Wednesday, March 10, 1999

The Ten Virgins


Matthew 25:1-13

A modern version of this story would go something like this. A man offered to guide two of his friends to his new cabin in a forested area outside the city. The friends arranged to meet him as he walked home, each at a different place in the forest. Darkness set in. The friends realized that their rendezvous could only occur after dark, and that their guide could only locate them using the light from their flashlights. They also know that they could not find the cabin alone. As they waited, the lights from their flashlights grew dimmer and dimmer.

When their guide was delayed, they both realized that they needed new batteries. The first friend replaced his depleted batteries with new ones, and the guide saw his light and joined him. Meanwhile, the second friend who had forgotten to bring extra batteries had to return to his car to get new ones. When he returned to his meeting place, the guide and his friend had gone ahead without him. Since he did not know where the new cabin was located, he was forced to return home.

Jesus’ story of the wedding feast is found in Matthew 25:1-13. According to Middle East custom, wedding feasts take place at nightfall after a day of festivities and dancing. Then the bride, accompanied by women with lamps, is escorted to the house of the bridegroom. Finally, a messenger announces the coming of the bridegroom. The women then leave the bride and go with their lighted lamps to meet him.

In this parable ten virgins carried the lamps and awaited the coming of the bridegroom. Ellen White comments, "All had lamps, and vessels for their oil. For a time there was seen no difference between them. So with the church that lives just before Christ's second coming. All have a knowledge of the Scriptures. All have heard the message of Christ's near approach, and confidently expect His appearing.” 1 "The foolish virgins are not hypocrites. They have a regard for the truth, they have advocated the truth, they are attracted to those who believe the truth; but they have not yielded themselves to the Holy Spirit's working." 2

Jesus described the virgins as wise and foolish rather than righteous and wicked. It was wise to have an extra supply of oil. It was foolish not to have one, particularly when no one is quite sure when the bridegroom is coming. On another occasion Jesus spoke about the wise man that built his house upon the rock and foolish man who built his house upon the sand. What is implied is that we don't have to be wicked in order to be lost; we only need to be foolish. Remember the rich farmer who prepared for a long easy life on the earth but not for eternity and certain judgment.

In the parable, all the virgins “slumbered and slept” because the bridegroom delayed his coming. Obviously there was nothing wrong in sleeping in this context. We cannot live in a constant condition of expectancy. What was wrong was going to sleep without proper preparation. The five wise virgins slept prepared because they had brought extra oil in their jars. The foolish five went to sleep without replenishing their supply of oil.

When the foolish virgins discovered that they were out of oil, they went to the wise virgins and asked them to share their oil. The reply of the wise virgins may, on the surface, seem harsh and self-centered. “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.” However, Jesus is making the point that one cannot buy the sense of preparedness from another. Preparedness cannot be transferred. The experience of readiness cannot be bought or sold.

Character is not transferable. No man can believe for another. No man can receive the Spirit for another. No man can impart to another the character which is the fruit of the Spirit's working. “Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it [the land], as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.”

It is in a crisis that character is revealed. When the earnest voice proclaimed at midnight, `Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him,' and when the sleeping virgins were roused from their slumbers, it was seen who had made preparation for the event. Both parties were taken unawares; but one was prepared for the emergency, and the other was found without preparation." 3

When examination time comes, the student is either prepared or unprepared. If she is unprepared, she cannot go to the student who is prepared and buy readiness. It is the same when it comes to running. If one man had trained for the mile run and another had not, it is not possible for the one who is trained to sell his readiness to the one who has not. Preparedness is something each individual must achieve through his own experience and preparedness.

The people who were prepared were inside and the people who were unprepared were outside forever. There is finality to the statement, "And the door was shut.” Then the warning words of Jesus follow: "Therefore, keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour."

The point of the parable is that we should be ready. When we are ready there will be no fear, but a calm assurance in the Lord. We have to be ready while we carry on with our daily duties, while we work in our offices or teach in our classrooms, while we work in shops or cook meals, wash dishes or launder our clothes.

In May, 1780, the famous dark day occurred in New England. Men felt the Judgment Hour had come and senators rushed from the senate chambers to the meetinghouse to pray, had not Senator Davenport prevailed over them:

Bring in the lights: let us be found
Doing our duty's common round.
Bring in the candles: keep to the task:
What more can Judgment Angels ask?" 4

The fact of the matter is that the coming of Jesus is an occurrence in every person's life even though it still remains an occurrence in history. Even though the historical event may not happen in our lifetimes, Jesus “comes” for us at the moment we die. Consequently, we need to have a daily living dynamic growing relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. We need genuine inward spiritual power, an inner life that is in constant communion with the Spirit of God who brings light, warmth and value to the externals of religion.

When the flood came people were caught unprepared. Perhaps even Noah’s neighbors didn’t have time to get on board the ark. In Sodom and Gomorrah there must have been good people who were not quite ready to leave their homes. The five virgins who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. The others were buying oil and were left outside. "Therefore, keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour."

1 White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 408.

2 Ibid, p.141.

3 Ibid, p. 412.

4 Markham, Edwin, “A Judgment Hour” (Gates of Paradise,” Doubleday, Page and Company), quoted in Buttrick, pp. 236-237.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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