Several years ago I was captivated by John 14 to John 16. I found myself meditating on these verses, attempting to memorize them. I would go to sleep at night thinking about them and wake up in the morning doing the same. (Please don’t assume I was being spiritual–it was a God thing!) But I always puzzled over John 14:2-3:
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that 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. (NIV).
The verses were inspiring, but I always wondered about them–is this talking about heaven? Is it referring to the Holy Spirit?
The first inkling I had of what lies behind the verses came a few weeks ago in an e-letter from John Fenn of Church Without Walls International. I’ve since done some research on it. Here’s what I now understand:
In Jesus’ day, if a man wanted to marry a girl, he would go to her home with a “bottle” of wine. (This would be an arranged marriage.) The girl’s father and brothers would negotiate the terms of the betrothal contract with him. The girl was then called in. If the girl agreed to marry him, they would seal the contract by drinking a glass of wine together. This was now a binding covenant. The man would then tell her, “In my father’s house are many rooms. I’m going to prepare a place for you, and then I’ll come back for you.” He would return to his father’s home and prepare the bridal chamber, which would only be ready when his father told said so. One day the groom would return for his bride, taking her back to his father’s house with him where there was a wedding feast and the marriage was complete.
So what Jesus said at the beginning of John 14 is a foreshadowing. Jesus has returned to his Father’s house to prepare a room for us. One day, we’ll see him face to face as his bride and there will be a wedding feast.
What an amazingly beautiful portrayal John 14 presents of Christ and his bride.
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9 replies on “But I digress… a Jewish betrothal”
That’s a wonderful image, thanks for sharing it, it makes that passage more meaningful.
PS It seems I have worked out the Disqus guest post thing! 🙂
So glad you’ve sorted it out. I look forward to your comments.
Thank you so much for that, Felicity. It reminds me of a book I read years ago: ‘An Israeli Love Story’ by Zola Levitt, which describes these same things in narrative form. In the story, Isaac, a Jewish immigrant from the U.S., and Rebecca, the daughter of a rabbi, meet in the midst of a terrorist attack on Israel. They fall in love and, as they prepare for the wedding, Rebecca’s father tells his daughter about ancient Jewish wedding traditions, which include what you have said, and much more. These customs tie in precisely with the words of Jesus to his disciples, recorded in John’s gospel… and of course Jesus’ followers would all have understood the significance.
Thank you for sharing, Ann. You are the second person to mention Zola Levitt to me (in totally different contexts). I think I’ll have to try to read some of his work. That story sounds a good place to start. I love good fiction
It’s only 190 pages – you can read it in one sitting! First published 1978, Moody Bible Institute, so it may be hard to access… ok, I’ve just checked, and it’s available from Amazon.
I ordered it on my kindle and started reading it yesterday evening
It’s a simple story, but I found the part about the Jewish wedding traditions brought many of Jesus’ words alive in a new way.
Felicity, Beautiful picture! When we first came to the Lord we were excited about the mansion we were going to get in heaven. Cathy and I were living in a small upstairs flat. As we grew in the Lord we realized this picture was spiritual. I believe the word rooms in Greek is Mone or a derivative of Mone. Heb.3:6 says “we are his house….”
The word translated house is Monique.Also look at Eph.2:22. I wonder if the place he is preparing for us is the community that will be his bride.
Just a thought
Thanks, Jim. This started me on a fascinating search. The root word that you describe is usually used for abiding, remaining, like a place one stays for a long time. As opposed to an oikos which is more generally the word for a building. I can see several days of study ahead for me on this!