Matthew 25: 1-13
“God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.
“In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’
“The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’
“They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’
“They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.
“Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’
“He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’
“So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.
There are a lot of similarities among these ten bridesmaids: they all gather to meet the bridegroom; they all carry lamps; the bridegroom’s timeframe is drawn out for them all; they are all awakened by the invitation to ‘come and meet’ their ‘Lord’.
But there is one key difference: the wise also brought oil; the foolish neglected to do so.
And so the story unfolds for these two groups very differently. The wise are found waiting and ready. The foolish, however, are at the dealers purchasing oil as the bridegroom arrives. Their late arrival seals their fate. They are left outside.
It seems harsh: the wise bridesmaids refusal to share; the closed door; the denial of any knowledge of the five fools.
But this is not a story told after the event. Jesus’ audience, and Matthew’s readers, live before the dramatic coming of the kingdom. It is a pre-warning. A giving of advanced notice. Listen and prepare well. There is no need for this to be a surprise.
And that is the very purpose of this story: that we might be ready and awake at the coming of heaven’s kingdom. Matthew’s narrator sums it up well: ‘Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour’