Read or listen to John 14:1-14
The Bride of Christ—what a wonderful way to describe the relationship of the church to Jesus. Some might also say the relationship of New Jerusalem to Jesus. In any case, it is a wonderful metaphor.
Now which gospel writer used this term?
Maybe it was Paul?
Can’t find the words “Bride of Christ” in your Bible?
Maybe it is in the Apocrypha?
Or in the “Q” Gospel?
Much like the word rapture, we use the term “Bride of Christ” without any scriptural reference to these specific words. There are scriptures that point to such a relationship. Chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians and chapter 5 of Ephesians make analogy between a husband and wife and Christ and the church.
Chapter 19 over Revelation mentions the marriage supper of the Lamb.
It seems like the term “Bride of Christ” is very appropriate, but if the church is the bride, where was our proposal? Where was the betrothal? Surely this isn’t going to be a shotgun wedding?
We see examples of what a Jewish wedding looked like in the first century. In chapter 2 of John, Jesus is attending a wedding in Cana. This is most likely the part after the consummation and the party is in full swing.
In chapter 25 of Matthew, we see 10 virgins—bridesmaids—waiting for the groom. Five are ready and go with the bride when the groom comes to claim her. Five miss out, but we get another glimpse of a wedding two thousand years ago.
It was a little more complicated that today. It was a little more than a man saying to a woman, “Ya wanna get hitched?”
There was some family involvement. Families would talk. Something like a dowry would be agreed upon. The framework of the proposed marriage was put in place, but there still needed to be a proposal—a betrothal.
When all of the other discussion had concluded, that proposal probably went something like this. In my father’s house, there are many rooms. I would not tell you this if it were not true. I will go and prepare a place for you and when it’s ready, I will come and take you with me. You can’t come with me now, but I will come for you. So ya wanna get hitched?
The bride agrees and the groom goes to add on to his father’s house or build a new house next to it, probably using one of the existing walls, and when he is ready, he comes to claim his bride.
She knows the general timeframe in which he is coming, but the actual arrival time is still a bit of a surprise. The bride and bridesmaids get themselves ready to the groom to come.
He comes, claims his bride, takes her home in quite a procession, consummates his marriage, and then the party of all parties begins.
It seems like we as the followers of Jesus—what would become his church—have been betrothed in chapter 14 of John’s Gospel. We did get our proposal.
If you understand the general analogy that is going on here, you might have to do some major paradigm shifting with the rest of what follows.
Jesus says, “You know where I am going.”
Thomas says, “We don’t know the way!”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus answered a specific question from Thomas (probably from all of the disciples, but Thomas had the gumption to ask). Thomas seeks geography. Jesus once again frames the answer in terms of himself.
Over the last century, Christianity has taken these words–No one comes to the Father except through me–to proclaim an exclusiveness of salvation through a set of words said in the right way or else” good luck with hell”.
We should not take these words out of context. These are Jews who believe in the God of Abraham. They have known there is a God for their entire lives. This God spoke to and gave law through Moses. This God gave prophecy that promised a Messiah, a Savior, a Christ.
Now Jesus is telling his disciple who he is, but they still asked to see the Father. Let’s look at who Jesus told us that he was by considering all the I Am metaphors in John. Jesus said I Am:
- The bread of life
- The light of the world
- The door or the gate
- The good shepherd
- The resurrection and the life
- The way, the truth, and the life
- The true vine
At this point, in the course of this Farwell Discourse, Jesus has compared himself to all but the last of the statements. This comes in the next chapter. Even after all this explanation, the disciples ask Jesus to show them the Father. He says that if you have seen him you have seen the Father. He calls upon them to believe that the Father is in him and he does the Father’s will. He even says, “If you can’t believe me, then believe the works you have seen me do.”
We should be very careful about taking the way, the truth, and the life verbiage as the exclusive way to salvation. This is a discussion about seeing God the Father. To make this a passage of exclusivity, puts the gospel writers in conflict with each other.
Consider what prompted Jesus to tell the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28 (New International Version)
Jesus didn’t say, “Yeah, like you can really live by my Father’s instructions. That was a set up from the beginning.” He did say, “Do this and you will live.” The context of the conversation was eternal life.
Sometimes we try to extract too much theology out of a conversation. Jesus said he came to save not condemn. Let’s not try to box him in. We know life through Jesus. We need not look anywhere else.
Many of you have pondered what happens to those folks in the upper regions of Tibet or the deepest part of Africa who never have contact with a Christian missionary or even a televangelist or a podcast message of salvation. Do they burn in hell?
Here is the classic question that goes with that. What about the missionary on his way to a village to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ for the first time to these people. The missionary has a flat tire and arrives an hour after a violent storm has killed half the village. Are they just out of luck as far a salvation goes?
Let us be very cautious about how far we extend the application of words that originally were a discussion about seeing God the Father. Jesus said that he was the way, the truth, and the life. Then he said that no one comes to the Father except by him. Jesus explained who he was, then how his disciples could come to know God the Father.
Does that discount anything that Jesus did?
No! We who have Jesus are a special people. We proclaim the might acts of God to the world. We proclaim life through Jesus. When we need to stop and sit down for a while, we need to make sure we don’t park ourselves on a judgment seat. That’s reserved for someone else.
In this context, we then we see the first of two distinct promises in this chapter. That is, if you believe in Jesus, you will do greater things than even he has done. The second promise comes in the second half of the chapter, so we will address only the first at this time.
We know from all of our study that we who follow Jesus are a special people. We will do special things. God will bless the things that we do in the name of Jesus. Jesus calls his disciple to do great things. Telling someone that they are going to hell is not one of them.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Let us learn to follow him without accepting the job of condemning the world.