“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ “ ‘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.’ “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. “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Matthew 25:1-13 NIV
What a fearsome story! Jesus told this story in a string of warnings to His disciples about what it would be like at the end, just before He came back. Jesus knew that “the love of most will grow cold” and warned us with a sober urgency to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”.
The key fault of the unprepared virgins was that they were not ready when the bridegroom came; they had no oil. Oil throughout the scripture represents the Holy Spirit. The virgins are servants of God. They are us. We await a great wedding, and one day Jesus, the Bridegroom, truly will come and we will be part of the procession as He comes to finally be united with the body of Christ, His bride He has been preparing all this time.
But while we are waiting, we need to have the Holy Spirit actively in our lives. “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9). When we have the Spirit of Christ, God dwells within us, and bears witness to the truth. When the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, we love each other better, we are sensitive to the sinfulness of our hearts, we long and hope for Jesus, we speak of God and hope and believe that Jesus could show up at any moment when we are with our friends and open their eyes so they will see Him forever. When the Spirit of Christ is in us, we work with diligence and excellence because we long to do a good job for Jesus. When the Spirit of Christ is in us, we pray without ceasing, because Jesus is the great intercessor who always prays for us, and to have His Spirit in us is to be like Him.
No wonder when the Bridegroom in the story came and saw that the foolish virgins were not ready for Him, He said “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you”. They did not have His Spirit, and therefore He lacked intimacy (knowing of the heart and not just the mind) with them.
Today this parable hit me like an anvil falling from the sky, because I realized that if Jesus came back today He would have found me to be one of the foolish virgins who was not ready for Him. I got discouraged and didn’t invite anyone to leadership. I stopped believing for a second that Jesus could come at any moment and speak to my friends and that could be the moment that they truly see Him, no matter how they’ve been acting lately. I stopped praying, and simply lacked the Spirit of Christ in my heart.
In a very real way I felt like the virgins who missed the Bridegroom. How easy it is to fall asleep before midnight. In the words of Keith Green:
“My eyes are dry,
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me
What can be done for an old heart like mine?
Soften it up with oil and wine
The oil is you, your Spirit is love
Please wash me anew in the wine of Your blood”
Lord forgive me for being hard hearted and so often falling short! Help me to stay awake and seek you in the late hours of the night, in the last few weeks of the semester, when it is most difficult to keep fighting and praying. Help me to keep watch, and keep setting you before my friends, and to “always believe, always hope, always persevere”. Help me to finish well, and help me to have your Spirit freshly poured into me again