In Matthew 25, the parable of ten virgins presents the theme of wisdom in being prepared for Christ’s return and emphasizes the long delay before his return as well as the unexpectedness when he does return.
As Jesus’ disciples were hopeful of overcoming all the hardship and into the eternal kingdom, Jesus used the parable to bring their focus back to the present. He taught them about the future to motivate them toward present obedience.
The virgins represent all who have been invited to be citizens of God’s kingdom. In the wedding feast of Christ, they were divided into two groups by their own wisdom or faithfulness or readiness. Some of whom will enter the kingdom and some of whom will not.
In this parable, the foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them, but the wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps. Both the wise and the foolish fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. Under those circumstances that wedding feast would hold for some days, the sleep did not imply spiritual negligence. Being prepared doesn’t mean no sleep, it means preparing extra oil.
At midnight, the bridegroom’s arrival was finally announced, they were called out to meet him, with their lamps burning. The five foolish attempted to make up for their lack of preparation at the last minute. But they were too late; the bridegroom had arrived. As the foolish ones begged the wise ones to share their oil, the wise ones told them that they had to obtain their own oil. No person can share his/her heart preparedness with anyone else. Preparedness cannot be transferred or shared.
The five foolish took insufficient oil with them to keep their lamps burning for the wedding procession. When they finally arrived at the wedding banquet, they begged to be allowed in. But the bridegroom, offended at their lack of respect, denied them entrance.
Although they wanted to participate in the celebration, they displayed a lack of respect for the bride and bridegroom and demonstrated their unworthiness. By their lack of preparation in this life, they reveal a lack of respect for the Messiah. How a person sees Jesus is the key to their life on earth and the kingdom of heaven.
The five wise demonstrated their respect and love for the bride and bridegroom by coming well prepared with oil to keep their torches burning throughout the procession. They are prepared for the wait and therefore bring extra oil. By their preparation in this life, they reveal a love and respect for the Messiah. The lamps and the oil are necessary elements here, but the key point is the need for readiness and the respect for the “bridegroom”, Jesus.
Matthew’s community was waiting for Christ’s imminent return, but Jesus invited them to live their present life. Christ’s coming to be not only a future event, but also a present unfolding. The bridegroom’s delay represents the stretch of history between the Messiah’s first coming and his return. The delay does not mean he will not come. We expect the future kingdom, but also look for love, hope, peace, justice, and life here and now. May we prepare for life in God’s reign now and in the time to come.
How can we wait for Christ’s return in our life? What is our oil? How much do we prepare the oil for the kingdom of God? May we stay ready for Christ’s return by living in loving obedience. While awaiting Christ’s return, life is a marathon, not a sprint. May we be obedient for the long term and obey promptly.
The Lord has high standards for obedience and faithful stewardship, but he enables us to achieve these things by providing his wisdom, love, and power. Jesus also invites us to use our gifts to minister to the needs of fellow believers with his love. May we earn both our Lord’s blessing here and an eternal share in his joyous heaven.
Only half of them proved themselves ready to get on board. The points Jesus is making are about readiness and expectancy. Jesus challenges his followers to remain faithfully obedient until his return. When God approaches and the Holy Spirit begins to move as a wind of change and renewal and Christ returns, may we be prepared with oil and able to enthusiastically welcome the Lord into our church and our communities.
The readiness before Christ’ return is related to spiritual wholeness. May we involve wrestling with God’s grace and love in an imperfect world and living our present lives with courage and hope in this dark world until Christ returns.
We’re in between responding to the love of God and seeing it fulfilled in the coming of the Kingdom. We are living God’s plan of uniting all things in Christ and responding to the love of God and following Jesus in our lives. May we cultivate gratitude and let go of negative impacts and grow in faith.
How do we live prepared for the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God? May we involve wrestling with God’s grace and love in an imperfect world and living our present lives with courage and hope in this dark world until Christ returns.
Jesus invites us to be “staying continually awake”, constantly keeping watch. We do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, but our preparedness for Christ’s coming demonstrates our personal trust and respect for him. While we are waiting for Christ’ return, may we find our being and belonging, individually and as the church, and kindle the flame of God’s love as true believers and Jesus’ disciples.
Until Jesus returns, the love of God will continue to appear in our lives in surprising and unexpected ways. In this world, may we live in hope and give ourselves to the work of the kingdom and express love and compassion and work for justice here and now.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)