“Ready or Not…” – Matthew 25:13
November 11 & 12, 2017
Do you remember playing Hide and Seek? One of our rules in playing this game was that the person who was “it” had to hide his eyes and count to 50 while the others scattered to find a place to hide. Upon reaching the number 50, the person who was “it” had to shout out in a loud voice, “Ready or not, here I come!” Then, the person who was “it” tried to find those who had hidden and try to tag them before they could run and touch the place where the person who was “it” had been counting. Those who delayed and were not ready, were caught immediately.
I remember many arguments resulting from this game; some saying that the person who was “it” hadn’t counted all the way to 50; others that “it wasn’t fair” because someone had taken their hiding place, or the person who was “it” had peeked; or some other excuse for not being ready. But no matter what excuse was used, “ready or not” the person was caught!
The Bible never mentions if Jesus ever played “hide and seek.” Yet Jesus uses a somewhat similar example that WAS familiar to His disciples and the people of His day. Jesus said, “At that time (talking about the end of the world), the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” (Matthew 25:1)
Because of the stony ground and dry dust of Jesus’ day, the highlight of the day for women of Jesus’ day was the daily trip to get water from the well! (no TV, radio, cd players, cell phones, computers, automobiles, shopping malls, etc.) Therefore, a wedding was an event that not only broke the monotony, but was always greatly anticipated for the celebrating and feasting that went on for days!
To make these events more exciting, there were certain “challenges.” The high point and start of the wedding was the coming of the bridegroom. The challenge was that the bridegroom would try to sneak up on the wedding party and try to catch them unawares. If he was successful, those who were not ready would be the brunt of the joke, and would be the talk of the town for years afterwards! But the “challenge” was understood that the bridegroom had to come within a certain period of time, and someone had to run ahead of him to announce his coming. The unmarried women (virgins) were to meet the bridegroom and light his way to the festivities. If they were ready when the bridegroom came, they could come in. If they were not ready, the door was closed and they would be caught outside, not only missing the excitement of the party, but also being the victims of the practical joke, suffering doubly from the exclusion!
I remember that being caught in the game of “hide and seek” was bad. For the people in Jesus’ day, being left out of the wedding festivities was even worse! But in this parable, Jesus is NOT talking about any “child’s play” or “social embarrassment,” He is speaking to us about spending eternity either in heaven or hell! He tells this parable to warn us that we MUST BE READY when He comes again on the Last Day. If we are not, it will be too late, the door will be shut and we will be eternally excluded from heaven!
Just as in my childhood games of hide and seek, there are those who make excuses. Inevitably, there is someone who blames the bridegroom for the reason that the five foolish virgins were not ready. They say that if the bridegroom had not delayed, none of the virgins would’ve run short on the oil. But these people miss the very purpose why Jesus told this parable.
Unlike the bridegrooms of Jesus’ day who tried to fool those who were waiting for him; Jesus, the heavenly Bridegroom does exactly the opposite. He provides all that we need to be ready and to remain ready for His coming. Throughout the entire history of time, as recorded for us in the Bible we have the continual crying out, “Get ready, He’s coming!” (whether for Jesus’ first coming, announced over 400 times by all the OT prophets; or the message, “He’s coming back, He’s coming soon!” of all the NT apostles and evangelists.) And Jesus, the Bridegroom continues to bless His Church with committed lay members, as well as pastors, teachers, DCE’s, deaconesses and other professional church workers to keep up the cry, “Be Ready, Jesus is Coming!”
The point of the parable is the utter foolishness of not being ready! Note that Jesus says: “The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” (v.3-4) (Like carrying your uncharged cell phone, or flashlight with no batteries; or try to drive a car with no gas! – totally foolish!)
We come to worship each week to hear God’s precious Word and receive God’s generous supply of “oil;” always ready for Jesus, the “Bridegroom’s” return. We have God’s Word available to us daily in devotions and prayer. We have Bible studies in which to be filled with the “oil” of Jesus. Jesus has delayed His coming to give time for more to become “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Just as we are assured in Scripture that God waited for just the right time to send His only Son, Jesus, so also He is waiting for just the right time for Jesus’ second coming. Will it be today? Are you ready? Are your family members and friends ready?
Ready or not, He’s coming! As we pray in the 2nd petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Thy kingdom come, we confess that God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. Therefore, “ready and waiting” we join the Apostle John, as he concludes the book of Revelation: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon!’ Amen, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelations 22:20)
What a joy and blessing to anticipate worshiping with you and being “filled up” with God’s Word in devotions and Bible Classes again this coming week and weekend. Jesus supplies plenty of “oil” – Do you have the oil for your lamp?