Jesus was a Master at teaching by examples that listeners of His day would understand. For instance, in Matthew 13:1-9 when He taught the parable of the sower, his listeners understood. Many of them earned their livelihood by planting, harvesting, sowing and reaping. The same was true for the parable of the leaven in Matthew 13:33-43. Bread was a staple food in Jewish households. They knew all about baking and what leaven did for making bread.
In three short verses (John 14:1-3) Jesus describes to His listeners the meaning of the resurrection, and the meaning of living with Him in Heaven forever. He also foretold His second coming. He uses the analogy of the Jewish marriage ceremony to convey his message.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said. “Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms (“mansions” in the KJV); if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.”
His listeners could relate personally to His illustration. The Jewish people regarded home and family as the focal point of society in Jesus’ day. Traditions, customs and family matters dominated social life. The father’s house usually provided stability, safety, consistency and shelter for the wife and all their children and their sons’ families as well. Home and family paralleled the Temple in importance to first century Jewish people.
A centuries-old family marriage tradition provided that sons would add rooms onto the father’s house when they married so the couple could remain a part of the father’s family. If a young Jewish man took an interest in a Jewish girl, he would first go to his father to ask permission. The groom’s father and the prospective bride’s father would meet to discuss terms of the marriage. After fathers of the prospective bride and groom entered into a marriage agreement and the groom paid the bride-price, the community regarded the couple as betrothed.
When the marriage ceremony finally concluded (possibly up to one year after the engagement), the groom left his bride with her family. The groom returned to his father’s house and built a room onto his father’s house where he and his new bride would live with the rest of the family. The prospective bride stayed home and the family women taught her how to be a good wife and mother, according to Jewish traditions.
When the bridegroom completed adding a room onto his father’s house, he would return to his bride’s house (usually at night) to retrieve her. Then the groom would take his bride back to their new home, “that where I am there you may be also.” v.3b.
Every Jewish Christian living in the first century remotely familiar with their ancient Jewish marriage customs understood the parallels were about them.¹