I had always taken these verses to be similar to the warning in the previous chapter (Matt. 24:36-41), “One will be taken and one will be left.” (of course the Matt. 24 verses don’t seem to mean what I used to believe back in the “waitin’ for the Rapture” days). Or maybe this is like the final separation between the sheep and goats when the Son of Man comes in his glory (Matt. 25:31-33)? The IVP-Hard Saying Commentary (25:11–12 Why Were the Virgins Shut Out?) casts a very different light, putting the passage back into its “villiage” context (versus a bigger escatological one). We’re left not with a passage about getting shut out of the kingdom of God because the virgins did something dumb (in which case I might as well get ready for sitting outside every “marriage feast” in His coming kingdom). But we have a warning to be prepared. I was tempted to say that one should have an eye to the Future, but then that would be contrary to the Lord’s comments about letting the day take care of itself (from the Beatitudes in Matt. 6:25-27).
I guess the point is that the wise virgins knew (possibly from previous experience that may not have gone so well) that the groom might very well be delayed and so they needed to have enough oil for such an event. They acted on what they knew (which works with the parable that follows) and as a result they were brought into the wedding feast. The others either didn’t know or didn’t act on what they knew and the end result was not fun, they missed the party. The IVP commentary notes that there would be other wedding feasts and hopefully the five foolish ones would learn from their error. This doesn’t take away from Jesus’ message of being prepared. That gives me hope that I can learn from my mistakes and at the same time be ready for the kingdom of God. Also, being prepared isn’t about the stuff (the oil) as much as the state of mind (readiness) and acting on it (believing to the point of action). But it all starts with person. Oh yeah, one interesting thing here is that when the bridegroom was delay all ten virgins fell asleep, including the ones who were wise (prepared). So “preparedness” isn’t anxious inhuman behavior that keeps one from doing normal things like sleeping, but appropriate readiness that leads to action (and then sleep). I just keep remembering the part of the old boy scout pledge: “Be Prepared.” I think it fits in this parable. Jesus was a boy scouts. JBB