Lord, Your people are awake and await Your return.
Read MATTHEW 25:1–13
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
25 “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.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs” (Matt. 27:55).
Matthew’s purpose here is to encourage his readers to be ready for Christ’s Parousia, date unknown (13). The parable begins with the kingdom of heaven and finishes with its consummation. It features ten women, although it speaks to all readers. In its original context it is particularly relevant to past readers, to women readying themselves for a bridegroom’s arrival. For us it speaks to the return of the ultimate Bridegroom.
The virgins represent Christians awaiting Jesus’ (the bridegroom’s) return. We should not overly interpret the parable. For example, the issue is not virginity but readiness. The delay of the bridegroom does not speak of Jesus’ actual delay—he will come when God decides. As in the previous parable, wisdom is highlighted, i.e., readiness for Christ’s return. The parable also evokes the metaphor of the church as the “bride of Christ,” a beautiful image of Christ’s love for us.
The parable reflects a typical first-century Palestinian marriage. After the wedding proper during the evening, a welcome procession of young women meets the couple coming from the bride’s home and ushers them to the marriage feast at the groom’s home. It is night, so they carry lamps and oil to light the way. The ten women are in two groups. The wise are ever-awake and ready with oil, and the foolish are asleep without oil. When the bridegroom comes, the foolish panic and request oil from the others, who refuse and send them off to buy some. But by the time they return, they are shut out. As in the previous parable, we, both women and men, are to be ready for Christ the bridegroom’s return. We do this by persevering in faith, hope and love.
Consider the women of the world and the church. Many are marginalized, subjugated and exploited, often horrifically. Pray for them. Ask God to set them free to serve the bridegroom.
Lord, help us to retain enough oil in our lamps that we may be fully ready when You return and that we may proceed unhindered to the consummate wedding feast.