In chapter 24 of Matthew Jesus speaks of how one day, in the fairly near future, the impressive temple will become a mere ruin. (This happened in AD70 at the hands of the Romans, some 35 years after Jesus is talking here). He uses loads of Old Testament poetic imagery that speaks of calamity to highlight the upheaval of this catastrophic day for the Jews. He takes the fall of Jerusalem, which will happen within the lifetime of some of his listeners, as a sign of the tumultuous events that will precede his second coming in the more distant future: what will happen at the time of the destruction of the temple etc. in the near future will be a pointer to the far bigger stuff that leads up to his return.
It is against this backdrop of his return that Jesus tells a parable warning his followers to always be alert and ready for his return. The scenario described in the parable is within the context of a marriage and the apparent responsibility of various unmarried woman to watch for the return of the bridegroom to his home village. Here two sets of such women are distinguished: those who have prepared properly by having sufficient oil to help relight their outdoor torches if the bridegroom returns later than expected and those who have not done so. When the bridegroom returns those who have made the right preparations are able to carry out their role to welcome him back and are consequently allowed to attend the wedding banquet while those who failed to do so are denied access to the feast.
The passage closes with Jesus saying, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Is the current virus crisis a sign that Jesus is about to return? I don’t think we can say categorically that it is. The Spanish flu outbreak in 1918 didn’t precipitate Jesus’ return. What we can say is that we should take this as a warning that life is fragile and that we need to be ready to meet Jesus whether we die before he returns (by far the more likely) or are still alive when he comes back. A couple of weeks ago, one of our members had a dream in which she sensed God was saying “be ready”! Let’s be like the women in the parable who were ready to meet the bridegroom.
Prayer: Take a sheet of paper and a pen. Pause and pray, making yourself freely available to God. Ask Holy Spirit to speak to you about his heart, his plans and your part in them. He may highlight a matter of your heart, a passage of scripture to challenge or encourage you, or you may just feel his peace in the silence. Take time to listen and jot down anything God might be giving to you.
Song: Ready for you