processed to their Wedding
The only thing that distinguishes the Bridesmaids one
from another is that 5 brought extra oil for their torch-
lamps and 5 did not.
In ancient times, it was not uncommon for the Bride’s
parents and the Groom to get caught up in last minute
negotiations over the Bride’s dowry. So, to those listening
to the parable, it made perfect sense that the Bridesmaids
needed to be prepared for a delay of the festivities due to
last minute negotiations.
It also made sense that the 5 Bridesmaids with extra
oil wouldn’t share their oil, because if they, too, ran out of
oil, the Bride and Groom would have to begin their
wedding festivities without the traditional, joyful,
brilliantly-lighted procession. That would be disgraceful
So, while the 5 Bridesmaids set out to find oil, the
Groom came and the procession started – without them.
For us today, the words of the Groom may sound
harsh. After missing the procession and banging on the
banquet hall’s door saying, “Lord, open the door for us,”
those 5 Bridesmaids heard, “I do not know you.” And with
that, they were left out of the festivities – left to the
darkness of the night.
The parable encourages us to be prepared. Though
God has withheld final intervention, for now, we must stay
vigilant, for God’s intervening and our accountability will
one day come.
This past Friday, at Diocesan Convention, the Rev.
Paul Fromberg, was our keynote speaker. He is the Rector
of St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco. Fr. Fromberg
shared many inspiring stories of the ministries at St.
Gregory’s. You can check out St. Gregory’s for yourself on
Also, Fr. Fromberg challenged us to live authentically
in relationship with God as well as in relationship with
those who are strangers to us. He suggested that it is in
those connections that we are given opportunities to
experience spiritual transformation. Those enlivening
moments heighten our awareness of Jesus’ presence in the
stranger and in us, and they help us to grow closer and
closer to God.
Living in San Francisco, Fr. Fromberg told us that he
and all his neighbors know each other because they
depend upon each other. Each one must be prepared for
the next BIG EARTHQUAKE to hit San Francisco. They
all know who has what provisions so that they can care for
one another in the likelihood of a natural disaster.
How are we preparing for God’s final intervention?
And, in what ways are we helping others to prepare for the
moment of accountability at the coming of God’s justice
In Matthew’s Gospel, the tasks of preparing include:
bearing witness to God’s Kingdom by welcoming the
stranger, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and
imprisoned (25:31-46), and making disciples throughout the
The author, Max Brooks, writes: “If you believe you
can accomplish everything by "cramming" at the eleventh
hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may
think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has
already started raining.” (Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival
Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead)
Jesus calls us to be prepared for the rain and have
plenty of oil. Let’s welcome the stranger, feed the hungry,
show compassion, and tell the good news of God’s love
with both voice and action.