No Greater Love
Korazin – The City
Studying the ruins of Korazin and other Galilean towns, scholars have pieced together a picture of family life in the first century. Korazin stood in the northwestern corner of the Galilee region, about three miles from the sea. The nearby cities of Capernaum and Bethsaida joined Korazin as part of the “orthodox triangle,” an area inhabited primarily by devout Jews. Jesus spent a great deal of time in the triangle area, living in Capernaum and teaching in the towns and villages nearby. Just north of Korazin lay the Mount of Beatitudes, the hillside where Jesus may have presented the Sermon on the Mount.
Archaeologists have uncovered various ruins at Korazin. The remains of a synagogue, several buildings, and an oil pressing installation can be seen today. They have also discovered a Moses, seat the special seat for Torah readers in the Korazin synagogue. Studying the ruins of Korazin and other Galilean towns, scholars have pieced together a picture of family life in the first century. As he taught, Jesus drew on many family practices that were common in his day.
Jesus used the image of an insula – clusters of buildings where extended families lived together – to describe the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ time, families usually lived in clusters of buildings called insulas. These clusters were built around a central courtyard. Grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts all lived and interacted together in the insula.
As sons married, they added to the insula. After asking a girl to marry him, the son would return to his village and build new rooms onto his father’s home. The son, anxious to be married, waited for the day when his father declared that the building was complete. Then he could finally marry his bride and bring her to their new home.
Jesus presented a beautiful picture of heaven when he said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2-3). This word-picture presented Jesus as a bridegroom, preparing new rooms for his followers in the insula of heaven.
When Jesus described his second coming, he again used the picture of a young bridegroom, waiting for his father’s approval to return for his bride: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36).
By using the familiar images of an insula, Jesus helped his followers to understand the kingdom of God a household of faith where God’s family lives in close community.
Jesus also used pictures from the wedding customers of his day to depict his deep love for his followers. First-century Galileans had several wedding traditions that influenced Jesus’ teaching as well. When it was time for a man and woman to marry, both fathers would negotiate the bride price, recognizing that the bride would be a precious loss to her family.
Taking a cup of wine, the groom drank from it and offered it to the woman, symbolically saying that he wanted to make a covenant and would be willing to give his life for her. The woman sealed the engagement by drinking from the same glass. From that moment, she was referred to as one who was “bought with a price,” distinguishing her as an engaged woman.
The groom then returned to his father’s house and built new rooms, adding on to the family insula. Meanwhile, the bride prepared herself and her bridesmaids for the day of her groom’s return. Not knowing when the groom would come, wise brides made preparations immediately so they would not be caught unprepared.
When the groom finally finished building and gained his father’s approval, he would travel to his bride’s village and blow the shofar. The bride would hear and know that her wedding day had arrived. The “best man” stood at the door while the bride and groom consummated the marriage. When he heard the groom come to the door, he announced that the couple was married and the seven-day reception began.
Jesus the Bridegroom
Jesus compared himself to a bridegroom who paid a bride’s price and went to his Father’s house to prepare a place for her. In order to communicate his deep love for us, Jesus described his love in terms of a family community. Her compared himself to a bridegroom who paid a steep price for his bride and went to his father’s house to prepare a place for her.
Jesus made this comparison especially clear during the Last Supper. Taking a cup of wine in his hands, he told his disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). No doubt his disciples immediately recognized the imagery of a marriage proposal. And they were able to picture the depths of Jesus’ love, a love so deep that Jesus made a covenant with them and was willing to give his life for them.
By using marriage imagery, Jesus said, in effect, “I love you as my bride, so I’ll pay the bride price. I’ll give up my life for you and to go my Father’s house to prepare a place for you. And one day I will return and take you to be with me forever.” Writing to the Corinthians, Paul used the bridegroom picture as well: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19). His words reminded Jesus’ believers that they were his brides-to-be, waiting for the day when he would return and take them home.
Guidelines for the Bride
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount gave guidelines for his “brides” to follow as they prepared for his return. When God established the covenant with his people, Moses climbed a mountain to receive the covenant law. Jesus, who came to fulfill that covenant, gave the new covenant guidelines on a mountain as well. But instead of the wilderness mountain at Sinai, Jesus taught on a hill near Korazin.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount gave new guidelines for his “brides” to follow as they prepared for his return. He challenged them with the Beatitudes, a list of virtues that could change the world. Jesus knew that it would be difficult for his followers, living in an evil world while they awaited his return. His Sermon on the Mount presented a new battle plan for confronting that evil. But it sounded like a strange plan: Fight evil with the weapons of service and love.
In the face of violence and hate, Jesus wanted his brides to demonstrate mercy, meekness, and compassion. By living out the challenges of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ “brides” would demonstrate the greatest love of all%u2014the love of their spiritual Bridegroom.
A Revolutionary Way
As they watch Christians live, nonbelievers should see Jesus’ deep love and sacrifice come to life. Although today’s marriage customs differ from those of Jesus’ time, the love of our Bridegroom has not changed. Jesus is preparing a place for his brides in heaven, and he anxiously awaits the day when he can return and bring us home.
Sadly, many people do not understand Jesus’ love. They put their hope in cheap love, seeking emotions and physical pleasure as the source of happiness. Or they see love as a tool, using deceit and selfishness to pull them up the ladder of success. Love gets distorted time and again, leaving people wounded and miserable. As Jesus’ brides, we should demonstrate his love to a hurting world. Jesus encouraged his followers to develop compassion, humility, and mercy. These virtues will serve as our weapons for confronting evil and bringing healing to our world.
Fortunately, we are not alone in this effort. As Christians, we are part of the kingdom of God, which Jesus described as a close-knit insula family. In our own communities, families, churches, businesses, and friends, we should live the kingdom lifestyle, challenging and encouraging each other along life’s journey.
In a culture that prizes individualism and “rights,” the unity and grace of God’s family should stand out. As they watch us, nonbelievers will see Jesus? deep love and sacrifice come to life.
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