Throughout Scripture, a theme of marriage and covenant has been threaded into the fabric of its message. From Adam and Eve, to Rebecca and Isaac, to Ruth and Boaz, to Joseph and Mary, and amazingly, God and His people, the covenant of marriage has permeated the Bible’s pages. It can be no surprise, therefore, when Jesus not only began His ministry at a wedding, but also uses imagery and word pictures of marriage throughout His ministry. Indeed, Jesus did not just come to save us, He came to make a covenant with His Bride. Communion itself communicates this incredible truth. But, let’s begin at the beginning.
In the middle east back then and today, a wedding is everything to the people. In the Jewish culture of Jesus day, it was no different. When a man of whatever age desired to marry a young woman, he would write up a covenant containing promises and guarantees that he would go and present to her publicly. His father and her father would be present, and according to some historians, this meeting would take place at the city gate where all judicial transactions and agreements would convene. And, the more witnesses the better. So, the whole town might be in on the covenant between the two.
After his promises and guarantees were read aloud to her, she would either agree or disagree to the proposal. Upon agreeing, the bridegroom would take a cup of wine and hand it to her. If she drank of the cup, it would seal the deal. Upon drinking it, he would also drink and then would say, “I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it anew in my father’s house.” And everyone would attest to this. Furthermore, he would end all by essentially saying, “I will go now and prepare a place for you, and will come again to get you.”
And so, the bridegroom and bride were considered married by all present, but they would not consummate the marriage until the place had been prepared, and the bridegroom would return to get his bride. (Example: Joseph in the story of Mary and Joseph, determined to “divorce” Mary. Though they had not consummated the marriage, they were recognized legally as being married). The timing of the wedding was in the hands of the bridegroom’s father. For no one knew at what time or day the father would send the son to get his bride.
During this time of separation, the bridegroom would obtain building materials and decorating materials, and would over time (for things were slower in those days) would build a chamber on to his father’s house for his bride. Furthermore, the bridegroom would plan every detail of the wedding supper.
The bride, during this time, would also be busy making herself ready. First of all, she would veil herself, declaring to all that “I am chosen.” She would surround herself with up to ten bridesmaids, depending on the size of the family, who would help her to prepare. They would help her to be faithful; they would help her to remain pure; they would help her to make her dress. And again, things were slower back then. It might take weeks for merchants to come through town with special fabrics for her gown. Special attention was placed on the making of the dress, and great time and effort was put into this.
Then, there would come a time when all was ready, and the waiting would begin. There might be talk of the progress of the bridegroom’s building project. Usually the wait would be around a year. So, by the nearing of the end of year everyone was on the edge of their seat, waiting.
During this time, the Bride wore her dress to bed so as to be ready when her beloved would suddenly come. Her attendants slept with her, and the attendants of the bridegroom slept with him. Their lamps were always burning, waiting.
Then, in the middle of the night – yes, it was always the middle of the night – the father would waken his son and say, “Go get your bride!” His son would jump to his feet, arose his attendants, and they would grab their lamps and burst into the streets. A cry would go forth into the night, and people all through the town would awaken to the excited shouts of the bridegroom and those who accompanied him, and the blowing of the shofar (a trumpet made out of a ram’s horn).
The bride and the bridesmaids would awaken to the commotion, and everyone would get up in a flutter of breathless excitement. All that they’d been waiting for had finally come! The bridegroom was coming just like he’d promised! “I go to prepare a place for you, and will come again to receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Then, the bride and bridegroom meet in the street. In a potent, heart stopping silence they might behold each other for a moment and everything would appear to be put on pause momentarily before the excitement of the moment continued. All in white, clean and bright, without spot or wrinkle (after all she’s been sleeping in her dress!), sparkling and brilliant, breathtaking, the bride stands ready, and the bridegroom strong, handsome and eager, stands ready to accompany her to the father’s house. It is then that she is placed upon a litter. She does not walk nor run to the father’s house. In Jesus’ day they referred to her mode of transportation as being “flown” to the father’s house. She sat upon the litter, and then the men holding it up would hurriedly transport her, and the whole procession would follow. Once there, the door would be shut. Only the wedding party was allowed in, and all others were shut out. The door would remain shut throughout the entire week-long celebration of the wedding supper.
Did you notice some incredible elements in this that point us to things that Jesus said? He told several parables about wedding suppers (Luke 14; Matthew 21; Luke 12), the ten virgins (Matthew 25), the Father’s house (John 14), the Father being the One who knows the day and the hour (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32), going to prepare a place (John 14), not drinking of the fruit of the vine again until in His Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25), and of coming again to receive us to himself (John 14). Not only this 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 speaks of the Bride “flying” to meet Jesus in the air. All of this was the language of the covenant of a wedding. When we drink of the juice the Lord’s supper, we as the Bride agree to the marriage covenant of Jesus. We, as the Bride, are set a part and chosen, and are to be veiled and remain pure, unspotted by the world. And we as the Bride, must make our garments clean and bright, without spot or wrinkle through the washing of the water of the Word of God (Ephesians 5), until the day that the Father turns to Jesus and says, “Son, go get your Bride!”
Incredibly, the story of Jesus begins with the wedding at Cana of Galilee (John 2), and ends with the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19).
We will not know the day or the hour that the Jesus will be sent to get us, but we can be aware of the season because we are children of light (1 Thessalonians 5). Indeed, there are signs of Christ’s soon return all around us (Daniel; Revelation; Zechariah; Matthew 24; Luke 21; Mark 13; 2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3).
As we now are in the season of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church who is the Bride of Christ, let us turn our eyes to Jesus, our soon and coming King. We are in the season of the budding of the fig tree (Matthew 24), the budding of the grape vines (Song of Solomon), and the time of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz. Let’s set our heart on our Bridegroom, allow His Spirit to search us and know us (Psalm 139), make sure our garments are whitened by God’s Word. Truly, let’s be ready!!!
Revelation 22:17a, “17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!””