Chapter 9 Beloved

The disciples must have thought Jesus was crazy. Seriously. I can only imagine their faces. So confused, so perplexed, uncomfortably glancing back and forth between each other, wondering if they had misheard, wondering if someone could help them understand. Meanwhile, you got Jesus, unnerved, unfazed, just sitting there cooly, looking them dead in the eyes, asking them to marry Him. Yes, you heard me right…marry Him. With nothing more than a cup of wine, no less, the Lamb of God was proposing. So you can imagine their confusion right? “Wait. What? Come again? Jesus, you feeling alright brotha? I mean, I don’t think that I’m exactly what you’re looking for! You want to think about what you’re saying for a minute?”

Of course, we don’t see it that way, because we’re not Jewish. But they were, and they did. See it that way, I mean. “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” We hear these words and we think Communion, Eucharist, Last Supper. The disciples heard this and they’re thinking wedding bells.

Apparently, “In those days,” when a Hebrew man decided to take for Himself a Hebrew woman, he’d go to his father and say, “Her, Dad. I want to make little rabbis with her.” So then the dad would go to her dad and they’d talk camels, or sheep, or whatever the payment was going to be, and after they’d settled on a figure, the groom would call in all his friends and family, set a table in the middle of a room, set the aforementioned girl down in front of said table, break out a cup, fill it with wine, and set it in front of her saying, “This is my covenant with you, take and drink it.” And if she did, that was her answer. With a simple gulp and swig, she was saying, “I do,” and that was it. No rings, no fancy songs or dinners, just a cup and an invitation. And oh yeah, all their relatives sitting in the room watching. I mean, talk about pressure. But yeah, that was it. Her lips to the glass was the same as saying, “I accept your life, and I give you mine in return.”

Now, If the girl said yes, “in those days,” she would then go immediately back to her home, where she would be known as, “one who was bought with a price.” It’s true. That was her name. Kind of long and tedious, and extremely hard to shout out in a game of soccer, but that was it. And with her new identity, she would go back to her town, and start preparing for the wedding. And really, she’d just start waiting for future husband to finish what he had to do and come and get her. What was he doing? Well, during the engagement, the groom’s primary responsibility was to build a mansion for him and his bride to be.

Now girls, before you get too excited, let me explain. “Mansion” in Hebrew means, “apartment.” And what’s even better is that this apartment was actually more like an addition, because the groom would build it onto his parents pre-existing house. Yes. You heard me correctly. Their first home would be with the in-laws. And right now, I can just imagine how many girls are thinking, “oh please don’t let me marry a Jewish boy.” It’s true though. He would build his “mansion” onto the family “insula,” which is what they would call the family dwelling. You see, the entire family would just keep building on and building on until you had what was basically a city block, all comprised of one big bustling Jewish family. (And you thought My Big Fat Greek Wedding was bad) Crazy, but also true.

Well, as you can imagine, this process could take quite a while. I mean, it’s a house for crying out loud. Some scholars say it was six months, or even a year before the poor guy was finished. And get this, the only one who could decide if it was finished was the father. So he’d be working and working and working, and every day looking to his dad, saying, “Are we done yet?” And I can just imagine the father messing with him. Taking his time, looking it over, and then just saying, “Almost.” Could you imagine? Oh, the agony! And to top it all off, the groom and the bride weren’t even allowed to talk to each other. Nothing. Nada. Zip. They couldn’t see or speak to one another during the entire engagement, except for one outlet. The best man. He’d be the instant messenger if you will. Taking notes back and forth between the doting couple. And those moments were probably pretty funny. “Here’s your note, ‘one who was bought with a price.’ Check yes, no, or maybe.” Unbelievable.

But you know, how much more beautiful would that day be when the father finally approved? That day when the groom was finally finished, and he could gather up his homeboys, or ‘groomsmen’ as we westerners would say, and imperiously march into his fiance’s town? Oh it was sweet. And that’s just what he’d do. He’d get his bridal party together and they’d come to her house, and without any prior announcement or advanced warning, they would blow a shofar, which was a ram’s horn that served as a trumpet, and upon hearing it, the pining bride would come bustling out her front door and practically straight down the aisle, and into her beloved’s arms. The period of waiting and wanting would be over, and the two would be united at last to consummate their long-awaited union. Joy. Happiness. Little Rabbis… You know, all the good stuff.

So then, back to the dinner table with the 12. Can you sense where this is going? Jesus breaks into this marriage proposal, cup out, wine-filled, offering his covenant with them. They accept. “I do” to Jesus. Gulp, gulp. “I accept your life, and I give you mine in return.” So then, what does Jesus do? He explains how they have to spend some time apart. Naturally. Only this is going to be longer than a year. However, the best man was coming. His name? The Holy Spirit. So when Jesus leaves, off to get busy preparing a “mansion” for them, (“in my Father’s house there are many rooms”) He doesn’t leave them alone, but instead sends His own mediator, the Holy Spirit, to keep the messages going between Himself and his Beloved. Meanwhile, the bride is left behind in her town, keeping watch, day and night, not knowing the day, time or hour that the bridegroom will appear. Until finally, after a long-awaited return, and we’re talking seriously, long awaited; centuries and milleniums waited people, after this much awaited consummation, the Father alone will announce that the time has come, and Jesus will be coming back for all His faithful, all who are His bride. With a posse of angels and loud trumpet call of their own, He will take us home, to the marriage supper of the Lamb! And we will share in ever-increasing joy and intimacy with Him forever and ever. As C.S. Lewis so brilliantly articulated, “Further up and further in!”

And people still want to insist that Christianity is no more than a religion.

I don’t know about you but in light of this information, it puts Jesus in an entirely different light. He’s no longer an ideal, or a belief system. He’s a person. And to put it more precisely, He is a groom in love with his bride. And not just any bride, but a wayward, adulterous bride. A bride who is half-hearted at best, chasing other lovers and other interests more than Him. And still, He keeps on loving. He keeps on being faithful, He keeps his promises.

In the Old Testament, He tells his prophet Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman, to show everyone the way He loves his people. (see Hosea 3) In the New, He tells us that divorce will never be an option for Him. (Phil 1:6) Over and over and over again, From Isaiah, to Ezekiel, to Ephesians, He tells us that we are not just his children, but we are his bride. Faithless though we might be, we are His, and He is ours.

And like I said before, this changes everything. It changes the way I view prayer. It changes the way I view marriage. It even changes the reasons that I obey. As Donald Miller once said, “it’s a far different thing to break a rule, than it is to cheat on a lover.” I only pray that it changes things for you.