Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 11-12-23 “Let us be ready” 

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Matthew 25:1-13

I will begin my meditation this morning with a quote from John Wesley. A person asked John Wesley what he would do if he knew his Lord would return at that time the next day. He said, “I would go to bed and go to sleep; wake up in the morning, and go on with my work, for I would want Him to find me doing what he had appointed.”

The parables we find in Matthew 25 are the result of a question the disciples asked Jesus after he told them about the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:3. The question was: “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Part of Jesus’ long answer was the parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, and the purpose of this parable was to make the disciples aware of the need to be ready at any time because no one knows His coming day and time. Even though many insist on wanting to know when it will be.  

In the Gospel, this morning, Jesus uses a very well-known event in the Jewish culture, a wedding. It was a custom in those days that after the engagement the bridegroom would go and start building the house where the new couple would live after their marriage was fully consumed. This might take some time, depending on how big or how little the house was. While waiting the bride had to learn how to be a wife, a mom, and how to take care of her house, and while waiting, she always had to be ready. Ready for the coming of the bridegroom. However, she did not wait alone; she had some bridesmaids. In a Jewish wedding, the bridesmaids were unmarried girls, friends of the bride who helped her in her marriage’ planning and preparations, and they were the ones who provided light for the Groom when he came. His coming usually happened at night.

Jesus took this well-known event to teach His disciples to wait for His coming as the bride and bridesmaids wait for the bridegroom: ready. Ready at any time and with extra oil for their lamps.

In the parable, we have ten bridesmaids, five called foolish and five called wise, and the reason why some are foolish and others wise, was the oil, the extra oil for their lamps. I do not think Jesus just made up this story. Like all the parables, they were taken from real life events, and I believe that what Jesus described was something that often happened to the bridesmaids in those times, some were caught up unprepared and were called foolish, and others were caught up with extra oil and were called wise.  

 “The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.” The Gospel says.

Oil was essential for those events; oil like wine kept the celebration going. Oil was fuel to turn darkness into light, and this light would lead the Groom to the Bride and vice versa. Remember, one of the bridesmaid duties was to provide light for the groom and provide light for others to see the groom. Therefore, oil was essential. Without oil, the bridesmaid would not be able to do their job, their duty.

With this parable Jesus was preparing his disciples for his death and second coming. No one knows the time and day of his second coming. Therefore, wait and be ready, “keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour.” Jesus said.

I was asking myself, does the church, today, really live as though the bridegroom’s arrival is certain? Some have been caught up in trying to determine the day and the hour, while others due to Jesus’ delay, have left their lamps run out of oil. Jesus once again reminds us to be vigilante. In the parable to be vigilante is to have oil in the lamp and extra oil in the jar.

Among scholars there are different ways to understand the meaning of having oil in the lamp and extra oil in the jar. If the core message of this story and all the parables in Matthew 24 and 25, is that we must be prepared with oil for Christ’s coming, we must have an idea of what Jesus meant. Martin Luther said that oil is faith. Therefore, we must be full of faith. Others have identified oil as piety, good works, or a personal relationship with the Jesus. I believe that the meaning of oil is found throughout chapters 24 and 25. We can find it in the parable Jesus shared.

If we read the Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful servant (24:45-51), the faithful servant is the one found at work when the master returns. In this parable having oil means working faithfully for the Lord; doing what he asked us to do.

In the Parable of the Talents (25:14-30), the faithful servant wisely uses the resources entrusted to their care. Being prepared or having oil in this parable means practicing good stewardship. And good stewardship is good ecological practices, careful management of time and money, generosity to those in need. In other words, good use of our gifts. That would include proclamation and teaching of the Word, participating in the life of church. And the possibilities go on and on.

In Matthew 25:31-46 we find the Judgment of the Nations. In this judgment the Son of Man rewards those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, and visit the prisoner. All this corresponds nicely with what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40, as the greatest commandment, to love God and neighbor. Being prepared or having oil means generosity to those in need.

Jesus ended the parable saying, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” He meant to say, be ready and fill yourself with my oil. Work faithfully for the Lord as the Faithfull servant did; practice in your daily life all those gifts you have received by the Holy Spirit; be generous with those who are in need.

Besides the meaning we find in the parables in chapters 24 and 25, oil in the Bible is a symbol of God’s presence and authority. Kings were anointed by priests to remind them of who they represented. Oil was used as a healing element, Mark 6:13, “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.”  

           Oil is also a blessing from God, Deuteronomy 11:14, “then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine, and olive oil.” I was thinking, if oil is medicine, if oil is blessings, and a symbol of God’s presence and authority, and if we are lamps full of oil, our light derives from that oil. Therefore, sisters and brothers our light must reflect God’s presence wherever we are. We, the full-of-oil church of Jesus must be medicine for those who are hurt in our society. We must bring healing and blessing to others while we are waiting for the coming of our Lord.

Jesus called us to be light for this world, our mission is to bring this light to others and with our light, lead them to Him.

John Wesley said he wanted Jesus to find him doing what he appointed. Let me ask you: What would you do if you knew Jesus would come tomorrow at this time?  If that happens, if he returns tomorrow, I hope he will find us shining brighter than ever; I hope that he will find us healing those who are hurt; I hope he will find us representing him the best we can.  

Let us fill ourselves with oil; let us shine and bring light to others. Amen.

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