I am writing this on the morning of the wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle just after I have seen a young couple who are getting married at Emmanuel in September. All this wedding talk brought to my mind the number of times the marriage motive and wedding themes are mentioned in the Bible.
For example, John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, visualises the Church as the Bride of Christ (the Lamb).
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him the glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean was given her to wear.” (Rev 19:7-8)
Here John explains that the fine linen stands for the righteousness of the saints (meaning the Church). God has redeemed his creation and clothed it in purity. John then affirms –
“Blessed are those invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9)
Likewise in the Old Testament Isaiah sees God’s salvation as a wedding banquet not just for a redeemed Israel but the banquet all nations will share in when sin, death and suffering are defeated.
“The Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all people, the best of meat the finest of wines. He will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)
Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast and often used wedding images in his parables.
At the last supper Jesus uses the language of Jewish wedding custom to reassure his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house and that he will come back to them to take them to himself. This was the way things happened when a bride and groom were betrothed in Jesus’ time.
In the penultimate chapter of Revelation, John sees a vision of “the New Jerusalem” which represents God’s people –
“coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rev 21:2)
The overarching message from all this Biblical wedding symbolism is – it is God who, through his grace, has created and redeemed his people for himself, for a relationship of love and intimacy with him, for which human marriage is the best but still inadequate analogy.