Summer Parables: The Foolish Bridesmaids

August 8, 2010 Series: Summer Parables 2010

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 25:1–25:13

Matthew 25.1-13 10 Virgins

August 8, 2010

Sam Ford


INTRO  After a hard-hitting, fire and brimstone sermon like last week, it’s tempting to tee up a nice fat softball sermon about something fluffy.  On the other hand, as I develop as a preacher, I am learning that if every sermon is not hard-hitting, it is likely you are talking “spiritually” but not proclaiming by the power of the Spirit.  The next parable we’ll allow God to hit us with, is known as the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25.1-13., a parable found only in Matthew and also told during the last week of Jesus’ life. 


Insensitive Jesus

When we imagine Jesus as a storyteller, we’re tempted to see him as an old grandfather rocking in his chair, describing the beauties of heaven with all Yoda-like wisdom.  Let us not forget, that Jesus’ entire life was radical and offensive.  And his words are no less radical and no less offensive.  Though he is gentle, he is not politically correct; though he is gracious, he is not apologetic about calling people stop paying lip service AND truly honor God with all their minds, hearts, and strength.  Unfortunately, a lot of people want to talk ABOUT Jesus, but not talk LIKE Jesus.  In the name of not “offending” the seeker, “scaring” the un-churched, or “hurting” the over-churched person, more and more church leaders are avoiding talking about the saved and the damned, the faithful and unfaithful, or even the existence of heaven and hell.   It’s insensitive, divisive, and unnecessary. 


Tell that to Jesus—Mr. insensitive!  Jesus spoke more radically and more divisively than anyone.  His words were exclusive and discriminatory.  In his parables, he spoke of those chosen and those who refuse invitations; sons of God, the sons of the Devil; wheat and tares; good servants and wicked servant; sheep and goats, good soil and bad soil, those welcome into paradise and those thrown into fire.  He preached and taught the way things were—black and white—in a world that loved gray.  We preach the same way, because we live in the same world and Paul told us that Preaching, not spiritual discussions, were the appropriate response: 2Timothy 4.1-4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  


Easy to be a Pharisee

But as we study Jesus descriptions of the way things are, we are not to concern ourselves with the hearts of those around us—that is one way to avoid God speaking to YOU.  These parables are for us, not them, for me, not you.  And it is important to remember that MOST of his PARABLES were told to the Pharisees—you know—the bad guys!  We beat down on the Pharisees all the time, not realizing that we are JUST LIKE THEM.  We claim to love God, we love the Bible, we condemn sin, we try to live more lives…but they did not believe in Jesus.  These parables helps us to recognize how easy it is to become secure in a religious routine that DOES NOT SAVE, but feels spiritual.  In other words, the parables are not intended for us to measure the “fruit of others”, rather, they should make us come face to face with genuineness of our own confession—they test our faith.  2Corinthians 13.5 5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!  My prayer is that our study will reveal our misguided security in religion and our own works, and lead us to a deeper dependence on, and appreciation for Jesus’ work on the cross.   READ MATTHEW 25.1-13 


Words BEFORE & AFTER the Parable

We need a little context to understand the heart of this story.  The parable speaks to the time between the 1st and 2nd coming of Jesus.  In the book of Matthew, this parable appears between 2 statements by about judgment and the last days. He says in Matthew 24.36 But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.  (44) Therefore you also must be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect….  Jesus says that when that day comes, a distinction between the diligent servant who is blessed and the wicked lazy servant who is cut into pieces and put into the place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth


Then, following our parable is the ever-popular story of talents in Matthew 25.14ff.  As the story goes, a master distributes 5, 2, and 1talent (20 yrs. wages) to his servants according to their ability to make use of them.  Then he goes away for a LONG TIME.  When the finally master returns, Jesus he finds TWO faithful servants and ONE unfaithful servant. He condemns the faithless servant to did nothing with his talent—he wasted his time.  He takes  the talent back, gives it to the guy who has the most  (v.30) And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.


V. 1-3  Lamps to Meet Him

Between these two uplifting passages, lies the parable of the 10 virgins.  Again, Jesus uses the imagery of a wedding feast as a description of the Kingdom.  In this case, the bride is never mentioned but her bridesmaids are as they wait for the groom.  According to verse 2,  2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise because some came prepared with extra oil and some did not .  


The Wedding

Jesus uses an image that any common audience would be familiar with.  As was custom in Jesus’ day, it was customary for the young teenage bride to be surrounded by 10 bridesmaids.   They would take their lamps (which are more like large torches covered in olive oil) and spend time with her, preparing her to meet the bridegroom.  When the groomsmen called, the bridesmaids would accompany the bride FROM HER HOUSE, to the bridegroom’s or his parent’s house, where the wedding would be held.  They would carry their torches with them which would last maybe 15-20 minutes before having to douse them again.  So they were to have a ready supply to burn. 


The Job of the Bridesmaids

The bridesmaids have an important role to play—a job to do while the groom is not there.  They are an integral part of the bridal party, appointed to a role, one they love.  They love the bride AND they love the groom, they speak highly of the groom, they look forward to meeting the groom.  I believe the virgins represent the VISIBLE church—those who have by all appearances, have responded to the King’s invitation as we saw last week.  Those who, by all appearances love Jesus, speak highly of Jesus, talk about Jesus returning. 


The 5 Different Bridesmaids

Within this one group of bridesmaids, five of them are not prepared to meet the groom.  They look the same, talk the same, and even act the same at some level.  They all responded to the same invitation, and they all possess a shared respect for the bride and the groom.  BUT THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT—five of them are wise, and five are foolish. In the Old Testament, folly is the opposite of wisdom, and a fool is the opposite of a wise person. Both wisdom and folly are depicted not as particular decisions, but ways and perspectives on life. The godly person chooses wisdom, whereas the ungodly chooses folly. Wisdom leads to victory; folly to defeat. Proverbs 1.7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Wisdom is the essence of life. The foolish person is the one who is thoughtless, self-centered, and obviously indifferent to God and his ways.


