Resurrection For The Bride of Christ
Max Lucado tells an old story in the book, When Christ Comes about a prince who fell in love with a peasant girl. It’s the stuff of one of those stories that end, happily ever after, but we never expect to hear about it happening in the real world. I mean it involves a Prince who has the world at His disposal. He was everything you would want in a prince, sensitive, clever, well-mannered, passionate, charming, as kind as He was handsome, heir to a throne, He was everything maidens could wish for. You wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that He is a perfect catch.
This is not the story of Esther. The peasant girl was not beautiful, actually she was barely average. At her best she is plain, but at her worst she can be just plain ugly. There are times when she is cranky and moody, and to look at her from anyone else’s eyes you would never believe she was worth much. But if you could see her through the eyes of the prince, you would believe that she is “to die for.”
The Prince decided that He couldn’t bear to live without her, so He asked her to be His bride. He would go and establish a home for them and would then return and take her into their kingdom. The peasant turned princess pledged to faithfully await his return. But like I said, this is not your normal fairy tale, once the prince left the plot takes a bizarre twist. You would expect the bride to be always thinking about the coming wedding, but she rarely ever mentions it. You would think that her every waking moment would be lived out in anticipation and preparation for the coming of her prince. However, by the way she lives you wouldn’t even know she’s the bride of a perfect prince.
More frequently than not, you can’t even tell the difference between the bride and any of the other peasant girls who live in her village. There are even times when the peasant girl could be found flirting with the other men of the village in broad daylight, and who knows what she is doing when nobody is around to see!
It’s such a sad story, I mean can you imagine a peasant girl fortunate enough to be the object of a perfect prince’s love? You would expect her to be captivated by His love and filled with a sense of wonder that she was fortunate enough to be loved by Him. You would think that she would be careful to remain pure in anticipation of the return of her royal groom. Instead, to look at her you might wonder if she even remembers she is engaged at all. How could a peasant forget about her prince? Is it possible for a bride to forget her groom?
It might help if you understood that the story of the prince and His peasant bride is not a fairy tale, or some medieval fable. It’s actually a story about you, it’s your story. We have forgotten that the heart of the Bible is a love story. It is the divine romance between our Loving Creator and us, the broken creation. We are the ones the Bible calls The Bride of Christ. And to be quite honest, far too often observers might ask if we’ve forgotten about the groom we are betrothed to.
This love story fills the Old Testament, stretches through the New Testament and is still being written today. We are living out the story of Hosea, do you remember his story? Do you remember the story of a Prophet who was called out to marry Gomer, a temple prostitute. But instead of being thankful and loving her husband, Gomer would be unfaithful to him and to their marriage vows, she would go back to prostitution and find herself enslaved to a life of pain and brokenness. Yet, Hosea would go and find her and buy her back as his bride a second time. He would love her and treat her with kindness and compassion.
The story of Hosea and Gomer is our story, it is the story of a loving God that purchased His Bride, the Church. He loved us with an undying love, He constantly calls us to Him so that we can find our rest and peace in His presence. But we turned our back on Him, we left Him and returned to our own life of brokenness and shame. And in His loving faithfulness, God was willing to purchase us again with the blood of Jesus and His crucifixion on the cross. God fully understands the depth of our brokenness and still longs to redeem us and to call us His own.
Today the religious world celebrates Easter, which is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But it's much more that the acknowledgement that God became man, allowed Himself to be tortured and crucified. It is more than simple recognition that God would not remain in the grave, but on the third day he would be resurrected so that one day He could return and join with His bride.
There is a beautiful description of this glorious day written by John in Revelation 21:2-4 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Now, I don’t want us to get too far ahead of ourselves. If we are going to celebrate the fact that we are the Bride of Christ then it might be helpful for us to understand what the Jews would have heard when Jesus said that the church was His bride. There is some beautiful symbolism involved in a Jewish Wedding that I believe has some wonderful implications for us today.
