Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I Go To Prepare a Place For You!
"In my Father's house are many mansions..." Most people have heard this phrase taken from the fourteenth chapter of John. Jesus is addressing his disciples, preparing them for when he departs and returns to his Father. We have all sang the hymns and heard the sermons about the Day when Jesus will return and take us up to the huge mansions that he has been preparing for each one of us, and have probably even had conversations about who we will live next to when we get to heaven and occupy our estates. However, the word "mansion" is not found in the Bible. The word used here is better translated "rooms" as shown in most translations of the Bible besides the KJV. The text would read... "In my Fathers house are many rooms..." What is Jesus talking about? Does this mean we aren't going to be dwelling in huge mansions in a nice little culdesac? I think so. To better understand we need to read this in the context it was originally stated (or written). A first century Jewish one.
Throughout the scriptures, the church or the people of God are often pictured as the Bride of Christ. A marriage was very sacred and was a picture of the divine and the "human" coming together as one. It was common to have arranged marriages where the parents of a young man would choose a bride for their son. After a suiting young lady was chosen they would then bring the two families together to celebrate with a huge party. There would come a very special moment at this celebration where the groom to be would approach his potential bride and offer her a cup of wine. It was up to the young girl to accept or reject this offer. By rejecting the cup she was rejecting the young man for marriage. How awkward would that be, to have both sides of the family watching as you purposed to your lady, especially if this was the first time you were meeting, and she rejects you. It was her choice. She could reject the offer. However, she could also accept the cup, drink it, and in doing so announce their engagement to be married. Then the family would celebrate and party all the more. If she accepted the cup/proposal this was only the beginning of the engagement, they were not married. There were still things that needed to take place.
After the party the young man would go back to his father's house and start preparing a living space, or an additional room for the him and his bride to live in once they were married. The son would work day after day adding onto his father's house. These were called insulas, and after several generations these houses would become quite large. Periodically, the father would come and inspect the room and see if it was suitable for him and his bride to call home. The son had no idea when this room would be finished. It was completely up to the father.
Meanwhile, the young girl would be back at her families insula preparing for her bridegroom to come and get her. She would be learning how to be a good wife from her mother and the other ladies in the house. At night she would light an oil lamp (matt 25) and put it in her window in case her bridegroom came that night, because you never knew when the time would come. Could imagine how embarrassing it would be if the bride wasn't ready when her man came to get her.
Finally, the time would come when the father would inspect the room being prepared by the son, and the father would give his son the "go ahead" instructing him to go receive his bride. The bridegroom would go get his friends and they would march down the streets celebrating and proclaiming the coming of the bridegroom. He would get his bride and they would have a huge wedding celebration that could last for weeks.
Going back to the "engagement party" where the possible bride to be is faced with accepting or rejecting the cup that is offered to her. Once she accepts the cup and takes a drink, or says yes to the proposal, the groom will then follow with specific vows. He looks his bride to be in the eyes and says, "In my fathers house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if i go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there you may be also."
When Jesus spoke the words to his disciples they would have known exactly what he was talking about. Everyone had been to weddings and heard these vows. Jesus is comparing his departure and return with the promise a groom makes to his bride. The implications are huge. I seriously doubt the disciples left the conversation excited about the huge mansions they would one day live in thanks to their contractor Jesus. Instead, they were comforted. Jesus starts the conversation with, "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Like a bridegroom returns for his bride, I promise I'll be back.
And this is our promise as well. We are eagerly anticipating the day when we hear the cry that "the bridegroom is coming", and is making "ALL things new", not to take his people to mansions in the sky, but to dwell with his people here forevermore! (Rev 21:2-7)