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The Gospel | Matthew 25:1-13
Jesus said, “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.
Although early church tradition has it that the author of this Gospel was Matthew, the tax collector, who was a disciple of Jesus, most scholars today believe that this Gospel was written by an Israelite man between 80 and 90 AD. The Gospel According to Matthew seems to have been written for a Jewish audience. Jesus is the authoritative interpreter of Moses and the promised messianic king of Israel.
In chapter 25, we have three major parables about the coming of the Son of Man. The first (the parable of the ten bridesmaids) and the third (the parable of the sheep and goats – “as you did to the least of these…”) are found only in Matthew’s Gospel. The second of the three parables, the parable of the talents (vv. 14-30), is also found in Luke’s Gospel. The setting in the parable of the ten bridesmaids is the return of the groom (with his new bride) to his father’s house. The task of the bridesmaids was to welcome the bride and groom into the household.
1. Recall a time recently when you were late for an important event. Why were you delayed, and how did you feel?
2. How did the wise bridesmaids respond to the request of the ones who were not prepared?
3. How did the bridegroom respond to the bridesmaids who wanted to come to the banquet late? What does his response say about last-minute appeals vs. ongoing relationship?
4. What is Jesus’ concluding warning?
5. What do you know from your own life of not being spiritually prepared or equipped in the faith and then in a crisis seeking to rely on those who were more mature spiritually? Is the inability to help the spiritually unprepared an act of selfishness on the part of the spiritually mature, or is it just a recognition the reality that everyone must do his or her own work of spiritual preparation – faith and spiritual maturity are not commodities we can instantly acquire? When have you experienced this dynamic or this frustration?
6. Do you tend to your spiritual life regularly, or do you tend to let it slide until you are in a real pinch? What can we do to help us remain vigilant about our relationship with God, instead of allowing it to take a back seat to other concerns?
7. What do you know about “dozing off” or not being vigilant about an important relationship in your life? When the relationship reached a crisis point, did you have what you needed to restore the relationship? Consider the consequences of putting off attention to our relationships with each other and with God.
8. This passage reminds us of Jesus’ regular admonition to be prepared, wakeful, spiritually attentive, and available for the revelation of God or the breaking in of the Kingdom. Since so many today are overly busy, preoccupied, multi-tasking and worn out, there might be a number of ways in which this Gospel lesson connects with people’s everyday lives. Consider the difference between having plenty of oil and not having enough. When you are intentional about and attentive to your spiritual life, do you have a sense that you are storing up oil for those times when you will lapse, doze, or become spiritually inattentive?
9. If you tell a child that you are going to go to Disney World, that child will be alert and prepared. She’ll start packing and will announce with excitement that she is ready to go. Chances are that she will be on the edge of her seat until you actually enter the Magic Kingdom. When it comes to God, what are we preparing for? Is the Kingdom of God something that excites our passions and causes us to prepare and be vigilant? Or, are the things of God too churchy and boring – things we tend to out of a sense of duty rather than with a sense of passion and expectation? What might it mean to encounter God in the course of your daily life? How might you be better prepared? Do you want to be prepared?
10. Consider this proposition. People who expect to find joy and wonder and beauty in their daily lives seem to find these things much more regularly than those who do not expect to find them. Those who believe in a heavenly realm that can break in on us at any moment are much more likely to experience this realm than those who are not so expectant. What do you expect of your daily life?
11. What are some of the ways in which God is coming to me, but I miss it? How is God speaking to me, but I do not hear it?
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