The Wedding Print E-mail
Written by Victoria Radin   

The Gospel of John

John’s gospel, written primarily to the Jews, is devoted to proclaiming the deity of Jesus by using the traditions of the Jewish sages and the Feasts of the Lord as the backdrop for each event that is recorded. Jesus becomes the central figure in each subject addressed because each had a Hebrew tradition connected with the expected Messiah. The wedding that took place on the third day in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-10), for instance, spoke prophetically, not only of His first advent but of His future return.

The third day, Tuesday, is favored for marriage in Jewish tradition because the Bible twice states the words “and God saw that it was good” after the third day of creation (Genesis 1:10 & 12). While the literal third day is Tuesday, it is believed that John was hinting at a future ‘day’ when a prophetic wedding would take place. The scriptures declare that "with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Hosea declared: 

“After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:2)

The third day prophetically would be speaking of the third millennium since Jesus––the 21st Century in which we now live. During the wedding at Cana, Jesus performed His first miraculous sign by turning water into the best wine.

Water is compared to the Torah (God’s Law) and wine to life. Both the Torah and water attract those who thirst; extend over the whole earth; are the source of life; come from heaven; restore the soul; purify; prefer common vessels to costly ones; and both nurture growth. Often the Torah is referred to as ‘mayim hayyim’, living waters. And wine, which was valued because it brought gladness to the heart, also functioned as a symbol for life and immortality because of its association with blood (Leviticus 17:11).

In the performance of this sign, Jesus was symbolizing the great joy that would accompany his advent––for Gentiles at His first appearance, and for Jews at His return––when He will turn the water of the Torah into the wine of eternal life:

“....the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah......I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people....they shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them....For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (from Jeremiah 31:31-34)

John the baptist addressed the Jewish tradition picturing the Messiah (Christ) as a bridegroom and His followers as the bride.

“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’.... He who has the bride is the bridegroom....” (from John 3:28, 29)

Jesus also spoke of Himself as the Bridegroom, hinting to the reality that He was indeed the Messiah (e.g. Mark 2:19). He even used the setting of a wedding to declare that He would come for the Church as a bridegroom for a bride:

“And at midnight a cry was heard; ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’.....and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding....” (Matthew 25;6, 10b)

These enticing hints in the scripture can only whet the appetite for more information about the ancient Jewish wedding. Many of those traditions are still performed today.

In Jewish teaching, marriage is a holy act since it results in the creation of life. The Hebrew sages considered marriage to be the ideal human state and was to be a model for the relationship between God and Israel, and Israel and the Torah. It is believed that all the past sins of the bride and groom are forgiven on their wedding day.

A wedding contract (ketubah), in ancient times, was delivered at the betrothal and read aloud at the wedding so that the guests could witness the couple’s covenant of love. It was a legal document recording the rights and obligations which a husband undertook toward his wife. Today, it also records the obligations of the wife.

Marriage, it is believed, represents entrance into Paradise. To demonstrate this concept, the marriage takes place under a khuppah or wedding canopy decorated to resemble the beauty of Paradise, and therefore, the beauty of marriage. Sometimes the khuppah is covered with a prayer shawl, symbolic of God’s sheltering love.

In antiquity, the bridegroom and his party would arrive at the bride’s home on the wedding day. The bride would be veiled, not ‘seeing’ the groom until the actual ceremony. Her attendants would lead her to the wedding carrying torches, light being the symbol of purity.

An Orthodox Jewish wedding begins when the guests call out: “Blessed is he who comes.” The groom enters and takes his place under the khuppah. The bride follows and circles the groom seven times. The seven circuits symbolize traveling through the heavens to the seventh heaven, the highest level attainable to man, before taking her place at her husband’s right side in Paradise.

The marriage ceremony today has two parts, the betrothal (erusin) and the marriage vows (nisuin). In the first part, both groom and bride sip from a cup of wine to acknowledge their mutual consent to the marriage. A ring is given to the bride, representing a token of the bride acquisition price. The ancient wedding formula is recited:

“Behold, thou art consecrated unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and of Israel.”

The conclusion of this ceremony makes the marriage legal. In ancient times, the betrothal took place a year before the marriage vows were taken (for a virgin). The groom could get his bride and consummate the marriage only after building a suitable home in which the couple could live. Then, the nisuin (marriage) would take place, beginning with the public reading of the ketubah and ending with the bride and groom sipping from a cup of wine that signified the wedding was sanctified and complete.

Knowing the traditions makes the analogies between the bridegroom and Jesus more obvious. For instance:
The apostle Paul compares the relationship between husband and wife with the relationship between Jesus and His sanctified bride, the church.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word...” (from Ephesians 5:25-27)

Jesus said that His followers were made one with Him just as a bride and groom are made one flesh:

“...that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us...” (John 17:21)

The wedding of Jesus to His bride, the church, resulted in the creation of new life:

“...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The wedding of God to Israel at His return will also result in new life:

“For if their (the Jews) being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)

The Scriptures record that Jesus bought His bride according to Jewish Law:

“For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

Jesus gave His followers a ‘marriage contract’, promising to take care of their every need (e.g. Matthew 21:22) and He left a token to guarantee His return:

“...Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession..” (Ephesians 1:13, 14)

Jesus promised to return for His Bride after having prepared a home for them in which to live. He told His disciples:

“...I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2c, 3)

In alluding to the Jewish marriage ceremony, Jesus said that the house of Israel would remain desolate (not occupied by bride and groom) and He would not return for His bride until the nation of Israel proclaims “Blessed is He who comes”, the words spoken by the wedding guests to the groom:

“See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23:39)

Yet, the scriptures record a day when Israel will be forgiven by God as is done for the bride and groom at their wedding:

“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zechariah 13:l)

Although God divorced His wife, Israel, He said that in the future:

“I will betroth you to Me righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20)

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