Earthly Weddings, Heavenly Significance
by Dee Brestin
Note: In this issue Dee celebrates weddings and how they not only represent the most significant earthly relationship, but also represent in a richly symbolic way the relationship that each of us has, single or married, with her heavenly Bridegroom. The next time you go to a wedding, think of the spiritual significance behind the symbolism as you celebrate with the couple on their wedding day.
My baby will be married in June. More couples get married in June than any other month—but this is Annie, and I want it to be unique, beautiful, rich with meaning, and glorifying to God. She and David will not drive through The Tunnel of Love in Las Vegas for a four-minute, $40 wedding. Neither, however, do we want a Father of the Bride kind of wedding that stresses family, friends, and finances.
Is it possible to do a beautiful wedding on a budget? Is it also possible for weddings to cause us to reflect on our relationship with Jesus Christ? Absolutely.
When award-winning singer, speaker, and author Kathy Troccoli and I wrote three video Bible studies on approaching Jesus as our Bridegroom, we were fascinated to discover all the parallels that Scripture makes between earthly weddings and our ultimate wedding to Jesus, our heavenly Bridegroom. Many Christian couples incorporate these traditions in their modern weddings. By understanding the meaning behind common traditions, all of us—single and married—can find that a wedding can bring us closer to Christ.
THE BRIDE PRICE
In the days of Jesus, the fathers bargained over the bride price. The father of the groom paid extravagantly for the bride—as much as you would pay for a new house. In the same way, a bride price has been paid for you and me. Jesus paid, not with silver and gold, but with his own blood (1 Pet. 1:18). Today, in western civilization, a bride price is not paid—though the groom usually does buy his bride a beautiful ring. When Annie started dating David, I was concerned to learn that he was paying off a large debt. When he asked for her hand last Christmas, much of his debt was paid off and the reason for this debt was revealed. A month after he met Annie he bought her a ring and put it in a safe deposit box, waiting for the day when he would ask for her hand in marriage! Wise? No. Romantic? Absolutely.
Let wedding rings remind you of the price that was paid for you.
THE BINDING BETROTHAL
In the days of Jesus, the betrothal was binding. When Joseph was engaged to Mary, to call it off was considered a “divorce.” This doesn’t mean that breaking an engagement today is wrong—it may be an act of courage. But the binding betrothal in the days of Jesus symbolizes his faithfulness to his Bride. He will return. He will keep his promise. He is the Faithful Bridegroom who promised: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
THE WAITING TIME
In the days of Jesus after the betrothal took place, the bridegroom went away and added a room to his father’s house for his bride. He didn’t go back for his bride until the father said all was ready. This could have been years! The bride was to keep herself pure and to remain expectant. One day, when the groom’s father said it was time, he would come, with rejoicing and a great processional of friends for his bride. A shofar horn was blown, and his bride knew, “My groom is at the door.” Do you see the rich parallels? Consider these Scriptures:
“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, NIV).
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'” (Matt. 25:6).
THE WEDDING MARCH
The wedding march is meant to symbolize that great day when the bride comes out to meet her bridegroom. One mother wrote me this memory from her daughter’s wedding:
“My daughter was at the end of the aisle, literally jumping with joy and eagerness to get to her bridegroom. She almost dragged her father down the aisle. She had a smile from ear to ear and tears of joy in her eyes and the entire congregation caught her excitement and laughed and cheered along with her!
“ALL I could think of was Jesus! I thought, That is how I am going to be one day—this absolutely radiant bride, jumping and running to be with this Bridegroom that I have been saved for… forgetting anyone who may be watching me… forgetting everything except that moment when I can see him and be with him forever! I can hardly wait!”
THE BRIDAL DRESS
I loved shopping with Annie for her dress. We adopted Annie from an orphanage in Korea when she was 5. She was a sad little girl who didn’t smile. Today, nearly 20 years later, she has been transformed by Christ’s love. When she stepped out of the dressing room in her gown of white with her radiant smile, her sisters and I wept tears of joy.
The wedding garment is extremely symbolic. Do you remember the parable Jesus told of a royal wedding? At a royal wedding, not only the bride, but every guest was given fine linen, bright and clean, to wear to the wedding. One guest, however, tried to get into the wedding without the wedding garment. The king asked: “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?” (Matt. 22:12).
The guest was speechless, and the king had him tied and thrown into the darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. So, in part, the white wedding garment represents our salvation. Though our sins may be as scarlet, when we respond to Christ’s salvation, he makes us “as white as snow.”
Salvation is both an event and a process. Annie was 6 years old when she put her trust in Christ. She was sitting on my lap at a beach on Lake Michigan. There was a change in her, yet she had so much growing to do. As the years have passed I have seen her mature into a lovely young woman of God. She has grown through the Word, through the love of believers, and also through suffering. She lost her dad to colon cancer two years ago. That suffering has caused her to empathize with others in pain, and to strengthen her resolve to invest her life in the things that cannot pass away. In the Book of Revelation, John is given a vision that shows another meaning to the wedding garment:
“‘For the wedding of the Lamb has come, And his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, Was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)” (Rev. 19:7b-8, NIV).
When Christ comes to live in us, he covers us with his righteousness, but he also gives us his Spirit to help us “make ourselves ready” for our Groom. As we live for him, the transformation process continues.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he urged them to remain pure and faithful while waiting for their Bridegroom to return: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him,” (2 Cor. 11:2, NIV).
Even if a bride feels ashamed of her past, she should know that the wedding garment represents his righteousness. When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
My mother was a beautiful bride, married in 1936, and clad in white lace. My mother went to be with the Lord just a year ago. The Easter before, at the age of 93, my mother asked my son to help her put her trust in Christ. At that moment she received her heavenly wedding garment.
When we see the bride’s pure wedding garment, we should give thanks for the forgiveness we have in Christ, for the wedding garment he gives us, and for the Spirit that helps us to remain pure and committed to him.