19 years ago as I was beginning to open up to God's call on my life He used a particular verse to get my attention. Over a period of several days this verse popped up in three different places. When it happened the third time I thought, "Hmmm, maybe I should pay attention to this." Wanna know what it was? You'll have to wait for it. In the Gospel we have a story that is similar in content and meaning to that verse I received:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise ones replied, 'No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.' While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, 'Lord, Lord, open the door for us!' But he said in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.' Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." Matthew 25:1-13
Foolish and wise. Jesus makes it clear from the start who the winners and losers were going to be in this parable. Surely the disciples all felt that they were wise and would "bring their oil" with them so they could enter into the wedding feast. As Jesus proceeded through the parable He makes it clear as to why they need to be prepared. "...the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him." The wise were prepared ahead of time for his coming. The foolish, who were not prepared, found a locked door.
Imagine finding the door to the Kingdom of Heaven locked! Yikes! I don't know about you but that scares the bejeepers out of me. How do I know that I'll be ready? We find the answer in Jesus' response to the foolish. "I do not know you." Entrance to the wedding feast is gained by knowing the bridegroom. In other words, the door to the Kingdom of Heaven is opened for us by the bridegroom because He knows us. The message of this Gospel is that once we enter into that relationship with Him we recognize the need to be prepared and ready to meet Jesus, the Bridegroom, when He comes. That preparation is an ongoing, lifelong process and it requires nothing less of us than our whole body, soul and spirit seeking to know Jesus.
Oh, I forgot, you've been waiting for that verse that God reached out to me nearly 20 years ago. It was from Thessalonians. In it Paul was praying that the disciples in Thessalonica would be "ready" for the return of the Bridegroom. My prayer for you today is the same:
"May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23