Behold! Bridegroom

Behold! Bridegroom

Behold! Bridegroom.

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another.   And maybe some words are: AmenHallelujahBlessedAbba. Come.  The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

“While the bridegroom was delayed, the bridesmaids all became drowsy and fell asleep. And at midnight a cry was heard, ‘Behold! He is here! Get up, the bridegroom is coming! Go out and greet him!” (Matthew 25:5-6).

Just prior to this parable, in Matthew 24, Jesus is seated at the Mount of Olives, teaching his disciples. They asked him about the consummation of the Age, when will the End come, when will they see Jesus usher in the New Kingdom at last? Jesus proceeds to give one teaching after another about the End of the Age, that it will come unexpectedly, quickly, decisively, that no one knows when it will occur. Even Jesus the Son and all the angels don’t know. Only the Father knew. And, there’s nothing anyone can do to bring it all about. So Jesus gave many warnings, and said to be ready for its coming, be prepared, plan ahead, be watchful, careful and expectant. One of his summary statements is in Matthew 24:42: “Watch, therefore – give strict attention, be cautious and active – for you do not know in what kind of day (whether a near or remote one) your Lord is coming.” (Amplified Version). It is in this context that Jesus gives his disciples this parable, which is basically an illustration of what he has just told them. The return of Jesus as Lord at the End is an important doctrine in the Christian Faith. Jesus talked about it often. In fact, one of every 30 verses in the New Testament is about his return. The coming Event should influence how we live each day.The earliest Christians loved to think about Jesus as the Bridegroom, the fulfillment of all the Jewish Scriptures about God being the husband. They thought of the Church as His bride, and they considered the relationship between Christ and His followers to be a spousal relationship in a spiritual sense.

To understand the parable better, here is what a first century wedding in a Jewish village would look like. On the day of the wedding, the groom would go to the home of the bride with family and friends, in order to take her to the groom’s home for the wedding and banquet. He would place her on a donkey or other riding animal at her house, and they would parade through the village so that everyone could take part in the celebration. When they approached the groom’s home, the bridesmaids were to be ready at the entrance to the house with lamps a-burning, to escort the wedding party to the feast. The bridesmaids were the official welcoming party, a very important part of the whole wedding process. It would be highly embarrassing if there were no lamps burning at the groom’s home. The welcome escort would be deeply disappointing for everyone.

THE BRIDESMAIDS are often called young women, or virgins in this story. They are an important part of the wedding experience, and need to be ready for the return of the bridegroom with the bride, if they want to take part in the banquet. In a Jewish wedding ceremony, it was stated that ten men were needed to be in attendance to make it official. Jesus chose ten women to balance the scales in the gender gap of the day. The Church is always feminine in the Gospels. The Bride of Christ, with Jesus the Bridegroom. These young women represent the Church,the disciples and followers of Christ. These maidens are the believers waiting for the return of the Groom, all with lamps, all in the wedding party in the beginning.

Five of the bridesmaids brought extra oil, and five did not. The wise and prudent maidens were ready for the delayed wedding party to arrive. The five foolish maidens, the unfaithful disciples, were not. At midnight, when they least expected it, the groom arrived with his party. The wise bridesmaids were able to light their lamps and escort the group to the feast. The foolish were not able to light their lamps, having run out of fuel, and so were not a part of the welcome and escort to the feast. The five wise bridesmaids didn’t share their oil with the five foolish. The wise ones were not being mean or selfish. It made sense. There wasn’t enough extra oil for all ten lamps. And it was much better that there at least be five lit lamps, as opposed to ten unlit lamps. The wedding festivities could continue with the lamps that were burning. Also, this shows that readiness is an individual responsibility, not a group project in the faith.

It was okay that the virgins fell asleep. There was no rebuke from Jesus for that. But the wake-up call was a victorious moment for the wise virgins who were ready. And it was a disastrous call for the foolish virgins, who were not ready.  If we should fall asleep before the Lord returns, in other words if we die, then, the Lord’s wake-up call will be music to our ears… “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you; Christ shall give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14).

“You heard me tell you before that I am not the Messiah, but certainly I am the messenger sent ahead of Him. He is the Bridegroom, and the bride belongs to Him. I am the friend of the Bridegroom who stands nearby and listens with great joy to the Bridegroom’s voice. And because of His words my joy is complete and overflows!” (John the Baptist, in John 3:29, TPT).