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.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 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.”
The story of the ten virgins is a masterpiece, as Bible students have long recognized. It is realistic in its details and poignant in application. Besides, the deeper one explores it, the profounder its lessons become.
Jesus tells how ten young women were invited to a marriage feast. Five were wise and five were foolish. The wise women showed their wisdom by planning for the possible delay of the bridegroom. They took extra oil for their lamps so they would be ready when he came. The foolish women neglected to do so. While they waited, all fell asleep. Suddenly a cry went out that the bridegroom was coming. The wise got up and trimmed their lamps. The others recognized that they were out of oil and asked to borrow some. “No,” said the wise. “There may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves” (v. 9). The women who were unprepared started off for more oil, but while they were gone the bridegroom came and those who were ready went in with him to the feast. After a while the foolish virgins returned and found the door shut.
“Open the door for us” they cried.
But the bridegroom said, “I don’t know you” (v. 12).
The Lord concluded, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour [of my return]” (v. 13).
It is not difficult to see the story’s main points, especially its chief point, namely, the difference between the wise and the foolish women. Five were ready and five were not. But it is also worth seeing the ways in which the women were the same. There are at least seven similarities.
1. All had been invited to the banquet. There may have been many who did not receive invitations, but each of these women had received one and was anticipating a banquet when the bridegroom came. This feature singles out people who have heard the gospel invitation. They are not the unreached who have never heard of Christ. They are people to whom the gospel came.
2. All had responded positively to the wedding invitation. Some may have disregarded it or scorned it, as the townspeople did in one of Jesus’ other parables (Matthew 22:1-14). But that was not the case with these women. They had received the invitation and had responded positively, which they demonstrated by waiting for the bridegroom’s appearance,
3. All were part of what we would call the visible church. They had joined the fellowship of those who were waiting for the Lord.
4. All had some affection and even love for the bridegroom. They were not indifferent participants. This was a happy occasion, and they were happy for the bridegroom. It was their affection for him that had brought them to the point at which the story begins: “Ten virgins … took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom” (v. 1)
We will discover the last three ways they are alike in tomorrow’s lesson.
What did five of the women do that proves they were wise?
How did the bridegroom respond to those who were late?
How do we know that Jesus was not referring to those who were unreached?
Is it possible to have affection for the Lord without having a relationship with him? How is this evident in our society today?
The Bible emphasizes wisdom. Read through the book of Proverbs to find some more insight into what it means to be wise.