A Jewish Wedding
As we prepare to take the elements in communion, let's open with Luke 22:14-21:
Luke 22:14-21 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15 Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you. NKJV
Jesus gave a promise to His disciples as He took His last meal with them, telling them that He would not eat of the bread nor drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God would come to them. In other words, Jesus knew His earthly ministry was almost finished and He would be physically leaving His disciples. He would not return until the Kingdom of God would come to them - meaning Christ would then return and they would all be together as one – fully joined together. To gain some more nuggets of the heart of that truth, we need to dig a little deeper.
A Typical ancient Jewish Wedding
Knowing that much of the Old and New Testaments can be more fully understood in light of Jewish customs, we need to examine a typical 1st century Jewish wedding to point out the joining. The bridegroom went to the house of His chosen bride. A meeting was held with the intention of negotiating a price for His bride and set the conditions of the marriage. The price could have been two camels and one ox – a well chosen price for that time. When an agreement was made, a document, in the form of a covenant, was given.
Covenants were serious agreements and binding within the Jewish culture. This covenant was then sealed with a betrothal cup of the fruit of the vine. Prior to, and during a 1st century Jewish wedding, as soon as the covenant was written up, the couple were consideed married. Today, in our western culture, we would consider this kind of arrangement an engagement period between two consented parties. According to Jewish custom, however, a marriage begins at the signing of the marriage contract between the bridegroom and the bride’s parents. Rarely did the bride get involved in the choosing and writing of the covenant. The consummation and marriage feast would come later. That period of time could be months or even years later. Generally, however, it took around twelve month.
After the completion of the sealing of the marriage covenants, the groom left to prepare for the new home that he chose for his bride. Set strictly on preparing for his marriage union, the bridegroom purposed to not drink any fruit of the vine again until after the time of the consummation of his marriage to his bride. He needed to prepare the place of their dwelling. How long that period of time would be depended on the conditions of the contract and the amount of preparation time needed to prepare their home.
The bridegroom gave his best friend many gifts to give to his bride with which she would need to prepare herself for his coming. Her wardrobe was created - the finest her bridegroom could offer. Her body was cleansed and she was sprinkled in fine perfume. She did everything necessary to make herself beautiful inside and out for her bridegroom. She purposed to become without spot or blemish as she prepared herself for him. She did not know how long her bridegroom would be gone, but she knew the time would be short, and she had to be ready at any given time.
To help her get ready, the bride gathered several of her unmarried girlfriends (virgins or handmaidens as they were called) to help her with preparations. Day and night they worked to prepare the bride. Their oil lamps needed to be kept well oiled at all times because Jewish weddings were always held at night – sometime after sundown. The bridegroom could come right after the sun went down – early, or even late at night. As such, the bride had to be ready at all times for his coming. We see this example in the parable of the ten virgins
Matt 25:1-13 Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, “give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying “No, lest thee should not be enough for us and you, but to rather to those who seek and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward, the other virgins came also saying, Lord, Lord, open to us! But he answered and said, Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you. Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.”
When the bridegroom completed His preparation for their home, he would then come for her. With a big procession, several torches were lit and trumpets were sounded. As the procession got closer to the house of the bride, the noise could be heard and torches seen from a distance. These were the signs of his coming. The virgins who were helping the bride, excitedly hearing and seeing the procession off in the background, had to finish their last minute details. It was critical that their lamps were well oiled because the wedding was about to begin.
As the signs of his coming drew closer, the bridegroom finally arrived at the doorstep of his bride, and with a loud voice he shouted – “COME!” The bride then went outside to join her bridegroom and off the two of them went to consummate their marriage. There, in the bridal chamber, which typically lasted 7 days, the consummation took place. They got to know one another intimately. After that, the wedding feast could begin.
The terms of Christ's covenant
Using this analogy of a Jewish wedding, we have a broader picture of what Christ did for us and how we are to prepare ourselves for His coming. Jesus paid a price for us. It was, however, far greater than two camels and an ox. His price was His blood, which was shed for us on the cross of Calvary. This was His covenant to us.
Sealing of the covenant
Jesus drank from the fruit of the vine with His disciples and set up the terms of His covenant at that last Passover, stating that His blood paid the price of their union together.
Preparing our heavenly home
When Jesus sealed the covenant with His blood, He went back to His Father’s house in heaven to prepare a home for His bride – to make it ready for us.
John 14:2-3 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. NASV
Our home with Christ will be in heaven. When Jesus completes His task of preparation – at the right time - He will come again to receive us unto Himself. But while we await His return, we are given the task of preparing ourselves to be ready for Him.
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
In the same way that the Jewish bridegroom sent his best friend with gifts to prepare the bride, Jesus sent us His Holy Spirit (which is a part of Himself) ahead of time to give us the gifts we need to prepare for His coming. These gifts are there to help us become holy as Christ is holy. These gifts will help us be obedient to the things of the Lord.
Eph 4:8…And He gave gifts unto men…
Eph 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
And then in Ephesians 5:27, the Apostle Paul calls believers the bride of Christ.
Eph 5:27 that He wants to present His bride to Himself glorious, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Presented to Jesus
Our lives need to be daily preparing for Him to come to us. We need to be ready at all times. We have seen the signs of His coming – they are visible. Just as the Jewish bridegroom came with torches and sounds, we see the signs of Christ’s coming all around us. …we read the headlines, we look at the news. The time is short – the clock is ticking away. Our bridegroom is almost at our doorstep. When he comes – He will say “COME.” And off we will go to have our marriage consummated.
So when we hear these words that Jesus said to His first disciples that He will not eat of the bread and drink of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes to us, we need to be mindful of the depth of what He said. He has gone to great lengths to prepare Himself for us, and we need to make sure we are ready for His coming.
As we now prepare to partake of the elements of the breat and the fruit of the vine, I will read from I Cor. 11:23-26. Let's partake together:
1 Cor 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood…..
This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. NKJV