TO CHEW ON: " 'But he answered and said, 'Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you." ' " Matthew 25:12
In this parable Jesus draws lessons abut the Kingdom of Heaven from a traditional Jewish wedding procession. The main characters in the story are the bridesmaids. They were waiting to be part of the procession leading the bride and bridegroom from the bride's to the groom's home.
These processions, that usually happened at night, were accompanied by singing and dancing. The lamps needed to light the parade were more like torches than our oil-filled lamps. Some suggest that an oil-rag-wrapped torch could only burn for 15 minutes before it needed refreshing, thus the need for extra oil. Delays were common due to the bride's relatives haggling over the bride's great quality versus the amount and value of the groom's gifts.
It was an honor to be part of a wedding procession and a matter of esteem on the bride and groom's part that it should go well. This, the IVP Commentary on this passage suggests, is why the wise virgins in the story didn't share their extra oil with the foolish. For if they had, none of the lamps would have had enough oil to light the whole journey and the bride and groom would have been insulted and embarrassed. (Information on the cultural background from the IVP Commentary, accessed through Biblegateway.com).
This parable is commonly interpreted to be about Jesus' return to earth—the promise of the angels when He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11). Some of the things it teaches us about His second coming are:
It may be delayed and take what, to those watching for it, feels like a long time.
This is not the only place in the Bible we're told that Jesus' coming may be delayed. See also Matthew 25:19, Luke 1:38, and 2 Peter 3:3-9.
It needs our watchful readiness. The fault of the foolish virgins was that they hadn't thought ahead to prepare for what was surely to be expected—the bridegroom's delay. How do we stay ready for Jesus, our bridegroom's, coming? Some ways:
- We watch for it - Matthew 24:42, Mark 13:32-37, Revelation 16:15.
- We serve faithfully - Matthew 24:45-51.
- We live soberly - 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8.
It ends the era of grace and ushers in the era of "too late." The foolish virgins arrived after the door was closed and heard the dreadful words: "I do not know you." What do we need to do so that we never hear those fateful words spoken to us?
- We accept God's way of salvation through faith in Jesus - 1 Thessalonians 5:9,10.
- Jesus called it being " 'born again' " - John 3:3-8.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, though Your return has been delayed these 2000+ years, I believe Your promise that you will return. Help me to life in faithful, sober watchfulness. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.