I know you have to be careful about mapping every detail of a parable to some reality. That there’s a main point to Jesus’ stories which should be the reader’s primary focus, and that seeing a story behind every point can take you down paths that were never intended to be traveled.
Having said that, a lesser noticed detail in a familiar parable has grabbed my attention this morning. And though it isn’t the main point, I think it indicates an important truth — we’re all gonna snooze.
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them; but the wise ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. When the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” ~ Jesus
(Matthew 25:1-5 CSB)
Jesus tells a story of kingdom dynamics which occur “at that time.” What time? The time referenced in Matthew 24:36-44. The time when “your Lord is coming”. The time when “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” The time when Christ comes for His bride, the church. The time when His disciples, those in the church, are to be ready and be alert. The time when they are to be awake.
At that time there will be some ready for the groom’s return, with oil for their lamps, and some who are not — those carrying lamps that look good for light, but which have no substance to actually emit light. All aware of the bridegroom’s promised return. All seemingly awaiting the bridegroom’s return. But all, apparently, not really prepared for the bridegroom’s return.
The groom is delayed. He’s taking longer to return than the circumstances about them, and the signs of the times before them, would seem to indicate. And here’s what grabs my attention:
” . . . they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”
While some of these virgins were prepared with lamp and oil and some were not, none of these waiting for the groom had superpowers. What distinguished them from each other wasn’t that some were more able, more capable, more devoted, or more better (yeah, not good English, I know) than the others, but that some were ready, and some were not. However, the longer the groom delayed the more likely these mere mortals — all of them — were to find themselves at times drowsy and falling asleep.
In their waiting, while seeking to be ready and alert, the longer the groom tarried the more likely they were to nod off. That’s what creatures of the flesh are gonna do. Despite waiting and watching, at some point we’re all gonna snooze.
However, it seems to me the point of the parable is whether we’re gonna nod off with our lamps full of oil or with them empty. When we are awake, when we are at our best, when we are on our game, are we actively, intentionally preparing for the groom’s return? Are we seeking to hide His word in our hearts, not just that we might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11), but so that we might also be transformed by the renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2a)? Are we actively engaging with that word, so that not only are we discerning God’s good and perfect will (Rom. 12:2b), but we’re also distinguishing the world’s good and evil ways (Heb. 5:14)? Are we taking the talents He’s left us with and investing them in the kingdom? Are we growing together with the adopted family He’s given us as we convey something of the kingdom He wants to present through us? Are we filling our lamps with oil or not?
We’re all gonna snooze? It’s what people still encumbered by the flesh do. But when we do grow weary, and when we perhaps lose a little focus, we can snooze with our lamps full and our light’s ready to shine. So that when we are awakened by the convicting call of the Spirit — or by the trumpet sound of the coming of Jesus — we will be found ready and welcomed to the wedding banquet.
By His grace. For His glory.