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The Lamb of God and Mystery Bridegroom

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Do you keep mementos? I have boxes of cards and letters from my wife and children. In addition, I have items around the house that are expressions of love directed toward me. The apostle John, who referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20), filled his gospel with mementos of Jesus’ life and teaching. In an era without cameras, John penned a slide show filled with deeply meaningful pictures of Jesus Christ the Son of God. In the beginning chapters, he juxtaposes pictures of Jesus as the Lamb of God and the mystery Bridegroom (John 1:29-2:11).

The Wedding at Cana

The Lamb and the Bride

The apostle John makes a point of linking the Lamb of God to the wedding at Cana by counting the intervening days between the two narratives (see sidebar). Also, the apostle John quotes two of John the Baptist’s great metaphors for the Christ: “the Lamb of God” and “the bridegroom” (John 1:29, 36; 3:28-30). In another book by the apostle John, Revelation, we read about a bride and a wedding feast. However, John does not use the word bridegroom there. Rather it is “the Lamb… and his Bride (Rev. 19:7) and “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:9).

The Mystery Bridegroom

Above all, the strongest indication that John portrays Jesus as the mystery bridegroom comes at the end of the Cana wedding account.

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

John 2:9-11

Earlier in the account, Mary expresses concern they are running out of wine (John 2:2). John’s original audience would understand how embarrassing that was for the host. Whose reputation is on the line? According to the master of the feast (the emcee), it is the bridegroom’s responsibility to provide the wine. However, we realize the master of feast is in the dark. The servants (and we the reader) know something he does not know. The replenished wine came through the miraculous work of Jesus. In approaching the wedding groom, the emcee was talking to the wrong guy. Not only had Jesus supplied the wine that the groom had failed to provide, but he also produced better wine. He had outbridegroomed the bridegroom.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…

Revelation 1:5

The Mystery of Marriage

Many people miss the point of this passage because they make it about marriage instead of about Christ. They see its primary purpose to be extolling the virtue of marriage or promoting a Christ-centered marriage. Marriage is a sacred institution. We should keep Christ central to every aspect of life, including marriage. However, only as we understand the mystery revealed in Christ, can we see the beautiful, yet subordinate, purpose of marriage.

In his letter to the Ephesian church, the apostle Paul reveals that Christ’s sacrificial, redemptive love for his church is a profound mystery that sheds light on the institution of marriage (Eph. 5:31-32). Christ’s union with his church is not a metaphor for marriage; marriage is a metaphor for Christ’s love for his church. Christ’s love for his Church is not merely a pattern for husbands and wives to emulate. Spirit filled marriages picture Christ’s marriage to his church. In heaven, human marriage will no longer exist (Matt. 22:30) because it will find its fulfillment in the glorious kingdom of God. Our Savior longs for the everlasting union with his beloved Church which will be consummated in the heavenly kingdom (John 17:20-24). When that glorious eternal day comes, marriage like the moon will give way to the glorious brilliance of the sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2; Matt. 13:43).

With His Own Blood He Bought Her

So why does the apostle John portray the Lamb of God as the mystery bridegroom? Christ, God’s spotless, sacrificial Lamb, purchased his Bride at the cost of his precious blood. This is the love story that eclipses all others. It will be the theme of eternal praises. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6).

The hymn writer captured this beautifully:

From heaven he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.

The Church’s One Foundation, Samuel J. Stone, 1866

For now we, his Bride, await “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:13-14). We have a taste of that glory now, but he has saved the best for last. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9).

The Sixth Day

John counts the days from John the Baptist’s public testimony to the Jewish leaders about the Christ up to Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding feast. The number of days adds up to six:

  • day 1: John 1:19-28 (“This is the testimony of John…”)
  • day 2: John 1:29-34 (“The next day… Behold the Lamb of God…”)
  • day 3: John 1:35-42 (“The next day… Behold the Lamb of God…”)
  • day 4: John 1:43-51 (“The next day… He [Jesus] found Philip…” )
  • day 6: John 2:1-11 (“On the third day there was a wedding…” – counting from day 4 inclusive)

Could John be pointing out the parallel with history’s first wedding that occurred on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 2:22-24) and the arrival of the heavenly Bridegroom?

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