V. 5-8  Delay of Coming of Bridegroom

The story continues and the groom is delayed. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’


Delay in the 2nd Coming

Jesus had warned his disciples that, though they were to look forward to his return, he would be delayed. And, as 2,000 years have passed, it can become tempting to believe that Jesus is not already returned OR, as some cults wrongly report, he has.  Peter warned that about people who would scoff at believers concerning the long-time coming of Jesus: 2Peter 3.4,8-10 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”  Peter also says several verse later, 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.


All asleep, but some prepared

In the meantime, all 10 virgins fall asleep.  Praise God we are not condemned for sleeping.  The call to COME OUT TO MEET HIM finally comes. Jesus warned time and time again, that his arrival here (2nd coming) OR our arrival there (death) will be without warning, like a thief in the night.  It is impossible to stay up all night every night waiting for the thief.  So, this is not a matter of getting “caught” sleeping as much as it is a matter of being prepared when you’re awakened.  Are you prepared when the thief comes? Are you anticipating his coming?  Are you conscious of the master returning to view your work?  Do you have something to fear or be ashamed of—not in the moment—but over a lifetime? 1John 2.28-29  28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.


Unprepared & Non-transferable

To ABIDE in him means to be held, kept, continually in Jesus—every situation, every circumstance, every decision, beyond Sunday morning, beyond a quiet time, in all of life.  To do carve up your life to Jesus time and non-Jesus time, is to be religious.  Jesus parables make it clear—there is ALL IN and NOT IN—there is no middle group.  The middle ground where God gets sometimes EVERYTHING but our hearts is religion.  In remembering the audience to which Jesus is speaking, those who are unprepared have the appearance of religion and the outward form, but not a life that is immersed in Jesus.  The foolish bridesmaids were there, but NOT prepared They had some level of passion for the position they held, but not a passion to fulfill the purpose of their position—to bring LIGHT, to lead with LIGHT.  Like so many of this, we are foolish to believe that playing the religious game means we’re prepared to meet Jesus.  Paul says, in his letter to Colossians, that the religious often have the “appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value…they are fools (Col. 2.23).


And when the foolish virgins find themselves unprepared, they ask the wise for some oil.  One person cannot be saved by another’s faith.  You cannot appeal to the faith of your parents, of your wives, of your husbands, or your children.  You cannot be saved by the life of Jesus in someone else.  As John Piper says, the fact that the five wise virgins won’t give them any oil is not meant to teach selfishness. It’s meant to teach the impossibility of borrowing faith.  You cannot piggy back on someone else’s obedience, you cannot rely on someone else’s gifts, you cannot take solace in being part of a church that is healthy and on mission—all while you neglect our own individual calling to live for Jesus.    


V. 10-12 The Shut Door

As with all of Jesus parables, the last part packs the greatest punch.  The foolish virgins run off to go buy more oil.  They did not have it at home packed away safe for a rainy day—they never had it. Despite appearances, they NEVER intentionally planned for this time.  10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.


The door is shut

The foolish virgins run to find more oil.  Though they had all kinds of time, they had wasted it.  They, like many of us, make assumptions.  We assume we have more time, another day to prepare, another day to repent, another day to forgive…I have tomorrow to give to Jesus—today is for me.   At the heart of religion is laziness.  It is just as easy to be religious as it is to be pagan—what is difficult is actually pursuing relationship with Jesus, spending time with Jesus, serving Jesus.  The foolish virgins didn’t get another day—and they didn’t get another chance—time was up.  With the fool there is only today and tomorrow—I will worship what I want today, and I will worship God tomorrow.  With the wise, there is only yesterday and today—I used to worship everything but God, but today I will worship God in everything.   And tomorrow, well, I’ll be with him.


I do not know you

The foolish virgins return with their oil and the door is shut.  The procession has already passed, the ceremony has already begun, and they are not included.  The feast has begun, they were too late.  And they hope there has been some mistake, hope that the Lord of the house will graciously change his mind—if he didn’t that would be unreasonable, unkind, unjust.  THEY KNOCK…the groom answers…and he speaks some of the most fear-filled words that Jesus himself will speak to ALL who he finds unprepared but religious:. “I do not know you.”  You can imagine what they are thinking….but I was part of the procession, not just anyone.  I was religious, not like those pagan freaks….I was part of your church, not the big bad world you talk about.  Jesus says otherwise—yep, you gave me everything, but not their heart.  Jim reminded me to Jesus comments to the rich young ruler in the gospel of Mark 10:17ff: 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.



Jesus is returning, and he is not fooled by our lazy religiosity.  Just because we follow his rules doesn’t mean we love Him.  And just because we write a check does not mean we’ve given him our heart.  Those who truly love Jesus anticipate with great joy meeting the Lord—and they don’t waste a minute.  We are all given short amount of time on this planet, and most take it for granted that there will be a tomorrow.  God’s chosen are not fools, they wisely watch for the day AND, until that time, spend their time with the bride, loving her, serving her, making her more beautiful, that the groom might be pleased with our attention and care—all for HIS GLORY.  Don’t waste your life, spend it all, risk it all, as a wise servant who knows why we are here and what is most important in this dying world.   


BENEDICTION 1Peter 2.9ff

More in Summer Parables 2010

September 5, 2010

Summer Parables: The Rich Fool

August 22, 2010

Summer Parables: Unforgiving Servant

August 15, 2010

Summer Parables: The Good Samaritan