2009-03: Jesus the Bridegroom


Question: In Mark 2:18-22, why does Jesus call himself the bridegroom? What is the meaning of the two parables that follow?

Answer: This is a particularly appropriate question to answer this month as we begin the great and holy period of Lent. When we come to Holy Week we will celebrate three evening services in which we sing, “Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the name of the Lord” (Holy Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings). In fact, we call these the Bridegroom services... The Old Testament pictures God as the bridegroom, or husband, of His people Israel (Isaiah 54:5-8; Jeremiah 31:32; Ezekiel 16:1-13; Hosea 2:18-20). 

            The passage from Mark’s gospel is as follows: (Mark 2:18-22) New King James Version


The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.

“No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

            The people of Jesus’ time were familiar with local tradition, especially with weddings. When a wedding was to take place amongst the middle class, everyone would gather and wait for the bridegroom. Often, someone would precede the bridegroom and would shout, “Behold, the bridegroom comes!” However, the game was to see how loyal his friends were and if they were prepared to wait for him. He might come in 15 minutes, or five hours... Once the bridegroom came into the place where the wedding was to take place, the doors were locked and only those present and waiting for the bridegroom would be able to stay for the wedding and following celebration, often lasting for many days. Once the bridegroom and his bride left, the celebration was over.

            Jesus identified himself as a bridegroom in this passage. What was veiled in his words was that he was The Bridegroom. In other words, he was identifying himself with the God of the Old Testament. He was also identifying the presence of a new covenant indicated by the new cloth and the new wineskins in the two simple parables that followed. You don’t patch an old garment with new cloth; the older cloth cannot stand up to the strength of the new. Also, newly made wine was placed in fresh leather wineskins where it fermented, thus causing the wineskins to expand. If such “new wine” were placed in wineskins previously used and thus fully stretched out and brittle, the old skins would burst under the pressure of the fermenting new wine, and the wine would be lost. Jesus is the “New Covenant”. In Hebrews 8:8, we read: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah...”. As for the old covenant, (Heb 8:13), “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”

What can we take from this passage, especially during this lenten season?


Have a blessed and fruitful Lent.