9 November 2014

Matthew 25:1-13

“But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” (v. 6)


If you have ever read the Gospel according to Mark you may have picked up a sense of urgency. Moving from point to point situations and stories are linked by the phrase, 'and immediately'. It seems that Mark is galloping along and can't wait to share his message. Matthew's Gospel feels all the more pedestrian. Joining the narrative around chapter 24 leads us on a steady march with a definite intention.

Through this chapter, which precedes our passage, Matthew's Gospel begins to talk about the end times (the eschaton). In some ways all the Gospels move in this direction but each writer will, apparently be diverted, to take in the view, before breaking camp and moving on again. But by this time the direction is clear. We are beginning to prepare for the end, the end of all things - a cosmological conflagration signalled, perhaps, by natural disasters. Ultimately the temple in Jerusalem will be razed to the ground. It is not clear from the Greek whether this will come about by some geological disaster, through warfare or something completely beyond natural experience. All that is sure is that this will happen. And in 70 CE the temple did fall, but there was no cosmological end of all things. This has led to debate as to the meaning of these passages and to whether they are authentically words of Jesus or built up by the Church after the fall of the temple.

What is sure is that this time will come and it is now likened to the coming of a bride groom - "at midnight there was a shout, 'Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him'". The passage underlines that the time of this coming is not, and will not, be known. What is essential for those who are waiting is to be diligent in their tasks and to maintain a sense of expectation. That which they are expecting is, in Hebrew scriptural terms, 'The Day of the Lord', the coming of the Messiah, a point of judgment, of crisis. For Christians this coming has been traditionally associated with judgment, with the Second Coming of Christ.

To Ponder

  • How have you felt if your expectations have been dashed, an event has been delayed, or even cancelled? How might this help you to imagine the experience of the bridesmaids?
  • The story of the bridesmaids relates to people waiting for a time of judgement. How does this speak to you today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.