Stay Prepared and Ready
Prepare for Christ’s return. (1–5)
Matthew 25 continues Jesus’ discussion with the disciples about the end times. While the previous conversation interwove warnings about the destruction of the temple, this parable deals solely with the Second Coming of Jesus.
The details of the parable give it the feel of an allegory. Centuries of preachers and commentators have tried to provide meaning to this passage.
Rather than searching for a deeper understanding, it is best to focus on the central meaning of this parable. Christ’s followers must be ready for His return at any time.
The setting for the parable provides a point of reference that first century readers would understand.
We do not know why the foolish virgins did not bring oil. Some translations state they did not take extra oil. This is not stated in the passage, nor should it be inferred. Whether they had no oil or too little oil, the point is still that they were not ready for the groom to arrive. Jesus compared Himself to a bridegroom in Matthew 9:15. In the context of end-time discussions, it is easy to see the return of Jesus in the arrival of the groom.
It’s everyone’s responsibility. (6–9)
The reason for the groom’s delay and its length has no bearing on the error of the foolish virgins. His delay was a simple reminder that we cannot know in advance the timing of Jesus’ return.
The delay was lengthy enough that all 10 women fell asleep, so sleeping is clearly not a fault.
The issue is preparation. For whatever reason, the women could not participate in the wedding celebrations without lit lamps. They should have been prepared.
When the unprepared women asked the others to share their oil, they were denied. In other circumstances, one might fault the wise women for being stingy or uncompassionate with their companions.
But Jesus did not tell the parable to teach kindness, generosity or selflessness. The point of the story is that each individual must prepare for Christ’s return.
If you are not prepared, you will not enter His Kingdom.
The time for our preparation is limited. (10–13)
If the parable was about diligence, the foolish virgins might be commended for solving their problem. But that is not the point.
It does not matter that the women finally acquired the necessary oil. They were not ready at the appointed time and, therefore, demonstrated they were not worthy of their invitation to the party.
If the parable was about grace or mercy, the groom’s response to the women might seem too harsh. But that is not the point either.
The exchange between the groom and the foolish women parallels Matthew 7:22–23 where those who did religious things but did not live in the will of the Father called out to Jesus, “Lord, Lord.” They used the same Greek word as the virgins did. There, Jesus responded with “I never knew you.”
The Master is returning, and there will come a point when it is too late to prepare. Only those who truly know Jesus will be accepted into His Kingdom.
How do they know Him? Through accepting His sacrifice for their sins and by ordering their lives according to His will.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.