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"'Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on! Be like house servants waiting for their master to come back from his honeymoon, awake and ready to open the door when he arrives and knocks. Lucky the servants whom the master finds on watch! He'll put on an apron, sit them at the table and serve them a meal, sharing his wedding feast with them. It doesn't matter what time of the night he arrives; they're awake and so blessed.'" Luke 12:35-38 (The Message).
Jesus often spoke to His disciples about being watchful and ready for His return. Unlike religion which is about rules and ritual, He was talking about a real situation - like servants awaiting their master's return after his wedding. We must take note of the word 'like'. Of course it would be impossible to stay awake day and night, year in and year out, waiting for Him to come back! That is not what He meant.
How must we understand what He meant by 'Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on!'? Let Jesus be His own interpreter.
He told a parable about five wise and five foolish virgins who were awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom for his wedding feast. He took so long to come that they all fell asleep. When the bridegroom finally arrived at midnight, five of the virgins were ready to go in to the wedding feast because they had enough oil to refill their lamps which had gone out. The other five begged oil from their companions but were refused. They were sent to buy their own but, while they were away, the door to the wedding feast was closed and they were refused entry when they returned.
This parable is often erroneously interpreted to mean than the oil represents the Holy Spirit. We are urged to be full of the Holy Spirit so that, when Jesus returns, we will be ready to join Him at the wedding feast. The five foolish virgins missed the wedding because they were not 'spirit-filled' and could not go in with the bridegroom because they had to go out and seek the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
In this parable, the oil represents 'tsidaqahs', the righteous acts of which John speaks in Revelation 19:7,8 (NIV) - "Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)."
The five wise virgins were those who had practised the generosity which God's way of living had taught them, and were therefore 'ready' to go in to the wedding feast with the bridegroom. The foolish virgins had no ‘tsidaqahs’ – righteous deeds with which to refill their lamps. It was too late to go out and do their tsidaqah’s because the bridegroom had come and the doors were shut. This interpretation is compatible with the context which we have been examining in this chapter of Luke's Gospel. It is also in line with the whole drift of Jesus' life, ministry and teaching.
Again I must emphasize that He was not teaching that we are saved by good works but, like James, He makes it clear that, if we don't live out our faith in the kind of generosity which reflects the Father's heart, we are not 'ready' go in to the wedding feast. When we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven by being generous with the resources God has entrusted to us to steward for Him, our lamps will be full of 'oil' or, as John describes in Revelation 19, we shall be wearing the pure white linen garments of righteousness which will qualify us to share in the wedding feast of the Lamb.
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