The wedding ceremony consists of several activities that begin with a contract made between the father of the groom-to-be and the family of the future bride. It ends with the husband and wife together in a bond “until death do they part.” If we look at Genesis 24, we will find an example of how the process of the Jewish Wedding worked, based on how Abraham found a bride for his son Isaac. First we notice that it was the Father who selected the bride for son. Abraham He said to the chief servant in his household, … I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” (2-4)
But you could not just find a woman and take her from her family and home. Finding a bride does not come cheap. The father of the bride would then ask what the groom was willing to pay for his bride. In our example from Genesis 24 we see that once the servant met Rebekah he he gave her a gold ring weighing one-fifth of an ounce and two gold arm bracelets weighing about four ounces each. He asked, "Who is your father? Is there a place in his house for me and my men to spend the night?” (22-23)
Once the servant and Rebekah’s family agreed on the marriage the the servant paid the full price for the bride. He gave Rebekah gold and silver jewelry and clothes. He also gave expensive gifts to her brother and mother. (53)
According to Jewish tradition the marriage consisted of two ceremonies that were marked by celebrations at two separate times. First came the betrothal and later, the wedding. At the betrothal the woman was legally married, although she still remained in her father’s house. During the first celebration the couple would participate in a Ceremonial Bath, where the couple would separately bathe as a symbol of spiritual cleansing. At the conclusion of the bath, the couple were officially betrothed. This is more than a simple engagement, as we know it today. She could not belong to another man unless she was divorced from her betrothed. You would actually have to give a letter of divorce to break the contract and the husband would be required to make a large payment if he divorced the wife without good reason.
Then would begin the period of betrothal, when the couple would enter into a time of waiting. The groom would leave and prepare a home for his bride, usually in the home of his father.
During this time the bride made her own preparations: she made her wedding garment, made sure that she had lamps and enough oil. While she knew that her groom would come back to get her, she did not know the exact time or day. That’s why the bride had to kept her oil lamps ready at all times, just in case the groom came in the night to lead the bridal procession to the home he had prepared for her.
Finally after the new home has been prepared, there would be the Wedding Procession. Once the grooms father had determined that it was time for the groom to receive his bride a messenger would shout, “Behold, the bridegroom!” and a shofar would blow. At this point, everyone who has been invited would join in the procession as they paraded to the bride’s home where they would find the bride waiting wearing a veil. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. (64-65)
The bride would be accompanied by a colorful procession, and take the journey from her father’s house to the house of her groom. Then there would be a feast, a grand celebration, where the community would come and celebrate the new family.
Maybe you noticed some of the parallels between a Jewish wedding and our own relationship with Christ. God has selected a bride for His Son. Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
Jesus paid the price for His bride to redeem her. Paul continues in Ephesians 1:7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.
And we have entered into the first ceremony, where we have been ceremoniously washed as a symbol of spiritual cleansing. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21)
We are now in a period of betrothal, anxiously awaiting the return of the groom who promised, In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)
That’s why we celebrate Easter. We celebrate the fact that Jesus has claimed us as His bride. We celebrate the fact that we are separated from Him for only a little while, but soon he will return and bring His bride home. We celebrate that Jesus will take us home where everything will be made right.
Every wedding that I have ever attended or had the privileged of being a part of has some of the same basic traits. There is a groom who stands ready to take a wife, who he will love and cherish all the days of his life. There is a bride who’s beauty is enhanced by the adoration and love of her groom. It is two people who dedicate themselves to loving one another, and spending their lives serving and blessing one another for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do they part.
I wanted to figure out a way to illustrate this idea to you today, on this day of celebration. So I want to ask _________ and _________ to come up here with me.
_________ and _________ over the past year we have been talking about this moment. Over the past few weeks I have had the wonderful opportunity to talk with you about what God desires for your lives, about how you can have a relationship and a marriage that will be a blessing to our church family, our community, and the Kingdom of God. I truly believe that if you will continue to grow in your love for God and your love for one another, that _________ will have everything he needs to be a man of God and integrity. I believe that if God allows us to look back and remember today 50 years from now, we will be able to see how God has used you to love and strengthen the couples that will come behind you.
We have talked about how you guys might not have done everything in order, but God’s grace and love is amazing and has brought you to this point. Today we gather as the bride of Christ, to anxiously await the return of our Savior, and to share in the joy and excitement of your wedding. No doubt this will come to be one of the most exciting moments of your lives. This body has been in prayer for you and we continue to pray that God will grant you a long and happy life together.
