The Ten Virgins/Bridesmaids
At the outset we are tempted to enjoy the parable of the ten “bridesmaids” (NET) simply because it seems to be a story about foolish girls and smart girls. The casual reader may feel superior to the five foolish maidens while in the next moment he vicariously appreciates the good sense of the others.
But then comes the punch line, with the finger of God pointing directly at you and at me, dear reader. No serious-minded Christian can relax under the closing thunderclap, “I do not know you!” It sounds so awfully close to “Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . ” And it’s in the same chapter, too!
Shall we not be perceptive readers of the Word? The conscientious child of God wants to be ready and waiting for Jesus to arrive; willing to leave behind all the foolishness of this world in order to be taken IN WITH the Bridegroom at His invitation, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you. . . . ”
Certainly, the theme of the parable is “Be prepared!” Being prepared means that your heart is “on the ready” for the moment when Jesus meets you face-to-face; it means that you have acquired ahead of time those God-sponsored resources available to you (in Word and Sacrament) before you face the Lord.
Bear in mind, those ten maidens were all expecting the bridegroom; Jewish wedding customs were so arranged that half the fun was in the waiting, with no one knowing the exact moment when the groom would come around the corner. Surprise!
But what fun would it be for those bridesmaids who had neglected something crucial to their being suitable celebrants? In our own wedding customs; what would you think if–at the very moment when the organist begins the processional march–half the bridesmaids leave the bridal party and go off to Wal-Mart, shopping for . . . whatever?
That’s worse than being dopey; it was insulting behavior for the five to be so unprepared that they went off shopping at the last minute. No wonder the bridegroom shut the door on them as refusal to honor their insulting conduct. Though it seems tough that he said, “I do not know you!”–it was certainly true, for they did not really know each other at all. The way those foolish maidens acted was proof that they were but chance acquaintances trying to pass themselves off as close friends. There are “Christians” who do not recognize Jesus’ righteousness when it is handed them; they carry lamps, but they are empty of saving faith. When they are in the company of others well-prepared, they hope to borrow some Christian faith-life. It doesn’t work that way!
If God Himself had not told us about hypocrites, we would not have believed it. We don’t want to believe that any person who professes to trust in Christ Jesus for salvation could be a fake; the thought is abhorrent to us–much worse than finding out that an American citizen has become a traitor to his fatherland.
Yet there stood the five; lacking in the true motivation of heart-felt dedication, their actions betrayed their bogus hearts. “Foolish is as foolish does,” indeed!
Now, as I said earlier, the finger of God is pointing in our direction. Who among us suffers from such a puny interest in our personal salvation brought to us with Jesus? Who among us has but little heart for the opportunities offered to become a close friend of Jesus, the Son of God–and be won over to love Him as personal Lord and Savior?
Let us work and pray for such as those–as for ourselves–that all shallow show of spirituality and any self-deception in our hearts be converted into Spirit-sponsored bonding with our Savior!
And may such bonding prove so strong that we will let nothing rob us of faithfulness to Him throughout our long night of waiting, so that upon His surprise arrival He will find us well-prepared in heart and soul, ready to join the grand procession through the gates of death into eternal celebration with our heavenly Bridegroom.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus! Amen!
–Paul R. Koch