You see them at airports all the time: people waiting in line on “standby”, especially around the holidays, hoping that a seat on the airplane will become available. They tried making reservations too late and all the tickets were sold out.
We’re all waiting for something. We living in a “waiting in line” society. We stand in queues at fast food restaurants, supermarket check-outs, bus stops, banks, box offices for movies or sports events, and post offices.
As children, we couldn’t wait to grow up and do the things we wanted to do: graduate, get a driver’s license, find a job and earn money, get married and have children, buy a house… We spend our entire lives waiting for things!
Thankfully, to get into God’s Kingdom, no one has to wait in line or be on standby. However, those who hesitate in making a “reservation” may be too late, as illustrated by one of Jesus’ parables.
In Matthew 25:1-13, who were the wise and foolish girls? First, let’s take a quick look at the marriage customs of that day.
There were three stages to marriage in Palestine: first, the engagement, which was often arranged by parents or matchmakers; second, the betrothal, a binding commitment that took place when the boy and girl were of age; and finally, marriage, which took place a year later.
Newly married couples did not go on honeymoons, but stayed for a week of celebration and feasting. This is what the 10 virgins were waiting for in Jesus’ story. If the bridegroom lived far away, there was no way of knowing when he would arrive. Finding the bridal party napping would not be a good thing!
When life does not meet our expectations, we may give up, wondering whether there is anything waiting for. In Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, King Solomon declared: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless. What does man gain from all his labour?”
After working for years, we have retirement… and then death. What is it we have been waiting for? Solomon continued: “In days to come, we will all be forgotten. We must all die, wise and foolish alike… I had been chasing the wind!” (Ecclesiastes 2:16, 26)
Jesus’ parable tells us that we are waiting for someone — not just something, or some experience, but for the bridegroom. In fact, when we add everything up, the purpose of our lives is to get ready to meet Him. God is, and presents Himself as, the Bridegroom.
John the Baptist said, “I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom.” (John 3:28-29) The Apostle John wrote: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:7, 9)
Jesus has been portrayed as a doctor, teacher, king, judge, and shepherd, but how many of us think of Him as a bridegroom? “At midnight the cry rang out: Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” (Matthew 25:6)
The bridegroom — Jesus — is coming for sure. The question is: are we ready to meet Him?
In the parable of the 10 virgins, we see five wise and five foolish ones. Verses 7 to 9 say: “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you.’”
What was the difference between the wise and foolish girls? They looked the same. They had the same purpose: to go to the wedding. They all knew the bridegroom was coming. None of them knew when he was coming. But five were ready and five were not.
There is a preparation we must make for ourselves. The point is not that the wise should have shared their oil. The point is that there are some things that cannot be borrowed.
You can’t borrow faith. You can’t borrow character. You can’t die for someone else. You can’t stand before God for someone else. The Bible says: “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12)
A common saying is that God has no grandchildren. You can’t do it on the faith of your parents, preacher or pastor!
Lamps present a good picture of our salvation. In Matthew 5:14 we read: “You are the light of the world.” Is the oil of the Spirit in your life? Or has the lamp of prayer gone out? Has the Bible become a closed book?
God wants you to avoid life’s greatest tragedy. There is a door that will be
shut one day. Being left outside would indeed be the greatest tragedy. In Matthew 25:10-12 we read: “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.
“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’”
We never know in life how close we are to losing some of our greatest opportunities. There is a very serious warning here! It is possible to be too late. We can let the trivial or even urgent things make us forget or avoid the most important things. There always seems to be so much we have to do and want to do.
God continues to speak, warn and invite… but He will not force or break down the door to our hearts. Some day, all those things that seemed so important and urgent — our careers, success, pleasure — will vanish. The only thing that will matter is that sudden and unpredictable moment when we meet Him and stand before the Bridegroom.
Yes, there is a heaven, and entering heaven is the result of being ready to meet God.
Yes, there is a hell, and hell includes eternal separation from God, which is the result of ignoring Him and the salvation He offers. Jesus Himself paid the price of our separation from God so that the door to heaven might be opened.
Surveys often give three answer choices: yes, no or undecided. But there is no “undecided” with God — only “yes” or “no”. Is your response “yes”? Or is it “no”?
Pastor Joseph Hovsepian