A personal reflection on Matthew 25.1-13
Tough story! About readiness and unreadiness. The blessings of preparedness. The fallout of failure.
Given that the parable of the ten bridesmaids comes at the end of Matthew’s gospel, immediately prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, when, in the last days of his teaching, he is making pronouncements about the end of the age, it has an uncomfortable air of finality. The locked-out bridesmaids are left out forever.
If this is what comes of a cathartic confession of one’s errors of judgment, then it is no wonder that, in the face of failure, many choose the dishonesty of self-delusion and denial. Be it God, another person, or myself that I must face, if the judgment is one of a condemnatory casting out, then no thank you! I’d rather lie, admitting no mistakes and living with an illusion of control and the pretense of success.
But this is a story about the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven will be like this,” Jesus says. Usually, when the Matthean Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven the reference is to that earthly messianic community (that first century Christian community to which Matthew was writing), which is related to, but distinct from the eternal, heavenly kingdom of God. The story, then, points not so much to the end of time, but to this time. The plane on which the parable is fixed is less eternal and more temporal.
Left to an eschatological dimension, this story, with its unending judgment of failing, is entirely too final for great comfort or for good sense. This story, then, even in its judgment, is more fluid, implying a possibility of something beyond that seemingly final word of rebuke and rejection, “I do not know you.”