Sunday, February 21, 2021

Matthew 25:1-13 The Parable Of The 10 Virgins


In His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 & 25) Jesus speaks about His second coming and the importance of being alert and ready for that occasion which will come unexpectedly upon this world, like a thief in the night. Now, in Chapter 25 we find three further weighty observations with respect to Christ’s coming:

(i)                 We must be prepared to receive Him when He comes. This is shown in the parable of the ten virgins (25:1-13).

(ii)               We must be ready to give account of ourselves to Christ, when He comes. This is shown in the parable of three servants that have been given responsibility to take care of his property (25:14-30).

(iii)             We will receive an announcement of our final destiny.  This is shown in  the description of the process of the last judgment (25:31-46)

We will take our time to consider each of these separately.

In this sermon  we will deal with the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)  

This parable speaks specifically to those that assume that   they will inherit the kingdom of heaven.  It speaks to all those that profess to be members of the church, Christians. In that regard Jesus uses the picture of a wedding party, and now specifically the picture of 10 virgins, concerning which He makes a distinction between 5 foolish and 5 wise virgins.

In this parable Jesus speaks  of   10 virgins- unmarried  girls-  that  are  anticipating  the coming of the bridegroom,  whom they  would   escort  to  his bride.  Hebrew weddings could take days.  Somewhere at the beginning of the wedding feast, in the evening, the bridegroom, accompanied by his entourage would go to fetch his betrothed from her father’s house. A procession was formed under the direction of one of the bridegroom’s friends. He would be the master of ceremonies and he would remain by the bridegroom’s side throughout the wedding ritual. On this occasion 10 young, unmarried women formed a part of the bridegroom’s wedding procession at night, and for this purpose they carried their lamps. These oil lamps naturally needed to be replenished from time to time.  The bridegroom, we are told, took his time in coming (25:5).

Keep in mind now that Jesus is applying this parable to Himself. He is the heavenly bridegroom of the church. This is not the first time He has used this designation for Himself.[1]  And He was speaking to His hearers in familiar pictures.  And if they were alert (as parables require us to be), His hearers would have understood that He was making a connection between God (the bridegroom/ husband) and Israel (the bride/wife) of God[2]  and Himself. God  considered Himself to be in a covenant relationship (Hebr. berit)   with Israel. Jesus in identifying  Himself as the bridegroom of God’s people  makes therefore a direct connection between Himself and God!  

Returning to the parable of the 10 virgins we read:  

25:2-4 “Five of them were foolish and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps“.   Five of them were described as foolish because they took no extra oil with them.  Five wise girls were thinking ahead. They made sure that they had adequate oil supplies, just in case the bridegroom was delayed. The point of having these lamps was to provide light for the way ahead  to the bride’s house. By the way, remember that Christians are children of light. The gospel is light, and they who receive it must not only be enlightened by it themselves, but must shine as lights, in this dark world (Phil. 2:15,16).

25:5 “As the bridegroom was delayed they all became drowsy and slept“. Here is the problem for all the 10 girls. The bridegroom was delayed.  This theme is picked up from 24:48. The wicked servant says to himself, “My master is delayed”, and because of this he grew careless and acted foolish.   Jesus knew that His delayed return (that is how it always feels for every generation) would become a problem for the early Christians, and  for every generation throughout the history of the church.

So, we find that all the girls get sleepy. Not even the wise girls stayed awake.  Let’s face it. Staying awake after a long day is hard. This also happened to the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane when they are called to watch and pray in the hour of Christ’s greatest temptation and trial. They all fall asleep (Matt.26:40,43).

Now remember again that this parable is spoken specifically to remind the church, that with respect to the 2nd coming of Christ we need to be expectant, watchful and alert to the Lord’s coming. Remember that His return will be sudden and unexpected!  Now there is a great temptation in waiting. Our zeal for the things of God diminishes after a time. The ordinariness of daily Christian routines and the lack of spiritual zeal of those around us make us tired.   There is a certain tediousness attached to being a Christian, and this is a common temptation and we all can fall into it. We become less vigilant and expectant, and although all love is not necessarily lost, yet the first love is often absent (Rev. 2:4).  There is of course no sin in sleep itself. We all need it. The fact that Christ’s disciples fell asleep, while they should have watched and prayed, in order not to fall into temptation, was certainly not good, but this did not make them non-Christians.

