A Bride's Worth
Jesus frequently used imagery that painted a portrait of a great wedding. Upon a question about fasting in Mark 2, He referred to Himself as the bridegroom. In Matthew 22, 25, and also in Luke 14, He spoke in parables about being ready to attend a wedding feast. In Matthew 26, He instituted what we now call Communion at the last supper with His disciples, saying in verse 29: “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” This all seems to suggest that not only was He on a Rescue Mission, but also coming to rescue ones He loved, referred to as His bride.
A look back at the first century and the betrothal and engagement process will give us greater insight into His references to the love that He felt for us. The parents of young man, around the age of seventeen, would initiate the process of looking for a suitable wife. She would typically be between the ages of thirteen to fifteen years old. This task fell on the fathers, and when a father had found a bride, he would gather his son, the bride, and the bride’s father to negotiate a bride price.
In some cultures, we hear of brides not being respected and negative connotations about what her family might receive from the family of the groom, if anything. But this was not the case in Israel. The bride price was a show of respect for the household that was about to lose a precious, contributing member. The bride would eventually be taken away from her family at great financial cost to them. So the groom’s father might say, “I’ll give you three goats, two sheep, and an ox for your daughter.” This may sound archaic, but in those days these animals were precious commodities to a family losing their daughter who had been such a help to her mother and the family.
After they had agreed on a price, the four of them would share a meal together before solidifying the contract with a cup of wine. (Does this bring to mind the Last Supper? It should!) Taking the cup of wine, the groom drank from it and offered it to the woman, symbolically saying that he wanted to make a covenant and would be willing to give his life for her. The woman sealed the engagement by drinking from the same glass. The father and son traveled home after the meal to construct a home for his future wife. The bride waited for her bridegroom to come back and get her soon.
The custom of that culture was for the groom to build onto the end of his father’s house. New homes were built onto existing homes occupied by the family. The father would supervise construction on the home. Days and weeks would pass as the bridegroom would work tirelessly on the new dwelling place for his bride. From time to time he would go and ask his father the question, “Abba, is it time?” “No son, not yet”, the father would say. At her house, the bride would wait expectantly for the arrival of her bridegroom with her family at her side. She knew that he was off preparing a place for her in his father’s house.
The bridegroom would continue to work on the addition to his father’s house until the father approved the home. It was not up to the son to determine when the new addition on the house was ready—only the father knew. When the right time came, the father would announce to his son, “Well done. It is time to go and get your bride.” Gathering his friends and family, the bridegroom would travel unannounced through the city streets to get his bride. A procession would begin as the men strode down the narrow streets. Soon there would be shouts through the highways and byways, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” and “Prepare the way for the bridegroom!” Excitement filled the air as every young betrothed girl would wonder, “Is my groom coming for me today?” When the knock on the door came, the bride knew that her groom had kept his promise to come back for her.
All of this helps to shed new light on the events of the night of Jesus betrayal. In John 14:1-3 we read, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” The disciples would have immediately recognized the language of a marriage proposal.
Keeping with the custom of the institution of the marriage covenant, Jesus reached for the cup of wine and said in Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” As each of them drank from the cup—with the exception of Judas, who had already left to betray Jesus—they would have understood that Jesus had just negotiated the price for them to belong to Him. The price was His body; the covenant would be sealed by His blood.
As they continued to observe and celebrate communion, they would have recalled, “Jesus paid for me with His body and sealed His promise with His own blood.” Paul would use the language as well, stating in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “You were bought with a price [you were actually purchased with the precious blood of Jesus and made His own]. So then, honor and glorify God with your body.”
Jesus is now in Heaven, preparing a place for us, His bride. He has not forgotten or abandoned us as orphans. The additions to His Father’s house are many and He tirelessly works on them. We can, and should, wait expectantly for the return of the Bridegroom, keeping the wicks of our lamps trimmed, saving ourselves for Him and Him alone.
The only way for a bride to gain access to the father of the bridegrooms’ house was to be brought there by the son. In the same way, it is only through the Son of God that we can meet the Father. There is a Home being prepared for you. Will you accept His invitation? It was bought at the high price of the life of Jesus, the Son of God. A great feast awaits and the table is set. Will you come and dine with the One who loves you more than He loved His own life?