Online Sunday School. Kerygma materials
Parables of Jesus
Chapter 4 – Parables of Preparedness
1. The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids is found in Chapter 25 of Matthew. “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! There will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
2. The Greek word for the 10 women translates as “virgin” but this aspect of their lives seems less significant than the fact that they are “wedding attendants” or “bridesmaids.” Various traditions and commentaries use one or another of these terms. However some traditions see virginity as a devotion to the spirit as opposed to the flesh, and the passage as a call to monastic devotion. Note that the Biblical polygamy from the times of the Patriarchs and Kings had ended and there is no reason to believe the bridegroom was marrying all ten women.
3. This parable is based on the wedding traditions of the time and place. Many of today’s Middle Eastern wedding traditions are believed to be rooted in the traditions of the past. Kerygma suggests that the feast began at the home of the bride, and then when the groom arrived, they preceded to the home of the groom’s father where the actual wedding took place.
4. Kerygma discusses the “connotations” of parables, meaning that Jesus’ hearers would associate the topic with a spiritual issue. For instance they would associate the harvest with God’s ultimate judgment, or a king with God. Here the wedding feast would have a connotation that it was about God’s kingdom. Note this is different from “allegory” where every element of the story is said to symbolize something else, often to the extent that it detracts from the story as a whole. In this parable, for instance, people have argued that the oil represents true faith, or the Holy Spirit, or good works, or that none of these are necessary. What do you think?
5. Marriage imagery has often been used to describe God’s relationship with God’s people. In the Old Testament (Isaiah 54:4–6; 62:4-5; Ezekiel 16:7–34; Hosea 2:19), God is pictured as the “husband” of Israel. In the New Testament (John 3:27–30; Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19–20, Ephesians 5:25–32), Christ is pictured as the bridegroom of the Church.
6. Wedding feasts have been connotations of being joyful celebrations representing the coming of God’s kingdom.
7. In John’s Gospel, Jesus starts his ministry at a wedding feast, where he changes water to wine. John 2, 1-12.
8. In Matthew 22, 1-14 Jesus says “2 The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”
9. This parable, like that of the 10 bridesmaids, has the king exclude someone, casting them out into the outer darkness for being dressed improperly without a wedding garment. What does this parable say to you?
10. The wise bridesmaids refuse to share their oil, saying there is not enough to go around. Is this an endorsement of self-interested capitalism as opposed to socialism? In our economic system how do we determine how much people should keep for themselves and how much they should share with others? When is there enough to go around? Does it matter if the “foolish” bridesmaids are poorer than the wise ones? Up to 40% of Americans are said to lack savings to survive a setback such as a lost job, a car or appliance repair, or an illness, to say nothing of the COVID pandemic. This can be due to low, undependable incomes. Are people who are too poor to be blamed for their bad choices, or are they subject to economic realities?
11. The parable of the 10 bridesmaids is found in this sequence.
a. Matthew 24, 1-2; Jesus foretells the destruction of the temple;
b. Jesus is asked by the disciples “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24, 3.
c. Jesus describes coming time of false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, persecutions, betrayals. However the good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world and then the end will come. Matthew 24, 4 – 28.
d. A description of the sun darkening, stars falling and the Son of Man appearing. Matthew 24, 29-31.
e. A parable of the fig tree putting forth leaves as a sign of summer, compared to these precursors to the coming of the Son of Man.
f. A warning for watchfulness as the Son of Man is coming. Matthew 24, 36-44.
g. A parable where a faithful slave is rewarded but an unfaithful slave abuses his fellows because the master is delayed, “50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51 He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 24, 45-51.
h. The parable of the 10 bridesmaids;
i. The parable of the talents.
j. Matthew 25, 31-46. The judgement where the Son of Man rewards those who have fed or cared for “the least of these”, and casts out those who did not. ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ The “Matthew 25 church” movement is focused on this directive.
12. Because of this sequence, interpreters of the parable of the 10 bridesmaids usually suggest that the bridegroom is Jesus and his followers must always be prepared for his return. The Gospels are believed to have reached their present day form 30-50 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, when early enthusiasm for a swift second coming was being disappointed. 2000
years later the second coming has not yet occurred. We are asked to behave in our lives as if it were going to. Bad things may happen if we are not prepared. How do you evaluate this sequence of passages? How much urgency do you have? How are we to live even if experience suggests the bridegroom is a long way off?