John 3:27-30, “John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
In Jewish culture, particularly in Biblical times, a friend of the bridegroom would act on his behalf to negotiate the delicate matter of the arrangements for the coming together of the bridegroom and his elected bride in matrimony. This friend would ‘prepare the way’. We have John the Immerser’s own testimony that he was this friend for Jesus and his beloved, the church. But is there more to this than just John preaching repentance?
In Exodus chapter 19 we find the Israelites camped at the foot of Mt Sinai, and Moses goes up the mountain and God speaks to him. In verses 5 and 6 we read, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” In Rabbinic literature Exodus 19 is often spoken of as a betrothal offer, with Moses acting as the ‘Friend of the Bridegroom’ between God, the bridegroom, and Israel, the bride. When the Israelites confirmed their acceptance of the offer, we could say that Israel was engaged to God, but the marriage is not truly formally complete until it is consummated!
At least 6 times in the Scriptures we see that in a marriage the bridegroom and the bride shall become ‘one flesh’. Although God tabernacled, dwelt, among or with Israel, He never became ‘one flesh’ with them. Though engaged, the marriage would appear to never have been consummated, and we see over the centuries that Israel frequently proved unfaithful. Thus we find God seeking a new bride through the expediency of Jesus, using John the Immerser as His ‘Friend’.
So, if Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride, when was the betrothal, and has the marriage been consummated? The betrothal occurred with the baptism of Jesus as this was the end of the role of the ‘Friend’. Jesus then proceeds to give evidence of His marriage offer throughout His ministry. On the cross He displays His ultimate love for His bride through His sacrifice to set her free from the bondage imposed by Satan. Then returns to allay her fears of desertion, and eventually leaves to prepare their place. But still the marriage isn’t consummated.
Acts chapter 2 tells the story of the pouring out on all flesh the Holy Spirit, and though the Spirit had previously been ‘on’ some people, the prophets, it was now on and in all flesh. 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” In other words, the essence of God and humanity were now united in ‘one flesh’. The marriage was consummated! And no marriage is complete without the Wedding Feast, and thus we celebrate our marriage to God, our oneness with Him, with a ‘feast of love’ we call communion.
Let us go on in joy, peace, hope and love knowing that our husband and we are one, and that He has our soul eternally safe and blessed.