Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Brant Pitre – Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study
Jesus the Bridegroom is a unique exploration of how Jesus’s suffering and death fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of a divine wedding—the God of the universe forming an everlasting nuptial covenant with his people. As Scott Hahn says: “This book will change you. It is an invitation to experience the sacraments, personal prayer, Scripture study, and marriage. Most of all, it will deepen your love for Christ.” In this book, many familiar passages of the Bible are transformed; when seen in the light of Jewish Scripture and tradition, we begin to see the life of Christ as nothing less than the greatest love story of all time.
- In the Bible as well as in Church teaching, there are many references to Christ as the “Bridegroom” and the Church as his “Bride.” What does this mean?
- In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul describes the relationship between a husband and wife. Why does Paul tell wives to “submit” to their husbands? Why don’t husbands have to submit to their wives, but just have to love them? What might the deeper meaning of these verses be—or do you see these words of Paul as chauvinistic and outdated?
- In this same chapter of Ephesians, Paul compares the relationship between husbands and wives with Christ and the Church. Paul’s view is that the torture and crucifixion Jesus endured was an expression of spousal love. How do you explain something that sounds so mysterious—even incongruous? How could Jesus’s death be compared to a husband’s love for his wife? How could a brutal crucifixion be compared to a wedding?
- If you had been present at the crucifixion and watched Jesus die such a painful death, how would you have described what was happening?
Chapter 1: The Divine Love Story
- Today, some modern views of God range from seeing him as the Creator (who may or may not be involved in our daily affairs) to an impersonal “Higher Power” or an invisible “Problem Solver” to be invoked when things are out of control. How do these various contemporary definitions of God differ from the way first-century Jews saw God?
- How do you see God? Has your view of who he is changed over the years, and in what ways?
- How might seeing God as a “Bridegroom” change the way you relate to him? How would it change the way you view sin? What would be different if you truly saw sin as “spiritual adultery,” the betrayal of a relationship, instead of just “breaking the law” or “missing the mark”?
- What does salvation mean to you? Do you see it as just the forgiveness of sins (as wonderful as that is), or do you see salvation as union with God? How would you describe what it means to be in union with God?
- After reading this chapter, how has your understanding of the Song of Songs changed or expanded? Why would ancient Jewish tradition identify the bridegroom in the Song of Songs as God?
Chapter 2: Jesus the Bridegroom
- If someone asked you to explain who Jesus of Nazareth was, why he lived, and why he died, how would you answer?
- When John the Baptist tells his disciples that he is not the Messiah but rather the “friend of the bridegroom,” what do you think his hearers thought? What do you think John expected them to take away from what he said?
- How do you typically read the Bible? What might change for you if you began to understand the words of Scripture from their original, first-century Jewish context?
- Jesus’s first public miracle was changing water into wine at a wedding (see John 2:1–11). Since Jesus was only a guest at this wedding, why do you think Mary would have mentioned the lack of wine to him?
- Why does Jesus address Mary as “Woman” instead of “Mother”? If he wasn’t being disrespectful, why would he have chosen to speak to her that way?
- Jesus indicated to Mary that it’s not “his hour.” What could this mean? But then, he performed a miracle anyway. What did he intend his disciples to understand by this sign?
- Reflect on this first miracle of Jesus in light of the ancient Jewish expectation of an abundant divine banquet to come. What might Jesus be signaling to those who have eyes to see? What is he revealing about his own divine identity?
- How can we begin to see the Last Supper as a wedding banquet? What clues does Jesus provide? How does having knowledge of the Jewish background help us to more fully understand the meaning of the Last Supper?
- How does Jesus reveal himself to his disciples as the true Bridegroom?
Chapter 3: The Woman at the Well
- How does the Samaritan woman “prefigure” all believers who make up the Bride of Christ?
- What is the significance of Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well taking place at “Jacob’s Well”?
- The Samaritans were generally despised by the Jews and thought to be unclean. Why would Jesus engage a Samaritan woman in conversation?
- What is the meaning of the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well? Why do they discuss “living water”?
- List some similarities between Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well and Jacob’s encounter with Rachel. What significance might these similarities have?
- What are the various meanings for the phrase “living water” in biblical times? What does Jesus mean by the term?
- What is the connection between Jesus’s encounter with the woman at the well and his crucifixion? How does living water come into play here?
- St. Augustine wrote that the Samaritan woman “bore the type of the Church.” What do you think he meant by this?
Chapter 4: The Crucifixion
- If Jesus is the Bridegroom and the sinful human race is his bride-to-be, when exactly is his wedding day? How does he become married to his bride?
