Red Letter Year: 5/27

Matthew 25:1-13

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’

All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’

But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’

10 But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. 11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’

12 But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’

13 So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.


This parable reiterates what Jesus has been saying since chapter 23. Instead of looking for signs and engaging in religious manipulation, Jesus’ followers are to wait for his coming. Waiting for Jesus is a fundamental activity of his followers, waiting should inform all our thought and action. But we don’t just wait in the dark. We wait with our lamps lit, burning bright with the oil of the Holy Spirit. We will see tomorrow and Wednesday what else we are to be doing during the waiting, but the first and foremost thing is always waiting for Jesus with our lights shining – illuminating Jesus to the world. Spend some time today thinking about what it means to be in a posture of waiting on Jesus and how the Spirit empowers that waiting. Feel free to share your thoughts here.

The New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Red Letter Year: 5/27

  1. What often troubles me about this passage is not so much what it says but what is often said about it (though I could spend a great deal of time talking about the layers of complex, contextual ideas here). I’ve heard this passage cited more than once to justify passively waiting for Jesus to return, not just suggesting but explicitly stating that we need not address the ills of the world since God is going to make all things right in the end. I have heard more than a few preachers instruct their flocks to ignore the call to care for creation in responsible ways and use this as one of a handful of scriptures that they believe supports the notion that climate change theories are an evil hoax.

    Now am fairly certain that you DO NOT you use this passage in this way so I am curious what you would say to folks who have used or heard it used in that way?

    1. I think the recent examples of “what do I care, let the world burn” are exactly what Jesus was teaching against in chapters 23 and 24. It seems counterintuitive, but apocalypticism creates apathy. This is why Jesus refused to give the religious leaders any sign (other than his own death and resurrection) and pronounced the series of woes on them. It’s also why he gave the disciples a long list of things that look like signs but are not signs of the end. The disciples get the same response when they asked for a sign: No. The only sign Jesus offers is when you see him in the sky, then you know it’s over. Until then, keep working like Noah did building the ark: creating a place of safety, refuge, nurture, and salvation. Those who point to signs and say nothing matters because the end is coming are false teachers.
      Chapters 23 and 24 are Jesus’ argument against all that. This parable is the beginning of Jesus arguing for how he wants his followers to be: watchful, faithful, working by the power of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the world. What we read tomorrow and Wednesday will give more specific detail on what this means, what it looks like.
      And to answer your question directly about care for the earth, I think it is best situated as a social justice issue. Care for the earth is essential because it directly and significantly impacts those who live closest to the earth. Wednesday is the “what you did for the least of these you did to me” passage. What we do to the earth directly translates into what we do to/for the least of these. A case can also be made for care of the earth based on stewardship, and these are complementary to me, but in our global economy, we are finding that treating the earth with contempt has grave ramifications on lots of people. We are treating Jesus very poorly.

  2. Thank you Michael for unpacking that for me, for us. I am hopeful when I read folks of your deeply held faith able to connect the dots like this. Those with whom you worship, those you serve in your congregation are lucky indeed 🙂

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