Call for Questions
Okay Northminster—3W is this Wednesday (10.20) and I need your help.
The Bible study is based on your comments, questions, interpretations. I’d really like to hear what you’re thinking. So use the “Leave a Reply” box below to chime in about your readings in Matthew’s gospel.
We had a great conversation about Mark last month, and if you’ll help me out, we’ll have another lively discussion on Wednesday.
The Closed Door
Today’s reading from Matthew includes this story:
“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.” Matthew 25:1-13 (NRSV)
In Jesus’ day the rabbis debated which was more virtuous, the study of Torah or the obedient living out of Torah. Matthew clearly comes down on the side of the latter (see 7:21-27, the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount). This little story is an illustration of the importance of right actions.
According to parable scholar Joachim Jeremias, Weddings in first century Palestine seldom began on time. The bridegroom would show up at night, greeted by the bridesmaids with their tiki torches lit. They would then travel to the home of the bridegroom’s father for the ceremony and an extended party.
Jesus’ story is about some bridesmaids who were not adequately prepared for the length of the delay. They run out of oil for their tiki torches and while they are at Wal-Mart re-supplying, the groom arrives and leaves. The story is absolutely rich with applications for us today.
As you’re thinking about what the story says to us, notice that the bridesmaids outside the closed door shout, “Lord, Lord!” Remember the other time someone used the “Lord, Lord” address? It’s at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (7:21-22) and is spoken by those who heard what Jesus said but did not put it into action. Repetition in scripture is never by accident. Matthew is underlining one of his main teachings, that James would later phrase “be doers of the word.”