Read Matthew 25
Focus on verse 13
It has been over ten years now since my mother-in-law passed away. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given eighteen months to live. As the end of those eighteen months drew near and she was placed in hospice care the family spent as much time as possible in her hospital room. I remember one evening my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my wife and myself spent the better part of the evening standing around her bed singing through a hymnal together. She found music comforting and we found singing therapeutic, so it worked out rather well.
As the end drew near, one of the things we had hoped to avoid was that she would pass when none of us were there. Though we scheduled our visits in such a way that someone was nearly always there, we had to reconcile ourselves to the reality that since we did not know when that moment would be, it was always possible that she would slip away in one of the short spans of time between visits or even as we stepped out of the room to take eat or use the facilities. As it turned out we were blessed that God arranged the timing so that we were all there when she finally did step through that veil passing from this life to the next.
In today’s reading Jesus tells a parable describing the kingdom of heaven. He described it as a party of ten young women waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. He said five were wise and brought along extra oil for their lamps, and five were foolish and brought no extra oil. When the bridegroom is delayed, they all fall asleep until at midnight they hear that shout, “The bridegroom is here!” They all awake and trim their lamps but the foolish ones are out of oil and must go try to find a place to buy more. As a result they miss the grand entrance into the hall where the marriage feast takes place. When they return the doors are closed and they are locked out. Jesus concludes the parable with this warning.
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (v. 13)
There are many opportunities in life that we miss because we are not ready. Athlete’s train almost constantly, so that they will always be ready for the big game, or the next competition. Successful sales people are always ready to make their pitch to the next potential buyer. The young couple expecting their first baby are given a due date of when to expect the baby, but they also are warned to always be ready at any point within about three weeks of that date.
While all these things and more are important things to be ready for, Jesus point in this chapter is that those who follow Him always be ready for His return. We do not know if He will return in the next hour, or in the next millennium. From the signs that He has given us in the scriptures, it would certainly seem like the time is close at hand. What exactly we should be doing while we wait is answered in the next parable of the ten talents.
There are groups who in the past have been so convinced that Jesus return was imminent that they abandoned all their earthly possessions and gathered on a hilltop to wait for his arrival. I do not believe that this is what Jesus had in mind for us to do. In the parable of the talents, it seems evident that while we wait for his arrival we are to use the gifts He has given us, and the time that remains to work diligently to increase the kingdom of heaven for His glory. As we do this we are also to keep watch, as we do not know the day or the hour of His return.
If we are faithful in this regard, we will be rewarded as the young maidens who had brought extra oil were when the bridegroom arrived, keeping in mind that it is not the works that we accomplish that gain us favor with God, but the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. It is our relationship with Him that motivates us to work with diligence, not the other way around. If we believe it is the work that we do that is earning us the relationship, we may find ourselves among the people on His left who are astounded and offended to hear Jesus say depart from me for I never knew you. There is nothing we can do to earn a relationship with Christ. He offers us that relationship by grace. The work we do for Him is merely our response of gratitude for the priceless gift He has given us.