A couple weeks ago I attended a wedding and a funeral all within 24 hours. I was so struck by the similarities of both! Yes, I could find many common threads between these two momentous occasions. First, they were both Christian affairs. God glorifying and uplifting! They were both in a church and guest were invited and a meal was served. There was also a pastor and music. There were both laughter and tears and speeches and prayers. A wedding and a funeral have much more in common than we think! Jesus himself talked about the connection between a wedding and going into glory the night before He was crucified. It’s an amazing connection and one worth sharing!
Let’s set the scene… It is night in the ancient city of Jerusalem about 30-33 AD. The month is Nisan, or early April and the great Jewish feast, The Passover, is taking place. The city is teaming to capacity with good, orthodox Jews who have come from all over Israel are fulfilling their duties to the LORD by keeping this most holy feast.
By now, Jesus is a rock star! Everyone knows who He is… or at least has an opinion about who He is. He is a Rabi, or teacher, for sure with an air of authority and a deep knowledge of the things of God. So perfect are His teachings and so radical. Israel has not seen anything like Him before. Some call Him the Messiah, a Hebrew word for the Annointed One or the Savior. Others call Him demon possessed. But one thing for sure, He has caused controversy to the point of conflict because of His teachings.
Ever since Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead just shy of a week before, the Pharisees, the Jewish religious rulers, have been seeking to put Him to death. Causing a stir during the Passover would surely bring the Roman government down upon the Jews to crush them. They could not take a chance on any unrest. There had been enough to make all of Israel a tinder box. Sacrificing one Jew for social rest would be worth it!
If the Pharisees could get rid of Jesus maybe there would be no uprisings and the Pax Romana of the day could continue its delicate high wire balancing act. Any commotion could be the tipping point to throw all of Jerusalem into riots and into the direct line of Roman spears!
So, on the night of Unleavened Bread, the day before the great Passover Feast, Jesus is in an upper room in the ancient city celebrating the meal, the ceremony of Unleavened Bread, with His disciples and friends and probably a few members of His family. This is the night of the last supper of Jesus!
It was also before this meal that Jesus, the Great Raboni (teacher), wraps a towel around His waist and washes the feet of His disciples. A great lesson for His disciples that they will remember and act out in their own lives as they make disciples themselves!
It is after the meal that Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them and where we pick up the story. Can you imagine their fear! This is not the first time Jesus had been preparing His close friends for His death, but they did not understand. Now, they do… He was leaving them!
Not a good time to be leaving Jesus, they must have thought in their shock and panic! They were hunted men, dead men walking because they had such a strong affiliation with Jesus. They had put all their eggs in the “Jesus-IS-the-Messiah-basket”. How could He leave them NOW? (It would not be until Jesus’ resurrection that they started to understand all Jesus had told them and not until Pentecost that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit who would guide them in all truth about Jesus.)
That’s a big set up, but we need to see and hear and smell and taste and feel and sense the time in which Jesus would say…
‘LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED; BELIEVE IN GOD, BELIEVE ALSO IN ME. IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE ARE MANY DWELLING PLACES, IF IT WERE NOT SO I WOULD HAVE NOT TOLD YOU; FOR I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU. AND IF (TRANSLATED, KNOW FOR SURE I WILL DO THIS) I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU I WILL COME AGAIN AND RECEIVE YOU TO MYSELF SO THAT WHERE I AM YOU WILL BE ALSO.’ Matthew 14: 1-3
These beautiful passages are so full of imagery and promise and Jewish meaning. Let’s break it down in 21st century western speak!
An ancient Jew would get this imagery… the imagery of a marriage. Yes, Jesus used the picture of a Jewish wedding, something that His disciples would well understand to show them that He was not abandoning them and that they would eternally be with Him.
Let’s look at one more gorgeous passage. Jesus and His disciples just days before the supper in the upper room had been sitting on the Mount of Olives and they had asked Jesus when the end of the age would come. Jesus replied…
‘BUT OF THAT DAY AND HOUR NO ONE KNOWS, NOT EVEN THE ANGELS OF HEAVEN NOR THE SON, BUT THE FATHER ALONE. Matthew 24:36.
Now, let me tell you about an ancient 1st century Jewish wedding in the light of the scripture we have read!
A Jewish man and woman were betrothed by contract far before they went through a wedding ceremony or their wedding vows were consummated! The wedding contract was drawn up between the groom and the bride’s father. The father of the bride and the groom would negotiate a price to be paid for the groom’s wife. (WE WERE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE, 1 Cor 6:20)
Then the groom would leave his wife (IF I GO, Matt 14:2) in the home of her parents and go away to his home and prepare a place or a room or a portion of a house for her (I WILL PREPARE A PACE FOR YOU SO THAT WHERE I AM YOU MAY BE ALSO). The bride always went to the home of the groom to live.
The bride and her groom were separate during this time of preparation, the bride gathering her trousseau and remaining ever ready. (Matthew 25:1-13 teaches this in parable form about the kingdom of God and that we should always be ready like a virgin bride!).
The groom, at His father’s house was preparing a place for His new bride under the supervising eye of the father. Only the father could tell the groom when He could go back and get this betrothed. No one knew but the Father when this time would be! The groom would work and work and the Father would oversee it all. Then one day the Father would inspect the work and consider it DONE!!!! (Do you catch the beautiful scriptural overtones… it is DONE!)
It was now time for the groom to rightfully claim his bride. This usually happened at night. He, along with his groomsmen, would lead a torch lit procession to the home of the bride. Remember that the bride had no idea when her groom would be coming and her only job was to be ready! As the procession got closer, a groomsman would give a loud shout to alert the bride of the groom’s coming (FOR THE LORD HIMSELF SHALL DESCEND FROM HEAVEN WITH A SHOUT, WITH THE VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL AND THE TRUMP OF GOD… 1 Thes 4:16-18).
The groom does not enter into the house of the bride. The bride comes outside of her home to meet her groom (AND THE DEAD IN CHRIST WILL RISE FIRST TO MEET HIM IN THE AIR SO WE WILL EVER BE WITH THE LORD 1 Thes 4:18).
Once the bride meets the groom outside her home she goes with him to his home which is now her new home.
When they reach the groom’s home a wedding ensues, they spend time together and consummate the marriage and have a private time together which includes supper. This time of intimate seclusion could go on for days! They are attended to by their bridemaids and groom’s men (‘LET US REJOICE AND BE GLAD AND GIVE GLORY TO HIM, FOR THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB AS COME AND HIS BRIDE HAS MADE HERSELF READY’. Rev 14:7). There would be a great party and feasting and rejoicing that also went on for days for all invited to the wedding.
Jesus on the night he was betrayed, painted a beautiful word picture for His disciples of why He had to go away and that He for certain would return for them so that they would be with Him forever!
This God-breathed story full of imagery and truth is for all of us. For when we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to this earth to set us free from the power and bondage of our sins and we accept His free gift of grace… His death in place of our for our sins… and bend our knee to Him in submission, then we are partakers in this story too!
WE are the bride. And not even death can separate us from the Groom, the Lover of our souls, the Savior of the whole world, JESUS! Death is the beginning of an eternal life with our Lord! And the beginning of a life so close to Him that only a marriage could describe it! HALLELUJAH!!!!
Are you ready?