The Virgins – Matthew 25:1-13
“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 ones, 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. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
- When was a time you were late to an important event? Why were you delayed? Could you have avoided being late?
- Why were some of the virgins described as foolish? What made the others wise?
According to the Jewish Annotated NT, bridesmaids (here called “virgins”) accompany the bridegroom to the house of the bride and then escort both to the house where the wedding and feast will take place. So at this point, the virgins are waiting to take the first step in the wedding process. “The bridegroom was a long time in coming” (maybe he had a long bachelor party) and didn’t arrive until midnight. Five of the ten virgins had taken extra oil for their lamps and five had not.
- What did the foolish virgins ask of the others? How did the wise ones respond when asked to help the ones who had not prepared? Was this fair?
The five with no extra oil asked the others for some. Now you might argue that the “Christian,” generous thing to do would have been to help out those who didn’t take extra oil, but we’re beyond that point. In earlier parables, that does, in fact happen (the parable of the early and late workers in the vineyard, for example) but now Jesus is at the point where he is saying, in effect, you’ve heard the message from the prophets and me often enough; it’s up to you to listen to and heed the message, just you yourself—no one else is going to do it for you. No one else is going to pull you along—it’s your decision and yours alone. So that’s what happens here. The ones who heard and heeded the message, the wise virgins, told the others to go buy their own oil.
- What was the response of the bridegroom to some of the virgins that came to the wedding late? (Matthew 25:12) What does the parable teach?
This is one of the few times that he shows them no mercy. He says, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ There is no deep or hidden meaning to this parable. The virgins represent people who have heard the good news, the Christian story. The bridegroom is Christ and the delay in his return is the delay until the second coming of Christ. The sudden coming at midnight is the unexpected time of his return (no one knows when except the Father). Those who are properly prepared are welcomed into the kingdom of heaven whereas those who are not are spurned in the final judgement. Verse 13 reads, “Look that ye watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor yet the hour, when the son of man shall come.” Some commentators say the oil represents righteousness, good deeds, faith, or the Holy Spirit, but it probably just means that proper preparation of the second coming of Christ is needed. The Oxford Bible Commentary says the parable teaches three lessons:
1) No one know the date or time of Christ’s second coming.
2) Those who are faithful and prepared will be rewarded at the end times.
3) Those who are unfaithful and unprepared will suffer eternal punishment.
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