Foolish or Wise?
Matthew 25:1-13 (Pastor Heo)
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
9 ” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
We must be watchful, vigilant.
As we know, our Lord is the greatest story teller, this is one of the last stories he told before his crucifixion. In this chapter, he tells 3 stories:
- The 10 Virgins
- The Talents
- The Sheep and the Gold?
Jesus is COMING – this is certain. Surely, suddenly, unexpectedly, he will come. How is he coming?
- Lord and Master
- King and Judge
These three stories clarify further what it means to be vigilant and ready for his return.
- Everyone is responsible for his OWN spiritual condition. How is your personal spiritual condition?
- The need to use WELL what God has entrusted us with – use your gifts and talents well for his kingdom.
- The importance of serving others in need.
No one parable by itself completely describes our preparation – each one presents one part of our preparation.
This is the first Parable – verse-by-verse.
This parable of the wedding shows the need for readiness. In that time, the wedding customs differed between different cities, but EVERY wedding included a ceremony of the bridegroom before the house of the bride.
Every wedding had a celebration and party after dark. The bride would be accompanied with lamps to the bridegroom’s house for this feast. In this parable, the virgins are unmarried bridesmaids. They were going out to receive the bridegroom who was coming to the bride’s house to join this procession back to his house for the wedding feast. All this happened after dark. At that time, there were no street lights, so lamps were important to light the way (torches). So, everybody was required to carry his/her own torch at that time. People without lamps were considered party crashers – uninvited guests.
5 were foolish, 5 were wise – are you foolish or wise?
- Foolish = lamps but no oil = unprepared – if their lamps were going low, they could not feed the fire further
- Wise = lamps + jars of oil = prepared – they could keep their lights on ALL night
- Foolish = unprepared
- Wise = prepared
In this case, it does not mean 1/2 of the world will be saved and half will not, it merely clarifies that there are TWO categories – believers in Christ (saved), or non-believers (lost)
During the long wait, all the virgins became drowsy and fell asleep. But, this was not criticized because both the wise and foolish slept together. “Sleep” merely means they waited a LOOOOONG time – (yes, the Second Coming of Christ will be a LONGER wait than anyone expected). The difference is that one group has prepared, made preparations and the other group has not.
Suddenly, midnight, the cry! “He’s here!”
The torches were usually made with rags soaked in oil.
- Foolish = realized that their torches were going to burn out and realized that they needed more oil to raise their lamps higher – they asked the wise
- Wise = “No” they didn’t have enough to share – this is not selfishness, rather a simple realization that if they were to share, ALL torches would become weak and they wouldn’t have enough light for the wedding procession.
This suggestion to go to the dealer to buy oil was unusual. If there was a small village or town, the oil would be sold until midnight.
Jesus continued the story…
While the foolish were off preparing for his arrival, the bridegroom already came and the door was shut.
The central focus of this parable is: “and then the door was shut…”
Jesus point is: “to be late, not ready at the right time = to lose ALL, to miss ALL completely…”
Yes, they came later with much oil and said, “Lord, Lord!” but he said, “Truly, I say to you, ‘I don’t know you.’” Those who are outside will have no more opportunity to be let in. And you will not know the day nor the hour. So, his true followers must be ready and keep watch – because he will come when we least expect. Yes, he will delay longer than we wish or expect.
So, what lesson can we get? There are TWO meanings: Local, immediate – wide, universal.
- 1. Local, immediate meaning = directed against Israel. They were the chosen people of God, so their whole lives should have been preparing for Jesus’ first arrival – but they were totally unprepared and therefore shut out until today. The unpreparedness of Israel is the tragedy of the Jews until today.
- 2. Wide, universal meaning = TWO meanings
Universal meaning #1
1. We must remember there are certain things we cannot obtain/prepare at the last minute. Yes, it is TOO late for a student to prepare for an exam on the day of the exam. It is too late to obtain a skill or character trait if we already don’t possess it, when a certain task demands that from us. It is too late to be saved if we are not already saved when Jesus comes again or when we leave this world.
TOO LATE is the greatest tragedy. “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Coming of the Son of Man.” Up to the day Noah entered the ark, they never knew what would happen to them until the flood came to destroy them all – this is how it will be in the Second Coming of Jesus. Yes, he will come SO suddenly, quickly, in the blink of an eye that there will be NO CHANCE for last minute repenting/bargaining. So, we must ask TODAY to follow Christ – to serve him more diligently and sincerely.
Universal meaning #2
2. We must remember there are certain things that we cannot borrow/prepare at the last minute. Yes, we can borrow money from others, but not character. We can borrow information but not health. We can borrow ideas and knowledge but not a relationship with God. Our personal relationship with God must be OUR personal relationship with God – not someone else’s. No one can rely on anyone else.
Yes, we are one family in Christ so we can/must edify, build up, love and serve each other, but we can never lend or borrow our personal relationship with God for someone’s salvation.
There are foolish and wise – but this does not say “the wise are sitting in church” or “the foolish are sitting outside the church” – actually, they are fully MIXED together.
They were virgins, bridesmaids, wearing a uniform, wanting to meet the bridegroom earnestly, sincerely – both wanted to go – both took their lamps. In these days, we may not be able to distinguish the foolish from the wise in the same church, the same place, doing the same thing.
There is only ONE (not two) difference between the foolish and the wise. This ONE difference makes ALL the difference:
Crucial point: do you have your oil in your lamps? Do you have oil in your lamps? Oil is invisible, lamp is visible. Oil is contents, lamp is container.
Oil may be many things, but according to Jesus’ teaching – OIL = the Holy Spirit + the Word of God. Without these it is impossible to have REAL salvation, REAL regeneration, REAL rebirth. (John 3? Nicodemus – “unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”)
Bible says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is my Lord’ except by the ministry and empowering of the Holy Spirit.”
Yes, only ONE material – OIL – makes ALL the difference. Outwardly, oil looks very simple – not complicated. Then, in oil there is every element needed to make fire burning continually. Yes, our faith, our belief and confession, “Jesus is my Savior and Lord and King” – this is short and simple – very easy to say right? But if we truly believe and confess from our hearts, in this one sentence (let’s say it together)
“Jesus is my Savior, Lord, King, and God”
In this one simple sentence there is ALL that is needed for our salvation, regeneration, and blessing in this life and the life to come.
Jesus “If anyone hears my Word and obeys it, he is a wise man who built his house upon the ROCK – the winds came and the rains beat down and the house stood. But anyone who hears my Word and does NOT obey it, is like a man who built his house on the sand – the winds came, the rains beat down and the house FELL with a terrible CRASH.”
Are you wise or foolish? Be watchful, waitful, careful. Jesus is coming all of a sudden in the blink of an eye. Are you ready to receive Jesus Christ? If we are not ready today, it may be too late.