Jesus tells stories and offers explanations and provides examples so that his followers have his way to interpret things and don’t have to use their own ways or other people’s ways.
Jesus often talks about the Kingdom because it’s his kingdom and he doesn’t want us to get it confused with our kingdoms.
In a story in Matthew 25, Jesus says imagine that there are 10 young women, signed up to help with a wedding celebration. When the groom came to meet the bride at her father’s house and take her to his house for a celebration, they were simply to be present and to celebrate. All of these young women fell asleep because it got so late. In fact, it was midnight when the call came.
Half the young women had anticipated that it could take a long time. They brought oil to refill the lamps. The other half thought things would happen quickly. They didn’t bring any extra oil.
We can try to fill in all kinds of details that Jesus doesn’t. But Jesus is telling the story to help people understand that the kingdom IS coming and that the coming IS unpredictable, and that our opportunity and responsibility are to be ready. The waiting is PART of being in the Kingdom. And it is a hard part.
Most people at some point care about something.
We are committed. We care. We belong.
But things that matter take time.
Or they have their own timing.
The caring is hard to make last.
Because the adrenaline runs out.
The waiting is interminable.
The distractions inside and outside our heads are constant.
Our caring and commitment disappear.
We fall asleep.
And when the important moment actually comes, many of us are caught by surprise.
And we miss, irretrievably, an opportunity, an event, a possibility.
The answer, Jesus suggests, is living in a way that knows that things aren’t going to happen in our control, in our timing, in our understanding. To prepare, we can live. That’s what the oil is, I think, taken from the two stories after this. One is about offering our lives back to God, and the other about looking for Jesus in hospital beds and homeless shelters, lonely faces and empty stomachs, hurting hearts and chaotic minds.
And if we fall asleep, as we fall asleep, we know that we’ve done what we could.