Friday 10 May 2013

Bible Book:

Matthew 25:1-13 Friday 10 May 2013


The parable of the tenbridesmaids (commonly known as the "parable of the wise and foolishvirgins") falls in the latter third of Jesus' final long speech inMatthew's Gospel (chapters 23-25).

In the long teaching of whichtoday's passage is a part, Jesus judges the present and speaks ofcoming judgement. He uses a series of warnings, woes, predictionsand parables. This 'judgement discourse' immediately precedes theplot to arrest and kill Jesus, the events of the last supper andhis passion.

Today's parable begins withMatthew's Gospel familiar formula, "… the kingdom of heaven will belike this". However this parable offers a less everyday, familiarsetting, and seems more contrived to make a theological point. Thebridegroom is delayed, and all the bridesmaids must sleep (verse5). When they are awakened, those without oil beg the others toshare and are rebuffed (verse 8). While they rush to the dealers tobuy oil themselves, the wedding feast is called and the doorsclosed (verse 10). They are too late.

The parable does not reduceeasily to an allegory giving moral guidance: if it did, it wouldseem to be starkly at odds with other "kingdom of heaven" parablesin Matthew's Gospel. The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35) taught extreme forgiveness.In the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), the landowner showedextravagant generosity to the late hired workers, to a degree thatbrought outrage. In light of these, are readers of today's passageto understand that in the kingdom of heaven people should not sharewhat oil they have at the end of days?

But to try to make the parableinto a simple ethical story misses its teaching. Its point is aboutreadiness for God's coming at the end of days. All must sleep; weare not to remain restless with anxiety about when God comes, butto be ready. Thus this parable paradoxically counsels a calm andprepared confidence, not a state of constant worry and rush to setthings right.

To Ponder

  • What, in your view, does readiness for the coming kingdominclude?
  • How do you recognise a "wise" person in your church, group offriends, or workplace? What are they like? 
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