Read: Matthew 25:1-13 |
One of the top five rules of boat safety is to wear a life jacket, whether you know how to swim or not. On larger commercial vessels like cruise ships, the first hour typically includes instructions on where to find the life jackets and where to report in an emergency. No one knows the day nor the time when they will be needing their life jacket.
This week we start the first of the three parables Jesus shared back-to-back-to-back that focused on Christ’s return and who would be allowed to enter the Kingdom of God. These parables are only found in Matthew, however the themes and main points are consistently echoed throughout the Bible.
We will examine the context and the content of the parable over the next few postings to derive the key “life jacket” principles of the parable.
Context and Background
In chapter 24, Jesus had been teaching on the Mount of Olives. He told about the trials and tribulations to come and of his return.
Mount of Olives
When David’s son Absalom wrestled control of Jerusalem, David fled by going up this mount (2 Samuel 15:30); King Solomon used it for idol worship (I Kings 11:7); Ezekiel sees the glory of the Lord rest above it (Ezekiel 11:23); Jesus met Lazarus, Mary on the Mount multiple times; Jesus delivered the Sermon on Mount at this location; Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the mount.
Thus, the Mount of Olives was a significant location for Him to choose to talk about these heavenly matters especially since this would be the very place where he was betrayed. Yet, it would also be the place where it was prophesied that He would return in triumph to call us the wise virgins to join Him. [Zechariah 14:4]
In response to the disciples’ request to know what sign would signal our Lord’s coming and the end of the age (Matthew 24:3), Jesus spoke to them about the last days. He made it clear that the end would not come immediately, but only after considerable time and trouble.
The parable uses a typical Jewish wedding celebration as the setting for the parable. At that time in the Jewish culture, young girls were traditionally married between the ages of twelve to sixteen. In the evening of the wedding night, the groom would go to the bride’s house and negotiate the dowry. The dowry compensated the family for the loss of the daughter. [Genesis 29; Genesis 21:14-15]
The bridesmaids served the bride. Since the weddings were usually in the evening, they had the high honor to light the path of the wedding procession. Even the rabbis would stop teaching, to honor a passing procession. [IVP Commentary]
While the dowry bartering took place inside, the bridesmaids waited outside. Once an agreement was made, the members of the wedding party would travel to the wedding celebration. Using this framework, Jesus shared eternal spiritual principles in a way that is clear to Believers but just a story to others.
Content and Characters
The parable has the normal complement of characters that would have attended a Jewish wedding with one exception. Jesus didn’t mention the bride; we will address that later.
|Bridegroom||Jesus; Ps. 45:1-17, Song 1:1-8:14;|
|10 Virgins||Everyone, the whole world both believers and non-believers|
|5 Wise Virgins||Believers|
|5 Foolish Virgins||Non-Believers|
|Lamp||Lamp of our outward profession of faith to the Word of God, (Ps. 119:105)|
|Oil||Anointing of the Holy Spirit|
|“10” and “5”||Using Biblical symbolism, the number 10 is symbolic of the law of God;
The number 5 is symbolic of God’s grace
Created with the HTML Table Generator
Jesus tweaked the setting of a normal Jewish wedding by having the wedding party wait longer than they expected. The embedded principle underlies the disciple’s basic question. They wanted to know what to expect and how long would they need to wait for His return. Implicitly, Jesus shared that it will take some time! However, those in the wedding party – believers – should stay ready!
Because Jesus was focusing the story on staying ready for the bridegroom’s return, the “bride” did not fit into this framework. Although the Bible typically describes God’s people and the Church as the Bride, this parable does not follow that pattern. [Ephesians 5:25-32] Actually, this selective accounting of key people by Jesus is inspired, because believers could not be both represented as the Bride and the 10 Virgins. Thus, I’m glad Jesus kept it simple!
The ultimate message in this parable is that every person is responsible for their own spiritual condition. You either accept or reject Christ. You are the wise Bridesmaids if you have accepted Christ and one of the foolish ones if you have not. Are you ready to make the eternal decision before the door is shut?
Topics for future discussion:
• Timing is everything
• Preparation is Primary
• Procrastination is deadly
1. Discover –
A. The eastern gate to Jerusalem was sealed by Ottoman Turks in 1530 A.D. A grave was added in front of the gate to prevent the prophetic return of Christ through that gate. They believed a holy man would not defile himself by walking through a Muslim cemetery. Unknown to them, Ezekiel prophesied this in 600 BC (Ezekiel 44:1-3). They had enough faith the Jesus might return and acted on it. Is your light still burning awaiting for His return? Are you ready?
B. In your first reading of this parable, what principles do you draw from it?
2. Develop –
A. What basic questions about Heaven and His return do you wish you could ask Jesus?
3. Demonstrate –
A. Can your co-workers and friends tell that you are a “wise virgin”? Can they tell that you stand ever-ready for Christ’s return?