This style of extended family living is also alluded to by Jesus in John 14:2 when He says, “I go to prepare a place for you”. In fact, many scriptures in the New Testament draw their imagery from Biblical Jewish wedding traditions because Jesus often illustrated what He was teaching about from the everyday culture around Him. For example, while the groom was off building their future home, the bride waited for his return in her father’s house. While she waited the bride wore a label, in essence a symbol of the accepted dowry, which said, “Bought with a price”. She had to be patient, and so did the groom, for no one but the father of the groom knew the exact point in time when the groom would return. There was an element of surprise when his father gave the signal and the groom set off to collect his bride. He would approach the bride’s house and call out, “If anyone is here, open up!” The bride would then respond with the question, “What has this cost you?” To which the groom answered with a list of the dowry. It was a rather humorous way of keeping things honest as the exact contents of the dowry were only known by the bride, her family and the groom. If the list wasn’t exact, then it wasn’t the groom!
Oftentimes the surprise appearance of the groom occurred at night, which meant the bride and her attendants had to be ready to go at any time. This often meant having an oil lamp trimmed and ready to be lit at a moment’s notice. Jesus taught in The Parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13) that His return would be a surprise and only His Father in heaven knew when that would be, just as the groom’s father was the only one who knew when the groom would be ready to bring his bride home (Matthew 24:36). Some people have interpreted the oil in this parable to represent the Holy Spirit. But they have missed the point of the parable in light of its cultural connection. The wedding tradition teaches us clearly that Jesus will return at the most unexpected moment in time, but as His bride, we must be ready to go when He comes for us.
The Book of Revelation also tells us that when our Bridegroom returns He will stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20). In the same way that the bride asked her bridegroom what the dowry was, the same question will be asked of Jesus, “What has this cost You?” To which Christ will reply, “I gave My life for you”. The imagery of the Jewish wedding and the insula at Korazin demonstrate to us how great God’s love truly is. Like the days of Moses when God dwelt in the Tabernacle, His desire to be with us has never ceased (Exodus 25:8). This time He will bring us to dwell with Him forever (Jn. 14:1-3). What an incredible thought! We are that precious to God.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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