Today we read the “Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids”, which, like yesterday’s passage, but in a different manner, is about being ready. I find this passage has two sides to it:
On one side, it’s a bit terrifying. It has that “be ready or be missed” sense to it. It’s a frightening notion to think about not “being ready” and consequently missing Jesus’ return. Jesus has been breaking the Kingdom wide open, but he is also clear that some will miss out. But this is nothing new to Matthew’s gospel. Verse 25:12 has the “bridegroom” saying, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you”. In Matthew 7:23 Jesus says, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me…'” The reality is that it appears that there will be some who end up not in, not with the bridegroom, or not with Jesus. This is a hard message. A couple things that are important to remember about this: The first is that in both of these cases (23:1-13 and 7:23) it is Jesus, the bridegroom, who says “I don’t know you”. No one else says it. It is not our job to determine who the bridegroom knows and who he doesn’t know. Second, in both of these cases, it is about me making me ready. I cannot make any one else ready, nor should I. I think these kinds passages are actually about personal holiness more than they are about heaven and hell. They are about me working on me and my relationship with God and allowing others to work on their relationship with God. I do not place judgement on theirs, nor do they on me.
The second side to this story is in its imagery. While there is a hard message in it, there is also a beautiful one. This relationship with God thing is about the pursuit of a bridegroom for his bride. I believe one of the primary images for humanity’s relationship with God is one of a passionate romance, not judge and defendant. We need to let the hard message in and work through it, but we also need to remember that we are talking about a God who passionately loves us, relentlessly pursues, sacrificially serves us, and wants nothing more than for us to respond. And in fact, this God even gets jealous when we don’t.
Yes, this passage has a hard message in it, but it is hard because authentic, passionate love is hard. It is risky and people can get hurt. But it is also beautiful. God pursues you, because God loves you. Let that in. God sees in you some one worth pursuing, fighting for and even dying for. May you stay centered in God’s love today and everyday.