In Matthew 25 the writer records three stories Jesus told. The first is a story of ten brides maids in the setting of preparation for a wedding. The second story is about a wealthy man who goes on a long trip and entrust portions of his estate to three of his employees. The third story is in the setting of a shepherd who is bringing his sheep in for the evening separating the sheep from the goat for the night.
In the first story Jesus tells of ten bridesmaids who are preparing for a wedding. Wedding preparation in first century jewish culture involved months of preparation as the bridesmaids would make their own gowns and the father of the bride would be storing away wine and food for the long celebration. In the story there is the issue of stored oil and lamps for light at night. Of the ten bridesmaids, five of them had extra oil to keep their lamps full and the light burning bright (which would have been the normal expectation). Jesus adds a surprising element to the story by having five bridesmaid who had not adequately prepared to keep their lamps lit and ran out of oil. The unprepared bridesmaids first asked to borrow some oil from the prepared bridesmaids but they refused to share. Then the unprepared bridesmaids went to purchase some oil which made them late to the wedding celebration and were not allowed to enter.
What are we to make of this story?
Let’s begin by recognizing what would have been surprising to the listeners who heard Jesus tell this story. When Jesus spoke of the five bridesmaids who didn’t have enough oil the listeners would have laughed and said to one another, “That would NEVER happen!” Hospitality was huge in first century Jewish culture. Bridesmaids unprepared wouldn’t be consider a miscalculation, it would have been a huge disrespect to the bride and her family. In other words, bridesmaids running out of oil would never happen. This is the part of the story we must pay attention too.
Another important detail is how the bridesmaids and the bride would be sweep away in the middle of the night. As an act of romance, the best man of the groom would sneak over to the bride’s father house in the middle of the night, where the bride and the bridesmaids would be in preparation and call for the bride and bridesmaids to come out and go with him. At that calling, the bride and her bridesmaid must quickly arise and go with him. This was a custom of the groom steal his bride away. The best man would then lead the bride and her bridesmaids off to the place where the groom and his father had prepared for the wedding celebration to take place; which is why the extra oil was necessary for the long night journey.
Here is Jesus message in this story. In Matthew 24 Jesus predicts the horrific events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. Then we have the story of the ten bridesmaids. The point Jesus is making is life is full of unexpected surprises. Sometimes those unexpected interruptions can drastically change our lives like COVID-19. Or the lost of a job, or lost of a loved one. Jesus doesn’t want us to go through life with a fatalistic mindset, he want us to be people of hope steady and prepared when the unexpected happens. Jesus is revealing a new gift that will soon come to his followers. Soon the gift of the Holy Spirit would be given. The Spirit is often depicted in scripture as oil. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on all flesh (as prophesied in Joel 2:28 & fulfilled on the day of First Fruits/Pentecost Acts 2:1-4) and the Holy Spirit would be with us in those life interruptions.
Jesus is encouraging us life interruptions don’t need to destroy our lives. When we are in the fires of devastation the Holy Spirit is with us. When we go through the storms of life the Holy Spirit is with us. God doesn’t removed the storms, instead, He chooses to go through the storm with us. Preparation doesn’t eliminate the difficult journey through the night, but it does make seeing our way through easier.
Whatever you are facing know that God is with you and together you will be victorious over this troubles of this life.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8