Summary: Are we really ready to meet Him?
A CALL TO ACTIVE WATCHFULNESS
The parable of the ten virgins comes on the back of a call to watchfulness, which is illustrated by the faithfulness of a dutiful servant as opposed to the unfaithfulness of an evil servant (Matthew 24:42-51). The contrast is shifted into the plural, but the basic idea is the same: now there are ten (Matthew 25:1), but still half of them are not in the programme as far as preparedness for the master’s return is concerned (Matthew 25:8). Addressed to the disciples (Matthew 24:3), it is a warning for all who would be followers of Jesus (Matthew 25:13).
This is a parable, a “likening” of the kingdom of heaven to something tangible and familiar to Jesus’ original hearers (Matthew 25:1). The ten virgins represent the visible church of Christ. They are “virgins” because considered pure: made pure in the blood of the Saviour.
Each of these virgins has a “lamp” (Matthew 25:1). Jesus said, ‘Ye are the light of the world’ - so do not hide your light under a bushel. Our good works, whilst not being done in order to be seen, should nevertheless flow from us so naturally that men would see them, and glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
The idea of “oil” for the lamp speaks to me of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25:3-4). All our gifts and giftedness flow from His presence in our lives. Are we nurturing our relationship with Him - or, more specifically, our relationship with Jesus through Him?
“The bridegroom tarried” (Matthew 25:5). We do not know the day or the hour when the Son of man is coming, so the call to watchfulness is repeated (Matthew 25:13; cf. Matthew 24:42). While He tarried, all ten virgins slept.
However, there are two types of sleep, and two levels of preparedness. There is the sleep of the slothful, but there is also the contented sleep of those who are truly resting their faith in Jesus (Psalm 127:2; cf. Matthew 6:27). There is a preparedness which finds us at peace at midnight, as opposed to anxiously watching by the door, twitching at every rustle or movement arising from the direction from which we expect Him to come.
Then the cry goes up, at a time we least expect (Matthew 25:6; cf. Matthew 24:44). Are we ready to meet Him? For the wise, they only need shake the sleep from their eyes, trim their lamps, and top-up the oil.
For the foolish, the lack of watchfulness reaches beyond a mere drowsiness, to a total unpreparedness for what the Lord is about to do (Matthew 25:8). Not everybody in the church is ready for Jesus’ coming, no matter what they may tell themselves or one another. Be careful what you deem unnecessary to your Christian walk (cf. Acts 19:2).
When the bridegroom appears, it is too late (Matthew 25:9). You cannot borrow someone else’s faith or faithfulness, riding on the back of a parent’s profession of faith, or boasting of your affiliation to this or that church. It is even too late to apply to your store of unsaid prayers (Matthew 25:10).
We are left with the sad picture of five virgins standing outside the closed door, pleading with the Lord to open to them (Matthew 25:11). Their self-made purity is shown-up for what it is by those awful words: “I never knew you” (Matthew 25:12). Not everyone who boasts the name of ‘Christian’ has ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ - only those who have been ‘justified by faith’ (Romans 5:1).