Flashback Episode — Making the Wise Choice: Matthew 25:1-13

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In response to the disciples asking Jesus about the end times, Jesus shares not just a series of predictions regarding what the world would be like when He returns, but He also shares several parables that focus on this event. The first parable Jesus shares about the end time is our focus for this episode.

This first parable is probably one of Jesus’ most famous parables, and it has some profound ideas when we look a little closer at its details. This parable is known as the parable of the ten virgins or ten bridesmaids.

Let’s read this parable and then unpack some things we can learn from it. This parable is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25, and we’ll be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 1, Jesus tells the disciples:

“Here is what the kingdom of heaven will be like at that time. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Five of them were foolish. Five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t take any olive oil with them. The wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps. The groom did not come for a long time. So the bridesmaids all grew tired and fell asleep.

“At midnight someone cried out, ‘Here’s the groom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the bridesmaids woke up and got their lamps ready. The foolish ones said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out.’

“ ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There may not be enough for all of us. Instead, go to those who sell oil. Buy some for yourselves.’

10 “So they went to buy the oil. But while they were on their way, the groom arrived. The bridesmaids who were ready went in with him to the wedding dinner. Then the door was shut.

11 “Later, the other bridesmaids also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. I don’t know you.’

13 “So keep watch. You do not know the day or the hour that the groom will come.

While it is never pleasant to think about the door being closed on anyone, or being rejected by God, the clear warning in this parable is that a group of people will lose out on salvation when they had every opportunity to be included. This group of people the parable describes as foolish bridesmaids.

However, when we look at this parable, we should ask, what makes these bridesmaids foolish, and what makes them distinctly different from those who are wise.

The first distinction the parable makes is that the foolish bridesmaids did not take extra oil with them. This distinction sets the stage for everything else that happens afterwards. If the foolish bridesmaids had had enough sense to at least bring some extra oil, there wouldn’t be any distinction between them and the wise bridesmaids for the rest of the parable.

This leads us to the first big thing that we can learn from this parable: Plan for Jesus, who is represented as the groom, to return later than you might expect. We have no idea when He will arrive, but chances are it will be after people are finished with date setting.

The second portion of this parable is where we might be tempted to focus in on. This portion of the parable is when all ten bridesmaids fall asleep waiting for the groom to arrive. But this detail, while relevant to the big theme of the parable, does not tell us much about the differences between the wise and the foolish bridesmaids. Falling asleep does not make a wise bridesmaid foolish.

However, when we transition to the third section of the parable, we discover something interesting. The foolish bridesmaid’s lack of planning ahead has caught up with them. While the wise bridesmaids have addition oil for their lamps, they only have enough oil for themselves, and not enough to share.

This detail is crucial for us to pay attention to, because this is why I repeatedly stress that our relationship with God must be personal. It doesn’t matter how spiritual or close to God someone else is, their relationship will not get you into heaven. The only good they can do is inspire you and help you get your relationship with God stronger. Salvation is personal, and when we look at how this parable ends, salvation is based on being known by God.

But not bringing extra oil isn’t the worst mistake the foolish bridesmaids make. When realizing that they don’t have oil, they leave their post seeking a merchant or someone to sell them oil so they can be equipped for the groom’s arrival.

By leaving their post, the foolish bridesmaids ultimately miss out on the groom’s arrival and are excluded from the wedding celebration.

Some people a lot smarter than me say that the oil in this parable represents the Holy Spirit. I don’t have any reason to doubt that. However, I also caution you, if you are someone who believes this, don’t stop your thinking there. I would expand the oil in this parable to represent any experience, feeling, or thing that you think you need to have in order to have a relationship with God.

If you spiritually wake up and realize that you are not as close to God as you once were, the worst thing you can do is leave your faith, looking for that item, experience, or feeling elsewhere. Instead, the best thing for you to do is return to the basics, open your Bible, and simply read. Remain at your post and focus on growing closer to God through reading His word. I believe that, while this parable doesn’t include anyone in this gray area, everyone present who wants entrance before the door is closed will be welcomed in.

While these foolish bridesmaids might lose out on the status of the position of being a bridesmaid, I still believe they could be included as guests if they had stayed and been present at the door before it closed. If the oil in this parable does exclusively represent the Holy Spirit, then the best Source for this oil would be arriving with the groom, and not having oil would have been an easily solvable problem.

To sum this parable up, leaving your post as a bridesmaid is the worst thing you can do. If you don’t feel as close to God as you may have at some point in your past, don’t look outside your Bible for the solution. Instead, open your Bible and rediscover the God who loved you enough to send His Son to die in your place for your sin. Let God’s story retransform your heart and supply you with the oil you need to be a wise bridesmaid!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and place Him first in your life. If you don’t feel close to God right now, the best place to go is to your knees in prayer, and the best thing you can do is open your Bible and rediscover the God who loves you because of who He is, and not because of what you have done or what you can do for Him. We can’t do anything for God. He does everything for us!

As always, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself, because your salvation is based on your personal relationship with God and on God knowing you when He returns. Those left on the outside are those who God doesn’t know, and don’t let that be you. Intentionally grow so close to God through prayer and His word that He cannot help but know you!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of the Cross – Episode 17: When Jesus tells the disciples the parable of the ten bridesmaids, we discover within this parable some amazing ideas on how we can avoid the fate of foolish bridesmaids and being excluded from the wedding feast.

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