“The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” (verse 5)
I’m struck by the quotation marks here. This is Jesus himself speaking, telling his own story. He’s the bridegroom – he knows his return is going to be long-delayed. Two thousand years later, it’s not a mistake – he knew it and foretold it, using this story to prepare us.
The drowsiness and slumber in the story are not critiqued. It’s not a story of “falling asleep at the switch.” No, the issue of preparedness, indeed alertness, has already been portrayed in the supply, or non-supply, of oil. Sleep, here, is simply an illustration of life as it happens – both the wise and the foolish are caught up in it through no fault of their own. The wait is long. Wakefulness turns to sleep in the natural course of events.
This jumps off the page for me this morning as life progresses so normally, so measuredly, with no sign of my Master’s return. It’s not a mistake. He intended it. Nor is it unspiritual to be immersed in the normal, natural unfolding of life. It’s where I live. It’s part of the story.
Yet, even when the normality of life in its unfolding rhythms seems so drawn out, established and permanent, still the Bridegroom is coming. No one knows when. No one knows how much oil will be expended in the meantime. It’s uncertain how many cycles of waking and sleeping will unfold. But the Bridegroom’s arrival is guaranteed.
Interestingly, both the wise and the foolish were convinced of this fact. All ten of these virgins were at the door waiting. Each was convinced that the wait would eventually end. But only five were prepared for the delay. Only five lived in the present as if the timing of this guaranteed arrival was completely in the hands of the Bridegroom himself, completely at his discretion, whether short or long. The others thought they knew – they only prepared for a quick turn-around.
The challenge for me is to so live in this present moment – in the normal, measured, unfolding of life – as if the delay is part of the plan. To live trusting my Lord for his return even when the normal cycles of life continue day after day after day. To make provision for the long-haul, even as I am fully convinced that sometime (sooner or later?) the cry will ring out, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”, and with joy I will rise to see him, ready and rejoicing.
May it be, Lord Jesus.
Lord, all my times are in your hands (Psalm 31:15). I entrust my life, in all its normality, to you, choosing to live here and now with a continuing awareness that you are indeed coming. Strengthen my devotion with that expectation. Let me live now, supply of oil in hand, with the transforming confidence that your arrival, though delayed, is absolutely guaranteed.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Reflect: How does the certainty of Jesus’ return give renewed significance to your life today? What steps can you take this day to honour him, as you wait?