Theme: Your neighbor may be ready for Christ’s return, but are you?
This week’s lesson teaches personal responsibility for accepting Christ’s invitation.
But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 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.’ 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. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Notice that the difference between the wise women and the foolish women was revealed by the coming of the bridegroom. That is, it was revealed in the crisis moment. During the days before the wedding or the night leading up to the start of the feast few would have noticed that five women had adequately prepared for the bridegroom’s coming and five had not. But suddenly the bridegroom came, and the difference was immediately disclosed. The same will happen when Jesus Christ returns. Many who have considered themselves true children of God will be shown not to be, and many who have perhaps not even been regarded as his children will be revealed to be believers.
How are you to know whether you are in one camp or the other? One answer is whether you are faithful in serving Jesus. Another is whether you are serving others because of your love for Jesus. These are the answers the next two parables suggest. But let me suggest another answer here. If the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the division it will cause will bring out the true condition of those who profess Christianity but who may not actually be born again, isn’t it also the case that their condition may be revealed by lesser but, nevertheless, real crisis experiences now? If so, you can anticipate the results of the final judgment by the way you react to the problems that come into your life day by day.
Here is how one author puts it:
Nothing will more correctly reveal what is in a man than the coming upon him of some crushing and unlooked-for crisis. Let it be temporal ruin by the failure of his calculations or the disappointment of all his hopes; let it be the entrance of the death-angel into his home and the removal from it of his nearest and dearest earthly friend; let it be his own prostration by some serious illness which puts him face to face with his dissolution, and forthwith the extent of his resources is unfolded, and it is at once discovered both by others and by himself whether he is animated by unfailing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, or whether he has been deceiving himself, all the while relying on some other support. It was a shrewd remark of Andrew Fuller that a man has only as much religion as he can command in trial.
Let us therefore look back upon the past and analyze our experiences at such testing times as those to which I have referred. We have all had them. We have all heard already, in some form or other, this midnight cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh’; for in every such surprise as those which I have described, Jesus was coming to us. How did we meet him then? Did our lamps go out? Or were we able to trim them and keep them burning brightly all through? Oh, if by any such event we discovered our utter resourcelessness, let us betake ourselves now to Christ that he may thoroughly renew us by his Holy Spirit and so prepare us for that last and solemnest crisis when over the graves of the slumbering dead the archangel shall cry out, ‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh,’ and all shall arise to stand before his great white throne.1
The writer of those words was William Taylor, an American minister who wrote around the turn of the last century, and what he has written is enough to keep most of us examining ourselves for some time. To use Peter’s words, it encourages to make our “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10)
1 William M. Taylor, The Parables of Our Saviour Expounded and Illustrated (New York; A.C. Armstrong and Son, 1900), pp. 170, 171.
At what point was the difference between the wise and foolish women revealed?
How might you judge whether or not you are among the chosen?
If you were faced with a life-threatening illness, how would you act toward God?