In biblical times, marriages were basically arranged. But the participants did have some say in the final outcome. If the groom-to-be was on board with the arrangement, he would go to his future bride’s house and offer her a cup of wine. It was his way of saying, “I choose you.” And if the bride was also in agreement with the arrangement, she would then drink the wine, basically saying, “And I choose you.”
After that, the groom would then go back to his father’s house and begin to build a room onto it, where he and his new bride would live. When all the work was finally completed, the father of the groom would give the okay and the groom-to-be would then make his way back to his future bride’s house. At that time the bridesmaids, who had been watching and waiting for the groom’s return, would announce his coming. Then the bride-to-be would go out to meet her groom and everyone would process back to the groom’s house where the wedding feast would begin.
One of the really beautiful parts of this whole process was what the groom would say at his proposal, after the wine had been offered and accepted. He would say, “Bride to be, in my Father’s house there 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 may also be where I am.”
These are the very words Jesus chose to use in order to tell his followers what one day awaited them—a celebration. A wedding feast. You see, God wants intimate union with us. Union so deep that only the delights of marriage can begin to capture it. He wants more than just a dutiful, distant relationship. He wants passion. He wants longing. He wants unbridled affection. That is the kind of life God wants both for and with each of us. All we have to do is say, “I do.” All you have to do is say yes to love.
(from my new book Into the Heart of God: A Journey with Jesus through the Gospel of John, which will hopefully be out in the next few weeks.)