*Intentional about being ready for the Lord’s coming, or for any aspect of His timing*.
*This parable sits in the middle of a series of six which all speak about being prepared for what may happen suddenly and unannounced – specifically the return of the Lord [Matt. 24:42](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+24%3A42&version=NIVUK). No one, not even Jesus, knows the day or the hour of that [Matt. 24:36](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+24%3A36&version=NIVUK).
In the days of Noah, people were living their lives in carefree abandon – and then the flood came [Matt. 24:38-41](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+24%3A38-41&version=NIVUK). A thief operates by surprise, so we are watchful and take precautions [Matt. 24:42-44](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+24%3A42-44&version=NIVUK). The head servant of a grand household (think Downton) needs to keep the house prepared and the other servants at readiness, because the master of the house might arrive back at any time and will expect honesty and diligence [Matt. 24:45-51](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+24%3A45-51&version=NIVUK).
So it is for the bridesmaids lined up for a wedding procession – their most important discipline is to be ready at all times.
The Parable of the Talents [Matt. 25:14-30](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+25%3A14-30&version=NIVUK) and the Sheep and the Goats [Matt. 25:31-46](https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt.+25%3A31-46&version=NIVUK) reinforce the principle.
Six stories is a lot of emphasis; this is a particularly important teaching.*
1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them.
4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.
5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
– *Middle Eastern culture of that time was not so time-dominated as ours. Weddings took place in the evening and on into the night and part of the fun of the ceremonial was the the bridegroom’s retinue arriving unannounced to claim the bride and process to the wedding celebration. Apart from all the preparations, there was often some Middle Eastern haggling over the value of the gifts offered for the bride – so delay was all part of the suspense.*
6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
7 “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.’
– *Earthenware lamps and open torches were both used; both needed frequent attention. A bridesmaid who wasn’t prepared for this was silly indeed.*
9 “ ‘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.’
10 “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.
– *Once everyone was gathered, the door would be shut, the celebration would start and often continue for days.*
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
– *It was not just careless but insulting to miss the procession through being unprepared.*
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
– *How much more important for us to be ready and prepared for the Lord’s return at any time. We can broaden this out into a challenge to be ready and expectant for what the Lord will say or do, in an encounter with the Holy Spirit – not the lower expectation of worship that is predictable and follows a well-familiar pattern with little thought given to how the Lord might want to break in to our lives.*
#### Intentional about being ready for the Lord’s coming – or just His timing
A key doctrine that the Bible teaches is that the Lord, the Messiah who came, will at a time unknown to any but the Father, come again. This will be a time of glorious celebration, but also judgment, echoing the message of Amos and that of Isaiah which we read earlier. It depends whether we are expectant and prepared, or complacent (even arrogant) about how we are spiritually, in the Lord’s sight. The story of the bridesmaids teaches us that we all have to be ready for Christ to come again. “Ready” must mean looking to Him, not to other values – it means we have to take responsibility for our own spiritual condition. That will involve healthy self-examination – is my lamp burning bright and well-supplied?
Oil is a familiar metaphor for the Holy Spirit; anointing was done with oil and the outward action with the oil had (and still has) a spiritual counterpart. Jesus Himself needed this anointing at the start of His ministry, which He announced following His baptism: quoting the start of Isaiah 61, he said “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me, to preach good news…proclaim freedom…sight for the blind…release for the oppressed…and the Lord’s favour” Luke 4:18-19. So is it too much of a stretch, in this parable about readiness and bridesmaids having enough oil, to see our responsibility to ask day by day for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit, so we are found to be living in the light and giving light to others, whenever or however Jesus comes?
Without taking anything away from the promise we live with, that one day Jesus Christ will come again in glory, there are situations day by day which call for an encounter with Jesus. We ask that someone might know a touch from Him, that a person in spiritual blindness may have the ability to see Him, for freedom for a person spiritually captive to be able to turn to Him, and so on. And He will often say to us to minister, so that our mouth conveys His words, our hands His touch. “Fill me afresh, Lord, as I submit to You.”