Read: Matthew 25:1-13
Consider: In Matthew 25 Jesus presents three parables that all warn his listeners that they must be ready for his return and how to live out their faith in expectation of his coming. The chapter splits into three sections, dealing with:
25:1-13 Everyone will be held individually accountable for their spiritual condition;
25:14-30 The necessity to use God’s gifts appropriately in his service;
25:31-46 Living out our faith compassionately.
Today’s reading from Matthew 25 covers the first aspect of these points and speaks of ten individuals, five of whom were ready for the bridegroom’s arrival and five who were not.
The passage opens with the words: ‘At that time …’ (Matthew 25:1) and it would be appropriate for us to ask: ‘What time is Jesus referring to?’ Our answer can be found in the previous chapter (Matthew 24), where Jesus speaks of the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end times. These events are not to be seen as happening simultaneously. We know from history that Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70AD and the temple was destroyed at that time. Jesus was speaking of future events, one of which we know now is an historical fact, while the second (his second coming) has still to happen. However, for Jesus’ listeners at the time, both events would have been in the future.
Returning to our reading, it is a parable about ten virgins (unmarried girls/young women) who were to prepare for the coming of the bridegroom (Jesus). In understanding the parable we have to be careful not to interpret it beyond what Jesus intended. What do I mean? For example, note that all ten virgins had lamps and their lamps were lit. When the bridegroom arrived, five of the virgins’ lamps went out and five remained lit. Is Jesus speaking of all ten as having accepted him as their Saviour, but because of his delay in returning, five lost their faith (their lamps went out). I do not think Jesus would want us to read this into the parable. He is speaking of two groups of people, the wise virgins and the foolish virgins. He does the same thing in the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46), equating the sheep to those who love him and show their love appropriately in compassion to others and the goats who neither love him, nor do they show compassion to others.
The message from Matthew 25 is clear: Are you ready for Christ’s return? Are you using God’s gifts appropriately in his service? Do you live out your faith by showing compassion to those in need?
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13).
Pray: Father, forgive us when we become complacent and fail to live in such a way that shows we expect Jesus to return. Forgive us when we put too much reliance on worldly things and fail to invest in things that bring glory to your name. Amen