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On Mission to Be Ready

Do you know the traditions of a Galilean wedding? I did not. A friend told me about a movie that she and her daughter had watched together, and she thought it was very helpful. The movie, Before the Wrath, is well worth watching.

Galilean wedding traditions are unique to Galilee, and are different from general Jewish weddings. Jesus lived in Galilee, as did His disciples. When He talked to them, they were understanding the context of His words. Because we are unfamiliar with these particular traditions, we do not understand the context of His words, but it is helpful for us to learn about the way weddings were done in Galilee. We, the Church, are the bride of Jesus.

Here is what I learned:

When a young man wished to marry a young woman, the first step would be the establishment of a marriage contract that would be paid by the father of the groom. The groom would present the contract to the young woman and her father at her home and describe the terms under which he would propose marriage. An important part of the contract is the price that the young man was willing to pay to marry the young woman.

In Galilee, if the bride price was agreeable to the young woman’s father, the young man would pour a glass of wine for the young woman. If she drank the wine, then she accepted the proposal. At that point, the young man and young woman were betrothed. The young man would go to his father’s house to prepare a place to bring his bride to. The young woman would begin her preparation for marriage. She would make her dress and the dresses of her attendants.

In Jewish custom, the betrothal period would last 1-2 years. In Galilean tradition, the betrothal period would last until the father of the bridegroom told his son the appropriate time for him to go and get his bride. Only the father knew when that time would be.

Also in Galilean tradition, the bridegroom would send gifts to the bride to remind her of his love and appreciation for her.

When the father’s appointed time for the marriage to be consummated arrived, the bridegroom would go, typically in the middle of the night, with his friends and with a shofar (a ram’s horn used as a trumpet) to announce to the bride that he was on his way so that she could gather her belongings along with her attendants. They would go with the groom to the home he had prepared. The groom’s friends carried a litter for the bride to climb into. When she was seated, the friends lifted the litter and carried her to her betrothed.

If you will notice, the bride and her bridesmaids had very short notice of the arrival of the bridegroom. The bride slept in her wedding dress because she wanted to be ready for him. She and her bridesmaids must have oil in their lamps when he comes. Otherwise, they would not be prepared to go out into the night. There would be no time to scurry around to find oil.

I will not apply these customs to Scripture but will leave you to filter through it the conversations that Jesus had with His disciples as He prepared to leave them. You might spend some time reading through John 12-17 in light of the Galilean tradition. Matthew 24-25 are also important passages to read. Another passage would be almost the entire book of I Thessalonians.

I do hope as you read this and study the recommended passages that you will see how important it is that we live in the expectancy of Christ’s return. We do not know when that will be. It is important that we be ready. We do not want to be caught scurrying around at the moment He returns.

My questions then turn to what we need to do to be ready. I Thessalonians is very good encouragement from Paul as to how they should be living. Chapter 5:11 is particularly applicable to us: Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another just as you are doing.

Sometimes I find it helpful to leave the thinking of our current culture to go way back to the times much closer to when Jesus lived on earth and the church was just getting started. One early writer is John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (349-407). Here’s what he has to say about verse 11:

Do you see how everywhere Paul puts the health of the community into the hands of each individual? ‘Exhorting one another daily,’ he says, ‘while it is called today.’ Do not then cast all of the burden on your teachers, and do not cast everything on those who have authority over you. You are able to edify one another. He says this in writing to the the Thessalonians, ‘Edify one another, just as you are doing.’ And again, ‘Comfort one another with these words.’ If you are willing, you will have more success with one another than we can have. For you have been with one another a longer time. You know more about one another’s affairs. You are not ignorant of one another’s failings. You have more freedom of speech and love and intimacy. These are helpful for teaching….You have more ability than we do to reprove and exhort. Furthermore, because I am only one person, but you are many, you will be able to be teachers to one another.

John Chrysostom

So be ready for Jesus to come. Expect Him at any time. Live as though it could be today, or maybe tomorrow. Practice your hospitality. Talk to your family. Talk to your neighbors. Continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit until Jesus comes.

Who do you need to tell about the Redeeming Jesus?