Of Gate crashers and those shut out of the party

Recently there was an amusing story of a man who gate crashed two wedding dinners posing as a wedding singer, a friend of the bride’s family, and when he was found out and asked to leave, he had the audacity to enter a neighbouring wedding dinner, he was again caught out and asked to leave. Apparently, there have been prior incidents of uninvited “guests” and freeloaders appearing at wedding dinners[1].

In the Bible there are stories of gate crashers[2] and those who are shut out of the party. One story which is the most unnerving to me is the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  What is more disconcerting is that it has been repeated at least 3 consecutive weeks in a row since 12 November 2023 (our lectionary) in our sermons, latest was by Bishop Thomas on the 3rd December and also a post by Rama. “Why the repeat? Is the Lord trying to tell us something,” I wonder.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25) goes like this, paraphrased:-

There were 10 virgins who took their lamps to meet the bridegroom. 5 were wise and 5 were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any spare oil with them. The wise, however took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time coming and all of them became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.! Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish discovered “Alamak! No oil!” So they asked the wise virgins “Give us some of your oil, our lamps are going out.” The wise virgins replied “No, there may not be enough for both of us. Go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourself.” While they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived and the wise virgins went with him to the wedding banquet.

And the door was shut.

Later the 5 foolish ones came and said, “Open the door for us.” But the bridegroom replied, “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, I DON’T KNOW YOU.”

There are many views and commentaries on this Parable, what is certain however is that:-

  1. The bridegroom is Jesus
  2. The 10 virgins are us, Christians
  3. There will be a time of reckoning
  4. Some will be let in and some will be left out.

What more, this Parable is spoken by Jesus himself, not by his followers or Paul.

The question that really plays on my mind is: Am I one of the wise virgins or one of the foolish ones? From the numbers it looks like a 50/50 chance.

The difference between the wise and foolish ones is really subtle. They are all virgins, they all were waiting for the bridegroom, they all had lamps, they all fell asleep, and all were awakened by the midnight cry. The differences are so subtle that even the virgins could not distinguish one from the other until the moment of truth.  When the time came to trim the lamps and to light the lamps to herald the coming of the bridegroom, the true believers had oil and the others either had no oil or were extinguished[3]. Even the Lord said in Matt 24:12

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Then the final hard truth, when the bridegroom says, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”

To me, these 4 small words “I don’t know you”, are the scariest 4 small words of all time. Obviously the 5 foolish virgins knew who the bridegroom is or how else would they have been part of the entourage. They knew the rules, you have to wait, and you will need oil for the lamps. Yet they didn’t get some. When the time of reckoning came, they went to look for oil, returned and manage to find the door. What is also obvious is: – it is not whom the virgins know but does the Bridegroom know them?

“Do you know me, Lord?”, I ask. Will the Lord recognise me as His sheep, His people? In the words of Bishop Thomas this is not a democracy, when the door closes, it is closed.

Even on earthly wedding banquet gate crashers will be asked to leave and be shut out because they are unknown to the families. What more in the great Wedding Banquet hosted by the Lord?

Deep down all of us know, in simple terms, “If anyone loves God, he is known by God.” 1 Cor 8:3 And those who love God will obey His commands. 1 John 5: 1- 5.

What else can it be? Many people say that the oil represents the Holy Spirit[4], some  say it represents righteous living. Whatever it is, we do have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling Philippians 2:12 – 13. Do you think paying lip service to God will do?

Recent world events show us that the times are more uncertain and more evil. Our own time on earth may be approaching the end, I have to keep reminding myself to keep watch and keep loving God and carry the torch for Him.

[1] Gatecrashers caught eating at two Johor Bahru wedding banquets in a night. The Straits Times 13 Nov 2023

[2] Parable of the Wedding Banquet Matthew 22

[3] The 5 Foolish Virgins of Matt 25 by Frank W Nelte – Franknelte.net

[4] eBible.com for example. “What is the meaning of the Parable of the Ten virgins”. Gotquestions.org

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