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The Parables of Jesus Part 18
Matthew 25:1-13 - Be prepared for His return or your death with the “oil” of the Holy Spirit
““Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”
Matthew 25:1-13 NASB1995
First, a quick apology. This was supposed to be published on 10/18 and I was thinking I had a devotional already prepared for that day and this one would go on on 10/20. To my chagrin the morning of 10/18, I fell down on the job and hadn’t finished this one, so Steve put out his parable for 10/19 on 10/18. This devotional will be on 10/19 and I will do double-duty to get back in sync with another parable devotional on 10/20. I think something happens to your brain when you go on a camping trip in God’s creation!
This parable in Matthew chapter 25 is one of two parables about being in a state of readiness for Jesus’ return (or for when you will meet Him). He is lecturing His disciples in Matthew 24 about the end time events, then starts this chapter with the parable of the 10 virgins. The fact that they are virgins is probably irrelevant to the story, other than they are comparable to bridesmaids at a wedding. The number is also not something that requires deep analysis (so many want to ascribe meaning to every number in the Bible, whether it is merited or not); according to some of the sources I read, ten bridesmaids were somewhat typical for a wedding in that time in history. In fact, here’s more about a typical Jewish wedding at the time of Jesus, from Gotquestions.org:
The historical setting can also be known with a fair amount of certainty. In describing a first-century Jewish wedding, D.A. Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes the setting this way: “Normally the bridegroom with some close friends left his home to go to the bride’s home, where there were various ceremonies, followed by a procession through the streets – after nightfall – to his home. The ten virgins may be bridesmaids who have been assisting the bride; and they expect to meet the groom as he comes from the bride’s house…Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands. The festivities, which might last several days, would formally get under way at the groom’s house.” The torch was either a lamp with a small oil tank and wick or a stick with a rag soaked in oil on the end of it which would require occasional re-soaking to maintain the flame.
This was all done without much warning on the part of the bridegroom. According to Enduring Word, these three phases occurred in the betrothal of a man and woman:
There were three stages to a Jewish wedding in that day. The first was engagement – a formal agreement made by the fathers. The second was betrothal – the ceremony where mutual promises are made. The third was marriage – approximately one year later when the bridegroom came at an unexpected time for his bride.
So five of the maidens were prudent and five were foolish with their oil lamps. The five prudent maids took extra oil with their lamps, while the five foolish ones did not take any oil. All of them fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom who was delayed (interesting) but when he finally came at midnight, the five prepared bridesmaids awakened and immediately trimmed and lit their lamps. The foolish maids realized they had no oil for their lamps and asked the prepared five maids for extra oil. They were told to go procure more oil as there was not enough to share. So, what does this oil represent? I found a great answer in Enduring Word:
Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out: The foolish virgins were unprepared because they lacked oil for their lamps. In many Biblical passages oil, is an emblem of the Holy Spirit (such as Zechariah 4:1-7). Without oil the wedding party was not ready for the bridegroom. Without the Holy Spirit, no one is ready for the return of Jesus.
Olive oil is a good representation of the Holy Spirit for many reasons.
Oil lubricates when used for that purpose – there is little friction and wear among those who are lubricated by the Spirit of God.
Oil heals and was used as a medicinal treatment in Biblical times (Luke 10:34) – the Spirit of God brings healing and restoration.
Oil lights when it is burned in a lamp – where the Spirit of God is, there is light.
Oil warms when it is used as fuel for a flame – where the Spirit of God is, there is warmth and comfort.
Oil invigorates when used to massage – the Holy Spirit invigorates us for His service.
Oil adorns when applied as a perfume – the Holy Spirit adorns us and makes us more pleasant to be around.
Oil polishes when used to shine metal – the Holy Spirit wipes away our grime and smooths out our rough edges.
No one can be a true Christian without the indwelling Holy Spirit, as it says in Romans 8:9: Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. In this parable Jesus probably did not intend a separation between “Spirit-filled” and “Non-Spirit-filled” Christians; the distinction is likely between true Christians and false believers.
Nevertheless, a key to Christian readiness is to be constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Much of the weakness, defeat and lethargy in our spiritual lives can be explained if we are not constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit.
I love this explanation of how olive oil is representative of the Holy Spirit. I confess to sometimes feeling weak and defeated in my spiritual life and I know that is caused by distractions that keep me from obeying the Holy Spirit and fully enjoying the Spirit’s fellowship and fulfillment. Continuing the parable, when the foolish maids return with their oil and knock at the door (the prudent maids have already entered with the bridegroom), the bridegroom tells them that he does not know them. As you might have surmised by now, the bridegroom is Jesus at His return. We may be asleep when that happens, but we can still be ready! We don’t know when that will happen (only God knows), but being prepared NOW, at this very moment (not tonight, not tomorrow) is so vital! And don’t forget, you must also be prepared for your death (it could also occur at any time) if it happens before He returns. It is the same one-way street with no second chances.
I like this explanation from Gotquestions.org on being ready and what it means for those who are not:
The five virgins who have the extra oil represent the truly born again who are looking with eagerness to the coming of Christ. They have saving faith and have determined that, whatever occurs, be it lengthy time or adverse circumstances, when Jesus returns, they will be looking with eagerness. The five virgins without the oil represent false believers who enjoy the benefits of the Christian community without true love for Christ. They are more concerned about the party than about longing to see the bridegroom. Their hope is that their association with true believers (“give us some of your oil” of verse 8) will bring them into the kingdom at the end. This, of course, is never the case. One person’s faith in Jesus cannot save another. The “Lord, lord” and “I do not know you” of verses 11 and 12 fit very well with Jesus’ condemnation of the false believers of Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
We can’t lift others into eternal life by our own beliefs by giving them our “oil”. We can tell them the truth about Jesus and hope and pray they repent and follow the narrow path (and we should pray for our path as well).
My next devotional examines the parable of the Talents, from Matthew 25:14-30.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Guide me into a perpetual state of readiness, joy and hope for Your return. I may temporarily fall asleep but I ask that I am always fully prepared when I awaken for when Your glorious return happens. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission
Gotquestions.org was accessed between 10/16/23 and 10/18/23 for the parable of the 10 virgins.