1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying,‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13
Sitting next to Jesus here on the Mount of Olives I find myself marveling at his words. A shiver runs through me and I reach out for his hand, gripping it tightly in mine. If I am holding too tightly, he does not say. Nor does he withdraw his hand from mine.
I believe he senses my need of him. I believe he senses my need for his reassurance.
I look in his eyes and they tell me it’s okay to need his assurance. It’s okay to feel afraid. It’s okay.
It doesn’t feel okay, I tell him.
I know, he replies softly. I’m sorry for that.
A tear spills from my eye and slides down my cheek and his rough carpenter hand reaches out and gently wipes it away. I find comfort in knowing that Jesus knows my heart. That he can read what I hold there.
These are the hardest words I’ve heard so far on this journey, I say.
He nods and wraps my hand in both of his, a comfort beyond words right now. He waits. He doesn’t distract or offer me empty words. Instead he lets me wander through my own heavy words. Words heavy with questions. Words heavy with uncertainty.
Only you can know a person’s heart, I begin.
Yes, he agrees.
That has always been the hard part, you know?
Jesus nods, his eyes filled with love and compassion.
Sheepishly, I admit to him, I’ve never really understood this story. I’ve read it plenty of times, but I’ve never really looked at what it’s saying.
Jesus smiles. There is no judgment for this confession. But today you are.
I nod slowly, closing my eyes and considering this most recent parable, especially the real implications it holds for my life.
Ten virgins go out to await the bridegroom and five go into the marriage celebration and five are left outside after the door closes. The door won’t open again. They will stay in the dark. They will stay apart from the bridegroom.
I do not worry that I will be one of the ones outside the closed door. That is not what causes me to fret today, sitting beside my Savior listening to this story.
My concern is for people I love. For those I call friend. For those whose blood runs through my veins.
Because the ten virgins all appear the same. They all take up their lamps. They all go out to look for the bridegroom, to await for him to arrive. They all stay up until the wait becomes long and sleep takes them over. The only difference is that five virgins are called wise because they bring extra oil.
The other five? They are called foolish. They bring only the lamp but no additional oil.
When the wait stretches long into the dark of the night, the lamps begin to burn low. And when the bridegroom’s procession finally arrives, only the five who have enough oil can find their way to the procession. Only they find their way to the entrance into the marriage celebration.
Hearing the story of the bridegroom and taking up your lamp to go out and seek him is not enough. Following faithful followers will only get you so far; it won’t get you into the party.
But that’s not the point. That’s not what I am supposed to focus on right now.
Jesus looks at me expectantly at this point. Because he knows. He, too, knows that this isn’t about them or their actions. This is about me.
This is about what I can do, isn’t it?
I know the answer, but I want him to confirm what I am learning sitting here with him.
It is, he says.
Suddenly I recall a message I read from Lee Strobel last week: If God today answered every prayer you prayed LAST WEEK, would there be anybody new in the Kingdom of God tomorrow?
Tears spill steadily from my eyes now. Because if I answer Lee Strobel’s question, if I answer Jesus’ question that underlies the conversation this parable has inspired between us, my only answer is, No.
No, there would not be anybody new in the Kingdom of God tomorrow. Or Yesterday. Or last week.
Rather there likely would be those who are left standing outside the door, still in the darkness. Still seeking, carrying lamps in need of oil.
Each of us is responsible for choosing a relationship with Jesus.
But each of us in a relationship with Jesus is also responsible for sharing the Good News. For praying for those who don’t know him. For shining a Light in the darkness of the world. For shining a Light In the darkness of the lives of those around us.
Family. Friends. Neighbors. That person you passed on the street with tears in her eyes. That person behind the counter who is busy and frazzled and in need of a kind word.
Is there really any more important thing we can do than to pray for people to come to know Jesus?
Is there really anything more pressing than to introduce someone to the Savior?
It scares me, I whisper, looking at the dirt instead of at Jesus.
He pulls me close, still holding my hand in this roughened Creator hands and I lay my head on his shoulder, taking a deep, trembling breath. In the silence on this hill I hear his truth in his breath. I hear his truth in my Spirit.
I tremble at his truth.
Because I know that his love trumps the enemy’s lie of fear.
Because I know that this is why I am on this journey.
Because I know that I am here for such a time as this.
And his love trumps my fear. Every time.