Many hopes and dreams bring you into this present moment of time. A moment that as you reflect on, will be a great source of joy and strength to you as you build your lives together. Church family today we have the privilege to witness the joining of this man, _________, and this woman, __________ in holy wedlock. This union shall constitute the blending of two hearts, two lives and two personalities into one, as husband and wife. No longer will they be two, but one.
The marriage of two Christians is viewed by God as an occasion of great joy since it marks the beginning of a relationship that is second only to our personal relationship with the Lord Himself. Marriage was originally God’s idea and is the oldest, dearest and most endearing relationship known to man. God knew that Adam could not live alone, so in His power and wisdom He created Eve, a suitable companion for him. In His marvelous plan, God made them male and female, equally different but together they compliment one another and make a whole.
The success of your marriage will be determined by the degree of love you have for each other. You must never allow anything or anyone including your own wishes to interfere with the growth of your love. A Christian home is built on love, and companionship, which involves mutual commitment and responsibility. You will share alike in the responsibilities and the joys of life. When companions share a sorrow the sorrow is halved, and when they share a joy the joy is doubled.
Your marriage is a living symbol of the relationship Jesus desires to have with His Bride the Church. The love and dedication you have for one another should also be seen in your love and dedication to God. The compassion and mercy that you share with one another should resemble the compassion and mercy that you receive from God. The dedication and devotion you have for one another should only be rivaled with the dedication and devotion you have for God. Today we are asking you to dedicate your home to your Creator. Take His Word, the Bible, for your guide. Give loyal devotion to His church and live your lives, as His willing servants, and true happiness will be your reward.
Please face one another as you make your vows before God and this assembly.
_______ do you take __________ to be your wife; do you commit yourself to her happiness and her self-fulfillment as a person, and to her usefulness in God’s Kingdom; and do you promise to love, honor, trust, and serve her in sickness and in health, in adversity, and prosperity, and to be true and loyal to her, so long as you both shall live?
_______ do you take _________ to be your husband; do you commit yourself to his happiness and his self-fulfillment as a person, and to his usefulness in God’s Kingdom; and do you promise to love, honor, trust, and serve him in sickness and in health, in adversity and prosperity, and to be true and loyal to him, so long as you both shall live?
The wedding ring is a symbol of marriage in the fact that it is an unending circle which symbolizes the unending vows which you are taking today in the sight of God. As a token of your vows, you will give and receive the rings.
_______, please take this ring and place it on the third finger of ________ left hand and repeat after me:
________, I give you this ring, as a visible token of my love, and I give it to you, as I give my life.
_________ please take this ring and place it on the third finger of _________ left hand and repeat after me:
________, I give you this ring, as a visible token of my love, and I give it to you, as I give my life.
_________ and _________ have promised God and each other that they have committed themselves to a Christian marriage and home, the noblest relationship between a man and woman, the most cherished and personal of all human relationships. It is my privilege and honor as a preacher of the gospel and by the authority vested in me by the state of Alabama to pronounce you husband and wife. May God bless this union.
________, you may kiss your bride. It is my honor to be the first to introduce to you Mr. And Mrs. ______________.
I just love weddings, and I am thankful that you were here this morning to not only talk about the return of our Savior to receive His bride, but to be a part of the new beginning for _________ and _________.
As we have seen this morning, we are the bride of Christ, but we are still in the waiting stage. Jesus has gone to the Father’s house to prepare a place for His bride, and when the place has been completed, at the perfect time, God will send His Son to come and get His bride. Until that time we are to be anxiously awaiting the return of the groom. We need to make sure that we are clothed in the wedding garment, and that we have our lamps ready for the moment that Jesus comes to call us home. For as sure as there was a resurrection, there will also be a moment when we will be called to our eternal home.
This morning are you ready to meet your Savior? Or is there something that you are lacking? If there is anything in your life at this moment that would keep you from attending the wedding of the Savior and His bride, I beg you to repent and put on the wedding garments. If we can help you in that effort, please come while together we stand and sing.