Christmas is rightly so a festive season, a joyous occasion, a time of celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a time of looking back and reflecting on how it all happened and why.
However, for those of us following Christ, it behoves us to reflect not only on His first coming but look forward to and be prepared for His second. This we must always do as Christ’s parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1 – 13 clearly illustrates.
The parable is an illustration of the Kingdom of heaven. A commonplace event that everyone was familiar with is used by the Lord to communicate and drive home this vital message.
The Lord sets the scene by introducing a typical Jewish wedding custom with which all of His listeners would be completely familiar. They knew exactly what He was talking about and so could effortlessly relate with it.
Ten virgins in all were awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom whose arrival was traditionally unpredictable. Right at the start the Lord makes a distinction between them – half of them are identified as foolish while the other half come with a commendation for being wise.
Now none of these five virgins intentionally set out to be foolish even though they all turned out to be so as a result of their attitude and approach to this paramount event they were looking forward to. Their lax and loose approach to it led to their failure to act accordingly. In addition, their foolishness was not so obvious or apparent at the start but was revealed later as the story unravelled. Up until the time of the bridegroom’s arrival all ten virgins appeared somewhat identical. Both set of virgins had their lamps with them all ready and set for the arrival of the groom. But the wisdom of the wise was demonstrated in their carrying extra oil with them while for the foolish ones it did not seem to cross their minds (negligence?) or they simply could not be bothered (downright laziness?) to carry anything extra for the possibility of a delayed arrival as it was common knowledge that the time of the groom’s arrival was the unknown variable of this occasion. They were short sighted and lacking in vision and perspective; they focused on the present only with the possibility of the bridegroom’s delay totally out of range and out of focus. They were not prepared enough.
True, carrying extra jars of oil on top of their lamps demanded extra effort and work for the wise virgins. They shunned laziness and chose not to be negligent by putting in the extra effort required having understood the need for what they were involved in.
As the bridegroom was delayed…
This was not something new or unusual but traditional for the bridegroom’s arrival to happen anytime – early or late. It was never pre-announced nor did it come with any advance notice. The reason extra oil was required and carried by the wise virgins was precisely because of its unpredictability. It was a night time appearance that the bridegroom would make at his bride’s father’s house to collect his bride. The groom, his best man and other escorts would conduct a night time procession with torchlight. Though he was expected the bridegroom’s arrival was never announced beforehand. His arrival was preceded by nothing else but a shout usually by those on the street. This served as an announcement for his departure to gather with him.
The wisdom of these wise virgins lay in the fact that they understood they could be in for the long haul and prepared accordingly as the timing of the bridegroom’s arrival was unannounced and unpredictable. That is what made them different – their planning ahead and preparation right to the end of the wire.
When the bridegroom did eventually did arrive only those who were ready, i.e. those whose lamps were burning because of the extra oil they’d wisely brought along with them beforehand, went in to the marriage feast with Him. These were the ones who were ready to receive the bridegroom and escort him to the feast.
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 foolish ones were unable to join the bridegroom because they were not ready – they had ran out of steam. They failed to make the effort to prepare for the kind of arrival they were precisely expecting – unpredictable and unannounced.
This is not a parable directed at unbelievers or pitching believers against unbelievers but is all about those of us who profess a Christian faith. The moral of the story is for us to watch and be prepared for the return of our bridegroom, ready to be whisked away with Him upon His return for return He shall without fail. His instruction to us is, not to be negligent or lazy but alert and watchful, keeping His return at the forefront of our thinking influencing our everyday decisions and actions.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
The Lord wants us to run our race with His return in mind. This is how the first century saints lived, watching and waiting for His return. They lived their lives looking forward to this great hope.