Awake and Celebrate
“As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'”
November 10, 2017, Words By: Kris Rocke, Image By: "The Reformers" German School of the Early 17th Century
Awake and celebrate! Is there a more elemental invitation of the Gospel of Jesus?
In this week’s text Jesus tells the story of ten bridesmaids and a wedding party. Five of the bridesmaids remain awake and join the celebration. The other five fall asleep and come late. They are judged harshly for having fallen asleep.
It is a truly odd time to be telling a story about a wedding. In just a few short days, Jesus will be murdered by those he is trying to awaken to the celebration of life. Jesus tells this story in the shadow of the cross on which he will soon be hanging. Things are about to get really ugly, and yet Jesus insists on lifting up the image of a wedding feast. It’s breathtaking. What courage!
Secondly, the story of the wedding itself is truly odd. It begins at midnight. Who starts a wedding feast in the dead of night? No wonder five of the bridesmaids “became drowsy and fell asleep.” And can we really blame them like the “Lord” of the wedding party does in the story? Heck, I can barely make it past 11 p.m. these days. Is Jesus drawing a distinction between the “Lord” in the story (presumably the father of the bridegroom and host of the party) and his own father? I think so.
Jesus knows that the midnight of humanity is fast approaching. He knows he is going to be killed soon. He knows that darkness will cover the land (Luke 23:44). It’s not the darkness of God’s wrath that dims the light. It is the darkness of our wrath, and this is much harder to admit. It blinds us to our sin as well as the celebration that God is inviting us to enter.
Jesus knows that the closer we come to the cross the harder it is to stay awake. Consider the disciples who are heavy with sleep in the garden of Gethsemane. It’s worth noting that the last thing Jesus says to his disciples before he is taken to be killed is “stay awake” (Matt. 26:38-45). Richard Rohr points out that after continuing to find them asleep Jesus mercifully says, “sleep now and take your rest,” which is a kind but sad resignation that humanity cannot bear too much reality. And so, Jesus bears it for us.
Jesus remains awake to the deadly consequences of our sleep. Even more remarkable, Jesus remains awake to the party that is underway. In the midnight hour while we are completely comatose to our own violent wrath, Jesus announces the radical unexpected heart of the Father, who is the Lord of the wedding party – a Lord who has every right to return violence for violence and blow the whole party to bits.
Right then, right there in the dead of night amidst the bloody mess of a narcoleptic humanity, Jesus announces that the party has just begun. Jesus says, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Unbelievable! God’s judgment on our violent sleepwalking is none other than mercy. Yes, even while we are lynching the bridegroom, the Lord refuses to cancel the party. Nay, it has just begun. You are forgiven.
Awake and enter the celebration!
Executive Director | Street Psalms