A wedding is a major event. A marriage is a vital relationship. Both are used by the Bible to symbolize aspects of the relationship between God and His people.
Our modern weddings range from eloping to an Elvis chapel in Las Vegas, to a quick visit to the local justice of the peace, to a big event with years of planning and an average cost of about $15-20,000 1. Biblical weddings did not have Elvis or dresses with mile-long trains, but they were major events in the life of the couple and their community. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the “bridegroom”, and to himself as the “best man” (John 3:28-29). Jesus echoed the thought in Matthew 9:14-15 (also Mark 2:19-20 and Luke 5:34-35). Here are some of the first-century wedding customs, and their parallels to Christ’s relationship to His church (those who have accepted His offer).
- The groom would pay the bride’s family for the loss of her contribution to their household.
- Jesus paid the highest price possible in order to secure His bride – His blood, His death on the cross (Revelation 5:9).
- More than our modern engagement, a betrothal was as binding as a wedding. The couple was considered to be married, and it took a formal divorce to end the arrangement 2. However, they did not come together as man and wife immediately. The bride continued to live with her family until the groom had finished preparing their living quarters, usually about a year.
- The church is already betrothed and bound to Christ, waiting for His proper time to consummate the marriage (2 Corinthians 11:2).
The Groom’s Preparations
- During the betrothal period, the groom spent his time preparing a home for his bride. Usually, they did not move into their own private home. Rather, additions would be made to the groom’s family home. Once the new living quarters were complete, the groom would go to meet his bride and bring her home.
- Jesus said that He is going to prepare a place for his people, so that where He is, they can be also (John 14:1-3).
The Bride’s Finery
- The bride would dress for her wedding in the finest clothes she had. She would wear elaborate jewelry, which was actually part of the dowry that she brought to the partnership.
- Jesus is shown with His bride dressed in pure white, ready to be presented at the wedding (Revelation 19:7-8).
The Groom Coming to Get His Bride
- Those involved would know approximately when everything would be ready for the ceremony, but they would not know the exact day and time. The bride and her attendants would get prepared, then wait until they heard the groom’s procession with his attendants heading their way (Matthew 25:1-13). A trumpet fanfare was used to give the bride as much forewarning as possible. Once he arrived, the groom would escort his bride back to her new home.
- The wedding ceremony itself was small, simple, and quite private. Not so for the feast afterward! It was a big blowout, lasting for days with the entire community invited (John 2:1-11 3).
Throughout the Old Testament, God is referred to as the “husband” of His people, and they as His wife 4. At the time they were written, the passages were usually speaking of nation of Israel; however, they apply equally well to the modern Christian church.
For your husband is your Maker,Isaiah 54:5 (See also Hosea 2:19-20 and Jeremiah 31:31-32)
Whose name is the LORD of hosts;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
Who is called the God of all the earth.
The classic Scripture passage comparing Christ’s relationship with His church to a marriage is Ephesians 5:22-33:
- Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…
- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…
- This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.
The Bible tells us that Jesus treats His church with the love and commitment that we associate with a husband. The church is His cherished bride, wanting to look her best for Him and eager to start their life together. When He returns to take her home with Him, they will start living “happily ever after”.
Jesus makes this same proposal to everyone. Have you said “Yes”?
Footnotes and Scripture References
- https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-of-wedding, https://www.supermoney.com/average-wedding-cost/
- This was the situation with Mary and Joseph before Jesus was born (Matthew 1:18-19).
- This wedding feast was the occasion of Jesus’ first recorded miracle, inaugurating His public ministry.
- who, sadly, was not always faithful to Him (Hosea 1:2, Ezekiel 16:30-34)