Sovereign and Generous God, I praise You in astonishment for who You are and what You have done.
Consider: In the world of this parable, the oil probably means being ready for the key moment. This was the case with the wise virgins. We need God's wisdom for daily living.
I once happened to be on the small Greek island of Folegandros, climbing its narrow cobbled streets to the hora (Greek national circle dance), when I came across a gathering crowd. The children were beautifully dressed, the musicians were tuning up, several men were on the rooftops firing rounds from their rifles, and oil lamps were on the walls as the sun began to set. The expectation, the excitement, the readiness--all in the fading summer sunshine--were memorable.
It was the same in Palestinian villages in the time of Jesus. Weddings were a great occasion for the whole community, and as the evening approached guests would head out to meet the bridegroom, torches in hand. Everything would be prepared. That's probably why Jesus told the story: it was part of his call for readiness. True, the parables highlight the possibility of delay, an issue frequently raised as an objection to the whole idea of Christ's return. The longer the delay, the more careless people can become--perhaps Christian believers among them. "Where is this 'coming' he promised?" was one of the mocking voices that Peter records (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Judgment will come; however, Jesus will return, and some things can't be left to the last moment.
The parable specially highlights the importance of personal responsibility. We will each be called to account, as we will see in the next parable. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one of us may receive what is due us" (2 Cor. 5:10). To be unprepared would be a disaster. This is an urgent matter, the parable demonstrates, because there will come a time when it will be too late to change. There is no room for carelessness, for excuses or for prevarication. Now is the time to prepare.
The parables of this chapter call us to prepare--to reflect on what must be laid aside and what must be pursued in the light of Christ's return. How has God spoken to you?
Lord, I find it so easy to drift into apathy. Jolt me awake to my responsibilities to You and to others. Remind me of my calling.
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