Wedding preparations (part 1)
So much goes into a wedding. In our culture, it’s more than just the day-of ceremony between two people. There’s the decorations and the rehearsal dinner and procession lines and the wedding reception and dancing and eating and gifts and on and on and on. More than just the bride and the groom, other friends and family members have their “parts” to play in the various events.
In the second of three parables, at the end of what is referred to as ‘The Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus continued with the theme of being prepared for his unannounced return. He used an illustration from something his disciples would be familiar with – one aspect of the Jewish wedding procession.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish and five were sensible. When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them. But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps. Since the groom was delayed they all became drowsy and fell asleep.”
Jesus was a master storyteller, and the disciples would have immediately picked up on the tension in the story. They knew the Jewish marriage customs: that the bridegroom would travel to the home of his prospective bride, he would pay a purchase price for her, and at that time she was declared to be set apart exclusively for the groom. The groom would return to his father’s house, for an unspecified time, to prepare their new home. The bride would prepare herself for his eventual return. Typically, about a year later, he would lead a procession to fetch his bride and bring her to their new home. Their return home would be heralded with a shout and a torch-lit ceremony – where all invited guests were ready to attend the wedding feast.
Jesus’ parable takes place at the return of the groom with his bride. However, there were some waiting for his return that were not completely ready. They expected the groom to return quickly, and not be delayed. As Jesus continues, we find that their lack of preparation will certainly cost them.
“In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him.’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’
The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’
When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived. Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet and the door was shut. Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’
But he replied, ‘I assure you; I do not know you!’
Therefore, be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”
The foolish virgins knew the groom was coming back. They had every right to be out waiting for his return. They were on equal footing with the sensible ones in terms of position and ability. It’s almost like they ‘knew’ when the groom would return, so they didn’t make any provision beyond their immediate needs. They were not prepared to wait for the long haul, in case (according to their plans) the groom was delayed. Their lack of preparation meant that they missed out on that portion of the joyous wedding festivities.
Jesus re-emphasized the point of His parable with His last sentence: Therefore, be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.
Even though it’s been many years since Jesus gave this warning…His return is still imminent. His promise still stands. He is coming back. We shouldn’t be lulled in to slothfulness, thinking that every day will go on like the last one did. TODAY could be THE DAY. Are we watching? Are we ready? We don't want to miss out on anything Jesus has in store for us.