According to the Jewish custom, betrothal was the first part of marriage when the bridegroom and bride make a binding agreement. Then the society considered both as husband and wife. However, they could not live together like married couples until their official wedding within a year. Joseph and Mary had betrothed and had not lived together when the Angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and announced the virgin birth of Jesus through her (Lk 1:27). People considered any infidelity in between the betrothal and the wedding as adultery that deserved severe punishment.
BETROTHAL AND JESUS
Jesus had established a covenant with his apostles at the Last Supper. It was like a wedding betrothal of the Jews. Jesus the groom had made the betrothal with his bride the church through the apostles who were the pillars of the church.
According to the Jewish wedding custom, the groom or his father had to pay a dowry (mohar) to the bride’s family. For example, before the wedding of Isaac, Abraham’s servant “brought out objects of silver and gold and clothing and presented them to Rebekah; he also gave costly presents to her brother and mother” (Gen 24:53). Jacob labored for Laban seven years each, to marry his daughters Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:15-30). The dowry that Jesus paid was the sacrifice of his life as a ransom for the redemption of his followers (Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45).
After the engagement, the groom would depart to his father’s house and prepare a space there for the couple. Then on an unexpected day, the groom would come to receive the bride, who would be eagerly waiting for the return of her husband for the marital union. Likewise, Jesus bid farewell to his dearly beloved church, promising that he would prepare a place for them in the Father’s mansion for their full communion with him (Jn 14:1-3). After preparing the dwelling in heaven, Jesus would return in glory to take the church to his dwelling place. However, the church should remain undefiled and faithful to her groom.
As Christians, we are the children of the church. As part of the church, we have to remain faithful to God by keeping the commandments of Jesus. Along with the church, we await the return of Jesus to enter his glory.