In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 24, Jesus was teaching about His return. What we will look at today is near the end of what is called the the Olivette Discourse. This discourse is known as the “Little Apocalypse” or the “Synoptic Apocalypse” because it includes Jesus’ descriptions of the end times, the use of apocalyptic language, and Jesus’ warning to his followers that they will suffer tribulation and persecution before the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God.
Here in verse 1, Jesus starts with “At that time”, reminding us that this teaching is tied in with His return. This parable describes the need to be ready when Christ returns and goes on further to explain that some will be included while others will not. There were many customs when it came to the marriage ceremony, however, one thing that was pretty standard was the processional where the wedding party (the bridesmaids) would go to meet the groom and would accompany him to the bride’s family home for the wedding banquet. Just a note, in many translations the bridesmaids are called “virgins” because they were not married. I believe that “bridesmaids” is a better way to describe them, otherwise we often get all hung up on their “virginess” (is that a word?). In the “Parable of the Bridesmaids”, also known as the “Parable of the Ten Virgins”, Jesus teaches that every person is responsible for their own spiritual condition. Let’s look at this parable in context from the Gospel of Matthew,:
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 ” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
So, here Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven (when He comes again) will be like this wedding processional that He is about to describe. Some of the people are wise and some are foolish. Half of these bridesmaids had oil for their “lamps” and half did not—-they were unprepared. It is interesting to note that in a wedding procession, all those who participated had lamps (the procession was at night). Any that did not were considered “party crashers”, people who had not been invited.
In verse 5, Jesus tells us that the bridegroom was a long time coming. As most already know here, Jesus is the Bridegroom, and we are told that “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” It seems pretty clear to me here that Jesus is telling us that it will be a long period of time before He comes again. As I look at this thought of falling asleep, it would seem to suggest a meaning of people falling away from their belief. However, “all became drowsy and fell asleep”, not just the foolish. I believe that this simply symbolizes the long period of time before the bridegroom (Christ) comes.
It is in verses 6-11 contain the crux of this parable:
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 ” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
Jesus has suggested many times that the second coming will be delayed……delayed longer than anybody, especially His disciples, expect. Here we see a key point….some of the bridesmaids were prepared…some were not……they waited to the last minute….it was too late. What’s interesting is that the foolish bridesmaids realize that they are not prepared, they scramble to get prepared. The wise bridesmaids are unable to help because they have just enough oil for the procession, and so, the foolish bridesmaids go off to get more oil. So, what is really being said here…….when Jesus returns, is that we must be ready! The time is now, not tomorrow, to get to know Jesus, to follow, serve and obey. Spiritual preparation cannot be bought or borrowed at the last minute. No one can rely on anyone else. Our relationship with God is our own. This is the central focus of this parable: “And the door was shut.” Jesus’ point again is that to not be ready at the right time means to miss out completely.
Verse 11-13, “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
They get the oil. come back, but the banquet has already started and they are denied entry. There is a finality to the shutting of that door. Those outside will not have another chance to be let in. To have been “part of the party” will not be enough. Unless correct preparations are made, some will still lose out. Jesus ends this parable with a familiar thought……we must be prepared, toady, we can’t put off following Christ until tomorrow. Jesus will come again when we least expect it.
Today’s CLUE: Jesus tells us that our relationship with God is our own, we are responsible for our own spiritual condition. Jesus will come again and the kingdom of heaven will extend into eternity….but we must be prepared….if we are not…the door will close and we will be denied entry and will miss out completely. Further, Jesus will come when we least expect it for we will not know the “the day or the hour”.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
My friend, Mike (Lane0129) commented: “I understand that our relationship with God is our own, and that that relationship is our responsibility. So, what about the people who do not know God? For example, what would have happened if Jesus would have returned say, 4 years ago–before I was reunited with Jesus, before I entered the light? I believe that man’s fall is intentional and that the duration of that fall is determined by the lessons learned and ignored.
I replied: I think only God can answer the “what about the people who do not know God?” if they truly do not know God (Jesus). However you describe “4 years ago–before I was reunited with Jesus, before I entered the light?”. It seems that this parable would point to the door being shut as you came unprepared. BUT…… I believe that it is only God who knows our hearts (and possibly ourselves), in other words, ultimately, only God can answer that question. I believe that we can look at the Scriptures and get glimpses of how we should measure ourselves, but that we are unable to apply those things to others (judgment) as God is the ultimate judge. I hope that makes sense.
My friend RonLawHouston commented: ‘Everyday God gives us is precious. If we keep our lamps burning, then we will project light out into the world. It’s all about projecting that light.”