Matthew 25:1-13: ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
The Gospel reading was the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids from the 25th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. It was pointed out that this was the beginning of the tradition of apocalyptic readings coming into the Advent season.
The questions then becomes, “What do we believe about the end times?” There are many thoughts and theories. How do we come to our own understanding?
Early in seminary, theology students are taught that the place to start is who is saying what to who and what did it mean to the people who heard it. While most commentaries suggest that in this parable, Jesus is the bridegroom and the purpose of the story was to speak of his second coming. The problem with that is that the story, in Matthew, comes before Jesus death, so his first coming isn’t yet over. If Jesus spoke these words in the historic timeline proposed, the story would be heard as a prediction of his impending death.
However, this parable is found only in Matthews Gospel which begs the question “Why didn’t the authors of Mark, Luke and John include this story?” A further question was posed around the nature of bridesmaids waiting for the groom and why they wouldn’t share their oil?
What I wanted to do in this homily was to remind people that as baptized Christians, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we need to take our place in the discussion of the meaning of Scripture and how it impacts in our society today. All opinions must be welcomed and everyone must take their role in interpreting. The only way to do that, is to study the Scriptures and participate in deep Christian learning.
So I leave it to you: “What do you believe about the end times and why do you believe it?
The Rev. Canon Keith Nethery