The Parable of the 10 Virgins
Read Matthew 25:1-13
This reading takes place in the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and he is clearly intent on reinforcing with his disciples an understanding of what exactly he means by “the kingdom of heaven,” and what they should expect once he has left them in physical form. The disciples have “come to him privately” (Matthew 24:3) to ask for a clearer indication of what is going to happen, and when. This parable is part of his response.
What do you think the message in this parable is?
The message can be summed up in two words: Be Prepared! Jesus warns his followers to make no assumptions about the coming of the new consciousness he calls “the kingdom of heaven.” And he uses the background of a wedding as the basis for his lesson.
Weddings in the Near East at that time were a lot different than what we know of weddings, no matter what form they are taking. D.A. Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes the wedding setting: “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. 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.”
All ten of the bridesmaids were honored to be chosen, and all of them received the same tools and materials—lamps and oil—to work with. We all come into this life with our soul or Spirit, with our hearts open and ready. Then we have ‘life as we know it” and must learn to open ourselves again.
The lamp is often pictured in scripture and in literature as a symbol of the spirit of a person.
Or it could be the word of God which lights one’s pathway through life.
The oil typically represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
These are all gifts that everyone has.
The five wise maidens realized that they didn’t know exactly when to expect the wedding party, and chose to make sure they had plenty of oil supply by bringing extra. The five others assumed everything would unfold at once, and so brought no extra supplies of oil.
In both cases, those choices had immediate consequences. Those who were prepared were welcomed into the wedding celebration, i.e., the kingdom. Those who were unprepared were not admitted. This isn’t a question of punishment, but of the spiritual truth that all our choices have consequences.
I think all of us have both wise and foolish bridesmaids in our consciousness. The foolish are those thoughts that assume we know how and when the new dimension of consciousness known as the kingdom will arrive, and that we have already “earned” the right to be included. We believe that we have done our work and so are ‘saved.’
As I reminded everyone last Sunday, if you are still here physically, there is still work to be done.
The wise are those thoughts that “know what we don’t know” and make no false assumptions. Being “invited”—being awakened to our innate Christ Presence and the possibility of expressing that Presence as the kingdom of heaven—is only the first step, not the final qualification. We must continue to live our lives in such a way that we are prepared to step into that new consciousness at any moment. If not, we’ll be left behind, forced to wait for another wedding. (or to learn THAT lesson again!)
Again, we were reminded last week about living our integrity. Or our 5 Principles…look at them again and see how you are doing.
All ten of the bridesmaids saw their lamps beginning to burn out as the midnight hour approached. The wise virgins had extra oil with them. But that extra was not in their lamps. The extra oil came from another companion vessel that they carried with them.
This extra supply was separate from the oil they had within the lamp of their own spirit. This was the critical difference between those who were wise and those who were foolish. It represents the power of their Christ Presence and their awareness of that presence. It is the faith that they have and work on diligently.
Burnout happened to all ten of the bridesmaids. Burnout happens to all of us from time to time as we come to low points and times of crisis in our lives. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It is a common human experience.
What happens as midnight and the Bridegroom draws near is an example of the importance of preparation ahead of any time of darkness and trial and testing that may come as part of this human experience.
If we are doing our work, prayer, self-discovery, forgiveness, etc. we will be prepared when the time comes and we need that extra amount of faith, patience and wisdom.
So, it is our spiritual attentiveness and preparation that appears to be the critical issue in this parable…or the lack of.
I chose this parable as an opening to the Lent Season and our Lenten Series. Lent is about Being Prepared for the resurrection that we experience, often many, many times.
We will be using Charles Fillmore’s “Keep a True Lent” as a guide for this series leading up to Palm Sunday and Easter.