I saw a bumper sticker that read – “Christ is coming – look busy.” Is this how we will act when Christ comes? Like bridesmaids scrambling to try to look like we are ready? I’ve got a secret to tell you. He’s already here. Look busy! Don’t wait for tomorrow.
Ten bridesmaids in the story brought oil lamps. An oil lamp of the first century would probably fit in your hand. It was a shallow vessel from which a wick protruded. I’m not sure how they lit the wicks, but somehow they started the flame – and then there was light. So this is what the kingdom of heaven is like: ten bridesmaids, some who are wise and some who are foolish. The wise ones will enjoy the wedding feast. Those who didn’t have any oil won’t.
The oil appears to be the key to getting into the banquet. To those who did not bring oil that yielded light, the Bridegroom says, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”
What does the lamp represent? The lamp could stand for religious works, rituals and ceremonies, and obedience to the Law. You can perform lots of religious activities without tending to the needs of the poor. Then again, the lamp that were often made of clay is an image of the flesh. Either of them could hold the oil.
Some say the oil in the lamps is faith. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Good works shine like a light in the darkness of a world that does things only for itself.
Many people, including Martin Luther, have said faith doesn’t exist without good works. “There is no faith without love and good works. Where there is no shining of charity, there is no warmth of faith.” (Johann Gerhard, Sacred Meditations, David S. Yeago, trans., 2000, p. 59.)
The oil could represent love. In John 5:42, Jesus told the Pharisees, “But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.” Love for God and your neighbor motivates good works and yields the brightest of lights. It’s this light that ushers you along the path and into the wedding banquet as you follow the Bridegroom.
I think most Christians know that good works are expected of them. It reminds me of the song in the musical “Annie.” Tomorrow, tomorrow, I [will] love you – tomorrow. Tomorrow’s a day away. Except you can’t feast at the wedding banquet tomorrow if it’s the banquet is happening today.
Can you check to see if you have any oil? I suppose you just have to ask yourself, “Are there any good works shining brightly from me?” If not, maybe NOW would be a good time to start loving your neighbor instead of waiting until tomorrow when it might be too late to enjoy the banquet that’s going on right now.