THE LAMP AND THE EXTRA OIL
Kv.;1,2 ““At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise.”
I remember seeing my three children doing their homework when I returned home from work. My wife told me they had been playing around, but when they heard me coming, they ran to their desk and studied. Anyhow, I was happy.
Jesus earnestly tells his disciples to keep watch until he returns. He repeatedly explained why they must keep watch through his teaching about the days of Noah and parables of the coming thief and of a master’s sudden return in chapter 24. He also emphasized that ‘no one knows the day except his Father,’ (24:30,42) so that his disciples would keep watch to the end.
In this chapter, Jesus gave another example, the Parable of the Ten Virgins. What does Jesus tell us in this parable? What is the meaning of the wise and foolish virgins?
Read verses 1-4. “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.”
Here, ‘at that time’ refers to the day of Jesus’ second coming. Verse 1 suggests that the day of Jesus’ second coming is like the day of a wedding ceremony. The ‘ten virgins’ represent all believers who are waiting for Jesus’ coming. They all carry lamps, but among them, five prepared extra oil for their lamps, and the other five did not. The first five are called wise, while the other five are called foolish.
What does Jesus tell us about the wise and the foolish virgins in this parable? In the time of Jesus, wedding ceremonies were normally held in the bridegroom’s house for a week. Right before the ceremony began, the groom would go to the bride’s house and bring her to his home.The ten virgins waited for the groom’s coming as bridesmaids in front of his house. (5,6,13) Apparently, at that time, there was no electric light. The virgins carried their own lamps to light in the wedding room. The lamp was not supposed to be small to light a small room, but big to light a large hall.
But what happened to the groom? Read verse 5: “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” Unfortunately, the bridegroom didn’t come on time, but took very long. This may have been because the bride’s house was far away. The ten bridesmaids were tired and became drowsy and so they fell asleep. Perhaps they came early in the evening and expected the groom to come soon. However, unexpectedly, the bridegroom didn’t show up even at the dark night; the virgins’ excitement was gone and they fell asleep.
When did the groom arrive? “6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’” The bridegroom suddenly appeared at midnight. What happened to the ten virgins? Read verses 7-9. “7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
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.’
All got up and trimmed their lamps, but the foolish learned their lamps were almost burnt out while the wise were adding the oil from their jars. The foolish begged the wise for some of their oil, but they said, “No, there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some of yourselves.” The wise seemed to be selfish and uncaring. The foolish ones went out to buy oil for their lamps. But while they were gone, the bridegroom came and took the wise virgins, and then the door was shut. When the foolish returned and knocked on the door, the bridegroom said, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’”(12b) He meant that he never opened the door for strangers. Jesus declared that once his house’s door closes, no one can get in. 13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” The day of Jesus’ second coming is not according to men’s belief or expectation, but fully dependent on the will of God.
In the previous parable, ‘The Faithful and Wise Servant’, (24:45-51) Jesus tells us to work faithfully for the master until he returns. Here, in this parable, he tells us to have extra oil. What does this mean? What are the meanings of the ‘lamp’ and ‘extra oil’?
First, a lamp is a container to burn oil and produce light. This lamp in the Bible is described as ‘light’ because the lamp lights up from burning the oil. The Bible also describes the word of God as a lamp: “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” (Ps.119:105) The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the LORD, where the ark of God was.” (1Sa.3:3); God as a lamp: “For You are my lamp, O LORD; And the LORD illumines my darkness.” (2Sa.22:29); and John the Baptist as a lamp: “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”(Jn.5:35)
Particularly, Jesus described his disciples as the salt of the earth and the light of the world in Mt.5:13-16, “13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Here, we can see Jesus regards us who belong to him in his salvation as the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a lamp on its stand, and our good deeds as a lamp and influence.
What does it mean that we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth? A lamp, in principle, is a container of a wick and oil (olive oil). When we light the wick, the wick is wet by the oil and is burned and lightened. That light shines in the room, and so we can see every visible thing. Under the same token, when we accept the word of God in our hearts, the word burns and lights in the hearts, like a lamp lighting. So we become excited by it and are willing to obey and practice that word before others. They observe what we are doing as our good deeds.
