I have attended church for the entire length of my conscious memory.
Goodness! I even earned a Christian Worship minor while in college.
The rituals and routines of Christianity are as familiar to me as my own reflection.
Yet, I had been missing something excruciatingly important until last Sunday.
When you are so involved in the culture of church, it is so easy to accept certain traditions at face value without truly understanding their significance. To treat the magical as the mundane. To mistake the ritual for the relationship.
Have you ever stopped to ponder what the practice of communion is symbolizing? The commitment of the cup? Is it simply a pantomime of Jesus’ final meal with His disciples – a way to remember the sacrifice that was made on our behalf?
I confess to you that was the extent of how I viewed it.
But I was barely scratching the surface of the grace God was extending to me through that tiny cup and wafer.
I wasn’t hearing His proposal.
Yes. that final night in the upper room, Jesus was making a proposal to His disciples – and all believers that would come after them.
There is a treasure trove of symbolism in the Last Supper that is lost to our modern culture – with tragic consequences. For us to truly grasp the wonder of what Christ was (and is!) presenting to us, we need to dive into ancient Jewish history.
Whereas marriage proposals are sometimes viewed as casual agreements in our society, they were securely binding in Jesus’ day. In fact, if one wanted to call off the engagement, a divorce was needed! The betrothal was set in motion with a meeting of the fathers. There, they would negotiate the price the father-of-the-groom would pay for the honor of bringing the woman into his family. Once they had reached an agreement for the “bride price”, the groom-to-be would approach the young lady with his proposal – and a cup of wine.
Here is where the lady had a choice.
If she didn’t want to enter into an engagement with him, she would simply refrain from drinking.
But if she did want to commit herself to him for life, she would drink from the cup until it was dry.
The excited groom would then present his fiancée with a precious gift as a token of his love. Afterwards, his duty was to return to his father’s house and prepare a room for her and their new life together. The young lady was assured he would return when the construction was complete; whereupon, the groom would joyfully take her home. Nobody but the father-of-the-groom was allowed to know the specific date.
During this waiting period, the bride would devote herself to getting ready. She would initiate and maintain beauty rituals, continue to learn the skills of homemaking, and most importantly, go to bed every night with her belongings ready to go. When she needed to move about outside, she wore a veil that told others she was “spoken for”.
It was very common for the groom to return for his bride at night. He would bring a gathering of friends and family, and wake his love with a shout and the blowing of a shofar. The radiant bride would then be lovingly escorted to her new home.
Do you get it?
Can you see it?
The Church is known as the Bride of Christ – and communion is the proposal.
If we only take communion out of remembrance and gratefulness for Jesus’ sacrifice, we are missing the depth of the relationship Christ is extending to us.
He is asking to marry us.
Our God of royalty and majesty, power and authority is also a God of romance and mystery, tenderness and sensitivity.
The bride price is His death.
We say “yes” to His proposal by sharing in the cup – but the choice is ours.
The gift He leaves us is the Holy Spirit.
He is preparing our eternal home as we speak.
And one day, he will return to claim His bride.
Don’t miss it. Don’t treat the commitment of the cup casually.
Get ready. Live in joyful anticipation of your groom returning for you! Live in such a way that when others see you, they know you are spoken for.
And the next time you drink of the cup, let me be the first to congratulate you!