Matthew 25:1-13.    The parable of the Ten Virgins or When?

We read this parable from Matthew and are so familiar with it, yet it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. First of all our headings in our bibles draw our attention to the ten virgins and we don't understand exactly why their there because this custom does not exist. Then we read it and we are drawn to these virgins again because there were five who came prepared and five who didn't, end of story. So for most of our lives we chase around trying to figure out what it means to be prepared for Christ's return and we lose our way in prophecy and figuring out dates, or in legalism in trying to figure out what right living will win us in the kingdom of heaven and we lose the real meaning.

A parable should make us stand back and scratch our heads in puzzlement because there is something that doesn't make sense. Unfortunately with this parable we don't understand because the custom and tradition is not known to us and we lose the moment of puzzlement and lose our focus. The custom I want to focus on is not the virgins, but the fact that when you had a wedding you had a feast. So it would take the women all day to prepare for it right up until the bridegroom would show. If a bridegroom waited until midnight to show up the feast would be ruined and the bride would have thought she had been left at the altar. So if we focus on how the bridegroom is late we ask a whole different set of questions, just like the Matthean community was asking.

See the community of Matthew expected Christ's return to already have happened and it didn't. Now they have a whole set of questions. Can we know when Christ will come? How do we live on when the prophecy we believed in didn't happen? How do we wait? What do we look for? Is there any way we can tell? See we all know what waiting is like in life and we would be really upset if our waiting wasn't fulfilled by a certain end time. We know when our doctor will call with results, we know when someone is going to arrive for a visit, we know when we'll receive an answer about a job being open ended in waiting would not be something we'd do without anxiety. If the doctor didn't call we'd think something was really wrong about our condition, if the people didn't arrive we'd be anxious there was a car wreck, if we didn't hear about the job we'd think we hadn't gotten it or we didn't get promoted they are logical conclusions to our anxiety.

How many of us live or even ask when will Christ return? I don't think we live with a lot of anxiety about this and I think sometimes we altogether drop it because we know so many who have been wrong. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't start exploring the hard questions of what it means to wait. Since I've been a child there have been many movies on just this subject, but they all miss the point on waiting because the end game is predictable. So in light of unpredictability what are the real questions we need to ask in order to wait? Does this mean we actively wait? Does that mean we're responsible to do something and if so what? Do we pray looking for the kingdom of heaven? Do we see pieces of the kingdom here on earth or is it lost and what is our response to this?

Those are much harder questions to grapple with because they invite us to really wrestle with the answers. I hope we dare to ask and dare to wrestle. We may never understand fully yet we might just touch on new answers, maybe even a new way to anticipate Christ in our lives. He is there if we take the time to wait.