Summary: A short sermon which asks whether we are prepared for the return of Jesus. Are we like the 5 virgins (bridesmaids) who had plenty of oil, or like the 5 who were not prepared?
As Jesus told this parable he was already well into a lengthy explanation of events surrounding his second coming (Matthew chapter 24). He spoke this before his death and resurrection, but it concerns his second coming.
Jesus has said (Matthew 24: 14) that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” However he has also said (Matthew 24: 36) that “no-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father.”
Friends, that INCLUDES preachers! ONLY the Father knows!
As part of the lead up to this parable Jesus has told his disciples (Matthew 24: 44) to “be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Approximately one thousand nine hundred and seventy five years later, as we hear these words of Jesus, how do we react? Are we ready? Are we prepared?
As we hear Jesus speaking through this parable; what do we hear, and how do we react?
It is very fashionable (and rightly so) for Christian Bible teachers to point out that we are living in the ‘Last days’, the ‘End Times’, and that Jesus will soon return. All of that is correct and true. However, this parable was especially poignant for St Matthew’s first readers. Matthew wrote this down (quoting Jesus word for word) and it helped the church; it helped because in 50 or 60AD the early church was starting to say things like this: “Where is Jesus? He said he would return ‘soon’. Where is Jesus? Is he coming back? When is he coming back?”
Jesus spoke to his disciples then, and speaks to us now, saying this:
† I am coming back.
† I may return much later than you expect!
† I will return at a time when many least expect!
† Are you ready, are you prepared for my return?
† Be ready!
The parable of the ten virgins asks us to consider which ‘group of five’ best describes us.
Ten young Jewish girls are waiting for the bridegroom. They are 1st century Jewish bridesmaids (or bridal attendants) but their job right now is waiting not for the bride but for the bridegroom. When he arrived they would walk with him, carrying flaming torches as the bridegroom took his bride home.
Five of the ten are prepared. They have plenty of oil to last. If the Bridegroom is a long time in coming they are well prepared. If he does not come for a long time yet they will still be prepared when he does come.
Five of the ten are not prepared. They only have enough oil to last a very short time. They are not prepared. If the bridegroom is a long time in coming then when he does return they will not be ready.
The bridegroom comes at midnight. All of the ten are asleep. Life goes on. We need sleep! This parable is NOT about staying awake. We are not supposed to be always awake with eyes ’glued’ open! - Those who were well prepared were asleep. No, this parable asks whether we are ready. Are you prepared for the return of Jesus, the bridegroom of the church?
Which set of bridesmaids describes you?
It is not necessarily helpful to try to work out whether the ‘oil’ in this parable actually means ‘this’ or ‘that’; whether having enough oil ‘means’ regular bible reading or having faith or doing good works. Far more likely is that Jesus goes on to explore our state of readiness in the next parable! (Parable of the Talents)