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LESSON 12 - WHEN FIVE PLUS FIVE EQUALED FIVE (MATTHEW 25:1-13)

Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. 

INTRODUCTION: This week our parable is one of the best known: the
parable of the "ten virgins." We turn our attention to what we need
to be doing to prepare for Jesus' Second Coming.  Before we get
into the text of the story, let's pretend you are a player on a
football team and I am the coach drawing the play. I will draw a
little diagram so you can understand how this wedding works.

x
   \
 x - >[Bride's home]------------------>[Groom's home/wedding]
   /
x

The procedure for in weddings during Jesus' time was that the bride
and her party gets ready at her home.  The groom comes to her home
to "pick her up" and the whole group then goes in a procession to
his home and the wedding takes place there. 

I. PREPARING FOR THE WEDDING

     A. Read Matthew 25:1-5. Given this background about middle 
     eastern weddings, why do you think these girls had lamps with
     them? (A reasonable guess is that they had the job of helping
     to light the way to the groom's home.  Imagine a procession at
     night. Light makes things a lot more festive (and safer), so
     these girls' job was to hold up their lamps and help light the
     way. Bruce tells us that these lamps were on poles held up by
     those in the procession.)

     B. Let's talk about lamp oil. You are one of the virgins and
     you are about to leave your house for the bride's home. It is
     still light. You have your lamp, so you are not a total air-
     head, and it is filled with lamp oil. (Or, if you prefer a
     more modern picture, you have your flashlight and new
     batteries.)

          1. If your philosophy is "one day at a time," are you 
          set?

          2. Come 9:00 p.m., and you have been there a couple 
          hours, and your light is on: is there any difference
          between you and the others? (No.)

               a. Have you taken care of your "one day?" (Sure)

               b. Is planning and preparation a consistent theme in
               our parables? (The parable that we have already
               studied that hits this hardest is the parable of
               the dishonest manager. (Luke 16).)

               c. Remember v.1 tells us this is a kingdom parable.
               Does this teach us that preparation is essential to
               salvation?

          3. What if you have the right philosophy of being 
          prepared. What reasons can you think of for leaving the
          extra oil (or batteries) home?

               (a. You have to own extra;

               b. It is a pain to carry extra around (maybe messy);
               and,

               c. You have to imagine the worst case. If you 
               imagine the best, you have plenty of power and do
               not need extra.)

     C. What does v.5 tells us about the preparedness of these ten.
     (They were not perfectly prepared. They ALL fell asleep.)

          1. How can they fall asleep? Didn't we learn last week
          (Luke 12) that the minimum preparation for the night
          watchman was to be awake in the second and third watch
          and be ready to open the door?

     D. Let's read on. Read vv. 6-10.

          1. Are those who have extra oil being selfish? (Remember
          they have to light the path all the way to the groom's
          parents' home. So they are not being selfish, they are
          being practical.)

     E. Let's look at the symbolic meaning of this. Who do the 
     following represent?

          1. Who is the groom? (Jesus)

          2. What is the wedding? (The Second Coming of Jesus)

          3. Who are the virgins? (Us)

          4. What is the purpose of the lamps (our lamps) in this
          story? What is the symbolic application for today? (To
          light the way for those who are going to heaven. To
          assist the bridegroom in His work.)

          5. All the virgins had lamps to light the way. All the
          virgins had their lamps lit. All the virgins fell asleep.
          Some, however, had "extra oil."  What factor in our
          spiritual life compares to this?

               a. The "stock answer" is "the Holy Spirit." I don't
               think that is a very helpful answer as a practical
               matter. Either you have the Holy Spirit or you do
               not, right? How would you "bottle up" extra Holy
               Spirit?

                    (1) Specifically, what would you do on Monday
                    to avoid being in the situation of the five
                    foolish virgins? 

                    (2) Just exactly what do you suggest we do to
                    "bottle up" "extra" Holy Spirit?

     F. Let's work this through. 

          1. What is the difference (again) between the five wise
          and five foolish virgins? (Preparation)

          2. They all had the Holy Spirit once, but it "leaves" for
          five. What would cause it to leave?

               a. Is it significant that it leaves when they are
               awakened?

               b. Is "the sleep" a testing period? Is being
               awakened by the announcement of the groom a test?
               Does the "midnight" timing add to the idea of a
               test?
               
(No doubt being caught unaware is traumatic. It is a test. What
makes the difference is being prepared for being caught unaware
during the delay. That preparation is having a thorough experience
with the Holy Spirit. Having a well of resources to call upon.)

                    (1) What will make this "well of resources?"
                    (Study of the Bible. Trusting the Holy Spirit
                    in testing times now. Cultivating an in-depth
                    relationship with God's Spirit.)

     G. Let's look at the alternative. Read Matthew 25: 11-13.

          1. When I tell the children's story in church I like to
          give a little thought to the "moral" of the story.  We
          had a member, long since passed away, who loved to give
          the children's story.  Generally, however, after he gave
          the story I would ask myself, "What was the moral to
          that?"

               a. What is the "moral" Jesus gives to the story of
               the ten virgins?  (v.13. "Therefore watch.")

                    (1) Wait a minute!  Isn't that exactly what the
                    heroines of our story did not do?  They fell
                    asleep and were not watching!  How do you
                    explain this "moral?" (This "rounds out" last
                    week's story about the night watchmen.  You
                    might be led to believe that "watching" is
                    simply staring at the door (or down the road)
                    for Jesus to come.  "Watching" means that you
                    are prepared for the Second Coming by having a
                    relationship with God.  If you are prepared,
                    it does not matter that when He comes He
                    surprises you.)

II. NEXT WEEK:"The Last Invitation." Matthew 22:1-14. Another
wedding parable. Study!