Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to find out who God is, what is He like, and how to partner with Him now.

Wedding preparations (part 2)

Let’s see if we can clear up some confusion…

Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins has caused some interpretive angst throughout the years, especially when figuring out whom the foolish virgins are representing when the master of the banquet won’t let them into the feast, telling them “I assure you: I do not know you!”.  Since Jesus is represented by the master in this parable – would He really say I do not know you to a believer?

Many commentators and pastors advocate that the foolish virgins represent those who aren’t “true believers”…either they had only acted like Christians and never put their faith in Jesus or they didn’t persevere to the end of their lives doing good works to prove their Christianity.  They tend to take Jesus’ warning of “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour” of His return to be instructions that you need to make sure you “really believe” and that you keep doing good things until Jesus comes back…otherwise, you’ll be left out of heaven.

Since we weren’t there for Jesus’ original telling of this story, we need to keep two things in mind when we read a parable – first, who is the audience that heard the original story?  The parable’s point was for them.  Second, parables are told for one main point.  There may be additional side points or interesting ideas presented through the story, but we must make sure that any secondary lesson fully supports the one main point.  We should not to press the details of a parable too far, after all, every analogy breaks down at some point, which is why Jesus starts the parable with “The kingdom of heaven will be like…”.  Meaning that it is similar to what He’s about to say, but not identical in every detail.

With that intro (and if you’re still with me) let’s read the parable, remembering that when Jesus was telling this story, He was speaking privately to His disciples:

Matthew 25:1-13
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like 10 virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.  Five of them were foolish and five were sensible.  When the foolish took their lamps, they didn’t take oil with them.  But the sensible ones took oil in their flasks with their lamps.  Since the groom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

In the middle of the night there was a shout: ‘Here’s the groom!  Come out to meet him.’

Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.  But the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’

The sensible ones answered, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you.  Go instead to those who sell, and buy oil for yourselves.’

When they had gone to buy some, the groom arrived.  Then those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut.

Later the rest of the virgins also came and said, ‘Master, master, open up for us!’

But he replied, ‘I assure you: I do not know you!’

Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.

So…the setting for this parable is Jesus talking privately to His disciples about when He would return, and His main point is that they need to be ready at all times, because they don’t know the exact moment of His return.

But what about those who aren’t prepared for Christ’s return?  Will Jesus really tell them I do not know you, and reject their entrance into the kingdom of heaven?

The Greek word Jesus used for know {oida} generally means to understand something or have knowledge of, which is pretty much how we use the term also…“Do you know him?  Yes, we’ve met.”  However, there is a secondary usage of the word we need to consider.  Paul used it when speaking about how elders in the church need to be treated:

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition {oida} to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Paul’s direction is that the believers would recognize, respect, and commend those leaders who work hard.  And our leaders need that encouragement!

And that’s what Jesus is referring to in His parable.  When the master refuses to let them in, saying “I do not know you.”  He is telling them that “I do not esteem you, I do not give you the respect and recognition of being part of the wedding feast.”  Why? Because they did not respect the groom enough to be fully prepared for his arrival.

These foolish virgins were only excluded from the wedding feast, not the entirety of the week-long Jewish wedding festivities.  This rebuke/rejection would be similar to a negative judgement at Christ’s bema seat (see 1 Corinthians 3:15), but we’ll get to that topic in a later post. 

Remember, Jesus’ main point of this parable was to tell His disciples to be ready at all times for His return.  So, what does it mean to “be ready”?  That is the topic of Jesus’ next parable.  His point in this parable is that if we’re not watching and ready for His return, there are great things that we will miss out on.

Keep Pressing,
Ken