The Parables of Jesus, Lesson 8: The Parable of the Ten Virgins and The Parable of the Talents


Jesus is approaching the cross and those now following Him are reduced to His disciples.  They came to him in private and asked, “Tell us, when will these things [the destruction of the Temple] be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus responds in His last, extensive conversation with his disciples (Matthew 24:3-25:46).  He directs His discussion into two main directions: The end times and His encouragement to His disciples to remain vigilant as they await His return.

Jesus shapes His exhortation in a constructive, repeating pattern.  First, He teaches his disciples to be ready for His return, which will be unexpected.  Next, He builds on being prepared, for if one isn’t ready, he won’t be found faithful.


The Structure of Jesus’ Final Discourse

A: Be prepared for the unexpected return of Christ (24:36-44)

B: Be found faithful in your tasks when Christ returns (24:45-51)

A: Be prepared for the unexpected return of Christ (25:1-13)

B: Be found faithful in your tasks when Christ returns (25:14-30)

C: The final judgment (25:31-46)


The second two exhortations (Matthew 25:1-13 and 14-30) are parables.  We will study these today.


The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Read Matthew 25:1

  • What is this parable about?


In Jewish marriage customs, the groom left his parents’ home with a contingent of friends to go to the home of his bride, where nuptial ceremonies were carried out.  After this, the entire wedding party formed a procession to a wedding banquet.  This wedding feast was customarily held at the house of the groom (Matthew 22:1-10, John 2:9), often at night (Matthew 22:13, 25:6), where the wedding feast would last for days.

The Old Testament portrayed YAHWEH as the “husband” of his people Israel in several places: Isaiah 54:4-6, 62:4-5; Ezekiel 16:7-34; Hosea 2: 19.  With this background, if someone understood Jesus to be the Messiah, He then would represent the Bridegroom in the parable (see also Matthew 9:14-15).  This is doubly reinforced because this parable is about “the kingdom of heaven,” not an actual wedding feast.

  • If the Bridegroom represents Jesus, whom do the virgins represent?


“lamps”: Greek, lampas, oil-soaked rags on sticks, torches.  The Greek also has a different word “lamp,” lynchos, which we find used in Matthew 5:15.  This was a small lamp with and clay basin filled with oil with a wick attached, often used in the home.

For outdoor use, where more lighting was needed, people used torches.  On them, the rags would burn for about fifteen minutes, which then needed to be replenished with oil.  (In John 18:3, Judas and other used these torches to find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.)  These outdoor torches could last for several hours if oil were available to replenish the lamp.


Read Matthew 25:2-4

  • What is the difference between the wise and foolish virgins?


  • What does the lamp flame represent? (See Matthew 5:16)


  • What then is the oil?


Read Matthew 25:5

  • What happens to all ten virgins?


  • Are they ready to “meet the bridegroom” (vs.1) if they are sleeping?


Read Matthew 25:6-9

  • When they are dozing off, what happens?


  • How do they all respond?


  • What are the foolish virgins lacking?


This parable is an allegory about spiritual preparedness, not on the “golden rule.”  Spiritual readiness, faith, is not something someone can transfer to another on the Last Day.  The point is that someone needs to have “oil” when the Groom appears.

Read Matthew 25:10-12

  • What happened to foolish virgins when they were trying to find oil?


  • What does this reveal about what will happen to the foolish (those without faith) on the Last Day?


The Old Testament describes God “knowing” those whom he had chosen to be his people: Jeremiah 1:5, Hosea 13:5, and Amos 3:2.  The New Testament also uses “know” to speak of being in God’s family God through Jesus Christ: Galatians 4:8-9, 2 Timothy 2:19.

Read Matthew 25:13

  • What is the point of the parable?


The date and time of the Groom’s return are unknown.  So, this calls for spiritual preparedness.

  • If the oil represents faith, where does one get enough to keep the flame alight?


  • If the flame represents our good works, which faith gives rise to, doo good works save us? (Discuss. Clue, who lets the five wise virgins into the marriage feast?)


Jesus is the returning bridegroom who will arrive joyfully at the end of the age and welcome those who lived in faith for His coming.  Blessed are those, whose lamps are burning with the oil of faith as they await their Lord.


The Parable of the Talents

The Parable begins, “For it.”  “It” refers to the kingdom of heaven mentioned in Matthew 25:1.

Read Matthew 25:14-15

“talent”: Greek, talanton.  This was not an amount of money but an amount of weight, 75 pounds, usually silver.  The parable confirms this by using the term argyrion, silver coins or money, in 25:18.  A single talent of silver would be worth about 15 to 20 years of wages for a manual laborer.

  • Who did the giving and to whom?


  • How did the “man” decide who got what?


  • What does this represent?


  • What did the “man” recognize about the one to whom He gave one talent? Was he being merciful?


Read Matthew 25:16-19

  • What did the servants do?


  • What do the servants making more talents represent?


Read Matthew 25:20-23

  • What does the returning master in the parable represent?


  • Why does the master praise the first two servants? (Does he congratulate them for making more talents?)


  • What is the result?


“good and faithful”: The master used the identical statement to praise to both servants—though they received different amounts of talents and earned different quantities.  This reveals the point of the parable is not on the return made, but on being faithful, which lives in and lives out the gifts God gives to each Christian.

Read Matthew 25:24-27

  • How does the one-talent servant understand his master?


  • What does the master say he should have done if he understood him to be so harsh?


“wicked and slothful”: The wickedness of the third servant is a result of his attitude about his master, which, in turn, led him not to use the gift given him.  Thus, he was slothful, not living based on what the master had given him but on his ideas and thinking.

Read Matthew 25:28-30

  • What does the master do with the one talent? Why?


  • What happens to the servant who received one talent?


  • Whom does this phrase represent: “to everyone who has will more be given”?


  • Whom does this phrase represent: “from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away”?


  • How did the one-talent servant misunderstand his master?


The one-talent servant alleges his master is a hard man, who reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he did not scatter.  The servant justifies his actions by claiming he was too paralyzed by fear to act.  Misunderstanding his master, the servant condemns himself from his own mouth.

The first two servants were different, correctly understanding faith.  They could take risks in living out their faith, which is what being “good and faithful” means.  For if you aren’t righteous by what you do, then you can risk living out the faith because your status does not depend on your accomplishments.  Your accomplishments before God are only possible by faith.

To begin with, they understood their master was merciful since he entrusted them with his talents.  This parable illustrates that the “delay” (24:48; 25:5, 19) is not a meaningless.  For the time we have presents us with many opportunities to use the gifts God has given to each of us.

The one-talent servant understood his master to be “a hard man,” not merciful.  He saw the master as only taking, not giving, which was not true.  For earlier, the master gave him a talent, only giving him one because the master recognized his lesser ability (vs. 15).  So, this servant didn’t live in faith but in fear.  This lack of trust led him to produce no works, and so he was judged accordingly.