the weblog of Alan Knox

A Modernized Parable of the Ten Virgins

Posted by on Nov 25, 2009 in scripture | 15 comments

We’re studying through the Gospel of Matthew on Sunday mornings. For the last few weeks, we’ve been studying Matthew 24, where Jesus answers the apostles’ questions about the destruction of the temple and Jesus’ return.

Next Sunday, we begin chapter 25. Although I’m not scheduled to teach, I’m continuing to study and read. This is the first section from Matthew 25:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-12 ESV)

While its obvious that this parable refers to a wedding, there are many aspects of the parable that seem strange to us. Today’s weddings do not include a procession of virgins or oil lamps. We do not trim lamps nor do we wait for the bridegroom to arrive. These aspects of the parable often lead to weird interpretations because we don’t understand that they were simply part of the culture at that time.

I’ve attempted to modernize the parable while keeping Jesus’ point. This is my modernized version of the parable of the ten virgins:

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The kingdom of heaven will be like ten wedding groomsmen and bridesmaids who were waiting for the bride and groom to finish taking pictures so they could all ride to the reception together in the wedding party’s limousine. Five of the people in the wedding party were foolish and found a quiet spot in the back of the wedding chapel to rest. Five of the wedding party were wise and stayed near the limo. When the photographer took longer than expected to complete the wedding photos of the bride and groom, the attendants began chatting and napping. Suddenly, the bride and groom ran out of the chapel and jumped into the waiting limousine. The five wise bridesmaids and groomsmen jumped into the limo with the bride and groom just as the driver sped off toward the reception. When they five foolish people in the wedding party heard the limousine speed off, they ran out of the chapel just in time to see the car turn the corner two blocks down. They had missed the reception! Therefore, be ready! You do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will return.

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What do you think?


15 Comments

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  1. 11-25-2009

    Alan,

    That reads like the parable of the virgins!

    Hang on a minute! Where’s the oil? :)

  2. 11-25-2009

    Alan, you wrote, “Today’s weddings do not include a procession of virgins ”
    Sure, isn’t that when the bride goes down the aisle with her Bride’s Maids? Maids are unmarried women so doesn’t that mean they are all virgins? ;-)

    PS
    fun rewrite of the parable.

  3. 11-25-2009

    Aussie John and Joe (JR),

    Thanks. My wife and children made up another version of the parable around the wedding ceremony instead of the reception.

    -Alan

  4. 11-28-2009

    Seems to me the moral of the story is to have the pictures taken before the wedding so that the bride and groom can actually spend some time with their guests, rather than running about like headless chickens. =)

    I do think it is a helpful contextualization of the parable.

  5. 4-26-2012

    Makes sense to me! Although my wedding story was quite different. The wedding coordinator and the photographer rushed the bride and groom up a hill in a golf cart to take pictures in scenery, while all the guests and attendants went off to the reception with out us! LOL what does that mean?

  6. 4-26-2012

    People are busy with their own comforts and not attending to Christ and who he longs for. It’s what the communion supper is all about celebrating

  7. 4-27-2012

    Sheree and Dori,

    Thanks for the comments. Rewriting this parable was a fun learning experience for me.

    -Alan

  8. 7-23-2012

    Good comparison as far as it goes … to leave out the oil though is, I believe, a significant omission. The oil could speak of the Holy Spirit, and/or true worship. Either way, it is a significant part of the parable.

  9. 7-23-2012

    Kevin,

    I thought about the possibility of the oil representing the Holy Spirit in this parable, but that means we must explain why those without oil were told to go buy it. So, I concluded that the lack of oil was simply an indication that they were not ready for the bridegroom, and did not point specifically to the Holy Spirit.

    -Alan

  10. 7-24-2012

    I have been actually chewing on the idea of the oil as worship lately. The price paid being time spent in worship and intimacy. It’s definitely not ready to preach yet, but there does seem to be some biblical support. I like your rewrite, and we definitely have to be alert and waiting for when the bridegroom comes, I just sense there’s something more ,,,

  11. 7-24-2012

    Kevin,

    I think the “alert and waiting” part is the point of the parable.

    -Alan

  12. 7-24-2012

    I totally agree. It’s the oil part I am chewing on. My sense is that there is something more to the oil than just being ready, and a reason why they had to go buy. Oil was such an essential part of life in general, and an essential part of temple worship. I am also reminded of Revelation 6 where the black horse and rider are sent out and admonished not to touch the oil or the wine. Oil was I think to important for Jesus to use as a “throw away” in the parable.

    If that is true then, what does it stand for. I mentioned Holy Spirit because oil speaks of anointing, and because that seems to be a common interpretation, but in my mind, it really does not seem to fit. What then? I am thinking it may well be connected to worship. Not ready to say yes or no yet, more or less thinking out loud. BTW this is not my original idea, it was triggered by some things said in the book “The Lost Art of Pure Worship by Jim Goll and others, specifically, by some comments made by Julie Meyers.

    I am far from teaching this, heck, I am far from sure I am right, only time will tell, but I think I may be on the right track, and I am certainly not afraid to buck the main streams.

    Thanks for letting me ruminate a little … I have to think this is a little like what we would have seen in the NT church, only face to face of course, a give and take and open discussion of thoughts and ideas in light of Biblical truths.

  13. 7-24-2012

    Kevin,

    Thank you for sharing your ruminations. :)

    -Alan

  14. 12-1-2012

    As you can tell by the time stamp on my comments, I’m working my way through your blog chronologically. This was cool!

    At our wedding, we let the reception begin while we took pictures (after cutting the cake). As a result, we didn’t get any cake.

    I guess we were the foolish virgins.

  15. 12-2-2012

    Tim,

    You missed the cake at your own wedding? Isn’t the cake the most important part of the wedding? ;)

    -Alan