George Bowers Sr.: June brides then, now, and later
June is the month for weddings. According to Soundvision.com, nearly 11 percent of all couples tie the nuptial knot sometime during this month. Not only is there wedding weather, but the timing also coincides nicely with graduations when many are ready to begin new chapters in their lives. As such, June provides a perfect opportunity to ponder what we might learn from ancient wedding customs.
During the New Testament era, it was customary for the hopeful groom to travel to the home of his intended. After arriving, he would propose not only to the desired lady, but also to her father who could accept or reject his offer. If accepted, a covenant was made which was legally binding and the two effectively became bride and groom even though the marriage itself would not occur for quite some time. The covenant was sealed with food and wine and all parties began looking forward to the day of celebration.
After this engagement, the groom would return and begin making preparations for his wife-to-be. He would start by either expanding his father’s home or by building a new one to accommodate his future family. Since the bride and groom didn’t see each other between the engagement and the marriage, she had little or no input in the floor plan or the décor. Modern brides would protest greatly, but in those days the custom was acceptable.
Imagine the groom feverishly working knowing the wedding could not occur until all was ready. Having been engaged myself, I’m also sure he thought constantly of his fiancé and what would please her, and every accommodation was made with her comfort and happiness in mind. Of course the size and extravagance of his efforts were determined by his wealth, but even the poorest groom made the most of what he had. When all was ready, he would return unexpectedly to whisk his bride away for their wedding, which would launch their life together.
A basic knowledge of these customs helps us appreciate some of Jesus’ actions and parables. At the Last Supper, He made a covenant with his followers and sealed it with some bread and wine. Later that night, he spoke of going to his father’s house to prepare a place for them and that when the time was right, he would return to take them to be with him forever. The disciples would have understood such language within the framework of their wedding traditions. The Bible also depicts the church as the Bride of Christ and Revelation 19 describes the wedding supper that is yet to be celebrated when he returns and takes us to his home.
But now he’s getting things ready. Imagine Jesus, with unlimited resources, preparing a place of great opulence for us, his betrothed. He is sparing no expense and holding nothing back as he arranges golden streets, gates of pearl, and bejeweled walls. He has given us hints of its magnificence with small references throughout the Bible, even as a groom might text his bride photos of their future home. And even as she would be excited, so also should we be as we look forward to the day we see it, but more importantly, him! Someone once remarked that if he told us the full measure of heaven’s beauty, we’d be jumping off buildings to get there sooner. While that’s not his will, we should joyfully anticipate our future home in Heaven with our beloved groom.
So what did the bride do while her groom prepared their home? She got ready. She beautified herself and spent time looking forward with great eagerness! As Jesus’ bride, we ought to be making ourselves beautiful for our groom by purging from our lives those things that displease him and by developing those attitudes and habits that do. Because we don’t know exactly when he’s coming, we need to be prepared to leave at any time realizing that this world is only our temporary home until our wedding in glory! It’s important for Christians to remember that we don’t belong to this world, but to our groom and we should set our hearts and minds on him.
As we celebrate the weddings of friends and families this month, let’s allow them to remind us of the great future wedding of Christ and his church. And let’s do all we can to be ready to welcome him when he returns! June blessings, George
George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren and has authored nine books including his latest, “Valley Verses, Volume III.” He can be reached through www.georgebowersministries.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.