52. The Ten Virgins

Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 52.  The Ten Virgins 

Mt 25:1-4   At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.

Now there is something special about this particular parable: see how it starts: At that time.” (v.1a) What time is Jesus referring to? Well, he has just been speaking of the “the coming of the Son of Man” (24:39) and then concluded with the parable of the servants waiting for their master to return (24:45-51) so he is clearly speaking about the End Time when he will return. This is a story that is a warning that more obviously brings the warning, that the previous parable only had as a subtitle – he WILL come again and so to those in the future he says, be ready!

Again, as always, the parable was simple and easily understood by the people of his day. There was an impending wedding and so ten young girls went to meet the bridegroom who would be coming to the wedding festivities and because that time might go on beyond dusk, they needed to have lamps with them. That was part of their role, to provide lamps that would light the way for the bridegroom and light up the wedding festivities. That is the background here. (v.1)

Now here is the thing. Of these ten, only five of them were properly prepared, having made sure they had plenty of oil in their lamps and a backup bottle or jar of oil as well. They were described as wise, but the other five didn’t take ‘any oil’ it says, and they were described as foolish. (v.2-4).  Now we are then told, “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep,” but then, “At midnight the cry rang out: `Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!” (v.5,6)

So of course they all wake up and at that point chaos ensues because the ones without an oil supply find their lamps are going out so they can’t be light providers (v.7,8) and ask the others for oil, but the others protest, hey, we can’t do that otherwise our lamps will go out, you need to go and buy some more oil quickly. So the ‘foolish’ girls depart and while they’ve gone, the bridegroom arrives and so both he and the five ‘wise’ girls go into the wedding banquet. (v.9,10) and the door is shut. Thus it was that when the other five returned, it was too late and they were refused entry (v.11,12)

Now Jesus does not explain this parable, even to his disciples, and so we are left to reflect and ponder on it by ourselves. In general terms there are two things that come through in this story. First, there are apparently some things you just can’t get hold of at the last moment. Second, there are apparently some things that you can’t just borrow from others at the last moment. This is a story about having your own supplies.

So what are those ‘supplies’? Well in Christian terms they are the things that a born-again believer has which an apparently religious person does not have: the experience of surrender, repentance, being forgiven and cleansed, being adopted into the family of God and of being empowered by His Holy Spirit and being given a future inheritance. Those are all the things that the born-again believer has but, equally, they are the things that the self-centred apparently religious person, the self-righteous person, does NOT have. The have a form of religion, a form of godliness, without the power of it. (2 Tim 3;5). These people, says Jesus, will not in an instance be able to conjure up genuine repentance and receive a genuine experience of being born again, and so when they go away to try to do something about it, it will be too late, Jesus will have come and they will be on the wrong side.

Now there are many aspects of this story that are unclear – and Jesus didn’t try and explain them. Such as who are the ten girls? Simply those who are drawn to the wedding and have desire to be part of it. Who are the foolish ones? Those who ignore the basic requirements for entry into the kingdom of heaven and rely upon their own endeavours and ignore God’s way of salvation through Christ. What are their lamps? Essentially an expression of their lives and their ability to bring light to the wedding. How do they provide light? By oil. What is the oil? Well, usually in the Scriptures it is a picture of the Holy Spirit but here even the unprepared ones appeared to have a measure, even though it ran it. Perhaps it is just the life source given by God that is intended to enable a relationship with Him in eternity to come about. The foolish ones don’t replenish that and therefore miss out. The wise ones ensure they have more than enough. Enough of what? Perhaps the truth of the Gospel, being sure that you ARE saved and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have the witness that you are a born-again child of God. Perhaps the foolish ones simply heard these truths but never reached out to experience the fullness of them.

But all this is pure speculation and the danger when we focus on the secondary issues is that we lose sight of the main two things we noted previously – there are some things you just can’t get hold of at the last moment and there are some things that you can’t just borrow from others at the last moment –and the final warning is given by Jesus to round off the parable: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (v.13) Enough said! Be prepared, make sure you have a sound and sure faith as God provides it!

28. The Bridegroom

Short Meditations in John 3:  28. The Bridegroom

Jn 3:29    The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

What a nice little picture John paints to convey the truth of himself and Jesus. It like he says, you know what it’s like with a wedding day. There’s the bride who belongs to the bridegroom and she waits for him to come. There’s also the friend of the bridegroom, or best man we would say, and he too waits for the bridegroom to come. They are the main players in the wedding and when the best man hears the voice of his bridegroom coming, he is full of joy. Implied in this is that the bride doesn’t belong to the best man; he’s just there to facilitate the coming together of the two of them.

John the Baptist paints this picture and then, speaking of the pleasure or joy that the best man has when he hears his friend the bridegroom coming, simply says. “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.” How lovely, how simple, what a good way of illustrating that he knows his place and he is really happy in it.

Remember, this is all happening because John’s disciples, and maybe others, have come indirectly grumbling about Jesus’ ministry which is detracting from theirs. The bridegroom is obviously Jesus and the bride is clearly all the people who respond to Him. John himself is simply the best man or the friend of the bridegroom and he’s simply there to herald the bridegroom and once he hears his voice, sees Jesus in the full flow of exercising his ministry, John is happy and in fact is delighted because his role is now completed.

Again we see that John is quite clear about his role, about his ministry. When, later on we find, When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Mt 11:2,3) it leads us to suppose that either the negative circumstances of being in prison had dented John’s assurance of their respective roles, or he was simply sending his disciples to encounter Jesus. Jesus’ response is to either reassure John or provide these disciples with grounds for them to believe in him as well: “Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (11:4,5)

John’s present assessment of himself and Jesus is spot on accurate for his ministry had simply been one of proclamation whereas Jesus’ ministry was one of demonstrating the presence of the kingdom of God and in that sense was radically different.

44. The Bridegroom

Short Meditations in Mark’s Gospel: 44. The Bridegroom

Mk 2:19,20 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

As Jesus refutes this religious call to fast, he brings before us a picture that needs thinking about. He speaks of a bridegroom and it makes no sense unless he is referring to himself. So why might Jesus refer to himself as a bridegroom and his disciples as guests at a wedding? Well in the book of Revelation we find a reference to the church being Christ’s bride: For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” Rev 19:7,8). Now that is absolutely true – we, the church, are the ‘bride’ of Christ – he has won us to himself by his love.

However in the present illustration which is almost a parable, Jesus uses slightly different language to convey something else. There he calls his disciples (and us) his guests at a wedding. What happens at a wedding? It is a celebration, a time of great rejoicing. Surely as Jesus went about the countryside healing many, there would have been great celebrations and great rejoicing as those who had been sick and infirm were made well and whole. This time, while Jesus was still with them, doing all these wonderful things, was clearly to be a time of great rejoicing.

Now when you are fasting it is a serious discipline and much of the time you do not feel like rejoicing. Yes, there can be a break-through in prayer so that worship, adoration and rejoicing are released, but much of the time with fasting, it is an exercise of discipline, and rejoicing is not the natural thing to do. So, in the present season, Jesus says, fasting is not appropriate.

But that is not all, for Jesus knows what has to come at the end of it; Jesus knows that when he is arrested, tried, condemned and put to death, that will be a time for mourning for his disciples, not rejoicing. In other words in that phase, fasting will be appropriate. In fact it will probably be natural fasting because they will feel so sick and miserable about what has happened, they just won’t want to eat. Most of the time, if we are living in the goodness of the life of the Spirit, flowing in God’s goodness and reaping a harvest, fasting will not be appropriate. There will be times when the Father calls us to it though.