No one plans to have two weddings, but I do. No, I’m not threatening to leave Miranda (and by the way, that’d be the dumbest thing in the world for me to do.) I’m referring to the Wedding of the Lamb (Jesus) to His bride, the church. Although my wedding was amazing, I don’t think it’s gonna be anything compared to this wedding. Bridezillas have nothing on this one. It’s “THE” Wedding. Nothing can compare.
Yesterday, I taught a group of students about all this stuff by looking further at the cultural practices of Ancient Jewish Weddings. I learned the basics of the material from a guy named Dan Kimball who wrote “The Emerging Church” – www.vintagefaith.com. I did a little more studying on the topic and discovered some really cool things. Many of Jesus’ words fly right over our heads ’cause we don’t understand the wedding customs of His day. The connection between the ancient Jewish wedding and the time when Jesus will return (A Future Wedding) are significant. He (the Groom) will return to take the church (the Bride of Christ) as His own. Check out the process for getting married in Jesus’ day: (The bulleted sections refer to the Future Wedding of the Lamb when Jesus returns to take the church as his bride.)
1. Selection of the Bride – The first step in the process was when the father of the groom selected the bride. Young Jewish girls had little say in who they would marry and would dream about who would select them. The groom committed his love to the bride based solely on his father’s decision. The bride loved her groom simply because He had loved her first.
- It’s good for us to remember that God chose us. Even in the midst of our sin against Him, He still loves us.
Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“
- Of course it is out of our response to the love that He offers us that we are able to love Him.
1 Jn 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.“
2 Thessalonians 2:13 – “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. . .“
2. “Mohar” – The second step in the process is called the “mohar.” This is the price that was paid to the bride and her family. It represented the magnitude of how the groom valued her. The greater the price, the more value they had ascribed to her.
- For us, we should remember that Jesus (the groom) paid the ultimate price for us with His own life. This is proof that we are incredibly valuable to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own; You were bought with a price.“
3. “Ketubah” – After paying the “mohar,” the groom would offer the bride a list of promises (called a ketubah) which he was committing to her for the life of their marriage. (like the vows we take in the modern wedding)
- Jesus has also given us many promises. The Bible is full of them. Here’s a short list:
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” – Deut 31:6
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matt 11:28
“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” – John 6:47
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” – Gal 3:26
4. Gifts – The groom would give her gifts to remind her of his love while he was away. (see step 6) Today, we exchange rings as reminder of our love and commitment for one another.
- Jesus gave us gifts too.
Romans 12:6 – “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.“
- These gifts come in the form of spiritual gifts like serving, administration, compassion, teaching, etc and also in the form of other people (the church) that He has brought into our lives. And of course the greatest gift He gave us is His Holy Spirit.
John 14:26 says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.“
5. Wine – Next, the groom would offer a cup of wine (Cup of Redemption) to his girl. If she accepted his offer, then she would drink of the cup without saying a word. This act ceremonially sealed the engagement before he left. (check step 6)
Mark 14:23-24 – “Then he [Jesus] took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them.“
- Did you realize that every time we receive communion, Jesus is proposing? Essentially, this is the picture that Jesus was giving the disciples that night during His last Passover meal with them. He’s going to leave for a while and so He is sealing the engagement.
6. Groom Leaves – He leaves to prepare the wedding chamber. Typically this would last about a year, but the groom could not decide when he was ready to come back for his bride. This decision was made by his father. Most grooms would typically want to rush through the preparations to “get on with” the honeymoon, so their fathers would decide when the chamber was ready.
- Jesus has left us to prepare a place for us too. John 14:2-3 says,
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.“
- Also check out Matthew 4:26. Jesus is speaking of the time that he’ll return and he says,
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.“
- This sure sounds a lot like the tradition from the Jewish wedding to me.
7. “Mikvah” – While the groom is away preparing a place, the bride is at home preparing herself. The “mikvah” was a ritual bath that the bride would take in order to set her apart “from the world” and “for her groom.” Symbolically, she was saying, “My old life is gone and the new one has come.”
- Our baptism is our “mikvah.” It is the time when we decide to “set ourselves apart” for Christ. It is during this time that we are made “new” again.
2 Cor 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!“
- In the same way that a modern bride is concerned about the way she will present herself on her wedding day, this time is important for us as believers. It’s the time that we are becoming holy, spotless, pure through the blood of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Ephesians 5:25-27 describes the goal of this mikvah saying,
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.“
8. Wedding March – When the day finally came, the groom would gather his friends and together they’d march into town blowing a “shofar” (like a trumpet) and making all kinds of noise to announce their arrival. The louder they were, the more excited and proud the groom was to be able to marry this girl. It was the bride’s job to be ready (to have her lamp trimmed) for when he came.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 – “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God.“
Matthew 25:1-13 – It’s our (we are the bride) job to be ready for His arrival.
Rev 19:7 – “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.“
9. Wedding Ceremony – In most cases a “chuppah” (canopy) was built for the ceremony to be performed under. It symbolized the “covering/blessing” of God on this union. The bride would receive a crown and the couple would drink another cup of wine. (Another custom which was added later is that this cup would then be broken as a symbol of the “bittersweetness” of the day – sweet for the couple, but bitter for their people whose temple had been destroyed.)
- When Christ returns and gives us our crowns (James 1:12 & Rev 2:10), our union will be complete and we will be with Him forever. Also, remember that when Jesus was in the upper room enjoying the Last Supper, He drank from the first cup (that was the proposal “Cup of Redemption”) and then he said,
“I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.“
- This was Jesus’ way of referring to this particular cup of wine found within the wedding ceremony. He was saying, I’m gonna leave you, but I’ll be back and we’ll drink again for the wedding ceremony. (It also interesting to note that the Passover meal normally required them to drink of the cup one more time. When Jesus skipped it, he was purposefully trying to help them see this larger “wedding” symbol instead of the regular Passover symbols.) As the cup is destroyed, we can remember that we will no longer need it for communion – we’re already communing with Him.
10. Wedding Feast – There was one final step in the wedding process. The party time! It usually lasted for about a week. The couple would consummate their marriage in a room with the best man standing guard as the guests partied outside. Wow!! Talk about pressure.
- This is the time after we are joined with Christ forever and begin the eternal party with Him. Read Rev 19:6-9 and check out who is invited to the wedding in Rev 3:20 – the normal/poor people.
Below is a chart I created to help put all of this together. The “Modern Wedding” section may have the pieces in a different order, but each part coincides with something from the Ancient Jewish Wedding too. (Click on it or download it to see it in full resolution.) Ultimately, the main lesson here is for our own future wedding with Jesus as the groom. Better get ready!!