Five foolish. Five wise. There’s a sobering warning aimed at me in those numbers in Jesus’ parable. If only Jesus’ warning in the gospel for Saints Triumphant hadn’t been spoken in the intimate circle of disciples. If only he was still speaking in the temple to a mixed audience of believing disciples and hypocritical Jewish leaders. Then I might more easily shake off that warning.
But he wasn’t. And I can’t. And neither should you, my brother.
Here’s why. No one is in greater danger of finding out (too late!) how real was the danger of ending up among the foolish than the believer who soothes himself with the assumption that “of course” he will be among the wise when Christ returns.
That danger doesn’t go away because we are in public ministry. If anything, the danger increases! How awful it would be to have spent our entire lives as “sellers” of the oil that fuels faith only to find, when the midnight cry is heard, that our own lamps are dry from neglect! How foolish for oil wholesalers to forget that they were given the right to remain the first and most regular retail customers! How foolish to forget how quickly our own faith can sputter and even be extinguished without an ongoing supply of God’s means of grace.
How eternally chilling to be among those knocking to whom the Bridegroom answers: “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”
Impossible? No. Among those who eagerly set out with burning lamps to await the Bridegroom there will be five foolish, five wise. While Jesus’ numbers aren’t a mathematical formula for calculating odds, don’t his numbers plead with us to recognize that the danger is real?
But of course, Jesus didn’t tell this to his first disciples or us so that we’d be found among the foolish. Remember: the one speaking is our Bridegroom! He who loves us beyond measure speaks his words to give us a heart of wisdom and so that we will finally be saved. This Bridegroom who is on his way for us has supplied everything his waiting church needs to be prepared – indeed delighted! – when our ears hear the midnight shout.
Your Bridegroom has made sure the oil of his grace is in rich supply all around you. The greatness of his lavish forgiving love delivered through his means of grace makes the deposits in North Dakota oil fields look paltry by comparison. Your Bridegroom even invites you regularly to a wedding rehearsal meal where he allows you to taste and see just how good that final wedding supper of the Lamb will be.
So remember this, my brother, loved by your heavenly Bridegroom: it may still be a long night before the midnight cry is spoken for us all or, at your death, for you individually. Don’t merely be thankful that your lamp is burning now. From his limitless supply, fill your vessels so full that they spill out all over. In that way, from your overflow, you can also keep on filling the vessels of those who, before the cry arises, come to you for oil!