Matthew continues with two parables and then some sobering words about the Final Judgment which the other gospels leave out, once again showing us the blessing of having four gospels, four serving in the Scriptures as a number representing the fullness of all things that are needful (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27). The Lord gave us four gospels because He thought we needed that many, and His wisdom is openly manifest thereby for all with eyes to see.
The parable involves wedding customs of that day and time. Wedding celebrations then lasted longer but cost less, which should appeal to many of us. At the appointed time, the bridegroom would leave his house to receive his bride, accompanied by a wedding party that would assist in the escort to the wedding and, afterwards, the feast. There are ten virgins who were to accompany him, five wise and five foolish. As we later see, they are reckoned wise or foolish based upon their readiness to participate as escort when the bridegroom comes. For some reason, the bridegroom is delayed, and the ten girls fall asleep. When the cry goes out that the bridegroom is coming, the five who brought no extra oil for their lamps (for it was midnight) had none to light their lamps. The wise do not sin by denying them, for then none would have oil enough for their lamps to accompany the bridegroom. And as the foolish virgins are out buying more oil, the bridegroom comes and is led away by the five wise virgins. When they later show up, the bridegroom refuses them entry, for, he says, “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”
Those are some sobering words to hear from our Lord’s mouth: “I do not know you.” And why did he not know them? Because they weren’t ready when he came. Jesus plainly taught in this parable that there would be a delay before his return. That’s the time in which we live. During this time, his people are to be preparing themselves for that wonderful event. And how are they to prepare? This parable follows right on the heels of the last chapter in which the foolish servant begins to abuse his fellow-servants and become shameless, all because his master delayed his return. He learned to regret that. John concurs when speaking of our Lord’s return adding, “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Now is the time to grow in grace, godliness, and holiness. Such words are now scorned. But God expects His people to be ready in just this way, “For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).