In the first century, when a young Jewish man wanted to marry a young Jewish woman, he went to the woman’s father and purchased the right to ask her. (He wasn’t purchasing the woman, only the right to ask.)
Next, the hopeful young man approached the woman and held out a cup filled with grape juice. This was the cup of his covenant. If the woman drank from the cup, she was accepting his marriage proposal.
At that point, the young man would return home and prepare a place for them to live by building an extension onto his own father’s house. During the time the bride and groom were apart, he would send her messages via his best man.
If the woman drank from the cup, she was accepting the man’s marriage proposal.
When the groom finished building the place for his bride, it was not the groom, but the groom’s father, who declared it ready. Then with great fanfare and the blast of the shofar, the groom would rush to his bride, sweep her off her feet, and bring her home to live with him forever.
“Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom’” (Matt. 26:27-29).
Christ himself had led the children of Israel by the hand into the land of abundance. “Out of all nations,” He lovingly promised her, “you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5, 6).
But again and again the unfaithful wife wandered from her husband, breaking his heart. He desired to commune with his beloved, yet her love was like the morning mist. Was there no hope? His words are heavy with finality: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:37, 38).
Yet, here He is again, in Jerusalem, before His own, selected from His own to whom He had come though they would not receive Him. He is here to raise the cup that betokens His death and God’s undying love for those who within hours will abandon him again. Still, He reassures them and us that his love will endure through their unfaithfulness, and ours too.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there 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 also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).