Among the details found within the rich fabric of John 3, is a reference regarding the love the Divine Groom has for his precious bride Israel. Consider John 3:29: The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.
In context the speaker, John the Baptist, is reminding his followers of his joyful willingness to be “the friend” of the bridegroom; that bridegroom being none other than Jesus. As the friend, John’s task had been to prepare the way for the Groom. This was his pleasure . . . his calling . . . his privilege. He was what the ancient Hebrews called the shoshbin–the faithful friend of the groom. Today we would call him the “best man.”
Much could be said about John the Baptist’s self-awareness; his own understanding of his role as the forerunner to Jesus the Messiah. Like the shoshbin of old, John helped to bring the Groom to the bride. Within this brief parable, however, is something else of significance–something far beyond the scope of that role.
You see, from the most ancient days the prophets told of the husband-like love of God for his bride Israel. Isaiah 54:4-8 is an example of this. Note the following:
“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I deserted you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing anger for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,”
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
For your Maker is you husband, the Lord of hosts is his name. God has put himself in the position of being the Divine Husband to Israel. His love for her is that deep and abiding. He pursues her with a relentless love. Even when she has been cast off, the Divine Husband calls her. And this pursuit is manifested most vividly in coming of God the Son, Jesus Christ.
The only problem, of course, is that Israel the Bride rejected the encroachments of the Divine Husband. John 1:10-11 reads, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Thus, in time, the Husband turned his attention toward another. The Apostle Paul helps us see this in Ephesians 5:25-32:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. . . . This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
The depth of love of the Divine Husband is so great that it has to be shed abroad. With the object of his unique affection, Israel, having rejected him, he offers his love to another, a bride of nations–believing Jews and Gentiles–those who would call upon the name of Jesus for salvation; the Church. As such, Jesus continues to fill the role of Promised Groom. One day, by God’s incredible grace, Israel shall once again be the beneficiary of his husband-affection. Consider Romans 11:11-12: So I ask, did [Israel] stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!