Relevant Biblical Passages: Matthew 25:1-13
Hope and “The Delay”: Part 1. If you are using the printed study guide you will notice that “The Delay” appears in quotation marks. That suggests that there is no such thing as “delay” as far as God is concerned. That may be all well and good, and we should make every effort to see things from God’s perspective. But from our human perspective, the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to come “soon” seems to have suffered a frightful delay. The primary focus of this study is on one of Jesus’ parables which addresses the question of apparent delay, the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25.
Matthew 25:1-13: “Surprises” in the parable of the 10 virgins. It is always a bit risky to press the details of a parable too hard. But in this particular parable there are several points that seem to run counter to “typical” Christian thinking and practice. The following points are worth noting:
- The delay is actually predicted. Did Jesus tell this parable so that His followers would be prepared for a delay? Was there already worry about “delay” in the first century? How does this relate to the promises that he would come “soon”?
- They all slept, both the wise and the foolish. While steadfast and continuous watching is often commended in the New Testament (even in the immediate context of Matthew 24-25), what could it mean that even the wise slept? There is no criticism of their behavior. Does this mean the faithful followers can actually afford to sleep nights instead of being constantly on the go with good works?
- The “wise” refused to share their oil. Given the dominant Christian ethos of sharing with those in need, what does this aspect of the parable suggest? What does a true follower of Jesus possess which cannot be shared with others? Is it something which can “willfully” be withheld, or is it something withheld by the very nature of the thing itself, such as a living relationship with God?
- The refusal to welcome latecomers to the wedding. Jesus told stories about the one lost sheep and about the lost boy (Luke 15). He also told a story about two brothers, one of whom promised to go work in the vineyard – but didn’t; while the other one refused to go – yet went (Matt. 21:28-32). All of these illustrate God’s great patience. There is time to go astray; the shepherd may even come looking for you. So what is the intended message about the shut door and the refusal of the bridegroom to welcome late guests, even when they come knocking on his door?
On balance, is this parable sobering or encouraging?