The story of the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins should strike terror in our hearts. If it doesn’t; there is every chance we will be rushing to buy oil when Jesus comes back.
The first thing we need to note is how the chapter (Matthew 25) opens. It begins with Jesus’ words: “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like . . .” So what was Jesus talking about in the previous chapter (Matthew 24)?
He was talking about coming judgements. He was talking about the fact that no man or woman knows the hour when he will come again. He was talking about the time of the flood which foreshadowed our attitudes of today: eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage; and the flood coming and taking them all away. He was also talking about one being taken and the other left behind at the coming of the Son of Man!
But there was more. He was asking us to keep watch for he might come at an unexpected time. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins is an extension of that thought; isn’t it? Moreover he was asking us to be faithful in what he has entrusted us to do and not take a negligent attitude that his coming is yet far away. In simple words, the warning is: Don’t take things easy!
Let us try to understand what Jesus wanted us to understand:
#1. Enough is not enough
Oil is needed for lamps to burn. The fact is as clear as daylight. What we need to understand is that we cannot be ready to meet Jesus trusting in the grace we had yesterday. We need to have plentiful of oil. That cannot be shared. Enough is not enough for us. The lesson is, seek God to have more of him each day. You cannot live on borrowed oil. You have to have it for yourself.
#2. The certainty of his coming
Let us see the fact that “all” became drowsy and fell asleep–all the wise and the foolish virgins. That means it is not easy to keep watch. We can easily lose our watchfulness because of the delay. But like the Jewish customs of the time the bridegroom was to be expected anytime of the day or night. And he will come suddenly with the announcement, “The bridegroom is coming.” Yes, he will come whether you are sleeping or awake.
#3. The door will be shut to those who are unprepared
The foolish virgins did get oil. It is remarkable that they were able to find it at midnight. That means they made a bold desperate attempt to find it. They were successful. But they had not been faithful.
This is going to be the difference when he comes. You might have a successful ministry. But when he comes you might get a panic button switched on in your system which beeps an alarm with red lights blinking: “No oil.” So the time to be prepared is now. The door will not open once it is shut. The reply to your knocks will be:”I don’t know you.” (Read also Matthew 7:21–23; a passage that is not a favourite with any one of us.)
#4. The joy of those who watch for his coming
Jewish weddings had one thing special about them. When a couple married they stayed at home for a week and there were festivities. William Barclay says, “To the festivities of that week their chosen friends were admitted; and it was not only the marriage ceremony, it was also that joyous week that the foolish virgins missed, because they were unprepared.”
God delights in us having joy with him and in his presence. But he wants us to be watchful for his coming. If you miss his coming, there will be no second chance. Therefore look forward to the joy of meeting him and do not lose yourself in your worries, anxieties and troubles in life.
The warning is that there will be a separation at the end. We all have been taught to say a simple sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus to come into our hearts. And from that time we have trusted in that. None of those who called upon the Name of the Lord will lose his or her salvation. But then what is the purpose of the warnings Jesus gave?
Yes, one will be taken, one will be left behind. To those who have no oil with them and are unprepared, the door will be shut. Take his warnings to heart; search your heart before him; humble yourself before the Lord; do not trust in your own ministry for the Lord; repent of all the little sins and attitudes you’ve ignored; and ask God to show you mercy today and now. Tonight can be too late!
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