Jesus the Bridegroom
St. Augustine of Hippo says: “Jesus went forth from his nuptial chamber...He came even to the marriage bed of the Cross, and there, ascending it, he fulfilled marriage.” What a stunning description of the crucifixion!
In the 1st Century A.D. the apostle Paul saw, in the crucifixion of Jesus, the love of a bridegroom for his bride. In Ephesians 5:21-27, 32, in one of the most famous and controversial passages he ever penned, the fiery evangelizer describes the passion and death of Jesus, in terms of the love of a husband for his wife.
According to St. Paul, the torture and crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary was nothing less than an expression of spousal love! From an ancient Jewish perspective, in its deepest mystery, all salvation history is, in fact, a living love story between Creator and Creature, between God and Israel, a story that comes to a climax in the bloody wood of the Roman Cross. Jesus’ “Love Story” emerged from the Cross! Just like in a normal covenant in the Old Testament, an animal had to be cut in two; its blood sealed a Covenant.
According to the book of Revelation, the world itself ends with a wedding: the eternal “marriage supper of the Lamb,” and the unveiling of the New Jerusalem, are the Bride of Christ (Rev.19:21). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The entire Christian life bears the mark of the nuptial love of Christ and the Church” (CCC 1612, 1617). Brant Pitre, in inspirational fashion describes Jesus of Nazareth, as the only man who ever solemnly described his funeral as his wedding day.
An ancient Jew, like Jesus saw the meaning of the covenant at Mount Sinai, as narrated by the book of Exodus, but also in the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea, as a deep mystery of the spiritual wedding of God and Israel. Rabbi Jose emphasized: “‘The Lord came from Sinai,’ to receive Israel as a bridegroom comes forth to meet the bride” (Mekilta on Exodus 19:17). This is pointedly brought out by Rabbi Akiba who proclaims the Song of Songs to be the holiest book in the Jewish Bible.
Jesus is not only the Messiah. He is the divine bridegroom, who came in person, to fulfil the prophecies of a new marriage covenant. In this regard, Cana and the Last Supper stand out prominently. Jesus brought the miraculous wine of the wedding banquet of God and his bride. 2 Baruch 29:1-2 describes beautifully about the miraculous abundance of wine: “...the Messiah will begin to be revealed. On one vine will be a thousand branches, and one branch will produce a thousand clusters, and one cluster will produce a thousand grapes, and one grape will produce a litre of wine.” Jesus is signalling that the ancient Jewish hope for superabundant wine of the age of salvation is beginning to be fulfilled in him. Jesus will provide us the wine of redemption at the Hour of his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
At the Last Supper Jesus was not celebrating a new Passover. Through the wine, which Jesus identifies as his blood – Jesus also inaugurated the new wedding covenant spoken by the prophets. Just as Jesus’ “hour” began at the Last Supper, when he “loved” his disciples “to the end;” so, he gives up his life after drinking the wine of the Cross, the 4th Cup of the Passover and declaring, “It is finished!” or “It is consummated.”
The Romans called the Cross the “tree of shame.” For Jesus, the Day of Jesus’ crucifixion was his Wedding Day. The Nazarene is the only man who ever described his funeral as his wedding day! Jesus clearly identifies himself as “the bridegroom” (Mk.2:19; Mt.9:15; Lk.5:34). Like an ancient Jewish wedding, it is a time for celebration, not for fasting. The grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s Cross that flows directly from the crucifixion!
Just as God consummated the marriage to Israel in the Tabernacle of Moses through the blood of the covenant, so too, Jesus accomplished the marriage to his bride through the blood of the Cross, in the succinct words of St. Augustine of Hippo: “Jesus went forth from his nuptial chamber...He came even to the marriage bed of the Cross, and there, ascending it, he fulfilled marriage.” What a stunning description of the crucifixion!
The book of Revelation describes the ‘end of time,’ as “the eternal marriage of Jesus and his bride in a “new heavens and a new earth” (Rev.21:1-2). This is the deepest mystery of the Parousia: the eternal marriage of God and his people in Christ, and the New Jerusalem, so that, human beings will, at last, be able to see the face of God, the Divine Bridegroom.
Halleluiah! Let us exult and rejoice and give him glory, for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready...“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” (Rev.19:6-9). What a majestic vision!
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