We are still on the Mount of Olives with Jesus as He is teaching His disciples about the end times and His second coming. In the section we are looking at today, Jesus uses the parable of the ten virgins. This parable, on the surface is pretty simple; we don’t know the day or the hour Jesus will return, so always be watching and ready. But there are a couple of questions I want to ask.
Jesus starts off by focusing on the virgins, their lamps, and the journey they set off on. Jesus says there are ten of them and they all want the same thing; to meet the bridegroom. Was the bridegroom going to choose one of them to marry? Was he going to marry all of them? Were they like bridesmaids to the real bride? Were they collectively the bride as we, the church, are Jesus’ bride? I was reading about Jewish weddings on Wildolive.com. The author talks about the bridesmaids having to be ready to go with the bride, including having a lamp and oil for it at all times. I was also reading on Bible Hermeneutics Beta and they were addressing this question too. I don’t know if I have THE answer, but I’m going with that they were all brides for this bridegroom as we are all part of Jesus’ bride as believers.
Why did they need lamps? Was it a custom for the bridegroom to come late in the night? Was it a custom to keep everyone guessing as to when the bridegroom would arrive? According to what I have been reading it was common to come at night and “only the father knows” when it is time for the bridegroom to go and get his bride. The father would inspect the home the son had made for his bride. Only when it met the father’s standards did he allow his son to bring his new wife home. An average timespan for this preparation was a year, but if the father was very picky, who knows how long it would take. When the father was finally satisfied, the son was allowed to take his portion of the wedding party and go get his bride and her portion of the party.
I’m assuming that the bride would hear of the bridegroom’s progress on his preparations for their marriage. She would be watching “the signs of the times.” She would likely be timing her preparation progress to match his. As he was nearing completion of his work she would be double checking her supplies.
In our story it appears that somehow the virgins got word that the bridegroom was leaving his house and was on his way to her. The virgin’s intention was to remain watching and at the ready until the bridegroom got there. Five of the virgins expected him to be on time; or at least on their time schedule. They didn’t take into account any kind of delay or deviation from their plans or expectations. They knew how far it was between the two houses and had prepared for the groom to take the direct route. If he would have done as they expected, there would have been no problem. But he didn’t follow their time schedule. He followed his own. We are not told why he was delayed or by how much. We simply know that the provisions the five made was not sufficient to meet the groom’s time schedule. They came up short.
The other five were just as excited as our others, but they knew that life didn’t always go their way. They prepared for the groom’s arrival, just like the others did, but they also brought extra provisions, just in case. They did not doubt the groom’s sincerity in coming for them. They knew he loved them and would arrive as soon as he could. But they also prepared for any unexpected delays.
Both our groups fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. They had waited long into the night. Their oil had burned brightly while they waited. They all needed a refill. This is when the problem arose. Five planned ahead and five didn’t. The five who didn’t plan ahead had no problem asking the others to bail them out. They weren’t planning ahead again, while the others were. The five who planned wouldn’t give up their provisions because, if it took the bridegroom this long to get here, how long would it take to get back? The five non planners had to be told where to seek provisions instead.
You know the rest of the story from here. While the five were out shopping the bridegroom came and they missed out. I want to ask a couple of questions here. First of all, did the bridegroom pay the bride price for each of these women? In church terms, were they all “Christians” or were they just dressed up as such? The bridegroom said he didn’t know them. Was this because their character was vastly different from when they originally agreed to marry him? What did the bridegroom think about coming all that way for ten virgins and only finding five? Did he ask about the rest? What did the five tell him had happened? Did the late five actually expect to get let in when they got there? Did they expect the bridegroom to wait for them, or at least for the celebration to be delayed to accommodate them?
What is the oil in our story supposed to represent? Initially I thought it was the Holy Spirit, but then why would the five unprepared be going to get it somewhere else? Does it represent God’s word? “My word is a lamp unto thy feet and a light unto thy path” (Psalms 119:105).
I know the main point of this parable is to be ready at any time for Jesus’ return, but my question is can some of His own miss out? If all ten were His, then the answer is yes. If the unprepared five are pretenders, then no. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26), so were these individuals who claimed to believe but did not put legs to their faith? Or did they walk the walk but not really have a heart relationship with Him? I don’t know how to answer this question. I’m open to input if anyone wants to throw their two cents into the ring.
Father God, thank You for the simple meaning in this parable; to be ready at all times for Jesus’ return. To be prepared. To be watching the signs. To be about Your business between not and then. Please don’t let me be fooled by my own plans so that I miss out on what You have in store for me. Help me listen to Your will and not my own preconceived notions of what You are trying to say. I know I don’t come close to understanding everything Jesus said, but I believe every single promise either of You made. Help me hold onto that when times are scary. Thank You for promising to love me no matter what.