The Wedding Banquet

My wife and I helped to put on a marriage retreat last week for couples in our church. On Sunday I shared a brief sermonette sharing some of the parallels between marriage and the relationship we, the church, have with Jesus (there are some cool things I’ve been learning the last few years). I also shared a song called “Wedding Banquet” – lyrics and a recording are below.  Here are a few of the points I shared…

In Ephesians 5:32 Paul is in the midst of discussing the marriage relationship, talking about a wife and husband “becoming one,” and Paul says “This is a profound mystery –but I am talking about Christ and the church.” What does Paul mean by this “profound mystery?”

The old testament is filled with wedding language.  A sample verse  is Isaiah 62:5, “…as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

John the baptist, last and greatest of old covenant prophets saw himself as the groom’s “best man” in  John 3:29, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”

John the apostle got this idea.  The 1st “sign” (of seven) he records takes place at wedding in Cana.  He closes out Revelation with an image of bride beautifully dressed — that’s us, the church — refined, purified, beautiful, dressed in white. Jesus is the groom with “that look” on his face as we come down the isle.  (Don’t you love to watch the groom’s face at a wedding?  That’s our favorite part–looking back and forth between their two faces as the bride is coming down the isle.)

Prepare a Place
And then, in the familiar passage of John 14:1-4, the context is last supper, and the language used is wedding language.  Jesus says “I am going to prepare a place for you …I will return and take you to be with me”.  In ancient times the groom, after becoming engaged to the bride (a binding arrangement, that’s why in speaking about an engaged Joseph and Mary the bible says “he had in mind to divorce her quietly“), the groom would go away for a time (possibly a year or two), to “prepare a place” for the new couple to live.  Often he would add on another room to his father’s house (notice Jesus says, “in my father’s house there are many rooms”).  Then he’d come back to take her to be with him.

The groom’s arrival was usually a surprise and a big event for the town (maybe even in the middle of the night — remember all the stories Jesus told about the bridegroom coming and surprising everybody?)  Everyone would come out of the their homes and celebrate, forming a parade to the new place that has been prepared.  They’d have a wedding ceremony, the couple would go in and consummate the marriage.  Then there would be a big banquet, celebration and feasting, sometimes for days on end, major festivities for all.

There are other parallels between ancient marriage and us, the church, that are really cool.  Remember, the context of John 14 is the last supper.

Marriage Covenant and Bride Price
– The betrothal was just as binding as marriage vows are for us. Groom paid a large sum to women’s father, as “pay back” for him raising his daughter.
– Jesus said “this bread is my body which is given for you.” Jesus gave his very life, his all, as the bride price for us, the church.

The Cup
– The bride would drink the cup in presence of her family to accept the binding covenant (see minute 6:28 on this clip from the movie Nativity Story).
– Jesus said “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” — Adds a whole new significance to communion and that last supper.

Gifts for the Bride
– Groom would give gifts to the bride to hold on to until he returned, as a reminder of their covenant. She would hold on this object during the time he was gone to “prepare a place”.
– Jesus gave his Spirit as a reminder. Paul calls it “a deposit guaranteeing what is to come“.

– Bride would take ceremonial cleansing bath – still done to this day by the orthodox.
– Parallel to baptism, to wash away our sins.

Waiting Bride Consecrated
– Bride was then considered “set apart”, consecrated, preparing for the return of the groom. Engagement would be a year or two –preparing, waiting for the return of the groom.

What does all this mean for us, as the waiting bride of Christ? Everything we do should be about anticipation, waiting in EXPECTANT PREPARATION for the return of Christ. This means we don’t put down roots in this place. In the months before our wedding 17 years ago, my lovely bride was living in a house with five roommates, sleeping on the couch. It was in no way a long-term situation! She was preparing for our life together.

We get so tempted to get focused on the here and now, to make this our home. But this is just a temporary living situation. Do we live our lives this way? This should affect our spiritual self-discipline, our evangelism, our source of joy, where we put our hope. We should not be stressed out, choked, focused on the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things. We should be the radiant, expectant Bride of Christ, anticipating what is to come.

1 Corinthians 11:26
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes

As we, the church, the waiting Bride of Christ, share Communion, it it a time only of looking inward (self examination), looking backward (remembering Jesus), but also looking forward. “Remembering” that Jesus is coming, looking forward to that day, keeping ourselves pure and set-apart as we wait for his return, living lives of expectant preparation.

Song – “Wedding Banquet”

This song appears on my album, Remain in Me, all songs sung from the perspective of Jesus to his followers.  So many of Jesus’ stories contain wedding imagery, and one he tells in several different ways is of a great wedding banquet prepared by a king. When the time for the big celebration comes, those invited refuse the offer — in one story they even kill those sent to tell them about it, which doesn’t really even make sense.  I think Jesus was trying to help us see how ridiculous it is for people to turn down the offer of eternity with God because of spiritual apathy or a desire for immediate comfort.

Many invited
But few are chosen
Many are sighted but they’re blind

If you have ears then
Let you hear when
I tell you stories of the time

A king prepared a banquet
A wedding for his son
A feast that’s never ending
For all to come

But they refuse him
And they abuse the men
That came to tell them it was time

So will you say “no”
Or put on your wedding clothes
To join me ’cause the wedding’s mine

The joy of the groom is mine
The bride’s dressed in white
I’ll love her until the end of time
‘Til the end of time

Many invited
But few are chosen
Don’t be left outside tonight

Don’t make excuses
Do not refuse my love
I’m here to tell you that it’s time

A king prepared a banquet
A wedding for his son
A feast that’s never ending
–so come!
Won’t you come?

5 Comments on “The Wedding Banquet”

  1. justin says:

    heh, are those TAPES i see in the background there? lol! 8-tracs no-doubt…

    great work bro, as always!


  2. Jeff says:

    Good post, so true about the parallels between marriage and our relationship with Christ!

  3. Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group?

    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks

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