Do you love church? Or do you love the Church? I remind you, the Church is not a building of brick and mortar, or wood, plaster, sheet rock, and shingles. The Church is the people, the people of God. One of the scriptural images of the Church – believers in Jesus Christ – is that the Church is the bride and Jesus Christ is the bridegroom.
Scripture makes clear as we read from Ephesians that Jesus Christ loves the Church. The Church is full of imperfect people, yet Jesus is crazy about His people in love, committed to our well-being, sacrificial in serving us. His love for us is unconditional and eternal. So I’d like to explore some powerful truths about Jesus the Bridegroom and those who believe in Jesus as the bride of Christ.
First, Jesus is the Bridegroom who pursues the Church to rescue her. As in Ephesians 5, “. . . as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her. . . .” Anytime a wife would be in danger, the husband, because of his love, would put his life on the line to rescue her.
I recently read a story in the newspaper of a man in Gwembe, Zambia Africa. In the year 2011, his wife was snatched by a big crocodile while she was washing clothes in the river. The man dove into the river and swam to where the big crock had his wife in his jaws. He grabbed the crocodile around the belly and dragged it back to the shallows. Then he jammed his hand and arm into the mouth of crocodile and began to beat the crock on the head with a stick until finally it released it’s grip on his wife and tried to snatch the husband in it’s jaws. The crocodile missed the husband and swam away. Both husband and wife were bloody but safe. The husband had rescued his wife.
Jesus is the Bridegroom who rescues His people, the bride of Christ. He does it in love at great sacrifice. Every Popeye has his Olive Oyl. Every Tarzan is willing to rescue his Jane. I love reading Louis L’Amour westerns where the hero cowboy defeats the evil people, and in the end gets the girl.
This is the Bible’s eternal plot line. Jesus comes for His people to rescue us in love and defeat the evil one. Jesus is the Bridegroom who pursues us to rescue us in love, but He also comes as the Bridegroom to propose to His beloved. It’s an invitation of love that requests a response. This is the nature of love – to confess it and risk rejection.
Do you remember the movie “Runaway Bride” where Julia Roberts plays the character Maggie Carpenter? The movie is called “Runaway Bride” because Maggie has been engaged multiple times but always leaves her betrothed husband standing at the altar.
The essence of the lifetime love that God offers us in Jesus Christ is not one only based on momentary passion or feeling. God offers us a covenant of love that evokes a commitment of love and trust from us. The Bridegroom and the bride are invited to say I do, and our yes to Jesus Christ invites us to say yes in faith in response to Jesus Christ.
Have you ever, in a simple prayer of faith, said Yes, Jesus. I believe in You. God’s Spirit continually whispers His invitation that we would share His love and His life day by day in a covenant of love.
Jesus is also the Bridegroom who protects His bride to keep her safe in His arms of love. In Psalm 62 we read, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone.” When the arms of Jesus’ promises surround us, our faith trusts His strength. Jesus is our safe place. His strength holds us up. We hide in His love.
But that type of protective love also is a jealous love. In Exodus, it says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (20:5). God is not insecure or paranoid. He tolerates no rivals. Intimacy by definition means being exclusive to one. God is a jealous God who wants us to love Him above all others.
Do you remember when God asked Hosea to take a prostitute to be his wife as a living image of the Lord’s love for His people, Israel? Hosea’s love for Gomer, whom he bought off the streets to be his wife, took her into his home and loved her, was an image of the Lord’s love for His people. Undeserved, yet God was willing to make the commitment to pay the price that His people would be His wife.
Gomer gave birth to two children for Hosea. The promise of the Lord is, I will betroth you to me forever. Sadly, though, Gomer eventually returned to her life on the street, selling herself for personal gain and indulging herself in unfaithfulness to her husband. But God asked Hosea to buy her back again – to pay for her to be his wife again.
This is an image of God’s love for you and me. Jesus fights for us to stay in His love. He forgives us with His grace over and over again so we might, as the recipients of His love and desire, delight to live in His presence as our Bridegroom. Remember how in the Song of Songs it says, “I am my beloved’s and he is mine” (6:3), and “His banner over us is love” (2:4b). It also says in Romans that Jesus is the Bridegroom who prays for His bride (8:36). “Nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:39).
