There is a desire in each of us to live as best we can. I think it is innate, designed into us. It’s a desire that Jesus said he came to fulfill.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10.)
A full life sounds wonderful, right? Jesus showed that this fullness is in the love he has for us, and he displayed it in some startling ways, like washing the feet of the people who were supposed to instead be serving him. We’re told he did this because
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1.)
To the end? But we want to share full lives forever with those we love and who love us.
It’s a good thing Jesus promised that his leaving was only temporary.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3.)
The really interesting thing about that last passage is how his friends would have understood it. Jesus was talking about Jewish marriage traditions, what a Jewish groom would do for his bride after their betrothal. He’d go home and spend up to a year preparing a place for his wife, whether it required an addition built onto his father’s house or something less involved. After he finished, he’d return for the wedding. That would last week or so, and then the groom would take the bride to live with him in his father’s house forever.
Jesus’ friends – all men in that John 14 conversation – would have understood what he was saying. He was saying that he was the groom and they were the bride. I’m not sure how that sat with them initially, that they were a bunch of women in this story. Yet when you think of all he’d told them, it probably ended up sounding good even to men steeped in a patriarchal society where women were far lower down the social scale than men. After all, Jesus had said a lot of audacious things and he came through on all of them. He was worth trusting.
I can even imagine John, who was there that night leaning right up against Jesus, might have smiled as he recalled the scene when adding it to his gospel of the life of Christ. What better than to be betrothed to the Son of God.
[My thanks to Darrell Johnson for his lectures on the Upper Room Discourse, which included insights on 1st Century wedding practices.]