My first car was a ‘77 Cougar. I loved that car, even though sometimes I really hated it. It was a boat of a car. If I was careful, I could get about nine miles to the gallon in it. Gas was $0.87 then. I can’t imagine what I’d be muttering under my breath at the gas station now—probably not Bible verses.
One of the nicest features on the 1977 Cougar was that by 1993 most anything on the instrument panel didn’t work. The speedometer worked on feast days, the odometer logged every third mile, and the gas gauge was about as reliable as opening the cap and sniffing the fumes. Driving was gambling. At first, I tried to get every last drop out of each tank, but I eventually learned it was best to keep the tank full. No teen wants his friends laughing as he lugs a gas can to the nearest station.
This is how I know the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25 were making a gamble. The torches of ancient times guzzled oil like my Cougar sucked gas. They had to be refilled with oil every fifteen minutes or so, which meant you needed to have a good supply on hand. The torches burned a rag. From time to time, the rag would become too charred and need to be trimmed. It’d burn out—something people also do. Refilling the oil and trimming the rag was a repetitive but essential process.
The oil in our parable is the gospel. The lamps are faith. Faith runs on the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Thankfully, the fuel is free—even better than $0.87 a gallon, which seems like a steal nowadays. Unfortunately, our gauges are about as trusty as those on my Cougar. Like the rag in the torch, we’ll burn out quickly if we’re not careful.
At Jesus’ time, an engaged couple was husband and wife in the eyes of the community. Yet they didn’t live together until the wedding banquet. When was the banquet? When the groom came to take the bride. Family and friends gathered and waited. When the groom arrived, a shout went up. A procession with torches commenced. If you were going to the party, you were in the procession. It was as simple as that. While no one likes waiting, this was joyful waiting, like waiting for a friend to arrive for a surprise party.
Today’s parable is not about the world, but about the church. We’ve heard all about the day of Christ’s coming. We’ve been to the dress rehearsals every Lord’s Day. We’ve been not only invited to the feast but chosen to be honored as special guests. “Just wait for me to come,” he says.
The foolish virgins in our Holy Gospel were morons. We get our English word from the Greek and Latin. As the famous philosopher, Forrest Gump, said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” So “wise up,” as my grandpa would say before he lovingly smacked the back of my head.
Being a fool is bad. Staying a fool is worse. The Bridegroom comes. Awake! He is coming to lead you to a banquet beyond compare. What a joy, then, to hear the cry: “he comes!”
Morons though we all have been, there is nothing we need that Christ hasn’t given us. And he wants you as his guest. His wounds testify to that. Even more, while he is the Bridegroom, you are his bride. All of us are, as the baptized, his church. What a feast awaits. How can we not yearn for the cry when the Bridegroom arrives? Come, Lord Jesus, come! Amen.