Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Bridegroom

“Let us 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.” Revelation 19:7

May and June are popular months for weddings. We have received several invitations this year, mostly from friends of our children, who are getting ready to tie the knot. May is a beautiful month in Annapolis. Everything is green and lush and flowering. And it is still cool. I can understand it being such a popular month to have a wedding.

Steve and I weren’t so smart. We got married in mid-July. Even in New England, where we were wed, it is hot then. Older buildings are not air conditioned, either-- including the church in which we got married. I remember being hot the whole day. However, the weather did not dampen our spirits. It was a joyful day, the first day of our lives together. Many details from that day remain in my memory like it was yesterday, 28 years later. Most girls dream of that day when they walk down the aisle. Dressed in the most beautiful dress she could find, makeup and hair done to perfection, she is the picture of youth and beauty. The wedding is all about the bride.

My friend Clifford pointed out in class yesterday that we have gotten weddings backwards here in the U.S. My professor was telling us the wedding traditions of the first century Jews. The prospective bridegroom came to the home of the bride to request her hand in marriage. He met with the father of the woman and made a legal agreement to become betrothed. Once that was complete, the bridegroom went back home to his father’s house to make preparations for when he would bring the bride home to begin their life together. He would build a room on or finish a space in his father’s house that would be for them to live. The bride to be, in the meantime, did not know when the bridegroom would appear to take her home. So while she was in waiting mode, she did what she could to make herself beautiful and to prepare to be a good wife. Finally, the bridegroom had all in ready. His father gave permission and sent the bridegroom out to get His bride. The bridegroom marched through the town in a procession and appeared at the door of his beloved. He wisked her away to her their new home. There they stayed in private to consummate the marriage. After an appropriate amount of time, the bride and groom made their public appearance as man and wife. A wedding banquet was given in their honor. There the bridegroom proudly showed off his beautiful bride. Clifford had it right. The weddings were not about the bride back then. They were about the bridegroom.

Paul repeatedly compared the relationship of the Church to Christ with a bride and her bridegroom (husband and wife). He didn’t make that up. Jesus Himself made that analogy several times. He called Himself the bridegroom in Matthew 9:15. He told a parable later on during His ministry of ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to appear in Matthew 25. The bridegroom was taking a long time to come. All of the virgins got drowsy and eventually fell asleep. Finally, at midnight, the bridegroom came knocking at the door. You can imagine the flurry of activity inside the house when the newly awakened women realized it was the moment of truth. Some had come prepared for a night arrival and had oil in their lamps. Some did not. The latter were left behind, running out to find a merchant at that ungodly hour who could give them what they needed. The wise and prepared women, however, were free to follow their bridegroom to the marriage feast. When the foolish, unprepared women finally showed up, the door was shut to them. It was too late.

Jesus told this story during the Olivet Discourse, which was a message He preached telling about His future return. He warned the disciples that the precise time was unknown to all but the Father. It would be easy to become complacent and lose sight of the day that would change everything. “But be sure of this,” He warned His disciples, “that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”

We, as the Church, are in our earthly home awaiting the long-desired arrival of our Bridegroom. The arrangements have already been made with our Father-- the Bridegroom paid the price to make us His. After completing that earthly mission, He went home to His Father’s house to make preparations for His bride’s arrival to her new home. He promised the disciples, “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 14:3) Someday, with great joy, we will hear His voice as He arrives to take us home as His bride.

So how do we get ready? Many commentators see the oil in the bridegroom parable as representative of the Holy Spirit and His work in salvation. While some might profess to be Christians, the ones who are really saved will have the Holy Spirit living within them. He comes and dwells within us at the point of time when we understand and believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was made to pay for our sin. We were helpless to make amends, because even the best of our efforts are tainted with sin. So the Sinless One paid the ultimate price and gave up His own life, buying our freedom. When that is a reality for us, when we understand our own helplessness and His sufficiency, and we place our trust in that truth, we are saved. The Holy Spirit indwells in us from that moment on, as a seal and guarantee that someday we will go home with the bridegroom as his beloved.

Of course, even though we can be assured of our promised wedding, the bride still wants to make herself beautiful for the Big Day. So we yield ourselves to the Spirit living in us. We cultivate attitudes and actions that reflect our status as the bride of Christ. These “beauty treatments” serve to make us display the kind of beauty that is valued by the Bridegroom. And on that glorious day, our hearts will pound with excitement and joy when we hear the voice of our Bridegroom calling us home.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your blog, and always need the encouragement to stay filled up with HS and His wonderful oil! I like the fragrant oils too! Keep up the good work and tell us when you write again.

Julie Coleman said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Barb! Please check out the other entries I have written by clicking on the "newer post" and "older post" links at the bottom of the page. I try to post most weekdays, although it will get sketchy with the last week of classes and finals looming ahead. I really do appreciate your taking the time to come to my site! God bless!!