Salt is salty when dissolved and melted in food. Like salt, our heart, which is hard and self-centered, is dissolved by the word of God, and becomes humble and sacrificial. In this way, we begin to serve others who are selfish and proud. Thus, if our heart is not changed from selfishness to sacrificial, we are salt-less and useless.
Our Savior Jesus was burnt up and dissolved on the cross for the sins of the world; He demonstrated himself on the cross for us how to be salty and the light of the world.
I met Jesus personally in the Spring semester of my sophomore year. I gave my life to him as his instrument for his amazing love on the cross. After that, my lifestyle changed. I treated my brother with compassion and forgiveness. Then he testified to our mother I was changed after he studied the Bible. He also began to study with a shepherd. He became a shepherd of God’s flock. During college, I took care of about 30 students; most of them became Bible teachers and missionaries. However, after my college life, I became proud, self-righteous and lukewarm. I stopped to read the Bible and pray personally. It was my dark time; I was like Eli in 1 Sa 3:1. Everything was superficial and hypocritical in my life. I didn’t care about Jesus’ second coming, for I believed I would go to heaven. But Jn.6:53 led me to repent of my hypocrisy. Then, I became alive by Jn.6:63 and began to live by the word of God. Every word of God became the lamp on my path. I received Jesus’ life-giving spirit to serve others. (Mk.10:45) I realize my deeds as a Christian should be a good influence in the world, like a lighted lamp and tasty salt.
Secondly, extra oil. In this passage, extra oil is the expression of the five virgins’ hearts for the groom’s wedding. What is the meaning of oil in the Bible? Israel used olive oil for special lighting, such as that in the temple or for a wedding ceremony. Most Bible scholars mention that olive oil in this parable iis a symbol of the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, we live by faith as the Bible says. By the Holy Spirit, we can serve others as Jesus served us on the cross. So Apostle Paul says in Gal.5:22-24. “22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is our good deeds and light of the world.
How can we receive the Holy Spirit? Jesus says in Jn.6:63, “63The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” The word of God is full of the Holy Spirit and eternal life. Whenever we accept the word of God, we are filled with the Spirit of the truth (Jn.14:17a) and enabled to obey his word.
Our prayer life also leads us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples with all other believers prayed together in one place in Jerusalem, and then they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.(Ac.2:1-12) They became new creations and boldly preached the gospel of Jesus. The Holy Spirit equipped and enabled them to be powerful preachers and evangelists.
There are also Simeon and Anna in Lk.2:25-40 who were filled with the Holy Spirit and witnessed the child Jesus as the promised Messiah. Their prayer life comforted them to see Jesus the Messiah.
Like the wise virgins, how can we Christians keep our lamps burning until Jesus our Lord returns? It is only when we live a life of faith by prayer and meditating on the word of God. In this way, we love Jesus our Savior and long to see him. Like the wise virgins, we are ready for Jesus’ return with our whole heart. Even though we sleep physically, the Holy Spirit will tell us the time of our Lord Jesus’ coming. When we study the word of God faithfully and teach the word to lost souls on campus and pray for them, we will know the day of Jesus’ second coming. This spiritual obedient life is obviously individual and personal. We cannot give the oil of the Holy Spirit to others. Without daily prayer life and the word of God, living with the Holy Spirit is impossible.
Like the foolish virgins, however, we can live a Christian life of faith that is habitual (heartless) when there is no spirit in our actions and no joy or exciting testimonies. Like the foolish virgins, Jesus rebukes these people: “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.” The door of heaven is shut. Our Christ Jesus again rebuked the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-20 “15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
We must notice Jesus knows our deeds and lukewarm life: Jesus knows our many excuses, and Jesus knows our spiritual blindness. Though we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked, by his grace he counsels us with his word of life to repent of our wicked sins.(15-18)
Who can hear the voice of our Lord Jesus without a spiritual prayer life? (20) Without a wholehearted prayer life, how can we see our own lukewarm habitual life of faith? Without wholehearted prayer, we cannot see our spiritual blindness and selfish life. When Jesus comes again, he will no longer be compassionate, but will rebuke our lukewarm life without the Holy Spirit, saying, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”
We must pray day and night and meditate on the word of God diligently to be filled with the Holy Spirit; in this way, we can keep watch for Jesus’ coming and attend into his wedding.
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.
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