Christ Jesus is He who died on the cross, who was raised from the dead, and now is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Jesus knows your every need before you even name it to Him in prayer. What a powerful truth – the Lord of the world, the Lord of life, who died on the cross to buy you to be His bride, is raised from the dead to give you life forever in His name, and now is in the presence of God praying for your every need. That’s how much He loves you!
In His love for you, Jesus the Bridegroom wants to perfect our love for Him as He calls us into a deeper level of intimacy. Like the Scriptures speak of husband and wife becoming one, Jesus wants our bodies, our minds and emotions, our spirits to all be one having the mind of Christ and truly affectionately loving Jesus with gratitude, trusting Him and giving ourselves to serve His mission in the world. We are inseparably one with Jesus Christ.
Maybe the most profound of all is that Jesus is the Bridegroom who dresses us in the glory of His love and the garments of His salvation to cover our flaws, our failures, and our naked shame. It says in Isaiah, “I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God. He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in the robe of his righteousness” (61:10).
I remember once, when my wife Denise and I were young parents, we went with our family on a vacation and stayed overnight in a motel. The kids were hoping to go swimming in the pool, but I had forgotten my swimsuit. The motel, however, had a vending machine with a paper weave swimsuit. What could go wrong there? It was probably 20 or 30 minutes after we were swimming, and my daughter Andrea said, “Daddy, is the back of your swimsuit supposed to hang down like that?”
In every person’s life, there are moments where we stand exposed. Where in our foolishness, our failures, or our sinful ego we have done wrong. We’re flawed, broken, dirty. We’re naked, ashamed, and guilty. To the glory of Jesus, the Bridegroom never stops loving us despite our imperfections. He dresses us in the clothing of His salvation that He drapes around us, the glory of His love and the robe of His perfect righteousness. The whole basis of you and me belonging to Jesus the Bridegroom is the power of His promise to be faithful. We gladly dress in His righteousness. Then Jesus the Bridegroom presents us proudly as His bride.
Have you seen my beloved, my delight? Wonder of wonders how Jesus continually loves us. Scripture says someday Jesus, the Bridegroom, will return for His bride on earth, the Church. That will be our wedding day. In Revelation it says, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him . . .” (1:7). And “The name of the one on the white horse is faithful one” (19:11). Jesus the Bridegroom is coming someday for His bride.
One of the last words in the scriptural witness is the Aramaic word Maranatha. Simply translated, Come Lord Jesus. As we revel in the love Jesus has for us, as we trust Jesus as our Savior, the Son of God our Lord, we would say Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.
Jesus makes us ready for that day. He has placed on us the glory of His righteousness. Remember that Disney song – “Someday my Prince will come. Someday I’ll find his love.” Someday Jesus is coming for us.
One of the greatest Christian leaders of the last century was John Stott. He was the director of All Souls Langham Place in London. Stott was a wonderful preacher, Bible teacher, author, global leader to many. Os Guiness wrote an article about his relationship with John Stott. “I knew Stott over many decades,” wrote Os, but I will never forget my last visit to his bedside three weeks before he died. We spent an unforgettable hour and more sharing memories over the years, and then I asked Stott how he would like me to pray for him. Lying weakly on his back in bed and barely able to speak, he answered me in a hoarse whisper, “Pray that I will be faithful to Jesus until my last breath.”
Isn’t that our prayer? That we, who are the bride of Christ and the recipients of His love, would be faithful to Jesus the Bridegroom until our last breath? You see, we are the bride of Christ Jesus the Bridegroom, and someday He is coming back for us. We live with an eye to the sky, expecting the Bridegroom will come on our wedding day.
Jesus loves us with passion, affection, and commitment and we bask in the love of Jesus as the Prince of love. In His love, the Spirit fills us so we can love others in His name – Jesus the Bridegroom – perfect in His faithfulness. We are His bride. Amen.
Rev. Lee Laaveg