This is an odd parable. It makes some sense on the surface, but even then, not much. One of the surface tensions is that Jesus refers here to the Kingdom of God. Jesus often refers to the Kingdom having already come, but here it is in the future. Some scholars struggle with the tension of now and not yet, however, that tension is quite common in the New Testament, and it shouldn’t be any surprise here.
Jesus immediately turns to a common tactic in such parables, dividing the subjects into wise and foolish. This, of course, sets the stage for the unfolding of the parable. Sadly, antisemitic tendencies have often divided the foolish as Jews and the wise as Christians. That wasn’t Jesus’ intent based on the Scriptures. He’s usually a little more obvious, and the Gospel writers are usually quick to tell us when he’s talking about certain people when Jesus doesn’t say it. As we don’t have that, let’s agree to not read that into this.
This really is straightforward, right? Be ready, for the Day of the Lord will be coming, and you don’t know when! That’s the point, it seems, of the story. However, (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), we seem to be missing someone.
We have the groom. It’s pretty safe, based on the Scriptures, that this could be considered Jesus himself. We have the wise and foolish virgins. Now, Jesus is not having multiple wives. That isn’t it at all. The allusion is to a bridal march, where the virgin (or young unmarried women) would escort the bride to the groom’s home, where the ceremony would be done, and things would become official. If it happened at night, as in the parable, the bride’s escorts (i.e., bridesmaids) would light the way. So, have you guessed who is missing?
The bride. We talk so much about the bridesmaids (granted, they are the “stars” of the story) that we forget about the bride. Even as we talk about who was foolish or wise and why we missed the bride! So, who is the bride? Well, if Jesus is the groom, then the church is the bride.
1) If the church is the bride, who are the wise and foolish bridesmaids (keeping in mind our agreement above)?
2) If Jesus is the Groom and the Church is the Bride, where is the marriage ceremony held?
3) If Jesus is the Groom and the Church is the Bride, who announces the approaching groom?