Jesus’ Third Wedding Parable
The main teaching in Jesus’ third wedding parable was to highlight the need of individual, personal, and spiritual preparation for Jesus’ return.
Matthew 25:1-13 Modern English Version (MEV)
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
25 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were wise and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them. 4 But the wise took jars of oil with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom delayed, they all rested and slept.
6 “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 But the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.’
9 “The wise answered, ‘No, lest there not be enough for us and you. Go rather to those who sell it, and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they went to buy some, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Afterward, the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for 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 in which the Son of Man is coming.
For the purposes of review, and to get us well situated in the scene Jesus was depicting, remember that ancient marriages had four main parts:
1) First, the father would choose the prospective mate for his child. Most often this process began early in the child's life. Often neither person knew who their father was making arrangements with until the time to agree had arrived. Think of all the places in scripture where God says He has chosen us since before time.
Jesus made reference to this later in the same chapter of Matthew’s Gospel when He said,
“Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34, MEV)
2) The second stage began with the betrothal. A lawful marriage required that the bride accept something of value from the groom, often jewelry, like a gold ring. Think about how the Bible talks about Jesus purchasing us with something far more valuable than even gold – His own life.
A covenant would be presented by the groom and his father to the bride and her father, defining conditions of the marriage. The bride at this point had a choice to make She could accept the conditions, or she could walk away. God gives every person free will, to choose life and love with Him in heaven, or to choose one’s own way.
If she accepted the covenant, the bride and groom drank from the traditional "cup of acceptance" which sealed the betrothal. Think about how God gives us His Holy Spirit as a seal for that day when we will be joined to Him forever in heaven.
During the betrothal time the groom would prepare their new home, which meant adding on to his father's home or building a new home on the family property, just as Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you; in My Father's house are many mansions."
It was always the groom's father who made the final decision as to when the bridal chamber and new home were ready, and to give permission for his son to go marry his bride. Think of Jesus telling His disciples that even the Son did not know the day and the hour; only the Father knew.
For the bride this time was for purification and preparation for the wedding feast. In Hebrew, she would be called a "me `kudeshet," meaning one who is "sanctified, dedicated to another, set apart and consecrated to her bridegroom" just as every believer is being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, being transformed by the renewing of our minds, one day to be glorified with Christ.
It’s during this part that Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins takes place. All ten had been invited, all of them had gotten dressed up and grabbed their lamps, all of them went to the bride’s house to help her get ready and accompany her.
But five of the girls were careful to make sure they had oil for their lamps. There would be no point in having a lamp if it couldn’t hold a flame and there would be no point in even going to the bride’s house if they couldn’t be in the bridal processional. They understood that the most important thing was to have oil for the flame so that the bridal pair could have a delightful ceremony.
3) The actual wedding ceremony. Finally, the groom's father would approve all the preparations his son had made and would release him to go get his bride. It was always a surprise for the bride, she never knew when the groom was going to come. A great processional would be made, to the bride's home.
Typically, this processional would happen at night. The groomsmen and other attendants would carry torches, lamps fixed to the top of long poles, held straight up, through the streets to light their way, with lots of noise, horns blowing and fanfare. The bride and her attendants would be able to hear the approaching party, giving them a few minutes to get ready.
This is when the ten virgins heard all the shouting. They were in a hurry. Quickly, they lit their wicks. The lamps with oil in them had a nice, true flame. The lamps with no oil sputtered out. In their panic the five foolish virgins demanded that the five wise ones share.
It’s not as though the other five girls had somehow forgotten that lamps need oil. Rather, out of willful neglect, they hadn’t fulfilled their personal obligation. They had expected others to supply what they were supposed to get on their own.
The wise virgins knew that with ten half-filled lamps, the procession would only last for half the way, then there would be darkness. They had to refuse just so the bride and groom could have at least five lamps in their processional.
The oil could be a reference to the Holy Spirit. In that case, there was no way the five wise virgins could share with the five foolish virgins. You can’t borrow a relationship with God, you can’t borrow the Holy Spirit. Nobody but God can impart His own Spirit.
Only God and you know whether you have Jesus with you and living within you, in your inner being. Only God and you know whether the flame of your faith is lit supernaturally by God Himself, or whether you’re just enjoying the intellectual stimulation of Bible study, and the emotional feeling of well-being that you are doing religious stuff.
4) After the wedding ceremony the celebration would last seven days. But what about the five unprepared girls? There was no way they were going to find a store open at midnight, so the foolish virgins missed out on the whole thing, the processional, the arrival, the ceremony and the whole joyful party. They were left to weep in the outer darkness.
Only those who have the Holy Spirit will enter the kingdom of God
The light of faith comes only from the Holy Spirit. God gives many, many reassurances to those who have come to Him in faith. If you are wondering whether you have oil in your lamp, now is the time to start searching the scriptures for yourself.
All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.