The Parable of the Unknown Hour

When Jesus prophesied about the day of the lord and the abomination that causes desolation the disciples were curious to know when would these things come to pass. Like students who constantly ask the invigilator for the time remaining during their examination, we too want to know the exact time of our lord’s coming. We feel if we know the hour of His coming, we would mend our unrighteous ways and get our lives in order to be ready for Him. The disciples would have also exuberated the same confidence when they asked Jesus for the times of his coming. To them Jesus responded with two parables, both were about unexpected arrivals that had caught their protagonists off guard.

The Oil and the Lamp

… the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

Matthew 25:1-5 (NIV)
Virgins leading the procession

The Parable, which is found only in Matthew’s account is about the Virgins who would lead with lighted candles, the procession of the bridegroom’s family as they made their way to the house of the bride’s parents. On their arrival, the bridegroom’s family would enter their house and negotiate the dowry for their daughter. The virgins would remain outside along with the rest of the procession, patiently waiting for the appearance of the new couple and then leading them back to their new home. Seeing the negotiations were drawn out, the girls felt drowsy and fell asleep.

At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

Matthew 25:6-10 (NIV)

It was about midnight when the groom finally emerged from the house of the bride’s father and the procession was woken up. Five of the virgins were prepared for a longer waiting time and had carried with them extra oil for their lamps. But the five who were foolish did not plan for the unexpected delay. It was the middle of the night and now of the shops would be open for them to go buy the extra oil there needed to light their lamps. They turned to the ones who had oil to borrow some for their lamps. But the wise ones had carried only enough for their lamps and did not want to run out of oil mid procession in their attempts to help the foolish virgins. So they went in search of oil for their lamps, but by the time they returned the procession had already entered the Groom’s house and the door had been locked.

Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Matthew 25:11-13 (NIV)

Everything would have been fine if the bridegroom had arrived on time. Then all the virgins would have had enough oil to lead the procession back to the bridegroom’s house. But it was the unexpected nature of the arrival that caught them off guard. The student who constantly nags the invigilator asking about the time remaining yes not well prepared to face the examination. On the other hand, a confident person will not be bothered about how much time is left but their focus would be solely on their work. It is the examinations that weed out the good student from the bad ones. Similarly, it is the second coming that will differentiate true disciples from lip worshippers.

The ten virgins had freely been given their share of oil and it was up to them to manage their wicks and monitor their stock of oil. We also have been given our salvation free of cost and it is up to us to ensure we do not lose it. We want to share in the goodwill of others to get things done on earth but in heaven, we cannot share our salvation to grant each other access as the doors will be shut for those who have not preserved their salvation.

The Complacent Servant

Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?… But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 24:45-51 (NIV)

In this parable, the owner of the house returns before time and finds that the servant he had put in charge of others was getting drunk and mistreating his fellow servants. There is some truth in the anti-union propaganda that job security leads to a lower motivation to work. No wonder why all the manufacturing jobs are flocking to countries with a record of human rights violations. But continuous supervision it’s not a feasible solution for any employer. People should have the inherent desire and a self-driven attitude to work in an efficient manner. If we really love
something we don’t need any supervision.

Christians today have grown complacent even though our employer has the time and resources to monitor our activities throughout our days. But because of our freedom in Christ, we think that we belong to a special club and rules just don’t apply to us. We don’t have any religious idols or have to sacrifice an animal as a sin offering and it has made us believe that there is no God watching over us. We feel we are privileged and have lost touch with the true state of our soul. Even though we recite each week in Church that Jesus died for our sins and sing countless songs to that effect, we forget that we are sinners made clean only by his blood.

The servant who was put in charge thought that he deserved his position and started to abuse his fellow servants not knowing that all the while the master of the house was the one with true authority. Similarly, we forget that God has the ultimate authority and start judging our fellow beings. Through these parables, Jesus was trying to teach the disciples of the unexpected nature of His arrival. The disciples did not have to wait long as they found themselves in a similar situation while waiting for Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane as they kept falling asleep.

The deceiver will always give us satisfaction from doing the bare minimum. The foolish virgins were satisfied just by being present for the procession. They did not plan ahead on what was required from them. Similarly, are we satisfied by doing the bare minimum, going to church on Sundays giving tithes and offerings taking baptisms that don’t have any meaning or are we willing to build a relationship with a bridegroom not just be part of his procession?

Questions Discussed

  • Why did the wise virgins not share their oil with the foolish ones?
  • What casues the servant to become arrogant?
  • Who have been put under our care?
  • Why do unsupervised workers have lower motivation to work faithfully?
  • How do christian’s feel unsupervised?


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.