In the last program we began to look at the different elements that were part of the tradition of the Ancient Jewish Wedding. All this is in the context of God’s relationship with man, God’s intimate relationship with Israel and now, Jesus’ relationship with the church.
The three main players in this tradition were the Father, the groom and the bride.
The Father: This is reflected in God the Father
The Groom: This is reflected in the person of Jesus
The Bride: This is reflected in the church; the Bride of Christ
Each element of the Ancient Jewish Wedding has significant prophetic implications and we looked at three of them last time.
The Ketubah, being the wedding contract that detailed how much the groom was willing to pay for his bride and how valuable she was to him.
The Acceptance, which was done through the giving and receiving of a glass of wine. Accepting the wine made the betrothal or engagement as legally binding as marriage, but without the physical union.
The Gifts, were given by the groom to his betrothed so she would remember him during the separation which would take place until they were finally actually married.
The typical betrothal period was between one and two years and during this time the bride and bridegroom wouldn’t see each other at all. They would in fact be in preparations for their marriage. The groom would be in his father’s home making and preparing a home for himself and his bride to dwell in once they were married, and fitting the home out with all that they would need for their life together. The bride would be making preparations for her big day and also for the things she would need to be a good wife upon her marriage.
How is this fulfilled?
Jesus also said He would go away and prepare a place for His Bride in His Father’s home. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3)
During this betrothal separation period, the bride was also required to partake of a Mikveh, or a ritual cleansing bath. The word ‘mikveh’ is the same word used for baptism and to this day in Conservative Judaism, a bride cannot marry unless she enters the water of the Mikveh. The Mikveh is a ceremonial demonstration of a person transitioning from unclean to clean, defiled to purified, old to new, death to life.
Jesus also provided for His Bride to participate in baptism of both water and the Holy Spirit. Water baptism takes place in many places in the New Testament; after His Ascension He gave this command, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you’ve heard Me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you’ll be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4, 11:16) (Acts 2:38, 41, 8:12, 36-38, 9:18, 10:47-48, 16:15, 33, 18:8, 19:5, 22:16; Rom 6:3; Gal 3:27)
It was during the betrothal separation period that the groom was also preparing the bridal chamber, which had to be a beautiful place to bring his bride. The groom had to build it to the father’s specifications and the young groom could only go for his bride when his father had approved all that he’d done. If the bridegroom was asked by someone else when the wedding was to take place, he would probably respond by saying, “it’s not for me to know, only my father knows.”
Our own Bridegroom promised to go away and prepare a place for His Bride in His Father’s house and the preparations continue to this very day. We wonder when His return for us will be, and when His disciples asked Him when He would return, Jesus responded by saying, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You don’t know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33)
While the bridegroom was making preparations, the bride was considered to be consecrated, set apart or ‘bought with a price’. If she went out, she would wear a veil so that others would know she was betrothed, and promised to another. She had probably saved money all her life in anticipation for this momentous time. She would obtain cosmetics and learn to apply them as a means of beautifying herself for her bridegroom. She would get her wedding gown, all her clothing and possessions prepared and ready at all times because the arrival of her bridegroom was a secret. Typically, the bridegroom would come in the middle of the night to ‘steal her away’ or…to come like a ‘thief in the night’. The bride’s attendants would also be prepared, watching and waiting in anticipation, keeping their lamps filled and trimmed in order to be ready at all times for the imminent night festivities.
Jesus’s Bride has been consecrated and set apart, saved by faith and declared justified. We’re waiting the return of our Bridegroom and our time here is to be spent in preparing ourselves for Him. It was the parable of the Ten Virgins that Jesus used to inform us that we needed to be ready and watching at all times, keeping our lamps filled and trimmed, remaining alert and watchful in order to be ready when He returned at whatever time that might be. (Matt 25:1-13)
Rev 19:7, ‘Let’s rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’
Eph 5:25-29, ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church.’
It is no coincidence that Jesus uses the marriage relationship between men and women to describe His relationship to the church.
Next time we’ll conclude the Ancient Jewish Wedding.