The Wedding and the Feast
The long walk of love leads into the eternal presence of Christ. He and His Bride are wed and the feast begins. Of course, I have been employing a metaphor of my own within a metaphor, since wedding practices in our modern Western culture are much different from that of Jewish families in Jesus’ day.
The process then was long and purposeful. When a man chose a wife, he worked out the details with her family and entered into a contractual agreement. From that time on the two were “betrothed”. They didn’t live together and were not sexually intimate, but their agreement was legally and socially binding. Once betrothed, the groom went to his father’s house to begin constructing a shelter where his marriage to his bride would be consummated. The shelter had to be constructed with great care, and was supervised by the groom’s father even though it would only be used for seven days.
While the groom worked on his project at his father’s house, his bride wore a veil to show she was “spoken for”, and lived a pure life of reflection. She also put a lamp and other items beside her bed so she would be ready when her groom appeared. Her waiting time varied, but the span involved at least nine months as additional proof of her purity, and a season that gave the groom an adequate opportunity to finish his shelter.
When the groom’s father gave his stamp of approval to the wedding shelter, his son gathered his wedding party and traveled to the bride’s home. It was customary to give her some advanced warning he was coming, but only so she wouldn’t be taken by complete surprise. As the groom came near, his friends would shout to announce his arrival and blow a shofar. The bride would join her groom and the two of them would travel back to his father’s house and enter the shelter. Once the marriage was consummated and proof of the bride’s purity was given to the best man, the couple was considered husband and wife. Then the marriage feast began.
This is another one of those places where men like me get a little uncomfortable with our designation as the Bride of Christ. But, let me put your mind at ease. There is nothing bizarre being suggested by the marriage metaphor in regards to this process. And remember, it is a collective word picture which includes everyone in the Lord’s church. This was merely the best way for God to communicate Jesus’ faithfulness to us and our commitment to holiness until we see Him face-to-face. Also, just as there is great rejoicing when humans marry, there will be joy in heaven when we appear before our Bridegroom, cleansed by His blood. If this is the first time you have heard of these ancient marriage customs, it may now be apparent to you why Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them as He celebrated the Passover the night of His arrest.
It is good for us to take some time to consider some other biblical teachings in light of this understanding. Far from making us uncomfortable, the connection between wedding traditions and our first encounter with Jesus in eternity should fill us with enthusiasm. Get ready to celebrate. The party is about to begin.