Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Day of the Groom

Several years ago my friend Matt got married. The wedding was beautiful and memorable, if slightly unconventional.

The minister took his place at the center of the stage. Matt stood alone in the aisle facing him. The minister began by acknowledging the inviolable place of the bride as the queen of wedding day festivities. Everything is about the bride. This is her day, if the bride ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. And yet, the minister continued, treading now in dangerous waters, this is not the biblical model. In the bible, the wedding day is The Day of The Groom!

And indeed it is so. Consider the description in Revelation 19 of The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. The consummation of heaven and earth is described as the wedding banquet uniting Christ (the groom) to the church (the bride). This is a wedding ceremony designed to honor and glorify the accomplishments of the groom. It is he who has gone out to find himself a wife, he who has won her over and pledged himself to her, and it is he who has purified his bride, in order that she might become his radiant wife! The bride invites her guests to join in celebrating the glory of the groom, and her happiness in him.

Consider this image a bit further. In the OT the covenantal relationship with God and his people Israel was occasionally described as a marriage covenant, Israel was engaged to by the Lord's. And yet, too often, this metaphor was the more memorable because of the way it was used to heighten the shame of Israel in her disobedience. Hosea famously is commanded to marry a prostitute as an object lesson demonstrating the spiritual whoredom of Israel. In disobeying, and seeking after other gods, Israel was acting faithless in regard to her engaged Lord.

What would the groom to with his unfaithful bride? He would take upon himself the responsibility of cleansing her, purifying her, forgiving her, and getting her all cleaned up until she was worthy to be his own wife. Ephesians 5 says as much,
Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
At the wedding supper of the lamb, although we, as the bride of Christ, will be presented to him "holy and without blemish" all the glory will go the our faithful, loving, sacrificial, glorious groom. And when people look at the bride in her splendor, they will marvel at the power of the groom. And we will get to enjoy his goodness forever.

Then the minister, having offered some such explanation, looked at Matt and said, "Go claim your bride." Matt turned around and walked back down the aisle, and out the back door of the church. We sat in silence. A few moments later, all the shutters on the enormous church windows were opened, and the previously dim sanctuary was filled with light. Then Matt appeared again at the back of the church with his bride on his arm, and marched triumphantly up the aisle. The groom had won his bride and she was beautiful. We celebrated, and looked forward to the day...

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