November 6, 2011
No matter the custom or culture, weddings are important and revered events. As a pastor, I always have been extra sensitive to the nature of a formal wedding. I want everything to be just right. I want everyone to be punctual, especially myself. A number of years ago, I arrived at the church to perform the wedding of a precious young couple. I was greeted by an angry father of the groom, wanting to know why I was so late. I told him I was not late, but early. However, the time of the wedding had been changed, and I was not informed. Thinking I was in my usual waiting area, the pianist started the wedding, but I was not there. Although I was not at fault, I still felt badly that I was late for the wedding.
The background to this parable is Jewish wedding custom. The event centered on the coming of the bridegroom. It is about not being late for the wedding. The virgins, or bridesmaids, are friends of the bride and groom. The role they will play in the wedding is significant. They are on standby, waiting for the groom.
These 10 bridesmaids kept a faithful vigil, waiting for that climatic moment at which time they would line the roadway with lanterns aglow to welcome the bridegroom and escort him to his wedding. When the groom was in place, the door of the house was closed and the wedding ceremony began. Those who were left outside when the door closed no longer had an opportunity to enter. The parable introduces us to 10 virgins who represent two kinds of people: those who are prepared for the coming of the bridegroom and those who are not, those who entered the wedding feast and those who were left out.
This parable is about the eternal kingdom of God and those who will be in that kingdom, as well as those who will not be in His kingdom. The 10 virgins are seen in two groups of five. One group was prepared for the time of waiting and the arrival of the bridegroom by bringing plenty of oil for their lamps. They are called wise because they were prepared. Their lamps were full of oil, and they were ready for the bridegroom’s arrival. The Lord describes the second group as foolish because they had no oil for their lamps. They had made no preparation for the coming of the bridegroom.
The Lord’s parable reminds us that one day He will return for His church. We do not know when that will be. It could be at midnight as we’re sleeping. However, we can be prepared for His return whether it is at mid-day or midnight. Notice three simple observations:
I. The People in the Parable (vv. 1-13)
There is a purposeful reference to the bridegroom, but the text focuses on the 10 virgins or bridesmaids. Here we see 10 people who were invited to the wedding. All of them could have been at the wedding, but only five of them were there on time. Only five of them were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom.
We see two groups of people represented by the bridesmaids. The first group, the wise ones, made preparation for the coming of the bridegroom. This group represents those who have accepted Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. The second group, the foolish ones, could have been at the wedding; they were invited, but when the bridegroom arrived they were not ready. This group represents those who are outside of Christ, those who do not know Him as Lord and Savior.
II. The Problem We Find in the Parable (vv. 8, 13)
The problem is that we do not know the day or the hour the bridegroom is coming.
The five foolish virgins made no preparation for the coming of the bridegroom. I am sure they all had good excuses why they were not prepared. They even tried to make last-minute preparation by borrowing oil from the other bridesmaids, but it was too late.
III. The Punishment for Those Who Are Not Prepared (vv. 11-12)
When the door to the wedding was closed, it was closed permanently. Only those who are ready for the bridegroom’s arrival will be allowed to enter. All others will have to hear the awful words: “I do not know you” (v.12).
The bridegroom is coming. Are you ready? Don’t be late for the wedding.