Questions on Matthew 25:1-13
1. There is something strange about the refusal to share lamp-oil. What in human / Christian life cannot be shared or quickly acquired?
2. What is the sleep of v5 – just a result of the delay, or does it symbolise something? If so, what does it represent? Why are we unready, even when prepared for something?
3. How do we react to delays or frustrations of our plans? Are we happy with that reaction?
4. How do we feel about being left out – in general? of the heavenly banquet?
A sample dialogue, for 3 voices:
A Nice story, isn’t it?
B I’m not sure. Is it a story of failure, or success? It’s hardly a happy ending.
C And there are things that don’t make sense to me.
A Such as?
C Well, I can see the idea of an Eastern wedding. The bridegroom goes off to the house of the bride to pay her dowry, and there’s a bit of haggling. Sometimes it must have been like this, taking a bit longer, arguing over the third goat or whatever –
B So the people left at the groom’s house, waiting for the Wedding Feast, wouldn’t have known how long the wait would be, perhaps even if the bride would come at all, and might have fallen asleep or even wandered off?
C Yes, but what I don’t see is why the girls won’t share their lamp-oil. Why can’t they be generous – it seems wrong that they refuse and then go into the feast.
A Which we think of as heaven, and they apparently get in by being mean, yes. But supposing they couldn’t share?
C What do you mean – “couldn’t”?
A Well, perhaps the lamps had to burn until dawn, or the flask neck had to be the same size as the lamp filler, or they didn’t dare try filling the lamps in case they made a mess – I don’t know.
B (has an idea) or perhaps Jesus was wanting us to think of things that can’t be shared in real life.
A What sort of things? Is there anything you can’t share if you really want to?
B Oh yes, lots of things. Think of the experience of living through a war, for example. You can talk about it, but nobody can really share what it does to you. You could say the same about bringing up a family.
A (sees the point) or living as a Christian, learning from experience and scripture over time, and being changed by the Holy Spirit. You can talk about it, read about it, but it is nothing like doing it yourself. Is that what Jesus is talking about?
C You could be right. The experience of life as a Christian can’t be shared fully –and if you haven’t got it
B or haven’t enough experience to get you through something you don’t expect
C then you can’t get more quickly. It takes time.
A So what about the sleeping? Is it the time after we die before the Judgement, then?
B I’m not sure. It’s true that all the girls sleep in the story, just as everybody dies in real life, but I think the emphasis is on being ready when the bridegroom does come, even as late as midnight.
C That would make this a story about Christian experience, about the need to use time now to “grow up” in faith to be ready for anything, or any time.
A I’m not sure “experience” is the right word. After all, we don’t get to heaven by experience.
B – but by grace through faith. Maybe we’re talking about grace, or the effect God’s grace has on us over time, helping us to be ready.
A You mean what we are as well as what we think – changed personality as well as understanding how God works.
C That’s interesting. I see that we need to have the right ideas – to believe some key doctrines. But I don’t think I have thought much about being the right person, having my character sorted out, as part of Christian living.
A Thinking of heaven, though, I can see there will have to be some changes. I wonder if what we believe is sometimes important because of the sort of people our beliefs make us.
B That sounds a bit complicated. I want to keep to that idea of being ready, prepared as a person. I suppose that’s why God gives us a lifetime. If it only takes a minute to repent and trust in Jesus, it takes a lifetime to work out the consequences.
(681 words – about 7 minutes) (Click here to return to the Index of Sketches)