Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Boyfriend or Bridegroom?



                I am going to begin with an apology.  You see, there is a general consensus out there that Church is for girls, or women.  The average person in the USA thinks that spirituality is better left to mothers and grandmothers.  

                The congregation I serve has a better view of things, I think.  We have a good number of men in leadership positions.  We have men teaching Sunday School and leading Bible classes.  We have men attending worship weekly.  Our Church is not girl-ish in the slightest.  

                But this message is going to have a slightly feminine bent to it.  I’m sorry guys.  Not all of my posts can be about football and war and snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails.  This one is about boyfriends and bridegrooms.  Just bear with me.

                Boyfriends are ok as far as they go.  This is generally the title that a young woman gives to a young man who is trying to win her affections.  What makes boyfriends nice is that they are, well, nice.  They buy flowers and chocolates.  They pay for dates and open doors.  Boyfriends remember anniversaries of the third time you held hands after dark and they let their love interest choose the movie and hold the popcorn.

                And hey, who can fault ladies for liking their boyfriends?  That all sounds well and good.  The problem with boyfriends is that they are by definition, well, “boys”.  They are not men.  Being boyfriend and girlfriend is ok for a while, but there comes a time when you have to grow up.  There comes a point when one is tired of being a boy or dating a boy.  Then it is time to call upon the bridegroom.

                Bridegrooms are men.  Bridegrooms don’t simply hold hands.  They consummate marriages.  They do not go on dates.  They throw wedding feasts.    They are courageous and strong.  They are not always nice and romantic, but they are always there, not blown here and there by the wind.  The bridegroom is the goal, the fulfillment of a relationship.  He brings, not a girl, but a woman into his home and creates a family.  Bridegrooms are far superior to boyfriends.  (No offense to any boyfriends out there.)

                And why do I bring this up?  It has to do with Jesus meeting a Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well.  

Perhaps we don’t catch this right away.  But think back through your Old Testament history.  Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.  What do they all have in common?  Each one of these men meets their wife beside a well.  Isaac’s servant finds Rebekah fetching water.  Jacob spies Rachel while she waters her sheep.  And Moses defends Zippora as she and her sisters water the flocks of Midian.  In the Old Testament, if you were a woman looking for a good man, the well was the place to meet.  

And this Samaritan woman finds such a good man, although maybe not the kind of man she was looking for.  This Samaritan woman, as Jesus points out to her, has had five bridegrooms in her past.  And she is now living with a 6th man who is not her husband.  And maybe number 6 is just not working out.  Perhaps this woman sees Jesus, a single man sitting by a well and asking for water, and she thinks He might be the new one.  Could this man be her new boyfriend?

No.  Jesus would not be her boyfriend.  He would not pander to her lifestyle.  He would not whitewash the obvious differences that there were between them.  Jesus does not want to be her boyfriend, her prophet, or her teacher.  He wants to be the bridegroom, her Savior, her Lord and Redeemer.

And so Jesus calls her away from her sinful life and to faith in Him.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit she believes.  This woman trusts that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, sent from God to save the world from sin, death, and hell.  

We see her faith in action immediately following her encounter with Jesus.  The Samaritan woman leaves behind her water jar and enters her village telling everyone who Jesus is and what He has done.  And the entire village believes.  Jesus stays with them, and becomes the Bridegroom, not only of Jews, but of the hated Samaritans.

Do you want Jesus to be your boyfriend or your Bridegroom?  I think today we are tempted to move in the direction of the boyfriend.  Jesus is someone who should make me feel better when I am sad.  He should be a shoulder to cry on.  He should give me the gifts I ask for and then leave me alone.  Jesus should be at my beck-and-call.  Think about how nice life could be if Jesus were simply your very own cosmically powerful boyfriend who simply wanted to win your affections and make you happy. 

But Jesus Christ is not your boyfriend.  He is the Bridegroom.  He does not cater to our desires without requiring anything of us.  He will have the Church for His Bride and the bride of no other.  He is a jealous husband.  He will not share.  He will not be satisfied until you are His, until there is a ring on your finger, until you share in His name, in His household.

Jesus will not take you on dates.  But He invites you to the feast.  Each week He calls you to Church to be fed from His bounty, from His Word.  He will not whitewash your differences, but He will forgive your sins.   He will erase your transgressions by His own suffering.  He will not whisper sweet nothings in your ear.  He will speak to you as often as you will hear Him of His boundless mercy and grace.  Jesus will not leave you alone.  He will give you His name, written upon your forehead, to mark you as His own.  He will not buy chocolates or flowers, but He will give you all He has, even His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins.  

In a world that is looking for fast relationships, easy arrangements, and quick hook-ups, Jesus Christ offers us something much more.  He offers to be more than a spiritual guru, more than some religious adviser.  He buys us with His blood.  He wins us from Satan with His death and resurrection.  He pays the price.  Jesus Christ will be the Bridegroom of His Church, and nothing less.

It is traditional in our day for the bridegroom to give a gift to his bride on their wedding day.  The traditional gift for us is a pearl, or a string of pearls.  You know, I don’t even remember what I gave Rebekah at our wedding, if I got her anything.  We were 20 years old and too poor to worry about pearls.  But, she married me anyway.

Jesus Christ has a gift for His Bride, the Church.  It is not as fancy as pearls, but it is far more memorable than nothing.  Jesus Christ gives us Living Water.  His gift to His Church, upon the occasion of their marriage, is a spring of water that wells up to eternal life.  It is His Holy Spirit.

This gift produces within us something new, something precious that cannot be counted in dollars and cents.  We are given, by the grace of God, faith in Jesus Christ, trust in the Bridegroom, that His death has bought us for Himself, that His love will never be taken from us.  May the gift of the Bridegroom strengthen your trust in Christ your Savior.       

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