“Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!” Mark 13:35-37
When you read a novel—or watch a suspenseful movie—and your insides start to churn at the dilemma the heroine (or hero) is facing, do you turn to the last chapter or fast forward to the final scene to learn if everything turns out okay? I have to confess—I often do just that. I want to know what’s going to happen—how it all turns out—so I can go back and enjoy the journey.
In a way, that was what the disciples did with Jesus. He used earthly parables to teach them about the heavenly kingdom—that he would return and take them there. They asked him three questions.
“Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3b
Like readers of a novel, they asked, how will we recognize the climax of the story? Throughout his description of the warning signs, Jesus repeatedly told them to be alert, stay awake, be vigilant. The time of his coming was not to catch them unaware—unprepared. Jesus didn’t want them to think he was delaying his coming so they would get caught up with…providing for their families…righting the wrongs in society…spreading the gospel to the nations. Don’t misunderstand me, he does want us to fulfill our calling as women—daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers—all with the awareness that Jesus Is Coming. And that’s good. His coming shouldn’t frighten us.
When I was a much younger believer, I was focused on establishing my life. College, career, marriage, children, starter home, bigger home. Then it was plans for college for our children and retirement. When I thought Jesus might come and interrupt all my plans, I was afraid he would come before I reached my goals. Then I felt guilt because I wasn’t trusting that his plan for my life was better than mine. I would pray for guidance, but what I really wanted was for God to co-sign my plans, not implement his. That was coming from a heart that believed in him, but didn’t know him well enough to believe him.
But God…in his gentle mercy and grace, taught me to know the heart and person of his Son, my savior. If there is one parable that has been a turning point for me in desiring to watch and be ready, it’s the parable of the ten virgins.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.” Matthew 25:1-10
Early on, I was convinced I was one of the five foolish ones who weren’t prepared to meet the bridegroom and my self-condemnation was painful. Since this parable was a picture of something the disciples would know and relate to, I was driven to do some research on Jewish weddings to see what the Lord had to teach me. I greatly needed his peace.
I learned Jewish marriage in Jesus’ day had several steps. First was betrothal, which involved the groom leaving his father’s house for the prospective bride’s home. There he would pay the “bride price,” which established the marriage covenant. The third step was for the groom to return to his father’s house and prepare the bridal chamber. The final step occurred when everything was ready for the bride. At the time of the father’s choosing, he would send his son to bring the bride home for the marriage feast.
Lights went on. That is what Jesus has done for me…and you. He left his father’s home and came to earth for us. When he was crucified he paid the “bride price” with his blood, death and resurrection. Then he returned to his father’s house to prepare a place for each one of us. He isn’t delaying his return, he’s preparing a place for his bride. And, he’s preparing to present his bride to the father gowned in dazzling white, without spot or blemish. It’s all his work, not mine. How could I not love someone who gave himself so selflessly?
Over time of study in God’s word, I’ve come to know this One who loves his bride and gave his life as the bride price. Those parables were written to a Jewish audience and primarily refer to the second coming of Jesus. But, hidden within is the blessed hope of the Rapture. Jesus is at the door, just waiting for the Father to say everything is ready. Now I’m happy to live the days allotted to me in this world, expecting any day now to hear the call, “Behold the bridegroom. Come out to meet him.”
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3
by Marilyn Allison