Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ …“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’
After the five foolish virgins acquire more oil, they come to the banquet. To the groom, they appear as wedding crashers. They weren’t there to escort him to the bride. How would he know who they were? He wouldn’t, as he says, “I do not know you.”
Interesting, but every time the expression is used, “Lord, Lord,” it is in a similar context. It’s always the cry of those who began in faith but for whatever reason lapsed in that faith. Let’s look at the several examples.
The first is from the Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
The second from Matthew is in the parable we are working on: “Lord, Lord, open to us!”
The next two references are from Luke. The first is, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
The second is, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ ”
This last verse goes on to suggest those who have this lapsed faith are, in fact, the Jews. These are they who ate and drank in His presence and whose streets Jesus taught in. Gentiles, Jesus says, will eat with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while they are cast out.
The second last “Lord, Lord” could also reasonably be applied to the Jews. Jesus says, “why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” He goes on to describe two houses, one built on Jesus’ words, and the other not. The one not built on His words He describes thus, “And the ruin of that house was great.” One can’t help but think about the contrast between the Church, the house of the Lord built on Jesus’ words, and the temple, which was in fact ruined in 70 AD.
The first “Lord, Lord” referenced, from the Sermon on the Mount, parallels this previous usage in Luke, and could thus arguably apply to the Jews as well.
What is all this to say, this suggestion that the Jews are the criers of “Lord, Lord” on the last day, who will be told by the Lord that He never knew them? Well, the Jews are the type of those who began in faith, but lapsed in the very moment of their redemption.
Jesus’ coming was for them their possible marriage celebration. John the Baptist was the “friend of the bridegroom” proclaiming the coming of the Lord, preparing the bride through baptism and repentance (virginal purity) for the groom. But their faith had run dry. When the wedding banquet began, they were left in the dark crying “Lord, Lord.”
Yet, the parable is clearly an “in house” parable warning for Christians as well. For Jesus’ conclusion is, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” This is addressed to Christians.
I guess St. Paul’s words of warning speak to this situation: “Because of unbelief [the Jews] were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”
The foolish virgins may be Jews, but are a warning to Christians, not to run out of faith.
Or else, as the text says, the Lord will declare He does not “know” them. What a terrifying thing to encounter? To not be known by the Lord. What does it mean to be known by the Lord?
In fact, this language of “known” might give a clue about what the reserves of oil could mean. Who are those “known” by the Lord?
St. Paul talks about being known by the Lord in the strong baptismal context of Galatians 3-4. “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God.”
This makes sense, because being baptized goes hand in hand with confessing the baptismal creed, the Apostles’ Creed, of which Jesus says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” That’s one way the Lord will know us, because our names are ever being proclaimed before Him.
Another way we are brought to the Lord’s mind – so that He would “know” us – is by remembering us. Is not Holy Communion taken in the Lord’s remembrance? Like the rainbow, which reminds the Lord of His promises, Holy Communion is a testament that brings to mind how the cross has forgiven and purified those who partake in it.
So, baptism, confession of faith, and communion are thing which, when done, cause it so that the Lord “knows” us. These, of course, are the means of grace which support and built faith, and faith is the oil that keeps the light going. The light makes our faces shine before the Lord, so that He most certainly knows us.
Meanwhile, consider the foolish virgins. They were virgins! They were “pure” from the corruptions of this world. Yet, they were not “known.” Why? Because they ran out of oil. Virginity is not enough. Oil is needed. Moral purity is not enough. Faith is needed.