June 27, 2013

Bridegroom Love

Because my husband, Kyle, is a pastor and officiates many weddings, I get to tag along to many rehearsal dinners, wedding ceremonies, and receptions. I love that I get to be a part of a couple's best day, admire blushing brides, offer first congratulations to some lucky grooms, and—let's face it—eat my fair share of wedding cake.

Mostly, I love hearing my husband speak words of hard-won wisdom over the bride and groom. As I listen, I fidget with the wedding band on my ring finger, remembering when we were the ones speaking vows to one another. In my heart, I silently affirm them again.
I think about the moment the doors at the back of the church flew open. I stepped into the sanctuary on the arm of my dad, and my eyes searched for Kyle's. As soon as I found him, my step quickened to get to him, my bridegroom.

Now, at each wedding, I still look for the groom. When the bride enters in a dazzling array of white and lace, I stand on tiptoe to peek at him. I watch his face fill with uncontainable joy as he watches his bride approach. This beauty is mine, he seems to say. There is unabashed intimacy between them as they meet together and join hands, preparing to join lives.

Weddings are solemn moments of commitment and joyous celebrations at the same time. And the cake is usually really, really good. But our modern celebrations are mute compared to the engagement period and weddings that occurred in biblical times.

Then, everything started with a betrothal period. When the bride and bridegroom became betrothed, unlike our engagements today, it was a binding commitment. But they did not yet move-in together or consummate the relationship. The bride remained at her parents’ home while the bridegroom prepared a home where they would live together.

Traditionally, he would spend several months building an addition onto his father's house. The bride, not sure when her bridegroom would come for her, prepared herself for him and waited, always at the ready. Finally, when the preparations were completed, the bridegroom would start for his bride. As he approached her parents’ house, their friends and other townspeople announced his coming by shouting, "The bridegroom is coming! The bridegroom is coming!" The bride, hearing the shouts, knew her day had come. They would soon be married and off to the wedding supper, a celebration that traditionally lasted for days.

I can just imagine the fanfare. Surely everyone in the village stood on tiptoe, looking for the bridegroom and searching his face as he passed on the way to claim his bride. The men must have smiled, patting him on the back. The women, remembering their own wedding days, must have dabbed away tears of joy as he walked by.
In John 14:2-3, Jesus implies that He is a Bridegroom:

In my Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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.

He is not the modern bridegroom who shows up at the church 30 minutes before the ceremony wearing a rented polyester suit and a nervous grin. He is the Jewish bridegroom, committed to His bride and preparing to claim her.

Though our modern eyes miss the implication in John 14, His audience would have understood immediately. As they listened, fidgeting with the wedding bands on their fingers, they would have remembered their own wedding days, filled with unabashed intimacy and promise fulfilled.

Might they have been confused? Jesus—the living, breathing, walking, talking, touchable God—a Bridegroom? Could a pure God truly delight in taking a once-promiscuous people as His own bride?

Might He love with that kind of love?

Yes, Jesus said, in calling Himself a Bridegroom, I do.

And then He proved it. He initiated the betrothal at His death, staking His claim on us, and making a binding commitment to us.

He went away to His Father's house to prepare a home for us.

One day, one glorious day, He will come for us. The trumpets, taking the place of the shouting villagers, will announce His approach: The Bridegroom is coming! The Bridegroom is coming!

We, His bride, will stand on tiptoe, looking for His face, searching for the joy we are sure to find.

This is a vintage Grace Covers Me post, as I am away on sabbatical this summer. This post is actually an excerpt from my ebook, 31 Days of Love Letters: Searching Scripture for How God Loves, that I give to anyone who subscribes to my blog. You can find out more hereThis also serves as a reminder that Google Reader is going away. I hope you'll keep me around in whatever blog subscription service you use! Thank you.