- Read Jesus’s answer in Mark 2:19–20 when people asked him why his disciples didn’t fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Why didn’t he just answer the question rather than giving such a cryptic response involving wedding imagery?
- How does the understanding of Jewish wedding traditions and definitions of unfamiliar terms like “sons of the bridegroom” and “bridechamber” provide us with a deeper description of the crucifixion? What significance do they convey?
- If thousands of Jews both before and after Jesus also died by crucifixion, why was Jesus’s death on the cross any different? Why is his crucifixion the only one in all of history to be described as a marriage? What light does this shed on his true identity and why he died that way?
- A number of biblical scholars have concluded that the seamless garment that Jesus wore signifies that he is not just the Messiah, but also a priest. Why is this connection between Jesus’s garment and the priesthood important for us to grasp?
Chapter 5: The End of Time
- The author says that although the wedding of the Messiah and his bride begins with the crucifixion, it is not yet fully complete. What does he mean by this?
- If the great wedding between God and humanity is underway, but not yet complete, when will its actual fulfillment take place?
- In the Jewish tradition, it was the duty of the bridegroom to have a home ready beforehand for his bride—unlike modern times where a couple gets married first and then buys their first home together. How does this shed light on Jesus’s words to his disciples during the Last Supper, when he says, “When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be” (John 14:3)?
- To most of us, the word apocalypse means “the catastrophic destruction of the universe.” But the Greek word apokalypsis had a different meaning for ancient Jews. What is that meaning, and how can this transform our understanding of the Apocalypse described in the book of Revelation?
- How are the “new Jerusalem” and the “new Israel” described in the Book of Revelation also images of the bride of Christ?
- When John says that the bride of Jesus is also a “new temple,” what does this mean?
- List the similarities between the Garden of Eden and the “new Eden” John describes in Revelation 22:1–5.
- What is the reason for Jesus saying that there will be no more marriage between men and women in the kingdom of heaven?
Chapter 6: The Bridal Mysteries
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the entire Christian life “bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church (CCC, 1617). How can focusing on Jesus the Bridegroom not only shed light on the deeper meaning of his life and death, but also show us the deeper significance of what it means to be a Christian?
- What does the sacrament of baptism mean to you? Does it have any significance beyond being an outward sign of turning away from sin or a ritual of being initiated into the Catholic Church? If so, what might it also signify?
- What are the similarities of being baptized and the ancient Jewish tradition, the bridal bath?
- How has the author’s commentary on the deeper meaning of baptism affected you? List any new insights you may have received. How might your new understanding impact the way you experience your faith on a daily basis?
- How does baptism prepare Christians for an even deeper union with Christ in the Eucharist?
- For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is a “memorial” of the Last Supper and the events that occurred on the night Jesus was betrayed. For others, it is a “sacrifice” made present through the bread and wine. What further meaning comes to light if we look at the Eucharist through the lens of Jesus being the Bridegroom and the Church being his bride?
- St. John Chrysostom warned against receiving Communion in a state of unrepented grave sin. What did he mean? Why is this more than just “breaking the rules”?
- Have you ever thought of the Eucharist as “the sacrament of the Bridegroom and the bride,” as St. John Paul II referred to it? How would this change your experience when you receive Communion?
- How does the Christian view of marriage differ for those who see it as a divine institution and those who merely view it as a human institution?
- In what ways should a Christian marriage be like the supernatural love between Christ and the Church? How would this look in a practical sense?
- Beyond human procreation, what is the highest purpose of Christian marriage?
- If you are married, have there been times when you have shared in your spouse’s suffering, out of love? What were the circumstances, and what effect did this have on your spiritual growth?
- The author says that the key to understanding the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharist, and marriage as “nuptial mysteries” is to recognize them as “participations in the mysteries of the Jesus’s passion, death, and resurrection. In what ways has this book deepened your understanding of this mysteries and given you a new way of looking at these familiar sacraments?
Chapter 7: Beside the Well with Jesus
- The author says that when we recognize Jesus as the Divine Bridegroom, we begin to recognize ourselves as the Samaritan woman. In what ways do you see yourself as the woman at the well?
- Explain the meaning of this statement from the Catechism: “Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours.”
- Jesus is waiting for us to bring him our brokenness and ask him to give us the gift of his Spirit. What area (or areas) of brokenness are there in your life? What difference might the gift of the Holy Spirit make in these broken places?
- As this study draws to a close, what are the top three takeaways you gleaned?