The point is this - are we prepared for Christ’s coming, even in our sleep? You know that we can be asleep and yet be expectant. I thought about this.  You have a teenager who goes out at night to visit with their friends. In the meantime your light goes out at about 10 pm, while they think nothing of visiting into the small hours of the morning.  So, you go to sleep, but in your heart you are awake. You wait for that key to turn and for that door to open. That’s the difference between those who are asleep and waiting, and those who are asleep and who are fast asleep!  Preparedness is ultimately the real issue. Are these girls ready when the bridegroom comes? Let’s see …

25:6&7 “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps”.  So, they all got up to meet the bridegroom, but the difference begins to show.  5 of the girls did not have enough oil. They did not plan. They did not think, or anticipate  what might happen if the bridegroom comes late,  and so they asked the wise girls:

25:8-9 “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out“. But there was clearly not enough oil to sustain them all, and so the wise girls answered them, “Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves …”. This was not selfishness. This was wisdom speaking.  The point is that if the wise girls would share the oil with the foolish ones, all the lamps would go out at some stage of the journey to the bride’s home.  Now, remember that   Jesus did not intend this to be a lesson on sacrificial sharing! The lesson of this parable is that we cannot ultimately rely on one another’s preparedness.  You cannot get to heaven on the back of the faith of your father, mother, brother or sister or friend! In this regard you must enter by the narrow gate yourself! (Matt 7:13,14). We will see this clearly   in conclusion.

25:10 ”And while  they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.”  The bridegroom returns while the five foolish girls are shopping for oil.  In the meantime the wedding party goes to marriage feast, “and the door was shut!” Too late for latecomers!  Jesus is making a weighty point here. If you are unprepared at Christ’s coming, though you may try all you can to secure entrance at that time, you will be excluded from the wedding feast.  Being a member of the bridal party, being a baptised member of the church at this stage does not count. The question is this, ”Is your heart prepared? Are you prepared to go with the bridegroom when He comes?”

Now listen to these next words of the parable, and see whether you can relate them to another similar passage in the gospel of Matthew:

25: 11,12:  “Afterward the  other (five) virgins  came also, saying  ‘Lord, Lord open  to us’. But He answered, ’Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’”

These words recall the chilling words of Matthew 7:22-23.   This does not literally mean that Jesus does not know them. He knows everyone, for He has created all people (Jn. 1:3,4).  But it does mean that He does not know them as His own (i.e. His sheep Matt.  25:32ff; Jn. 10:1-18). And, think about this carefully! The foolish girls did not think of the bridegroom as their own either!  They had such little anticipation in their heart about His return, and the wedding feast, that their most basic preparations (such as having sufficient oil) was lacking. They were “hangers on “– their heart wasn’t in it, and it is a shock to them when they suddenly discover themselves to be excluded from the wedding feast. ‘Lord, Lord open  to us’. 

God has something to say to such people on that day! 

Those who cry out on that day of His coming … “Lord, Lord …”, but who had never made sure that they were truly prepared in their soul   for His coming, will not be allowed into God’s eternal kingdom.  They will be excluded.   And so Jesus makes the simple and striking appeal again…

25:13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” 

The lesson is plain and simple: A true follower of Christ must watch and be prepared for  His coming. And when He comes we must not have divided hearts like Lot’s wife.  We must  not  first  want to go do this and that.  We must go with Him, …then!  

In this parable Jesus warns nominal, distracted, unprepared, disinterested Christianity and church members. Christianity is not a cultural affair. It is not a casual attachment  to religion. It is not an insurance policy. Biblical Christianity is a state of being – a state of preparedness. Christ is our Saviour and Lord. That means that I  must continue to grow in  my  love for Him.  Continue to serve Him. Continue to obey Him. Continue in fruitful service to Christ. Don’t stop. Don’t backslide. Don’t get distracted. Don’t lose heart. Prepare your soul.  Be constantly ready. Always be ready to face Christ.  It is not enough to be a mere  member of the church. You must be a prepared and ready lover of the bridegroom.  

Remember that the narrow gate is open now. 

Then it will be shut and bolted, and a great gulf will be fixed. This will be like the shutting of the door of the ark after Noah  had entered. When he was in he was safe. Those outside the ark perished.  

Flee to Christ, NOW!

 



[1] See  Matt. 9:15, Mk. 2:18,19;  Lk. 5:34,35 ; Jn. 3:27-30 ; 2 Cor. 11:2 ; Eph. 5:25-27 ; Rev. 19:7-10 , 21:2, 22:17..

[2] There are a couple of references in the OT scripture   in which God is called a bridegroom (e.g.  Isa.  54:4-5; 62:5 ; Jer. 2:2; Ezek. 16:7-34 ; Hos. 1-3) and Israel His bride.  Ps 45   is a wedding Psalm, and it has messianic overtones

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Matthew 25:1-13 The Parable Of The 10 Virgins

In His Olivet Discourse ( Matthew 24 & 25 ) Jesus speaks about His second coming and the importance of being alert and ready for that oc...