Jesus continues his conversation, around living with eternity in mind, with his followers as Matthew captures three parables in just a few paragraphs. We will read about how entrepreneurs will put capital investment into their venture to use and the surprising reach of simple acts of kindness. But first Jesus compares readiness to participate in the celebration of a wedding to readiness to participate in the coming Kingdom. This is the fifth time in his present conversation with his disciples that Jesus has returned to the theme of being alert and ready for His return.
Jesus draws on the analogy of a wedding feast and the events that transpire when a bridegroom turns up later than expected. In 21st century Britain, it seems it is the bride’s prerogative to turn up late rather than the grooms. However, to help understand this parable it is useful to appreciate a little of the culture surrounding marriage in first-century Palestine.
Prior to the wedding day and marriage feast, a couple would first become betrothed, in a ceremony that took place at the father of the bride’s home. The bride would remain in the father’s home, possibly for some years, until the wedding day. On the great day of celebration, around nightfall, the groom would go to his father in-laws house to receive his bride. Following a feast, a procession would begin and the bride would be escorted to the groom’s house by an entourage with torches and lanterns.
Using this familiar customary ceremony Jesus paints a picture that was either going to make his listeners smile with unbelieving laughter, after all, weddings were months or years in the planning, so the situation was just laughable. Or on the other hand, his audience’s mouths could have dropped open with astonishment at the shame brought upon the couple’s special day by almost unforgivable indifference by the 5 silly friends.
It is important to remember that Jesus used stories that connected with the everyday life and experience of his listeners usual to emphasise or clarify the one core teaching he wants them to understand. Often, we are tempted to look too deep into the story allegorising every aspect and item in the story. Without a doubt, building on all that Matthew recorded in the previous, Jesus is making it plain by repeating the Greek word ‘grēgoreō’, as he has done numerous times, that he wants his followers to watch, to be awake, to be alert.
The Didache, also known as The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations, is a brief anonymous early Christian treatise, dated by modern scholars to the first century AD. The first line states “The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the twelve apostles” so it is considered to be a document written by the disciples sitting with Jesus as he shared this story for the first time. Without a doubt, the parable had a marked effect on them and the early church as it echoes in their writings.
“ ‘Watch’ over your life: ‘let your lamps’ be not quenched ‘and your loins’ be not ungirded, but be ‘ready’, for you know not ‘the hour in which the Lord cometh.’ ”
Let us take our lead from the church fathers and live at all times ready for the sudden arrival of King Jesus!
Lord, you taught us to pray, let Your Kingdom come! We live with eager anticipation and joyful expectation that you will return and your Kingdom will be fully come and completely visible to every eye. As we watchfully wait help us to live in your Kingdom now and to be urgently about your cause bringing your Kingdom’s light to a world that so desperately needs it.
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series