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"'Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I was going 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 may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.'" John 14:1-4 NIV.
Such familiar words! Like the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm, we learned them at our mother's knee and heard them at every funeral we attended.
But this is not funeral talk; this is wedding talk! Wedding talk? Yes, this is part of the prospective bridegroom's proposal and the conclusion of his courtship.
When a young Jewish couple has drawn up their ketubah, their pre-nuptial marriage contract, and signed it in the presence of their fathers, the groom would formally propose to his bride. If she agrees to marry him, and by this time, of course, she has indicated her intention to say yes, he would tell her, "I am going to my father's house to prepare the bridal chamber." She would reply, "When will you return?" and he would respond, "When my father is satisfied with the bridal chamber, he will send me back to take you to his house that where I am you may be also."
This exchange would mark the beginning of the betrothal period which was as legally binding as the marriage itself. To break the engagement was regarded as divorce -- hence Joseph's dilemma when he found out that his fiancée, Mary, was pregnant out of wedlock. He decided to divorce her privately rather than publicly disgrace her and risk her being stoned for infidelity.
In all the confusion of the escalating events and the disciples' misunderstanding of Jesus' intentions, did they catch the magnitude of what He was telling them? God (Jesus) had betrothed Israel to Himself at Mount Sinai, but they were persistently unfaithful to Him by their idolatry until He finally "divorced" them by allowing them to be sent into exile in Babylon. Now He was offering them a second opportunity to accept His marriage proposal and to be a chaste bride, unlike their forefathers, faithful to Him, their bridegroom.
The Bible is full of the imagery of a marriage to God. The Apostle Paul expressed his concern over the church at Corinth because, it seems, they did not understand the seriousness of the condition they were in. Some of them were dabbling in their old sinful ways, and he pleaded with them, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him." 2 Corinthians 11:2 NIV.
Would they have understood that Jesus was inviting them into a relationship with Him as intimate as a marriage relationship? In the last tender moments with them before He left them for good, He wanted them to know that this was not the end of a lovely friendship. Unlike earthly friends or marriage partners who are separated when death comes His departure was to be the beginning of an association far closer and more intimate than His presence on earth with them had been.
Even if they did not understand at that moment, He was sowing the seeds of His word into their minds which the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance at a later time. Sorrow, uncertainty, apprehension, misunderstanding and confusion blocked them from making sense of what He was saying. As always, He tried to calm their fears with His reassurance, "Don't be scared. Just trust me."
That's all He asks of us when stuff happens and life makes no sense. Hindsight will help us to understand but, in the meantime, Jesus encourages us as He did His disciples, "Don't be afraid. Just trust me." It is not easy when our whole world rocks or falls apart. Trusting Him means being still and letting Him guide us through whatever is happening. When our minds are in turmoil, we make foolish decisions out of our emotions.
Isaiah gives us a solid rock on which to stand while our world is "rocking". "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself is the Rock eternal." Isaiah 26:3, 4. NIV.
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